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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

Junior Estella Yaw’s past, present, and future have been heavily influenced by her Palestinian background

Estella Yaw
Estella continues to stay in touch with different cultures from around the world.

Junior Estella Yaw established her fondness for different cuisines at a very young age by taking on the challenge of learning to bake.

Although her passion for golf has continued into her high school years, the different cultures of food she embraces have completely encompassed the lifestyle she leads. Having a background from opposite sides of the world provides her with an inherent creativity when it comes to incorporating separate customs into her daily routine; her parents involved her in many hands-on activities—specifically regarding cooking and baking—to spark her interest early on.

“I would always help [my mom] in the kitchen,” Estella said, “and at my dad’s mom’s house I always bake cookies and things, but on my mom’s side we’re Palestinian so we make a lot of traditional Palestinian food. Teta is Arabic for grandma, and I learned all the recipes [from her]. My dad’s side is just Greek and Irish, and some other stuff so we just cook American recipes. It’s like two different worlds of food kind of.”

Half of Estella’s life is filled with the usual American meals including pizza and burgers, and the other half consists of returning to her roots and enjoying traditional Palestinian or Arabic dishes. 

Her impatience gets the best of her though when occupying her time with cooking while trying to include her other cultures because most Palestinian meals take a substantial amount of time to set up; therefore, her favorite foods to make happen to be the more classic, straightforward ones with the most flavorful and delicious outcomes: brownies and cookies.

Her mom and grandma, however, embrace the long-established Palestinian cooking procedures. One of the most memorable things for her has been their tendency to make hommos from scratch. It is similar to American hummus, but for years, Estella has watched her family get the beans used in the recipe and begin the lengthy process of soaking them and boiling them to make a mixture she won’t be able to find in a store. 

This, having always been a fond memory of hers, is only one way she has been able to connect with her multiple different cultures.

“[My Palestinian background] has influenced just my day-to-day life,” Estella said. “I feel like it’s kind of opened my horizons to other cultures and made me more interested in them. I want to learn Arabic so bad, I know a little bit, but I also want to learn Spanish. I feel like that’s not a lot of people’s goals in life. I really want to learn two languages and travel, which has kind of influenced me.”

She has been adamant about achieving her goals, but, recently, she’s been especially in touch with her passion to travel.

I feel like it’s kind of opened my horizons to other cultures and made me more interested in them.

— Estella Yaw

One of the most helpful things to do when learning and attempting to associate with a specific culture is to trace it back to its origins. Estella’s experience visiting her family’s home country was only enhanced by her familiarity with the culture and customs of their society. Not only did her pre-existing knowledge aid in that trip, but her proficiency in Spanish helped with a school excursion across the ocean as well.

“I don’t [fully] speak Arabic, but I know a lot of the food names,” Estella said. “This summer I went to Palestine, Egypt, and Jordan where my family grew up, and it was so much fun. I definitely knew about all the food so I could ask and learn even more. I went to the Dominican two years ago for a Spanish field trip, and it was so fun to be able to use my Spanish to learn about their different foods and cultures.”

With travel plans to another country, a culture shock is to be expected while experiencing a lifestyle so far from what is normal to most Americans, but Estella didn’t anticipate just how different it was going to be. She’s spent her life immersing herself in the basic Palestinian culture; however, being totally surrounded by such a distinct way of life took the experience to a whole new level.

Despite the societal changes, her biggest surprise was getting to meet family that still lived in that part of the world and seeing how they went about their daily life.

“I met a lot of cousins I haven’t met before because there’s so many that still live [in the Middle East], so it was just a really different culture with how they have meals and things like that,” Estella said. “It was really fun to embrace. There was a lot of poverty there, so it was definitely eye-opening, and I came back with a different mindset in how I look at things.”

Having many of these personal experiences to share has given her a peek into the kind of life she wishes to pursue. Hoping to be more involved in different cultures in an even bigger way began to narrow down the endless possibilities of future careers. 

Seeing the poverty-stricken streets in the Middle East gave her the idea to help that issue in any way she can, starting with the little kids she has grown so fond of. Estella’s future started with her knowledge about her own background and will only continue to grow with her cross-cultural curiosity.

“I want to be an elementary school teacher so,” Estella said. “I want to minor in Spanish and maybe Arabic, It’s such a hard language, but I can do it. It would be so fun to go abroad and teach little, underprivileged kids. That’s one of my goals—it would really be a dream.” 

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About the Contributor
Rowan Szpieg
Rowan Szpieg, Staff Writer
Rowan is entering her first year on The Central Trend as a junior writer. Her love of writing developed in recent years through expressive poetry. Although it is a hobby that assumes a bit of her time already, when she's not sitting back with a new writing piece on her computer, you can find her playing her guitar. Any spare time she has that's not occupied with family or friends is spent learning to play new songs. She also loves to spend her nights under the stars around a bonfire in the summer and laughing too much playing board games in the winter. Rowan is always up for a movie night as a way to share her interest in film. When she's not watching a movie, she has Friends playing in the background on every occasion.   Comfort movie: The Proposal Favorite time of the year: When Christmas music starts to play Favorite book: Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom Favorite song to play on guitar: Don't Think Twice, It's All Right by Bob Dylan Has she shortened her watchlist of movies? Not at all! It's still over 300

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