Category: Talaga?

May 4th, 2017 by Winona Zaky

APAHM – Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

As it is nationally known, May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month – a month where Asian and Pacific Islander traditions, cultures, and people are highlighted. Not only is defining one’s Asian or Pacific Islander identity during this humbling time important, but it’s one more avenue for us to join in unison to celebrate and promote what Asian and Pacific Islanders have to offer to the world. In honor of this rewarding month, I’ll be going from A to Z and giving a brief blurb about aspects from other Asian and Pacific Islander cultures around the world!

***Refer to NBC Asian America Presents: A to Z

Ao dai – Vietnamese national costume typically worn by women. The ao dai is a form-fitting tunic dress worn over pants and extending down the body. These dresses come in all colors and designs, including flowers and other graceful symbols.

Bali – Bali is most likely the most known spot in Indonesia. It is an island to the east filled with tourist destinations, rice paddies, volcanoes and mountains, and all the beaches you could imagine.

Chutney – Chutney is a type of sauce usually used in East India. It can include all types of sweet and sour ingredients, fruits, herbs, and purees.

Diwali – Hindu festival of lights. It is celebrated throughout South Asia and festivities include fireworks, lights and oil camps all over the cities, colorful artwork, and family feasts.

Es Campur – Es campur is an Indonesian drink/dessert that everyone loves as a treat. It’s a combination of all types of sweet foods: grass jelly, young coconut, condensed milk, ice, jackfruit, and any type of syrup.

Fale – Fale is the Samoan word for house or houses. Samoan architecture usually consists of rounded domes/huts, and usually no walls. Beams are the support! Ropes, coconuts, straw, stones, and leaves are key elements to building a fale.

Gamelan – Gamelan is an ensemble of typically metal, percussive instruments from Indonesia. Instruments almost always include bronze or iron gongs, cymbals, drums, and chimes. A kendhang, or a two-headed drum, is usually included in the orchestra to set the beat for the gamelan pieces.

Hula dance – The hula dance is one of Hawaii’s oldest traditions. Many hula dances are performed all over from celebrations, weddings, religious ceremonies, and parties, depicting some type of ancient story or folk tale. The dance is also known for the colorful tops, festive leis, and grass skirts.

Indian elephant – Indian elephants are extremely prominent symbolically in Indian culture. Especially with Hindus, as they also have a god in the form of an elephant, Ganesha, elephants are a symbol and representation of mental strength, responsibility, and the embodiment of perfection.

Jakarta – Capital of Indonesia! Home of the world’s worst traffic, endless list of malls, and tons of tourist attractions to visit. One is called Monas, or Monumen Nasional.

Kebaya – A typical blouse-dress combination worn by Indonesian women. The blouse consists of a tight-fitting one and long-sleeves, while the skirt can be made of any type of material or pattern. Many blouses can consist of beds, embroidery, or sequins, and the skirts, or sarongs, of locally known textiles.

Lechon – Roasted whole pig known as one of the national and most popular dishes of the Philippines.

Muay Thai – Muay Thai is also known as Thai boxing. It’s the national sport and martial art of Thailand, using techniques such as clinching, using more than one limb, and using the entire body as a weapon towards the opponent.

Nippon – How to say Japan in Japanese characters!

Origami – The Japanese art of paper folding. The word origami comes from the Japanese word, oru, or folding, and kami, or paper. Many folds in origami can turn into one beautiful, unique creation.

Parol – During Christmas season, you’ll see parols, or Christmas lanterns, hung up all over the Philippines. The star-shaped lanterns can be seen in busy cities, in front of a house, or even in small villages. The symbol brings about hope, liveliness, and the emphasis of light over darkness during this season.

Quail egg – A little unexpected, but quail eggs are known as a delicacy to East Asia. Quail eggs can be eaten as a quick snack on the go, or can be used as parts of intricate dishes for over-the-top celebrations. Its uniqueness in form and taste add all types of flavor to the experience of eating one.

