Welcome to the 17th Year of Skipping Stones!
Community! When there is a give and take between two or more people orgroups there is a community. In community we find support when the going isrough, and we find joy when we have something good to share. Without thatspirit of community, that feeling of belonging, we feel empty, incomplete.In traditional societies, parents are not the only ones who must raisechildren. They have built well-knit communities to help children grow ascontributing members.
Even while living in the modern society with the nuclear family model,we're able to find communities or build new ones that will nurture us.For example, I live in an intentional neighborhood of a dozen families. Forthe last eight years, we have had weekly potlucks, monthly meetings,birthday celebrations and other informal gatherings and events to share ourvisions and values. We work together as a mutually supportive group.As editor of a multicultural magazine, I am a member of the NationalAssociation for Multicultural Education, NAME. I love attending NAME'sannual conferences where educators of diverse cultures and faith traditionsgather in the spirit of a community, to engage in discussions. As we listento and learn from each other's findings, experiences, stories and ideas, weall grow.
I belong to yet another community that has a spiritual focus. In thiscommunity, we develop qualities such as selflessness, respect for all,doing our duty with devotion without expecting anything in return, andliving life with unconditional love for all. We try to practice the idealsof a truly multicultural society by working on our inner self. We learnthat we are all God's children, and that God lives in and loves each andevery being and every aspect of the creation.
At our interfaith community events, we see the many religions and faithtraditions as equally valid paths to reach the mountain top, as yet anotherexpression of diversity. We know that not all paths may be suitable forall, but each serves well for many, and all deserve our respect.In our "storytellers" community, we learn from the wisdom of folklore andstories told by the tellers in our group. As we listen to each other'sstories, we are open to possibilities. We work together to plan events likethe Tellabrations and annual Multicultural Storytelling Festivals thatoffer benefits of storytelling to school children as well as families inthe region.
I try to keep my connection with the community of nature by walking in thewoods, working in the vegetable garden, or beachcombing. As we observenature, we discover that interaction between two or more groups results ingrowth and in changes taking place. We'll explore this idea further in thenext issue that features nature.
How I appreciate these diverse communities that I feel one with! I amlearning that it's the exchange of ideas and experiences, and the sharingof the warmth of our hearts that make us feel wholesome. Together, welearn and grow strong!
You, too, are members of different communities. As you read SkippingStones, you may discover that you belong to our loose-knit community ofreaders, subscribers, contributors and staff. Together, we dream and workto realize a multicultural society in its fullest sense for everyone whowalks or crawls on this beautiful planet.
Are there any other communities of which you feel a part? None? Lookagain, and you'll find at least a few that you may feel at home, thrive in.It takes a community to raise a child!
Wishing you healthy communities!
For a long time, I was afraid of sharing my family heritage, beingsurrounded with mostly European American kids in my middle school and highschool. If I had known there were more Asian kids like me out there, Iprobably would have submitted sooner. This piece is very personal to me andI'm well aware of how terrifying it is to put yourself out there for peopleto criticize. But I've decided to face the criticism because writing meansa lot to me. My family celebrates our heritage through food and since thisis my first serious piece, I base it on my favorite food!
I almost crash headlong into a wall in my excitement. The hazy New Yorksun filters through the blinds as I enter the kitchen. "You hungry?" my dadasks, leaning over the stove. My mom smiles at me and continues folding thegritty dough, the meat stuffing contained neatly inside. "How much longerdo I have to wait?" I question, restlessly springing from one foot to theother, basking in the warm afternoon light. "Twenty-five more minutes,"my dad replies, the same answer he gives every time my parents makedumplings for dinner. As I watch my father knead the dough and my motherstir the stuffing, I see generations of my family repeat the same ritualthat my parents and I are participating in now. Dough is the base, thefoundation of each and every dumpling. The ingredients are just asimportant as the finished dough. I remember my hand diving into the flour,the white, fluffy sand sifting through my hands, and the lively stream ofwater that jets out of the spout of the sink, then splatters into the largebowl holding the flour.
Then there is the stuffing. Dumplings can be a savory slab of meat placedinside a piece of dough or a fresh, crisp selection of spring vegetables.For the meaty type, my mother usually spends half an hour to carefullyselect each material. Raw, soft chilies, a sharp shot of vinegar, zestyginger, all added to a hunk of raw beef to form a rich, meaty paste isbound to bring a grin to everyone's faces. Of course, if one prefers a muchlighter, health-conscious meal, one might want to consider veggie-baseddumplings. Usually, my mother hands over selecting vegetables to me. It ismy job to find cabbage that is full of flavor, mushrooms whose scent canspread to every corner of the dumpling, lettuce that has the mostexquisite texture and parsley, one of the many ingredients that has thebiggest power to lend the dumpling its strong and spicy flavor. When Isuccessfully traipse home with all the ingredients in a plastic store bagslung over my shoulder, my mother hauls a stool to the kitchen counter andbegins to mix. Then Mom dumps a spoon of mixture, folds the corner of theflat piece to the center of the almost-formed dumpling, and places itgently on a metal tray.
