A Cultural Smorgasbord

It was a happy accident that I experienced a cultural smorgasbord within a four-day timespan in March…

Every year, I like to try a new art form. This year, the Groupon gods sent me a water marbling (or ebru) class, which was taught at the Turkish Cultural Center. I’d never heard of water marbling. I invited my art partner in crime Mary along; this was our fourth birthday list art escapade.

Our teacher was Turkish and just lovely. She buys all of her art supplies from Turkey, including special paper, brushes, and paints. I can’t quite explain the process; it was like magic. There were about 10 of us in the class and we rotated among three work stations. We stood in front of a pan of water that was treated with something special for 24 hours. We then picked a few colors, dipped the brush into the paint, and kind of “flicked” the paint onto the water, circles of color floating in the water mixture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we decided that we were done, we gently laid a piece of paper on top of the pan of colored water, slid the paper off, and voila, the paint ended up on the paper!

We each made two pieces and I was pretty happy with the results…but I mistakenly left one in the classroom and I have misplaced the other one! Search online for “ebru painting” sometime and you will see what a beautiful art form it is.

A couple of days later, I went on a tour of a local mosque, the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, thanks to the organization of my friend Anya.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I walked into the mosque not knowing anything about Islam. Our tour guide was wonderful and spent more than the allotted time with us, telling us about the history of Islam and the history of the mosque. She explained the main tenets of the religion and answered our many questions. I left with the message that Muslims want the chance to explain their religion to others; they want to be a part of the community just as other religions are. I highly recommend taking a tour at your local mosque if you are like me and didn’t know anything about Islam.

A few hours after I left the mosque, I was attending a performance by Kodo, a group of Japanese taiko drummers. I’ve been interested in taiko drumming ever since I took a class last year.

I was expecting a few hours of loud, powerful (but beautiful) banging on gigantic drums. Silly me. It was a few hours of drumming on many different types of drums, plus bell ringing, plus beautiful and sometimes humorous choreography.

In the aftermath of this smorgasbord, I felt grateful to live in a city that offers so many opportunities to experience other cultures. For someone who loves to travel but can’t always afford it, I cherish the fact that I can have such experiences without leaving home.

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Burning Down the House

The new craft I tried this year was woodburning. I saw a kit online about a month ago and decided to try it and make some Christmas gifts in the process.

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The kit included the tool, a few different-shaped points, letter stamps, and a bunch of wooden utensils.

I wasn’t nervous until I watched a video tutorial, during which the host mentioned that the tool warms up to 950 degrees.

That’s hot.

I’m happy to report that I didn’t burn myself or any of my possessions. I enjoyed trying it out, although I have a long way to go to perfect it. I really liked using the letter stamps but realized that one needs to have somewhat of a perfect touch to get the whole letter burned—not too light and not too dark.

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This might be a craft that I explore further. Have you tried woodburning?

Happy New Year to all! Thanks for reading about my birthday list adventures.

Great Scots

I have an affinity for Scotland, since many of my dad’s maternal ancestors lived there. When I think of Scotland, I think of wild and windy remote areas and tough, headstrong people who like to have a laugh. I’ve only ever been to Edinburgh—it’s a beautiful city—but I hope to return someday to visit the ancestral homeland and the wild and windy remote areas.

So I was grateful to have the opportunity to see two great Scots speak last week: Alan Cumming and Harry Benson.

Alan Cumming is simply amazing. He acts, he sings, he writes, he photographs. Many people who watch TV know him from The Good Wife; I’ve known him from his movies in the ’90s. And as the Masterpiece Mystery! host, of course.

He was in town to promote his book You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams, composed of brief life stories accompanied by photos he’s taken. I could have listened to him tell stories for hours. He seemed so down-to-earth, charming, and witty. I think Scots have their very own version of a smirk and eye twinkle.

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He signed books afterward but I didn’t have it in me to stand in line that particular night. But I do love him! I hope he brings his sappy songs concert to New England sometime.

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He particularly enjoyed telling the story of meeting Oprah, who inspired the title of this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had never heard of Harry Benson, but when I read the description of the documentary about him—and read that he would be in attendance at a local screening—I had to attend. I wish I could be Harry Benson, one of the world’s most prolific photojournalists. He grew up in Glasgow, getting his start at a local paper and then moving on to the cutthroat atmosphere of Fleet Street in London.

He was asked to photograph the Beatles’ first visit to the States in 1964 and things just went up from there. He has photographed pretty much every celebrity throughout the past 50 years, including 11 U.S. presidents. He was there when Martin Luther King was assassinated and when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. He photographed the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the Somalian refugees in the 1990s.

