le cahier de kev

le cahier de kev

adventures fresh off the press

Cultural Voyage

It's late May and the warmer weather has finally arrived.  Nothing like a slice of cheesecake to help get things going.



It's funny because when I am under stress either I eat a lot more or eat a lot less.  For example, when I'm working on a website or a proposal (or just have errands or visitors to handle), I'll either munch on four slices of pizza (and still want more) or be satiated with a cup of tea and a small sandwich.  Right now it seems to be the latter.


Since we're on the topic of food, I also received a gift of a box of Portuguese custard cups (Pasteis De Nata) which totally brightened my day.



They were delicious and made the perfect dessert after a meal.  They are not super sweet (which I prefer to the overly saccharine soaked desserts) and have a nice lightness when you bite into them.  But once I eat one, I'd be tempted to have another (kind of like potato chips).  That's why I'm always happy to share!


Around a month ago, I was watching a video on Youtube where a talented violinist, Taylor Davis played her rendition of a well known song from a video game (Legend of Zelda).  The performance was powerful, and I just loved reading her story about her violin training and inspiration.


She performed at Joe's Pub in New York City in early April, but I was unable to attend.  I was reading an article from The Daily Dot describing her passion and how she transformed the negativity from bullying into a positive outlet as a performer.  One thing I noticed while I was reading her story was the unexpected path that she didn't expect (i.e. delving deeper into music).  A lot of times (for me personally), there's the spontaneity of life that catches me off guard when I least expect it.  I can safely say that if I asked myself 10 years ago what I expected myself to do in 2014, I would totally have a different answer.
It's like being a forensic scientist or detective and you're investigating an incident or crime scene location.  It can be intimidating to step foot into the location because you don't know what's you can expect.  They may know the details, but don't really know the true event until they arrive.  I'm pretty sure even the best investigators were apprehensive the first time they encountered such events.  However, only when we step forward and examine the scene will be able to piece the puzzle together and see the answers unfold.
No Investigation = No Answers
Tying in Taylor's experience to this scene analysis, we can expect that uncertainties can elicit feelings of hesitation and asking questions such as "should I pursue this?"  Of course there will be obstacles that we will encounter along the way, but how will they influence us?  Will they hinder us or will we find a way around them?  There were many times when I asked myself, "What If?" in the past and those basically led me nowhere.
Before I continue, I wanted to also discuss that aside from the usual daily activities, I've also been participating in presentations for courses in Forensic Chemistry and Toxicology provided by RTI International.  They've been really informative and interesting and refreshed my knowledge of analytical methods that I learned.  (Now you all know how the forensics example came into my head so you might wonder how it got there...I wouldn't blame you though if you also thought I watched an episode of "Bones" that could've made its way into my thoughts!)
Being inquisitive helped a lot with my communications work.  Whenever I'd have to interview people or speak to clients, it felt a lot more natural and easier to pick up on social cues.  One of the participants in my ESL (English as a Second Language) group made a good point about how we all come from different cultures and the social cues that we learn growing up influence how we perceive other cultures that we come into contact with.
The group I was facilitating asked me about my cultural background and I discussed French and Japanese culture with them.  I highlighted eating customs and etiquette, social interactions and taboos, and adjusting to life in a new country.  It was a very interesting discussion because they discussed their current experiences adapting to life in New York City.  All of them have only been in the United States for a few months, but they have been seizing opportunities to make the best of their experiences here.  Sometimes it's just easy to throw in the towel or feel stagnant when fear sets in.
I think that's why I love working with all of these ESL participants.  They can see the big picture and understand how their culture can be integrated into American culture.  It's not just about totally forgetting their background to assimilate into the American environment, but they understand how important it is to have it as a part of their lives.  When you learn another language that is different from your mother tongue, do you have to forget your mother tongue?
Of course not, right?
In a sense, we don't have to lose our identity or who we are whenever we have to go to a new country or "investigate a new scene."  Otherwise we'd all just end up becoming spies or mercenaries and that would open up a whole new discussion!  Can you imagine having to switch between alter egos?  That would be exhausting! haha
Our culture and our identities have elements that develop a stable foundation yet there's also that constant evolution that plays a role with how we adjust to new surroundings and situations.  I had lunch with a friend recently and she asked me how I was able to integrate into American culture from when I was a child.  She grew up in America, but came from a Jamaican background.  However she noted that despite growing up here, she learned about her cultural identity through her mother.  As we were speaking, we noted similarities of our parents instilling our cultural heritage while we learned about the new culture through outside socialization (e.g. school or work).
It did bring in a stronger perspective to my work in health literacy.  New York City has such a diverse set of people who come from myriad countries around the world so learning first hand through discussions helped me understand what issues they are encountering.
After how many decades on this Earth, I finally rode the Staten Island Ferry.  It was quite a unique experience and didn't know what to expect.  I took the Statue Cruise from Liberty State Park back in 1999 so it's been more than a decade since I rode a New York/New Jersey ferry.  The ride was beautiful, but since it was raining the whole day, it was pretty gloomy.

Boarding the Ferry


Seeing the Statue of Liberty


Arriving back to Lower Manhattan


Despite how stressful things get, there's always that glimmer of kindness that makes me smile.  As I was walking down the stairs to catch the train at my station, there was a mother and her son walking ahead of me.  I was going to open the door for them, but the son opened the door first and the mother smiled and signaled for me to go through.  I wished them a nice day and thanked them.  Despite the fast paced lifestyle of the City, people are still kind.  =)

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