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International Gathering Provides Forum for Different Cultures

On the first Friday of every month, a group of people meet at the Crossroads Bellevue shopping center for an "International Gathering" to discuss various topics in order to promote cultural competency and friendship.

 

Driving around the Eastside and seeing the various restaurants, shops and people that represent different cultures from around the world, it is obvious that the area has become increasingly diverse..

According to the 2010 Census, , and more than . The from 2000 to 2010 in people of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, to 6.3 percent of the population, and those of Asian or Asian Indian ethnicity, to 13.9 percent.

So, it made complete sense to Estrella Chen to create a group for people from different cultures to come together and share their personal experiences, stories and traditions.

“I think there’s a need to find a connection,” Chen said.

Chen came to the United States more than 25 years ago. She was born in Hong Kong, but spent a large part of her life in Panama before moving to the United States.

Chen believes that a lot of immigrants, especially women, may feel isolated or homebound. She created the group so that attendees could feel “that there are other people who care that [they] exist.”

The International Gathering group meets on the first Friday of every month at the , another hub for different cultures and people.

Chen created the group in October 2011. The number of attendees at every meeting varies. At the last meeting, held on July 6, three people attended, including Chen.

During every meeting, Chen prepares a different topic for the group to discuss. In July, Chen and the other attendees talked about travel customs and in June, they discussed how to act when you’re invited to someone’s house.

“We may have a topic, but we go everywhere, and I love it,” said Chen.

Yana Pearson is new to the group and attended her first meeting on July 6. Her father is Russian and her mother is Greek, and she spent her childhood between both countries. She now lives in Seattle and volunteers as an English instructor with Talk Time.

“I like when people leave their shells and meet other people,” said Pearson.

She encourages people to learn English and adapt to their new environments. She said that “it’s almost depressing” for new immigrants, because they get “homesick all the time.”

A group like the International Gathering provides a nice change of pace.

Varduhi Tovmasyan, on the other hand, frequently attends the International Gatherings. Recently emigrated from Armenia, Tovmasyan is still learning English.

Tovmasyan likes coming to the meetings because the group welcomes “very different people, [and] very different cultures,” she said. No one judges.

The next International Gathering will be held on Aug. 3 at the Crossroads Bellevue shopping center.

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