In my family, everyone speaks at least three languages, so I grew up in a house full of languages. Beyond my home, growing up in a multicultural part of Los Angeles, I was also constantly surrounded by different languages. This exposure to different languages has been a major influence in my life and as I grew older and studied more languages it was like opening up a special kaleidoscope window into the world that I wish everyone could look through. Now that I have my own child, it is all the more important to me to raise my son knowing and appreciating different languages. While I think most of us are aware of the general benefits of knowing at least a second language, I wanted to dive into this, as well as add my personal experience and perspective on being a polyglot.
I grew up in a family where my parents called each other's parents "mom" and "dad." Well, "mama" and "baba" in Chinese. For me, that was the norm and what I expected to do should I ever get married. And I like that, because to me, it suggests a closeness and warmth in the relationships. When I got engaged, I asked Chris if it would be weird for me to call his parents "mom" and "dad" or some version of it. It feels weird to me to call them the same thing I call my parents--it's just so personal. But I wanted to build a closeness with them, especially as I felt it must be hard for them to have their son permanently move an ocean and a country away. So, it was helpful we could go British with the terms, since Chris' father is British. But I was surprised by Chris' response. He said, "It's old-fashioned, but I think they'd like it." Old-fashioned? Up until then, I thought everyone did it. Then just a few weeks ago, I learned something interesting about Chinese culture that I didn't know before, and I decided to survey my friends to see how everyone addresses their in-laws.
Nowadays, many people commonly associate pole dancing with strip clubs, but I wonder how many people know the true history of pole dancing. After I saw how perturbed some people were over Shakira and J.Lo's Super Bowl Halftime Show, I thought it worthwhile to share a few historical and cultural insights about this form of dance and sport.
My favorite time of day is tea time, which is really all the time for me. Tea makes everything better and it brings people together. When you think about any culture where tea is prevalent, it's a symbol of hospitality. Guests are welcomed with tea, and everyone sits around enjoying the company and little treats to go with the tea and banter. You can't be angry when you're drinking tea. Like the monks who used to meditate with tea (and still do), tea brings us peace. Plus, you don't want to accidentally spill all that hot liquid peace on yourself or anyone else for that matter. Can you imagine being angry over tea and chucking your tea cup at someone? No, save your anger for your cocktails. But where does the afternoon tea tradition come from?
When I first learned my son would be born in the year of the rat I was disappointed. A rat? That sounds so dirty and unappealing. Then people started telling me good traits about the rat, and I tried to look at the positives. And when my mom kept call the rat Mickey Mouse, my parents told me that "rat" is a bad translation, because in Chinese they actually say mouse. So if you're wondering what it means to be born in the Year of the Mouse, here's what I've learned!
I had the honor and privilege of being invited to a special tea ceremony at Hsi Lai Temple, a Chinese Buddhist temple located in the greater Los Angeles area, ahead of their annual interfaith prayer for world peace. As the interfaith representative of my church, I was already planning on attending the prayer, which is open to the public; but when Fr. Alexei Smith, the head of interfaith relationships for the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese, invited myself and my friend and colleague to the private tea ceremony, all he had to say was "tea" and I was there.
One thing I recommend everyone experience at least once in their lives, is the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. For us Catholics in North America, especially Mexico and where there are large populations of Mexicans, it is a big religious feast day, and my favorite mass of the year. It's the one mass I like to invite non-Catholics, too, because it's as much a historical and cultural experience as it is a spiritual one. Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrates our Holy Mother of the Americas, and it's a celebration of bringing people together, of worlds coming together, and most importantly it is the celebration of a mother's love. We celebrate Our Lady on December 12th each year with Aztec dancers and Mariachi music, and this year was especially special in my parish, because our Jewish and Muslim neighbors joined us in the celebration, truly symbolizing the coming together of people. Keep reading for more about this special feast day celebrating a Jewish mother, whose name has Arabic roots, and some interesting facts.
Last week I had the privilege of being invited to a screening of a documentary feature called United Skates, which is now available to watch on HBO. I actually didn't pay attention to what exactly I was being invited to screen, but the friend that invited me knew I would be interested so I went, and I am so glad that I did. United Skates is an inspiring film about community, and a harsh reminder of the racism and marginalization of people of color in our country, especially that of the Black community. United Skates takes us into the world of roller skating in a way I am sure many of us have never known or experienced, and I can't believe that that is the case, because not only is it so fun and vibrant a culture, but this aspect of roller skating brings together everything we all want in a community--fun and safe spaces for families to come together, to be able to dance and express ourselves, and inspire one another.