CULTURE SHOCK

Life in Queens (the Most Diverse Borough of the Most Diverse City in the World)

Education Systems Around the World

We live in a world where “No Child is Left Behind”. America’s education system has progressed greatly over the past ten years. From the ideas of George W. Bush to President Obama and to even our personal Mayor De Blasio, many people disagree with the way our system woks but what they don’t realize is that America is much more better off than countries around the world. Many of us are immigrants from third world countries and it came to my attention that there, kids who go to school for ten hours a day, only to pay extra money to out of school tutors for tuition.

Now, I know that there are various points that can be debated over NYC’s new PreK curriculum, or Mayor De Blasio’s choice to close off the charter schools. And while it is completely understandable to have differences of opinion, we should take a look at the ideas of parents who think that they’ve made the proper decision to send their children to charter schools. As I have heard from a teacher in the public school system, there has been recent changes and blocks that have made it almost impossible for teachers to individualize their lessons, and they must follow all protocols strictly. Is this a good or bad thing? I find that while certain guidelines should be followed, it is unfair to give every child the same type of education when each child thinks and carries out thoughts in a different manner. Because of this, charter schools are seen as more lenient. At the same time, they may be more beneficial to children.

Around the world, it has been found that Finland and South Korea top as the two highest ranking education systems. It has also been noticed that as the social status of teachers increase, the quality of education does as well. Students in Latvia, Chile, and Brazil have been moving to better grades and educational gains at three times the rate of American students. (This basically equates to 2 full years of American education).

The amount of money spent of each child’s education in American rounded off at about $15,000, whereas in Japan (#1 educator in 2013) paid only around $10,000.

So what do you guys think American is doing “wrong”? How can our standards of education be raised to from 18th rank, to #1?

Social Media In Today’s Culture

These days, it seems as if anyone and everyone can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. We define ourselves with the kind of pictures we post, and the number of likes we received on our last status. We have smartphones which we are constantly checking- whether we are in class, out to dinner, or about to sleep.

When did we become a society so ignorant to the real life and so dependent on the virtual life?

There was once a time when people were lucky to have cell phones: truly used for what they were made for, emergencies and only phone calls. Now, we have high tech phones which not only make calls, but also serve as our cameras, GPS’s, gaming device, internet access, and book reading device. With apps for basically everything, there is no reason, heaven forbid, to open up an actual dictionary to look up a word. There is no reason to go to the gym, because your fitness app tells you to do a certain exercise and even measures your accuracy. There is no reason to carry a key ring, because as now innovations advance, there are locks that are opened by the presence of your phone, and your phone can carry all the barcodes to every store card you own.

The way it may seem, this is great for society. It has made life easier for everyone and can keep people are their high speed movement.

But is it really without a cost?

What happened to the days when you would spend time to actually think about all the  important things you wanted to tell a friend who lived far away, and gathered your thoughts on pretty stationary? What happened to the feel of actual paper books in your hand, with the papers yellowing in the corners, showing that it has been used and resused? Whatever happened to the family nights gathered in the living room watching the latest Hollywood Blockbuster? Now, it seems as if the usage of Netflix, email, and e-readers have replaced some of the simplest pleasures of life.

Fitness Around the World

I know that a lot of you guys most likely have a schedule for the week. Monday, Class, then Lunch, then Work, and then drop by the closest gym to fit in a workout before heading home. I find it that the way that Americans are constantly advised on health and fitness has made it all the more possible for us to battle some of the worst epidemics, such as overeating and obesity.

I am not one to say that it is completely mitigated from our country, but it is helpful to know that some of the commercials we see in the middle of the last basketball game we watched questioned the effects that the sodas we grab on to without a second thought have on our bodies. There are definitely some people who resent these types of commercials with extreme hated, with comments ranging from, “Who are they to question my preference of beverage?” to “Maybe they should just stick to the drunk driving commercials.”

Nevertheless, America is one of the more privileged countries- where most middle class citizens are able to afford gym membership to get in shape. In other countries world wide, people are using social terms, food, and even games to get fit.

Bangladesh is big on badminton. The majority of gyms and fitness centers in Bangladesh are expensive and basically reserved for the richer parts of the community. Badminton is one of those sports that can be played in almost any time of area, weather permitting. Therefore, a lot of people form teams within the village, and also use this as a way to get together.