Roti: everyone’s favorite food! Roti is a type of bread/flatbread eaten all over South and Central Asia. Many countries have their variation, but what’s very common is roti. It’s made out of wholemeal flour and can be eaten with virtually anything! Soup, salad, curry, vegetables, or meat, you name it.

Sipa Takraw – Southeast Asian sport also known as kick volleyball, or volleyball with your feet! Players can only use their feet, head, chest, and knees to touch the ball at any given moment.

Tok Pisin – Tok Pisin is the Creole language derived from English that’s mainly spoken in Papua New Guinea. A pidgin, or pisin in this case, language is a language that is simplified, in both words and grammar, that for means of communication of two groups that don’t have a language in common. Usually, these languages are formed as a result of environment, trade, and migration patterns. For example, Tok Pisin is derived from English: tok meaning talk, pisin meaning pidgin. Other word examples include haus for house, plis is please, and mi lavin yu is I love you. As you can see, it sounds like English!

Ukiyo-e – Ukiyo-e is a type of Japanese art that emerged in the 16th century. It’s known as an art form for using woodblocking printing techniques. The woodblocking process has 3 steps: painting a design with ink, carving the design onto wooden blocks, and applying ink to the blocks, finally pressing them onto the paper to create the picture. Many ukiyo-e paintings have subjects such as women, landscape, sumo wrestlers, or erotica.

Vovinam – Vovinam is a Vietnamese martial art. Using the concept of hard versus soft, this martial art uses a lot of mind over body as well. No weapons are used, but combat, grappling, and basic striking techniques are integrated into the sport.

Wonton – A wonton is a type of dumpling used in Chinese culture. Like dumplings, wontons are made with a square wrapper of flour, egg, and water, filled with any type of meat, spices, and vegetables.

Xi’an – One of the most ancient cities in China! The museum of the famous Terracotta Warriors are held in this city.

Yurt – A portable, round tent made out of skin or felt used for nomads in Central Asia, including Mongolia, Turkey, Afghanistan. Traditional yurts have specific patterns or sacred ornaments either surrounding them or on the skin of the tent.

Zhongguo – How to say China in Chinese characters!

Posted in Talaga?

April 20th, 2017 by Winona Zaky

Puso ng Barrio and Cultural: Behind the Scenes

Happy post-PCN week! This past week and weekend, FCA members were busy preparing for our annual event, Philippine Culture Night, the night that brings together everything FCA does as an organization and unites the community for one last hurrah. This year’s show, Puso ng Barrio, or Heart of the Town, focused on the new and the old, keeping old traditions or bringing about new changes. Traditionally, in addition to the play, FCA incorporates our modern dances, Mezzopinoys, and of course, cultural dances. This year, we did 4 of them: Idudu, Aray, Maglalatik, and Kadal Taho/Kadal Blelah. In honor of successfully executing those beautiful dances, let’s take a closer look at each dance and their respective suites!

Idudu and the Cordillera Suite – The show start it’s cultural pieces with Idudu. Idudu symbolizes a day in the life of a farmer and his family. With it’s origins from the Itneg tribe/Tinguian people from Abra, Luzon, in the dance, the father plows the field while the mother takes care of the children. In some renditions, they take turns, so the mother plants the seeds, sows the field, and the father watches the kids. Near the end, a lullaby is sung to put the baby to sleep.

The Cordillera Suite comes from the tribes who live in the mountainous areas of Luzon, a Philippine island. The collective tribes, also known as Igorot, dance to symbolize war, peace, worship of nature, and general symbols of life.

Aray and the Maria Clara Suite – Aray! The flirtiest dance of them all. Aray, influenced by the Northern Spain, is a Filipino version of the dance, Jota. It’s a flirty dance between the man and woman, notable for the beautiful skirts, barongs, ribbons, and spirited tambourines.