A refreshing cold drink is necessary if you ever eat dumplings. My familyhas a tradition of drinking iced peach tea when wolfing down our afternoonmeal. The vision of my mom gently squeezing a split peach, juice oozingout, a boiling cup of water poured in, a teabag brought from China dippedin, one or two ice cubes dropped with a clank, swim before my eyes. When mymom sets aside the pitcher and returns to mixing, I immediately scrambleoff the stool I'm perched on and pour an overflowing glass of iced peachtea. My mom frowns at me and I throw her a sheepish look. Without a word, Iget two more glasses and pour tea for my parents.
And finally, the feast: blue-willow china platters of vegetable and meatdumplings at the center of our long, sturdy oak table! Dumplings that aretender and when swallowed give the most tingly feeling of warm breathrushing down the throat. Small bowls of sweet dumpling dip, little chunksof ginger floating on the surface of black vinegar surround each platter.And there are cups of iced peach tea, waiting to quench the most severeform of thirst.
Most precious are the smiles, stretching literally from ear-to-ear on myparent's faces as they bite into each dumpling. Dad sees in his mind's eyeyoung boys running and clamoring fiercely for a small basket of dumplingsfreshly cooked at the vendor's cart. Teachers' impatient voices tellingtheir reluctant students to please go to class, blend in with the students'raucous yelling. The chaos escalates in intensity and rises into the cold,wintry air. Mom sees teenage girls wooing their boyish sweethearts withdumplings wrapped in a clean sheet of foil and neatly tied with string.These boys then turn around and gleefully display their prizes to theirjealous schoolmates. As I look around the table, I see old traditionsthat will never be lost in a family's simple meal of dumplings.
-- Joy Guo, 14
Let's name some favorite foods in America. There is pizza (with noanchovies), ice cream (with an endless number of toppings), cheesecakes,thick and juicy steak, and then your basic fast foods: hamburgers, hot dogsand fries. Do you notice anything in common about these foods, other thanthe fact that they are extremely tasty and fattening?
Give up? The answer is that none of these foods are sticky. "Sticky?" youask. Well, I can't explain to you what I mean until I tell you about twovery sticky Chinese deserts.
I am half Chinese, from my mom's side of the family. She was born in Chinaand came to the United States to attend college. She tells me a lot abouther life in China, especially about the foods she ate there. Would youbelieve that only wealthy families could afford to eat raisins?
I didn't really get to experience eating real Chinese food until I was 8years old. That was when my family and some of my Chinese relatives went toChina during our summer vacation. On average, the food was great. But inthe morning, we had to drink powdered soymilk. If you have ever drunkpowdered soymilk, you'd know what I mean. Not only is the "milk" extremelysweet, but it also is chunky, even after you've stirred it a lot. Everyother aspect about the food was really great, however.
The food in China wasn't like the normal Chinese food you eat at theChinese buffets and restaurants here in America. My mom likes to call theChinese food here the "American version of Chinese food." It's true. Theonly place you get real Chinese food is in China. Here, people use way toomuch butter, oil, and grease in food. Also, there are many foods that aresticky in China. Most Americans aren't crazy about foods that are sticky,even though they've probably never tried a sticky dish before. Just thethought of a sticky meal doesn't make them say, "Wow, I want to eat that!"Two of my most favorite Chinese deserts are Eight Treasure Rice and SesameBun-bun. Both are sticky because they are steamed. Eight Treasure Rice isnot very sweet. It is made by steaming rice, then stirring in a little oil,eight different types of nuts (the "Eight Treasures") and some sugar. Then,the rice is steamed again. After that, you shape it into a smooth roundmound and can choose to sprinkle the top with sesame seeds.
Most Americans might enjoy Sesame Bun-bun because it is very sweet. I canassure you that after trying this recipe, you will agree that sticky foodscan actually taste good. You will also get to enjoy real Chinese foodwithout having to take a trip to China.
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 1/3 cup of sesame seeds
- 1/3 cup of finely chopped pecans
- 1 lb. of plain dough (yeast, flour, and water)
To Prepare: Flatten out the dough evenly, so that it's about 1/4 of an inchthick. Cut 12 circles out of the dough that are 2-3 inches in diameter. Mixtogether sugar, sesame seeds, and pecans to make the filling. Evenly pilesome filling in the center of each circle. Gather the edges of the dough,and pinch them together so that the filling is closed inside the bun-bun.Steam the bun-buns for 1/2 hour. Makes 12 servings. Enjoy!
-- Kathryn Keck,
A Japanese Play through the Eyes
of a Foreign Viewer
The lights dim down and you are alone in a new world. The music isshimmering its way into your ears and what you see before you is no longera stage. You see the actors, but they no longer are actors. You are drawninto their world and the stylized way they walk and talk no longer seemsodd. Nor does the disinterested voice of the explanatory audio guide inyour ear make the events of the play you are witnessing seem in any wayless real.