Britain believes that food comes over all. The usage of healthier foods are well observed, and this is considered their daily fitness! After all, eating food sure exercises your internal organs.

Cairo, Egypt is specially interested in weight training and lifting. Even the poorest neighborhoods have run down gyms with the basic equipment needed to keep in shape, so no one has an excuse there!

In China, the concept of exercise has much less to do with actual fitness, but a lot to do with socializing. Street sports and dancing in parks is not only free, but quite enjoyable as well. They also believe that slapping themselves in areas with low circulation is good for them, so they aren’t so crazy to be hitting themselves!

As you can probably tell, people have different ways of staying healthy throughout the world. So feel free to adapt any of these wonderful ways of staying healthy from other countries. 🙂

Henna

I’m sure that the majority of you guys reading this are wonder, “What is so special about henna that it deserves a whole post on this blog?”

Well, ever since I was little, the concept of henna as a traditional making has been engraved into my brain. Navratri? You put henna designs on your hands as a supplement to the extravagant outfit you are dressed in to go to Garba (an Indian dance).  Weddings? There is an entire night of celebration dedicated just to having the bride and the females of the family getting their hands and feet tattooed. And in my household, there was always a cone or two left around for my sister and I to do trial experimental designs with.

Henna Art

I remember waking up the next day with crusted mehndi to rub off. My favorite part was seeing the beautiful designs that had been placed onto my hand in a vibrant red or orange color. As a kid, I had even gotten in trouble with my second grade teacher once for “drawing on my hands with marker”. Henna tattoos have been a part of my childhood, and it is a part of my culture and who I am.

It is used in much of Africa, India, Pakistan, and the Middle East for similar reasons as to what my family uses it for. Any celebration is a cause for henna tattoos.

Henna is made out of a plant, which binds to the keratin protein in our skin- which is why it leaves a color. You may be familiar with people putting henna in their hair as well, because it is the safer alternative to hair dying, and actually serves as a conditioner for your hair as well.

Along with being used for aesthetics, henna actually has many medicinal purposes as well. It serves as method to prevent hair loss, and heals open wounds and burns, headaches, and fevers. Some farmers put it on animals as a natural sunblock as well.

I think this plant is one of the most amazing, with so many uses and extravagance. And to think, if it weren’t this blog I may have never known all about the wonderful things it does other than please a bridezilla hoping for a perfect Indian wedding.

So next time you get a henna tattoo at a fair, remember, it is actually good for you! 🙂

 

Valentines Day All Around the World <3

Many people like to say that Valentines Day is just another sappy old holiday in which the businesses selling flowers, chocolate, and candy boom. While that may be true to a certain extent, I’m sure that the outcome of all the fuss is an abundance of happy couples all over the world.

Each country has their own way of celebrating Valentine’s Day. Here in America, there is the widely known concept of date night. Of course there is the showering of chocolates and flowers, and once in a while, someone decides to do something exotic for their significant other that surpasses the general boundary of the idea of Valentines.

Chocolate

 

I remember, ever since I was in middle school, my schools had flower and candy sales for Valentines. By high school, it became obvious that if you were in a relationship, you were bound to receive roses and an embarrassing serenading by member of the schools choir in the middle of class. In my close-knit group of friends, we always decided to surprise each other by little things. Honestly, we turned the holiday into a joke by senior year.

Valentine’s Day actually originated in France, where it was customary to send and receive love letters in the second week of February, because that is when the birds begin to mate.

One of my favorite Valentine’s customs is in Japan. The girls and women make chocolates for every important male in their life, from their father, to brothers, to a significant other. Their are different types of chocolates, each symbolizing the kind of feelings you have to offer the opposite person. In March, they have “White Day”, in which the boys and men who received chocolates for Valentine’s Day return the gift to the women.

England is known for the love of Shakespeare, so it is not found unrealistic or particularly surprising that the British decide to convey their love and feelings through the use of sonnets and other script writing.

In Canada and South Africa, there is never a time not to celebrate, and Valentine’s Day is just as good a day as any other. They have balls and in some areas, week long parties. In South Africa, these celebrations are called Lupercalia. This event requires young girls to pin the names of their lover on their sleeve.

The most outrageous tradition of all comes now. In Scotland, it is said that the first person you see on the street is your Valentine. How weird would it be to spend Valentine’s Day with a complete stranger?