The Maria Clara Suite is interesting in that it is heavily influenced by Western European styled dances, such as the waltz, polka, or jota, with that added Filipino flare. The suite was named after Maria Clara, the heroine Noli me Tangere, a novel written by Jose Rizal during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. Dances in this suite focus on love, romance, and are obviously extremely flirtatious.

Maglalatik and the Barrio Suite – A dance you’ll never get tired of watching is Maglalatik. Originally from Binan, Luzon, the dance represents the battle between the Moros, or Muslims, and the Christians over the latik, a coconut based ingredient, typical in Filipino cooking. Not only does that dance show battle, but also reconciliation and the winning of a prize. Dances, typically men, worn coconuts on most joints – their knees, shoulders, elbows, and hands. The dance is rhythmic with an upbeat drum-like beat.

The Barrio Suite can resonate with many Filipinos, as it literally means town or neighborhood. The dances are evident in their enthusiasm, happiness, spirit, and pleasure for the simplicities in life. The most known barrio suite would have to be Tinikling.

Kadal Taho and the Lumad Suite – Originally from the T’Boli Tribe from Mindanao, Kadal Taho is a dance celebrating good harvest. It mimics that animals that the tribe lives with on their holy lands and is also notable for flying behavior and short, hopping movements.

The Lumad suite itself focused on tribes of the mountains of Mindanao, like the T’Boli Tribe. The tribe is forever united with nature, has a goodness with it, and really depends on a harvest. The people are craftspeople, including weavers, sculptors, and poets, bringing that artistic side to the suite as a whole.

Muslim Suite – One suite that was not shown in PCN was the Muslim Suite. Like it’s name, this suite preserves the Islamic tradition of the almost one million Muslim Filipinos residing in the Philippines. These traditions roots back to way before the Spanish colonization and has influences from Arabian, Indonesian, and Malaysian cultures. The Muslim dances are very regal, mystic, and very commonly accompanied by traditional instruments, such as the kulintang. Dances include Pagapir, Pangalay, Singkil, and Kappa Malong Malong.

Stay tuned for potential cultural performances during the summer and the school year to come!


Posted in Talaga?

March 30th, 2017 by Winona Zaky

Spring Has Sprung

Spring: the time of warm weather, sun dresses, and midterms. But in D.C., spring has a different and significant meaning: cherry blossom season! The story of the Japanese cherry blossom took years in the making, but their legacy on the Tidal Basin and the Washington community is monumental and will stay for decades to come.

The story of the cherry blossoms first coming to D.C all started with David Fairchild, a botanist for the USDA. At the time, in the early 1900’s, Fairchild traveled around the world to find plants that would be of high value for American farmers. In 1902, he finally traveled to Japan and found these amazing flowers that are cherry blossoms, otherwise known as sakura. He then ordered about 100-125 to be planted on his private estate in Chevy Chase, Maryland. He quickly realized that he imagined he wanted something similar around the Tidal Basin in D.C.

Eliza Scidmore, a Washington journalist whose brother was a consular officer living in Japan, also noticed the sakura and suggested the idea of bringing them back to the States. Scidmore joined with Fairchild and drafted a letter to someone who may have been of interest to them: First Lady Helen Herron Taft. After discussion with her husband, President William Taft, and after a few days, the two quickly responded and finally agreed to bring the Japanese trees over to the U.S.

In 1910, 2000 trees were sent over to D.C – the horrible part was that they were infested and diseased with insects and parasites. Because of this, they all had to be burned in a giant bonfire on the National Mall. Two years later, 3000 more trees were officially sent by Tokyo mayor Yukio Ozaki. Once in perfect condition, an intimate ceremony was done on March 27, 1912, where First Lady Helen Taft and Viscountess Chinda, the wife of the Japanese Ambassador at the time, planted the first two trees on the north part of the Tidal Basin, surrounding the Potomac River.

