Cheering New Custom, If Not the Stuffing

Gunston Middle School students have an apple cider toast before their first Thanksgiving meal. From left are seventh-graders Tania Granados, 13, and Diana Merino, 13, and eighth-graders Deybi Cruz, 13, and Diana Silva, 13. Diana is from Bolivia, and the others are from El Salvador.
Gunston Middle School students have an apple cider toast before their first Thanksgiving meal. From left are seventh-graders Tania Granados, 13, and Diana Merino, 13, and eighth-graders Deybi Cruz, 13, and Diana Silva, 13. Diana is from Bolivia, and the others are from El Salvador. (By Michel Du Cille -- The Washington Post)
By Ian Shapira
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 23, 2006

Corey Meyers, a teacher at Gunston Middle School in Arlington, began the Thanksgiving lunch for 30 foreign-born students with a reasonable command. She wanted to make a toast.

"Can everyone please grab their cup," she yelled.

Sitting at a long table in the school's family and consumer sciences room Monday, the group raised cups brimming with apple cider. The students were about to eat their first Thanksgiving meal, courtesy of Gunston's parents and staff members. Many of the children had arrived in the United States only in the past year from such places as Mexico, Eritrea, Algeria, Russia and Turkey. They were just beginning to learn the customs of the holiday.

But Aldo Montoya-Saravia, 13, from El Salvador, knew instinctively what to say. "Salud, compadres! Aplauso!" Cheers, friends! Applause!

Then they got to work. Plates were passed as teachers wearing aprons carried platters of turkey, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole and rolls.

"Aldo, you like corn bread?" teaching aide Roxana Alfara asked.

Aldo, normally a rambunctious character, knew this was a moment that required perfect manners. "Yes, please," he said.

Others seemed more wary of the food, especially when teachers circulated a platter filled with a crusty concoction of brownness.

"You just have to try it," geography teacher Cheryl MacPherson told Mohamed Boualam, 11, an Arabic-speaking sixth-grader from Morocco.

"No," he said.

"You don't want to try it?" MacPherson said again.

He gave his final verdict on the stuffing: "I don't want. It's bread and onions. No. No."


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