Well, that said, I hope everyone has an amazing Valentine’s Day! 🙂

My Personal Tribute to Dada

Every Sunday morning for the past 16 years, I woke up to the sound of my parents talking on the phone with joyful voices. On the other end of the line were my grandparents back in India. Even though I was only two years old when I left my birthplace in Gandhinagar, my dad made sure that I would have a great relationship with my grandparents. Every couple of years, I would pack my bags and get ready to spend my summer vacation in the house my dad was brought up in. My grandmother would wake me up and ask, “Have you had your bournvita yet?” I would be forced to drink milk that had come out of a buffalo and would always oppose this, asking for cows’ milk instead.

Two years ago, I woke up to the voice of my sister saying that my Grandmother, my Baa, had passed away. I didn’t believe what she said. The first thought that had come across my mind was, “I will never be asked if I’ve drank my milk yet”. Through the funeral and religious services that were held in my house for her, I was in a blur. I didn’t truly realize she was gone until last summer. I went to visit my Grandfather, my Dada, in our hometown. He seemed to be doing well, but anyone could tell that he was lonely. Nevertheless, he kept a smile on his face and joked with me about my Baa’s spirit being around to be with me. Now, he is with her as well. This morning, I lost the most influential person that I have ever known. My Dada was the smartest, most interesting man that you would ever meet. With seven children, nine grandchildren, and two great grandchildren, my grandfather was loved and looked up to by so many people. I do believe that I had a special bond with him, because of our shared love for books. Both of us had identical Kindle e-readers, and every time I spoke to him, he would thank me for setting him up with his favorite books. He would say that every time he read from it, he thought of me. We also had a shared passion for science, and he was always willing to the movement of technology, despite what other people his age thought. He never once pushed me towards a career that I did not want to pursue, namely, medicine. Although many of the others in my family said that it was best to be a doctor, he would tell me, “Do whatever makes you happy”. He always said that I would be a great professor, and that I am capable of doing whatever I tried to do. Several times in the past month, he said that he was looking forward to seeing me win a Nobel prize from up in the heavens. Most people would think that being said something like that gave them a lot of pressure, but for me, it was simply a sign that my Dada believed in me.

Dada also loved philosophy. He was a man of many interests. Time after time, he would tell me to read books by J. Krishnamurti, his favorite philosopher. I actually never found to time to between my classes and work. I now deeply regret that I will never get to discuss with him the ideas that he loved so much. Even so, the talks we had on Socrates and Plato (and his ridiculing them, calling them “old fashioned” and “outdated”) are so precious to me, and will always be remembered.

More than anyone, I owe thanks to Dada for allowing me to become the person that I am today. I couldn’t have gotten into college, or received the scholarship that I did, without the help of Dada. He always looked over my writing, even though he was several oceans away. He would correct them, and tell me that I kept him preoccupied. At the same time, I knew that him having these papers of mine to look at made him feel closer to me, as I did to him. His corrections and guidance helped me being a better writer, which is one of the reasons that I am writing on this blog today.

Dada donated his eyes. He was always thinking of others, and even at the end, he helped someone to see. This way, his eyes will continue to see the world.

I can sit here and blame the hospital my Dada was in, and say that he wasn’t taken care of properly. I can always see the bright side- that he and my grandmother are back together. I can be thankful that he is no longer in pain. I can promise to always think of him, and love him unconditionally- because that was what he gave me.

Maybe I haven’t yet realized that my loving, inspirational, amazing Dada is no longer in this world. Maybe it will take me a visit to my old Gandhinagar home to realize this. Nevertheless, I will be confused and sad tomorrow morning, when I won’t get to hear my Dada’s voice on the phone. I know that there were some times that I was a bit tired, or not in the mood to have a conversation with him. Although he knew that, our relationship never wavered. Now, I wish that all those times, I had taken the two minutes to chat with him, considering I will never have that chance again. Through this all, I have realized that even though Dada lived a wonderful 90 years, I will always wish that he was here longer. He and Baa are now together, and I hope that everything that he accomplished in life will be forever remembered. A man of such greatness, intelligence and caliber, should definitely always be remembered. He will remain in my heart, my thoughts, and my actions forever. Rest in peace Dada and Baa, and one day, I hope that you will see what I’ve come to become and be very proud.

Carnaval: The Celebration of a Year!