To this day, the National Cherry Blossom Festival has remained an extremely popular tourist location and wondrous gift from Japan that will stay for years to come. Although most of the original cherry blossom trees are gone, there are clones and cuts from the original set that are replanted regularly, so the trees will never go away.

In the country Japan itself, the flowers are just as important and just as beautiful. Sakura, or the bloomed cherry blossoms, also stand as a symbol of ephemeral beauty, living, and spring. Hanami, the Japanese tradition of flower viewing and enjoying the beauty have evidently transferred to the United States in that many visitors enjoy picnics under the trees, long walks, and a time of renewal. Japan does also have a specialty: yozakura, where the trees are able to seen at night as they are illuminated.

Either way, go out to D.C and enjoy the National Cherry Blossom Festival, with the festival itself ending April 16th, and the parade on April 8th!

Posted in Talaga?

March 16th, 2017 by Winona Zaky

Happy Holi!

Arguably the most colorful day of the year, Holi has become a popularized Hindu holiday that has spread around the world. Celebrated on Sunday, March 12 through Monday, March 13 this year, Holi is known as the day where people throw colors on each other. But what does the holiday really symbolize?

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Holi actually has two different stories in how it’s celebrated. The first one comes from the story of the evil god, Holika. Holika was the sister of the the Hindu deity Hiranya Kashipu, the god of wealth and sex life. One day, Hiranya was so angry that his son Prahlad, started worshipping Lord Vishnu. In order to get rid of this situation, he ordered his sister, Holika, to carry Prahlad into a fire to kill the son. Suddenly, a divine being (believed to be Vishnu) stopped her out of the blue, saving Prahlad, but destroying Holika in the fire. The holiday/word Holi, in turn, comes from Holika, symbolizing the victory of good over evil. The burning of evil is demonstrated in the annual bonfires performed on the eve of Holi, called Holika Dahan.

The colors used in Holi are a whole different story. Still related to the Hindu gods, two major ones fell in love – Krishna and Radha. Radha herself was concerned about falling in love with him, since he had blue skin. However, Krishna’s mother suggested her to paint her face blue, jokingly, to overcome their differences. In the end, Radha did just that! The colors of Holi are now continuing that tradition by using those colored powders, or gulal.

Image result for holi powder

Holi is the day that every ounce of your body will feel happiness! It’s a known fact that those powders, gulal, are thrown through the skies during big festivals and neighborhood block parties. Each color has a meaning. Red is love and fertility, blue is the color of Krishna, yellow is the color of turmeric, and green is spring and new beginnings.

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So go take a break next time and celebrate Holi! Laugh, dance, and sing in the streets! Throw all sorts of colors in the air and rejoice in the day that celebrates love, victory, spring, and social harmony.

Image result for holi india

Image result for holi india

Posted in Talaga?

March 9th, 2017 by Winona Zaky

Make a Wish

Birthdays – a time to celebrate a new year of life, happiness, and maturation in all senses. This past Sunday, FCA held its own coming-of-age celebration, or Debut, for select general body members. Known as a popular Filipino tradition, a Debut is a celebration typically held for when a young girl turns 18 years old, and less popular, for when a boy turns 21. The celebration is a grand party filled with old traditions and new practices. One distinguishable part of a Debut includes the 18 roses and 18 candles. The 18 roses are the 18 most important males in the girl’s life, ranging from family and friends. Each one will do a short dance with her and hand her a beautiful red rose. The 18 candles are then the 18 significant females in her life. For them, they usually deliver brief speeches about the debutante and their friendship, memories, or advice for the future. Another unique tradition of a Debut that brings a piece of originality is the cotillion dance. The debutante gathers 9 boys and 9 girls and perform an organized cotillion dance, normally in a waltz style. And of course, comes the father-daughter dance. Many coming-of-age celebrations use this as a way of sending off the daughter into adulthood and womanhood.

Just like the Philippines, many different cultures celebrate the concept of maturation and coming of age in totally different styles – let’s take a look!

