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False ME242 Subtle parts of the Pakistani and American cultures have simultaneously driven parts of Melissa’s life so much that diversity has become something she naturally embraces. From an early age she mixed both parts of her culture. As a child, she interchanged English and Urdu words, sometimes not even realizing that she was speaking two languages. Feeling comfortable in any kind of outfit, Melissa wasn’t afraid to mix American styles with Pakistani accessories and vice versa; she often incorporated colorful bangles, ornate anklets, embroidered tunics or silk beaded flats in her everyday attire, complementing her diverse taste and embracing her Pakistani roots. The language, music, food, family and fashion are all facets of the culture that have most intrigued Melissa throughout her life. Yet, the largest influence that Melissa’s background has had on her life has been her social interactions and the people she has met as a result. “ I have always had a tendency to gravitate towards people of different cultures,” she said, ” that’s why I loved where I grew up - it was a very diverse community.” She was raised by her Caucasian mother and not fully immersed in the Pakistani culture at home. This occasionally caused a disconnect for Melissa as she recalls childhood memories of feeling shy at Pakistani get- togethers. At the same time, having a mother who wasn’t bound by the traditions of one culture also helped her; Melissa found herself exploring more than just her own heritage in college. “ I never thought I was one or the other [ white or Pakistani]. I just always assumed I could be myself with whatever friends I made through the years.” Melissa became involved with two cultural associations in college: first the Society of Indian Americans ( SIA) and in her last year, the Filipino American Student Association ( FASA). She always felt at home with both groups and attributes this to her upbringing and the role that culture and diversity has played in her life. Melissa considers her upbringing to be a liberal one; in a society where being unique can be both a blessing and a curse, Melissa always rejoiced in it. “ Whether I stood out from the crowd because of the way I dressed or looked, it was always a positive experience for me,” she said, “ I feel very fortunate for my Pakistani roots and what they’ve helped bring to my life.”

False ME243 Similar to Melissa, Isha is also half Pakistani and half Caucasian. However, unlike Melissa, Isha had a more traditional Pakistani upbringing. Her mother converted to Islam when her parents married, so religion was always important growing up. “ I went to Islamic school on Sundays in middle school and part of high school, and I had to follow all of the traditional religious rules— including dress,” she said. “ It was difficult when I saw what my American friends were doing or wearing and I never felt like I could really fit in.” Identifying herself as biracial or mixed, Isha stresses the importance of asserting both of her racial identities. “ I look more physically white, but I’ve always identified myself as mixed and tried to find ways to assert my cultural identity,” she said. “ That’s part of the reason why I wear this big gold nose ring.” Isha pierced her nose her freshman year of college, but switched to a larger stud as a way to showcase her Pakistani identity. She joined two cultural organizations on campus: Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority, Inc. and the Caribbean Students Organization. “ It sounds weird that I was president of a Caribbean organization, but that’s where I found my place,” she said, sharing Melissa’s feelings about embracing diverse cultures. “ I’ve always been drawn to people who are open minded and more culturally aware and that’s definitely due to my personal experiences at home.” Constantly learning more about her own culture and others, Isha feels as though she thrives in a multicultural environment. That is part of the reason why she decided to move near Washington D. C. “ There are so many different types of people here and so many new things to do,” she said, “ Pakistani restaurants, hookah bars, Latin and African dance classes, Caribbean carnivals; I love to be a part of it all.” Places/ Things We Recommend: Sangam Restaurant, located in Arlington, Virginia ( http:// www. sangamrestaurant. com/) Sapna Magazine ( http:// www. sapnamagazine. com/) Apna Bazaar, located in Falls Church, Virginia, provides threading for $ 6 and carries a small selection of clothes and jewelry. Chandni Restaurant, located in Newark, California ( http:// www. chandnirestaurant. com/) Lebnan Zaman, a hookah bar located in Vienna, Virginia ( http:// lebnan- zaman. com/) Pakistani Independence Day Festivities in Brooklyn, N. Y. and Washington, DC Sonia’s Jewelry & Fabrics located in Herndon, Springfield and Arlington, Virginia ( http:// www. soniajewelry. com/) Babylon Hookah bar in Falls Church, Virginia ( http:// babylonfc. com/)