Calling him driven and hardworking is an understatement. But he also was able to connect with loners such as Bobby Fischer and Michael Jackson and gain the trust of countless celebrities and political figures. His sense of humor and no-nonsense style shone through in the documentary, and in real life when he answered questions from the moderator and the audience at the screening.

Both he and Alan survived bleak childhoods to share awe-inspiring talent, grace, and humor with the world. It was thrilling to hear these successful artists share their life stories.

From left to right: producer Heather Silverman; Harry's wife, Gigi; Harry, Boston Globe arts editor Rebecca Ostriker

From left to right: producer Heather Silverman; Harry’s wife, Gigi; Harry; Boston Globe arts editor Rebecca Ostriker

Ending Rocklessness in Girls Forever

My boyfriend is a drummer, so when I spied a sticker with an illustration of knuckles and drumsticks on a coworker’s water bottle at a meeting, I asked her about it. And that’s how I found out about an international movement to empower girls called Girls Rock Camp.

Girls Rock Camp helps girls “find their voice” by teaching them to play instruments and perform in a band at the end of a weeklong session. Girls also learn about empowerment and social justice along the way.

A wonderful and life-changing experience, right?

My coworker, who volunteers for the girls’ camp, told me about Ladies Rock Camp, which is a condensed three-day version of the girls’ camp for women 21+ held each spring. The money raised from this camp is used to fund scholarships for girls who want to attend the summer camp.

Music is a HUGE part of my life as is volunteering = I HAD TO volunteer for this camp and see what it was all about. (And it would conveniently count as a birthday list item.)

I arrived at the orientation the night before the weekend started, having no idea what to expect. The camp was taking place at a community center in a neighboring town. There were about 25 women there, and as we introduced ourselves, I learned that most of the women had been campers themselves and had been volunteering for a while. They all talked about what a positive experience it was for them, and I sensed that I was entering a community—one that I’d enjoy being a part of.

Camp started the next morning (a Friday), but I arrived at dinnertime because I had to work during the day. I would be on “site crew” for the weekend, meaning that I would set up spaces for workshops, stock the bathrooms, and help out wherever I was needed. My cohorts were two veteran volunteers who gladly showed me the ropes.

The weekend was intense…each day started around 9:00 am and ended around 11:00 pm. If I remember correctly, there were about 50 campers who split up into eight bands. Most bands were composed of a lead singer, guitarist, bassist, drummer, and keyboardist. The daily schedule was packed full of practice time, workshop time, social time, and meals.

On Saturday, I helped set up two sessions of a screenprinting workshop. Each band came up with a name and a logo and made screen-printed T-shirts. I loved watching creativity at work. Ladies had a choice of three workshops in the evening. Luckily there wasn’t much setup needed, so I attended one about standing up to micro-agressions in daily life.

On Sunday, the energy was palpable because the campers would be performing in public that evening at a popular music venue. After only three days of lessons! Campers had their hair “did” by volunteer hairdressers and could choose among hundreds of temporary tattoos to wear. Band photos were taken and I helped set up one last workshop on relational aggression.

The camp ran like a well-oiled machine. Every camper and volunteer whom I met was friendly, curious, open, supportive, and loved music. Watching the campers onstage on Sunday night was truly inspiring and empowering. I can’t wait to volunteer again next year.

lrcb

Birthday Fun

Two friends celebrated birthdays recently and helped me check off two birthday list items:

1. Make a terrarium

Have you heard of Plant Nite? How about Paint Nite? It’s the same idea…have a few drinks and some food and make something to take home with you.

I like plants and gardening, although I only have two plants (that survive even though I forget to water them) and I don’t know anything about gardening. So I was looking forward to making a terrarium.

It was really easy: Put a layer of rocks in the bottom of a planter, then a bunch of soil. Insert a few cute succulents.

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And then decorate with colored moss, plastic dinosaurs, and colored rocks. Voila!

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This particular planter requires bright sunlight, which my apartment never sees. So we’ll see how long this darling terrarium survives…

2. Ride on a party bus

Another friend booked a party bus for her birthday. It was an old school bus re-purposed for people to drink, eat, dance, and sing while being driven around for hours.

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There were about 20 of us, so we had room to mingle and dance.

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We made a pit stop at a brewery, where only half of us were allowed to enter due to maximum capacity. So our group found a small Chinese restaurant nearby and ordered some drinks, providing cheap entertainment to the “regulars” eating their Saturday dinners.

After three hours of riding around the city and singing along to a plethora of ’80s and ’90s hits, we were dropped off at the North End and had a fabulous dinner.

Thanks, Linda and Abby, for helping me with my list. 😉

 

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