Latin America – Quinceañera – A quinceañera is often compared to a Debut or an American sweet sixteen. All of them are giant, fabulous parties celebrating a girl hitting a certain age of maturity and adulthood. In many Latin American countries, a quinceañera celebrates a girl turning 15. Traditions include mass at church in order to receive a church blessing, a Court of Honor (14 boys, or chambelanes, and 14 girls, or damas), and several intricate treasures. The girl is really honored in a quinceañera, in that the transition into becoming a woman wants to be prominent. A father or male relative will normally change her shoe from a flat to a high heel, symbolizing a little girl to a sophisticated lady. A last doll, or muñeca, is also passed onto a younger sibling as a symbol of their last piece of their childhood.

Jewish Tradition – Bar and Bat Mitzvah – It’s a Jewish practice to celebrate boys that are turning 13 (bar mitzvah) and girls turning 12 (bat mitzvah); bar and bat mitzvah literally meaning son and daughter of the commandment.  Although the age is typically younger than other coming-of-age celebrations, this means more responsibility! Those turning 12 and 13 officially mean that they are able and required to partake in religious responsibilities and services, and are formally a part of the Jewish community. During the ceremony at the synagogue, the boy/girl is allowed to recite their first aliyah, or recitation from the Torah, the Jewish holy book, during a public service – what’s considered a very high honor. But what better way to end the night than with the hora dance! This dance you may have seen/heard otherwise as the chair dance. Guests and family rise up the person in a chair, as if they were carrying royalty on their chairs for the night. King or queen for the night? Sign me up!

Sateré Mawé people – Bullet ant initiation – Now let’s take it to more of an extreme. All we’ve seen so far is parties, but the Satere Mawe indigenous people of Brazil do it a little differently. When boys in this tribe turn 13, it’s an ancient ritual for them to go through the bullet ant initiation. In order to prepare for this ceremony, hundreds of bullet ants are harvested and sedated from the jungle. While the ants are unconscious, they are all weaved into a glove to have their stingers face inwards. For the boys to show their strength as men, they place their hand inside this glove for as long as they can without showing weakness, sometimes up to 10 minutes. If you didn’t know, bullet ants cause excruciating pain, and is 30 times more painful than a bee sting according to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index. The pain is so bad that it can cause paralysis, stings, disorientation, and hallucinations for hours.

Amish Tradition – Rumspringa – Amish people are known to be conservative, but recently, the media has started to look deeper into their lifestyle. Around the time an Amish person turns anytime from 16 to 18, that period is called rumspringa. During this period, also meaning “running around”, Amish youth have time to explore the world, without parental supervision. They’re seen as mature and responsible here. Since they aren’t baptized, they’re still not under authority of the church, so they have more freedom during this time. They’re free to do more worldly activities, such as buy a car, wear non-Amish clothes, not attend prayer, or have large group gatherings/hangouts. It’s discouraged, but some Amish youth also use this time to completely leave the Amish community; it’s ultimately their decision to separate or join the church.

Kate, Jeremiah, Sabrina, Abe and Rebecca from TLC’s Breaking Amish.

Posted in Talaga?

March 2nd, 2017 by Winona Zaky

Let the Good Times Roll

What’s green, yellow, purple, and parties all day long? Mardi Gras! This past Tuesday, February 28 was Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday. On this day, people celebrate all day long, eat feasts of food, and participate in all sorts of colorful activities, such as parades, masquerades, and dancing. Symbolically, Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, is used as one last hurrah before having to give something up for Lent, right before Ash Wednesday.

You may have also heard of Carnival, another interpretation for Mardi Gras. Carnival can just be another name and is mostly celebrated in the Caribbean, such as Haiti, the Bahamas, Trinidad, St. Lucia, and some countries in South America, most prominent in Brazil. The word carnival actually means “farewell to flesh/meat” and is the celebration leading up to Fat Tuesday. Regardless, the holiday is just as exciting! Streets are filled with thrown-around streamers. Dancers cover themselves in elaborate costumes, made out of thousands of feathers and beads. People are running around filled with happiness, knowing that that day is the last day to let loose before a month of sacrifice.