As you all have probably noticed, from the excessive amounts of Brazil posters around campus, this year, Queens College is celebrating the Year of Brazil! In the honor of this event, QC Voices has decided to take part of the celebration by having special posts on Brazil. I personally love parties, celebrations, and anything festive. In Brazil, they seem to feel the same way. Every year, for five days before Ash Wednesday, they celebrate the “Carnaval” which literally translates to carnival in English. Everyone is invited to participate in this event of the year, and on the contrary to the customs in most countries, there are parts of Brazil when the poorest of the country are the ones who actually make the party.

There are many different ways of celebration, depending on which part of Brazil you are in, from the “Rio de Janeiro” to the “Bahia” to the “Pernambuco”. For the “Rio de Janeiro” style, the European methods of celebration are mimicked, but Native American and African cultures dwell through it as well. With Blocos de Rua (street carnival bands), a major part of this celebrations follows on music and dancing. Basically, anyone can form a bloco group, and they normally come up with a comical name or phrase for themselves. They can take this opportunity to meet new people, show there standard in business, and other beneficial things. Samba schools run all year long in preparation for the Carnaval. They are financed by well known and renowned businesses, but also by illegal gangs.  This is not truly considered as an opposition to the law, but has become rather a tradition of the Carnaval.

The Carnaval is really a time for people of all social statuses and standings to come together and enjoy themselves. Actually, one of the major parts of the Carnaval is come together by the poorest people in Brazil, the people from the favelas, the poorest of the neighborhoods. These people actually seem to make the festivity of the carnaval, and they look forward to it all year because they know they are welcome to enjoy this festivity as much as everyone else. Many of the participants of the samba schools are from these favelas. Another interesting detail about the festival? For the duration of the festival, along with social boundaries, all gender boundaries disappear as well. For a country not as open to homosexuality as the United States, this means a lot. The LGBT communities take a big role in the festival because they are free of all judging that they may have to face normally.

They have masquerade parades, where everyone dresses up and there are various performances on different types of music.  Believe you want to take part in this celebration? Book a ticket or learn more from http://www.rio-carnival.net/ !

Racial Discrimination- You have to hear it to believe it.

Last weekend, I went to the mall to do some Christmas shopping. With Christmas songs playing and the Santa sitting across the giant Christmas tree, my mood was at an all-time high. Unfortunately, this did not last. Now, what I am about to share is a tale each and every one of us has to tale. A tale where I faced racial discrimination. I’ve lived in New York for over ten years, and consider myself just as much of an American as someone who was born here. I have a diverse group of friends from various different ethnic backgrounds. While it is true that I love learning about different ethnicities and also question my friends on their customs and beliefs, I would never judge them because of their background. So, it is understandable that I was completely baffled at the fact that someone rationalized my actions by my ethnicity.

Here is the whole story. I wanted to make it very general, but then came to the conclusion that it would be difficult for my readers to understand my extremely strong feelings about what happened with the lack of full details. Therefore, I will start from the beginning. I was a Roosevelt Field Mall. I had just exited Macy’s and was ready to head over to H&M to continue my holiday shopping spree with my mother at my side. She had a list in her hand of every store we needed to go to before the Mall closed in less than two hours. Suddenly, I hear someone saying, “Honey, come here, let me show you what I can do to your hair.” It was a woman from a nearby stand, selling hair supplies. I politely was saying no, when she grabs my arm and pulls me towards her. My mother was outraged simply by this action. Without my permission, she started to clip up my hair and ran a hot iron through a random section. I was too in shock to say anything, but my mother was not. She explained that we were very busy today and did not have the time for this. Nevertheless, the woman did not listen. After several more attempts by my mother to have us away from her grasp, she finally obliged. She removed the hot iron from my hair and pushed me to my mother. Again, I was horrified by her acts. As we were leaving, I heard her say, “All Indians are like that.” She continued to go on to say more racist comments with an angry look. This entire situation confused me. Why had she said that it was because of my ethnicity that I had attempted to leave? I had never given her the permission to touch me in the first place. It is 2013, in New York City. We are upon the most diverse areas in the world, and yet there is so much discrimination. I will not disclose the ethnicity of this woman, but it is fair for me to say that I have plenty of friends from other races, including hers. Not once have I heard such blasphemy.