The story is simple, but then, so are all ancient tales. The language thecharacters are using is as out-of-date as that of Shakespeare, and even theJapanese themselves might sometimes (as some friends of mine have atvarious times pointed out) have trouble figuring out what was meant by acertain sentence.
You see before you trees, cut in fancy waves (you take no heed of the factthat they are made of cartons). The actors are wearing kimonos (literally"wearable"). The story is romantic and you are fully drawn in, but youstill never really forget what you have been told about the special drumwhich helps stress certain moments, such as the fall of ahandkerchief-which sounds like a pistol shot in the quiet of the theater.You lean forward, trying to understand at least something of what theactors are saying.
On your left, the stage extends into the seats, so that the actorsvirtually pass the audience on their way to the main stage. This extensionis usually used when the play involves processions, traveling, and partssuch as these.
In the middle of the main stage there is a house. This is set on a rotatinground platform. The rotating platforms on the stages of the westerntheaters have been borrowed from the Japanese kabuki, as have been, indeed,most of the theatrical inventions, such as trap doors. Indeed, kabuki iswonderfully complex in that sense also.
The first act ends, and the curtain is drawn. Not automatically, but byfour people, pulling it across the stage at a run.
In Kabuki, the stage workers and assistants invariably wear black costumes.There is something of an unspoken agreement between the audience and thetheater that whatever is black on stage is invisible. Thus, when a birdappears on the stage, it is held up by a long black pole which is held by astage assistant in black. This signifies that neither the pole, nor thestage assistant exist.
The most famous fact about kabuki is that the actors are exclusively male.Originally, kabuki wa created by an actress, and was played exclusively bywomen, but the government at that time forbade women to act in it becausethe plays tended to border on the immoral. A boy-kabuki followed, but wasforbidden on the same grounds. Ultimately, all-male kabuki was established.This is the tradition that we still observe today.
The bell sounds.
Once you go back to your seat, you begin to feel the world of the playcoming up on you again, like a mist.
A new character appears. Someone in the back yells out a word. The voice inyour ear tells you that this is an inseparable part of any kabukiperformance, the fans crying out the name of an actor's house. The audioguide warns you in a confidential tone not to try this, as the timing andthe intonation are so important, that only "professional" fans can do thiscorrectly.
You try to discern the face of the man who has just cried out. He lookslike anyone you'd meet on a street.
You sit back again, wondering.
Again there is laughter and once more the audio guide explains the essenceof the joke.
When the play ends, and the curtain is drawn, you stand up from your seat,gather your belongings, and let yourself be born by the human flow towardsthe exit.
-- Natasha Petrovskaia,
Everybody loves vacations! People pay every year for flights, hotels,tours, nice meals, trinkets and tourist traps. They get pick-pocketed,scammed and robbed, sometimes without even noticing. Often in Third-Worldcountries vacationers will go only to a resort of some kind and stay there;they are not exposed to the reality of the world they are visiting. Theonly locals they see are those who work for the resorts or in restaurants.They meet other traveling tourists from various nations who are a greatdeal like themselves. They hang out by the pool getting crispy under thesun or on the crowded beaches.
All resorts look very much alike whether they are in Bali or Negril. Thisis because many are owned by a select group of corporations who have boughtup land with help from politicians in order to set up, say, a Club Med onsome previously untouched beach. What is the point of spending all thattime and effort to pay for a man-made illusion? Isn't the idea of travelingto experience a new land, culture and environment? There is much more to begained by taking the back roads, supporting local establishments, veeringfrom the mainstream, and looking behind the fašade of the resorts,expensive hotels with valet parking.
Traveling in a way that makes you feel integrated into your newsurroundings opens the door to greater cultural awareness. In other words,it's important to see and experience a world outside of our own, to learnthat not everywhere it's like at home, and that that might not be a badthing.
America is such an expansive country, with long distances between moststate lines, let alone national borders, that many people never travelabroad. In comparison, Europe is far more diverse when it comes to thenumber of different countries in an area that is smaller than the U.S. MostEuropeans speak more than two languages and have traveled to theirneighboring countries. While regional and cultural differences exist, alongwith stereotypes and generalizations, Europeans seem to have a muchstronger sense of community across borders.
The forces behind commercialized tourism have created the misconceptionthat traveling has to be expensive. But that depends on a person's choiceof travel style. There is a whole world apart from the resort towns andguided tourism that caters to middle-or upper-class people. Once youexperience this real world, you'll never go back to the "package deals."Why go somewhere to be amongst people that are just like you? There isnothing new to be gained there. I encourage all those why have the inklingto travel or see the world to just go out and do it.
-- Elke Celis-Richers is a Mexican-German-American
student in Vancouver, Canada