Here are some fun facts about Carnival and Mardi Gras celebrations in Brazil, New Orleans, and the Caribbean Islands.

Brazil – In Brazil, it’s a week long party! All over the country, especially in the capital, Rio de Janeiro, you’ll see hundreds of block parades – but with a bit of twist. Brazil is interesting in that every year during Carnival, tons of local samba schools will actually participate in the parades. Samba is a Brazilian dance and music genre with some African influences. The tradition has been longstanding; samba schools line up and dance, but their performance usually tells a story, combining the talents of students, staff, and the band. Some years it also becomes a competition for the best samba school in the area.

New Orleans, Louisiana – If you’ve never been to New Orleans, it’s a must-see, especially during Mardi Gras season. In fact, since Mardi Gras has been celebrated for so long in the city and has been an obsessed tradition, Mardi Gras season can start as early as January, where parades and small celebrations may be held in small areas or private occasions. Otherwise, you’ll easily find masks, beads, and green/purple/yellow items sold all-year around. The city’s heavy French influence and party-like atmosphere on the infamous Bourbon Street keeps the Mardi Gras vibe going constantly.

New Orleans’ first Mardi Gras celebration started in 1857, after it was formed by a secret society called The Mistick Krewe of Comus. Secret societies, or krewes, still largely exist in the city, however like their name, they’re secret. Secret kings and queens of Mardi Gras can be elected, as well as the holding of secret coronation balls and inner circles meetings.

The Caribbean (Haiti, The Bahamas, Trinidad, Dominican Republic etc.) – Every country in the Caribbean has its own way of actually celebrating Carnival, from the food they eat to specific daily activities. What’s extremely interesting about Carnival are the amazingly intricate costumes, typically worn by women. No one costume is the same as another. Each one has its individuality to it, ranging from different diamonds, beads, feathers, wings, and must take hours and hours of work. Many women’s costumes are close to nude, symbolizing freedom and enjoyment.

*“Let the Good Times Roll” is a popular saying during the Mardi Gras season. It’s a symbol of excitement and letting loose during this celebration.

Posted in Talaga?

February 23rd, 2017 by Winona Zaky

The Night of Shiva

Imagine a day filled with peace, prayer, good luck, and all around tranquility. For those that follow Hinduism, that day is Maha Shivaratri. Maha Shivaratri will be taking place this year on Friday, February 24, 2017. The holiday always falls on the 14th day of the dark half of the Hindu lunar month Phalgun.

Many Hindus celebrate this day to honor the Hindu god, Shiva. Shiva is one of the principal deities in Hinduism as part of the holy trinity with Brahma and Vishnu. Shiva itself represents both birth, creation, and the preserver of the universe. However, in Shiva’s different forms, Shiva can represent destruction of the world and leader of evil spirits. Sounds contradictory, right? That’s because it’s believed that Shiva destroys the universe at the end of each cycle (which is 2,160,000,000 years), then making space for the creation of a new universe and a new opportunity for enlightenment and beauty.

On the day of Maha Shivaratri, many participate in prayers, yoga, and fasting (sometimes taking water or fruit) in order to bring good luck to the coming person and year. Prayers sometimes last throughout the night at the temples, while people sing traditional hymns and songs. People also honor the Shiva idol just as much as the deities. The idols, in homes and Hindu temples, is showered with offerings such as water, milk, honey, sugar, fruits, leaves, or ghee (a type of butter that originated in India). The process of this offering is otherwise known as puja. 