From Rosa Parks, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, we have come a long way to accepting other races. We are all humans, with equal rights, and equal abilities. And even so, there are certain individuals that don’t understand that racist comments are simply unacceptable. I would have said something right at the moment had I not been in such a shock. But even now, this situation still bothers me. I hope that everyone reading this can understand my position, and I am sure that we all, at least once, have experienced such a situation.

The Met!

A couple weeks ago, I woke up at 7 a.m with the goal to explore the Met. Of course, my reason for this was a school project, just nevertheless, I was motivated to divulge myself into the works of art from different countries. After a long 2 hour commute and a 5 minute cab ride, I was at the doors of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. With a list of exhibits and statues to visit in one hand, and a camera that made me look like a tourist in the other, I walked up the stairs. It was unbelievably cold, so I was ambitious to be one of the first in line to get inside the museum. After paying my donation/ fee, I was on my way to a cultural experience I am bound never to forget. I walked up the stairs and go to the second floor, and am thrown into a room surrounding me of marble. My philosophy class has been talking of Socrates since the first week of school, and seeing a bust of his head made me laugh a bit. All semester long, I’d been hearing about how he was “ugly” and therefore no very much liked by many people. I didn’t think he was ugly at all.

 

I continued on to see statues of what should have been considered the ideal body of men in Greece in that time. Everyone was expected to go to gym because it would help society when it was time to go to war. Hercules was portrayed as a tall, curly haired, buff man. He was strong in all angles, and even his statues were able to give off an aura of power and strength. There were several of these statues, depending on the age of Hercules in each. Even in the older ones, he was quite well built. To be realistic, even today, it would be very difficult to be able to have that type of body.

 

I will share about one more work of art that I saw that particularly amazed me. Eros, or Cupid as most of us know him, is thought to be a sweet innocent baby with some arrows stuck in his diaper. The first statue that I saw was similar to this description. Eros was laid down on a rock, innocently enjoying his nap, with peace in his aura. He was still a baby in this form, and was what we like to imagine him as. In the next work that I viewed that had Eros in it was portraying him completely differently. In his hand, he has a stick that showed power. He was fully grown in this idea of him, and was very well built. He no longer looked innocent, but rather powerful and scary to a certain extent.

The ways the different portraits and statues were portrayed gave me an inside look into the life of Greeks in the time of Socrates. Long ago, the way that women and men should be was placed in very tight boundaries. He bdjjeFor the experience I got, you should definitely visit the Met as well!

DIY Presents for Men! :)

I received some verbal complaints that my holiday DIY post primarily relates to women and gifts for women. Therefore, I have taken the challenge to find several gifts that men will love to make as well as to receive!

In several Asian countries, such as India, China, and Vietnam, it is a custom to make hand crafted stamps. These stamps, although quite simple to create, have dozens of uses. They can be used to decorate vases and bedding, and for anything else you choose. Of course, here we have less of a need for them, but nobody can say no to their own name stamp! From Michaels, you can buy a small block of wood for minimal prices. If you were ever in any martial arts group, you probably have the same type of wood that you broke in half. With the use of a carving knife, or even a small blade, you can shave the wood into different shapes. Write a loved one’s name on it, and they will have plenty of opportunities to put it to use!

This next one is my personal favorite. How do you ensure that your iPad isn’t stolen? Well, it can’t be stolen if you don’t have one! No, I’m not saying that you should go break your loved ones favorite time passing device. But it sure is easy to camouflage one into something that no one would think to take! If you have old Marble Notebooks from your pre- tech days lying around, you already have half the materials. Just find some thick plastic that can be cut into strips, and in less than an hour you will have a notebook iPad case.

For step by step instructions, visit

http://www.lilblueboo.com/2011/07/diy-ipad-cover-from-composition-notebook-a-tutorial.html

For an avid reader who seems to have already been through any book suggestions you have, you can make them something to help them remember their favorite books. Find their favorite old paperback (hopefully a copy that they won’t go shopping for) and turn the cover into a wallet that they won’t be able to purchase in any store! A Paperback Book Wallet is sturdy, with the use of cardstock holding up the frame, and is easy to make with just a few household items. For the full directions on how to make it, check out

http://hello-refabulous.blogspot.com/2009/01/make-your-own-paperback-wallet.html

That’s all for now, but remember, a little creativity can go a long way! Right now, I am on the mission to knit everyone I know an ear band to protect them from this cold New York weather. Everyone has the talent, even me who can barely keep a stitch on the needle while making the next one!


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