In terms of how the day came about, there are many still-standing legends about Shiva and his role. One legends states that one day, several of the other gods unleashed a deadly poison that would destroy the world. Shiva saved everyone by drinking the poison, therefore creating his blue appearance on his neck. In order for his neck and the rest of his body to heal, he had to stay up all night while other gods entertained him, therefore creating the tradition of staying up all night at the temples. Another ancient legend believes in the story of a hunter. There once was a hunter that was out in the forest looking for food, but couldn’t find any all day. The hunter decided to wait throughout the night and stayed the night on a high tree branch. To keep himself awake, he plucked thousands of leaves and dropped them to the ground, not knowing that he was dropping the leaves onto an idol of Shiva. Those leaves were actually sacred to Shiva, so this was believed to create the tradition of fasting and prayer throughout the night as well.

All in all, Maha Shivaratri is a sacred day around the world to honor Shiva and bring social harmony and self study to all those that partake.

Posted in Talaga?

February 15th, 2017 by Winona Zaky

Classrooms Around the World

For this week’s Talaga? article, our focus is education, in honor of the Filipino Cultural Association’s Filipino American Studies Gala 2017: Cultured Carpet. This event brings together the Filipino and non-Filipino communities in promoting education across different spectrums, as well as honoring those that helped contribute to the beginning of the Filipino American Studies class at the University of Maryland, College Park.

As crucial and life-changing education is, many of us take it for granted. Sure, education pushes us out of bed in the morning. It taught us our ABC’s and 123’s. It taught us that George Washington was the first president of the United States, or that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. However, many other countries aren’t as fortunate as the United States can be. Roughly 263 million children around the world, ranging from the ages of 6 to 17, are out of school, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Hundreds of schools worldwide lack the necessary resources, books, teachers, and the functionality to run a classroom efficient enough.

At the same time, none of those stop these kids from learning. Education doesn’t have to come from a set syllabus or curriculum, or a formal teacher teaching in lectures. Just like the Asian Americans and Filipino Americans that countlessly pushed for studies of their heritage and history, these children have the same determination and curiosity. Education is in everyday life, and although these children have different settings for their education, they still one thought in common: the will and perseverance to learn.

Here are some examples of different classrooms all around the world, ranging from classrooms on a boat, to buildings made out of straw.

Manaus, Brazil

Jalalabad City, Afghanistan

Tokyo, Japan

Aleppo, Syria

Bujumbura, Burundi

Aceh, Indonesia

United States

Santiago, Chile

Written by Winona Zaky

Posted in Talaga?

February 8th, 2017 by Winona Zaky

Let’s Talk About Love

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, you’ve probably already seen stores filled to the brim with red streamers, chocolate-filled hearts, roses in every color imaginable, and teddy bears bigger than you. While the United States has a way of using February 14th for business and cheesy pick-up lines, not all countries are focused on these items to show affection. Let’s take a look at these 4 countries that have their traditional spin on Valentine’s Day: the day of love, friendship, and appreciation for each other.

  1. France – France has a known reputation for being one of the most romantic destinations of the world. With that, Valentine’s Day is a celebration for those romantically involved, but a roasting session for the single ones. One tradition, that is actually now banned, was the custom called loterie d’amour, or drawing for love. In this custom, single men and women would move around from house to house in a neighborhood, yelling out for each other from opposite windows, and pairing off with the person that they chose to be with. If a man was not satisfied with the partner he chose, he had the freedom to leave her for another woman. The women leftover would gather at a bonfire later on and burn pictures of the men that betrayed them and throw insults at them.
  2. The Philippines – Rarely do we see mass weddings in the United States. In the Philippines, it’s the completely opposite! February 14 is actually one of the most common wedding anniversary dates. Hundreds of couples every year gather together to say their “I do’s” or even just to renew their vows. No better way to celebrate intimacy than with 500 other couples around you.
  3. South Africa – Ever wonder about the phrase, “wear your heart on your sleeve”? It comes from the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, where young girls would pin the names of their love interests literally on their sleeves. This way, the men found out about their long-awaited secret admirers and had the choice to pursue them or not.                                     
  4. South Korea and Japan – Celebrating Valentine’s Day? Let the girls do the work! On this day in both South Korea and Japan, it’s a tradition that the women shower men with gifts and chocolate, chocolate being the specialty. Giri-choco is a chocolate you give to a male colleague, something out of courtesy, but nobody you have feelings for. Hanmei-choco is a chocolate you give to your love interest, the man you really care for. But don’t get too comfy yet, boys. On March 14, otherwise known as White Day, the men must reciprocate by giving all sorts of gifts (white gifts are optional – white chocolate, white lingerie), sometimes doubling the value of what the women originally bought. One month later, April 14, is lastly known as Black Day – those who did not receive gifts on either day get together dressed in black and eat black food, AKA the great depression. In South Korea, Jajangmyeon is usually eaten – noodles in black bean paste.


Written by Winona Zaky

Posted in Talaga?

February 1st, 2017 by Winona Zaky

Everything You Don’t Know about Chinese New Year

Hello everyone! We’re starting the new year every Wednesday with this segment of Talaga?, where I try my best to help you wonder about and explore a new part of the world, from the comfort of your own home. I’ll be sharing interesting facts, stories, images, and videos from a particular culture each week. This week, our focus is….China!

Most people have New Year’s resolutions, like to quit smoking, get more sleep, live a healthier life, or to stop procrastinating (but we’ll worry about that one later). However, one holiday celebrates the new year in a refreshing, magical, yet traditional manner – Chinese New Year. Since it follows the lunar calendar, it falls on a different day every year, usually in late January or February, hence its other common nickname, the Lunar New Year. This year, the holiday falls on January 28, 2017, marking the beginning of the new lunar calendar and the year of the Rooster, this year’s Chinese zodiac sign.

Every new year hopes to bring prosperity, happiness, love, and relaxation for all. Like many cultural holidays, different regions of the country may celebrate it in their own way, but there are similarities. One in particular that we can all unite over – FOOD. Food is essential when coming to the new year (it’s the only reason why I would visit 10 of my relatives houses). Fish is the most common and most symbolic, in fact. Eating it is believed to bring you a surplus of money, good luck, and general prosperity. Dumplings are also symbolic of money bags – the more you eat, the more wealth you’ll receive in the coming year. Other foods usually eaten include spring rolls, rice balls/cakes, or fruit.

Now with that food baby you have after eating endless plates of food at your parents house, you’d probably want to do enjoy some down time – with watching lion dancing! Lion dancing is the traditional Chinese New Year pastime that represents the journey to chase evil and ghostly spirits away from the good. It combines the beauty of swift movements with music, ancestral myths and kung-fu. Other customs include the classic red envelopes. These usually include money and are distributed to the unmarried, from married family members, or from the elders to the youth. The combination of the red and the envelopes showcase energy, good luck, and the passing of blessings from one to the other.

That being said – family is what it all comes down to at the end of the day. Family members come home from far away to enjoy each others company through a reunion dinner, decorating the house with lanterns and red ornaments galore, and awkwardly talking about how you still don’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend. Don’t clean the house though! You’ll clean away the good luck. And don’t wear white either! It represents death. In the meantime, bang some pots and pans to drive away the bad luck and malevolent spirits, and just have a grand ol’ time.

Here are some other countries that celebrate the New Year in cool ways:

Denmark – Smash plates/china at a friends door as a sign of affection and long-lasting friendship.

Spain – Eat a dozen green grapes for good luck exactly at midnight – one for every month of the year.

Siberia – Cut a hole in a frozen lake, swim to the very bottom, and plant a tree.

Colombia – Run around your house as fast as you can with an empty suitcase – it’ll bring you travel in the new year.

Special shoutout to Jason Liu and Sigmund Kim Song Tejada (long much) for enlightening me with their vast knowledge of Chinese culture.

Written by Winona Zaky

Posted in Talaga?