Intercultural Life deals with all things diversity. We define diversity as anything and anyone outside of yourself. In short, we deal with life, the universe and everything.

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With Halloween coming up and costumes are being decided upon it is important to think about what is being chosen. In 2011 an Ohio campus started the We’re a culture not a costume poster campaign to ask students to be more aware of how their costumes may offend or be perceived by other people. The campaign started to catch attention nation wide. The campus that started it is home to a diverse population and wanted to be welcoming to all. 

While there has been a lot of positive feed back from the campaign and people have been more aware of what their costumes can be offensive there has also been a lot of negative feed back. The group has even revived hate mail from people. Take all of this into mind this Halloween season and be more conscious of what you choose. If you would like to read more check out  http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/30/halloween-unoffensive-costumes/3312615/

People in the United States, are fighting to decrease food insecurity, or hunger, in nations all over the world.  We prepare and package food in  the states and send it to a variety of other countries.  What we don’t realize, however, is that food  insecurity is closer than we think.  There are millions of  people in our own country who are starving and many Americans do not even know it is happening.

 

We think of the United States as a prosperous country with few instances of poverty, but there are  people in every State who are unsure when they will  be eating their next meal.  It is important to help those in other countries who are suffering from hunger, but we must also consider those who are closer to home.  Food insecurity is not confined to a certain point in the world or even a certain region of our country.  It is everywhere, and we must help combat it in any way we can.  It can be as simple as donating money to a local food pantry or volunteering at a local soup kitchen.  Organizing can food drives and spreading awareness about this issue are also good  ways to help.

     If you would like to learn more about hunger in the United States and ways you can help prevent it, go to the Feeding America website.

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In the world today people find themselves communicating more and more cross culturally everyday. One of the biggest concerns with this is the fact that most people are uneducated in this area and simply are not culturally sensitive when entering into a situation. Below you will find a list of common traits found in cultures that are direct communicators as well as those traits found in indirect communicating cultures. 

Direct: 

  1. Get straight to the point
  2. Openly confront issues or difficulties
  3. Engage in conflict when necessary
  4. Express opinions frankly
  5. Say things clearly, not leaving much to interpretation
  6. Are comfortable telling others what to do

Indirect: 

  1. Focus not just on what is said but how it is said
  2. Avoid difficult or contentious issues
  3. Avoid conflict if possible
  4. Express opinions and concerns diplomatically
  5. Count on the listener to interpret the meaning
  6. Use words such as “maybe” or “possibly” 

When comparing and contrasting the two lists, we can see many differences that have potential to be quite offensive to the opposite culture. With this in mind, how do we prepare ourselves for these situations?

It’s important to remember when cultural miscommunications occur that neither side is in the wrong – both communicate in the way they know is best. However, another way of looking at it is that both sides are wrong, because neither side was able to recognize and adapt to the other’s communication style. These subtle differences in language can lead to misunderstandings, frustrations, embarrassments, and damaged relations.

So when working and dealing with other cultures, it’s best to take it on yourself to understand your counterpart’s preferences and adapt to them when necessary. If you’re Asian, shifting to more direct communication when dealing with westerners not only can help avoid misunderstandings, but can also foster a better relationship, as people naturally tend to like people they can relate to. Learning certain phrases in English, such as how to disagree or refuse politely (while still being direct), can be vital to helping you handle sensitive situations. At the same time, westerners who learn to be more indirect can have greater success working in Asian cultures.

Below is a link to a very neat website that explains indirect vs. direct communicating cultures through infographics. Check it out! http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2009/10/29/east-vs-west-yang-liu-infographics/ 

Useful tips when communicating with someone from a differing culture than your own: 

1. Use your observation skills. Pay attention to the other person- match how the other person is behaving. 

2. Appreciate differences. Be adaptive.

3. Don’t assume that one person represents an entire culture or ethnicity. Everyone has individual preferences. Keep this in mind. 

4. Patience. Educate yourself so that you are aware of simple cultural differences to avoid unnecessary tension. Have an open mind to learn!

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Over the past month, Intercultural Life has been covering a lot of information about Holi, the religious holiday in India that celebrates the arrival of spring. However, many people who are not Hindu also celebrate the holiday. In fact, just this past weekend Central College hosted its own version: Color Me Central.  During the event students were doused with colored cornstarch as they ran the two-mile race while also becoming educated about the traditions and history that surround the holiday. Central College is not the first college or university to host such an event. This video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=dXCfqvPuXoQ&app=desktop) shows a recent Holi celebration at Washington University in Saint Louis.

We had a great turnout at Central’s celebration of Holi, and participants seemed to really enjoy themselves, especially when the colors were thrown at the finish line. If you’ve ever seen pictures, videos, or participated in a Holi celebration or official Color Run race, you might wonder why color is thrown in the first place.

Although Holi is celebrated differently depending on the region, a popular legend that explains the reason why people throw color is because of the love story that took place between the deities Lord Krishna and his love Radha. Due to him being self-conscious about his complexion and her beautiful skin, he decided to play a trick. Thus, he threw blue color at her face so that they would be the same. Thus, couples (or anyone in the mood to play a prank) got into the spirit of coloring one another’s faces until it became a festival. 

In time, each color also represented separate meanings:

Red-purity

Blue-calmness

Green-vitality

Yellow-pious feeling

In the season of celebrating Holi and all that spring has to offer, check out the link below for more information about the holiday.

http://www.holifestival.org 

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As Easter Break comes closer and Intercultural Life, CAB, and Residence Life work hard to prepare for our celebration of Holi, I thought it would be fun to learn about other religious festivals that also celebrate spring. While I am sure there are numerous spring festivals around the world, each one is celebrated a little differently by different regions. Tonight I’m going to focus on a handful of some well-known religions.


Christianity
For those who are from a Christian faith, or are familiar with the Christian faith, the celebration of Easter may not be new to you. For those who aren’t as familiar, the celebration of Easter is the celebration of the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead after being tortured and crucified for others’ sins. This holiday has since become a celebration of new life and rebirth. It wasn’t until around the 1600’s that the Easter bunny and Easter egg were included.1


Judaism
The Jewish holiday of Passover is one of the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar because it is the celebration of Moses freeing the Jewish slaves from the rule of the Pharaoh. This is celebrated now by a feast, singing, and the reading of Moses’s tale from the book Haggadah.2
Another Jewish spring holiday is Purim. This holiday celebrates the rescue of the Jews from the Persian Empire and is celebrated similarly to that of Passover; with food and drink, as well as the giving of charity to the poor; and for some, wearing masks and costumes.3


Hindu
While I’m sure you all have been reading I-Life’s signs all over campus promoting Holi and the Color Me Central Run, I figured I would give you a little bit more information on the Hindu holiday of spring. Holi is the celebration of spring, love, and the triumph of good over evil. There are many myths that are part of the origin of Holi, each one giving significant meaning to each tradition of the festival. The festival itself is traditionally celebrated first with a bonfire the night before Holi, then the next day all social barriers break down as everyone takes to the street. In the streets children are throwing colored water at elderly people, adults are putting away their differences and covering each other in dyed cornstarch, and everyone is coming together to make music and celebrate life.4


Iranian

The Iranian New Year’s festival, Nowruz, marks the first day of spring; taking place on or near the vernal equinox. This is a 13-day festival that involves spring cleaning, jumping over bonfires, visiting family, and exchanging gifts.5

There are many other spring holidays from many other religions in the world. If you want to find more, or read more about the ones I mentioned, visit the links below!

1.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_Bunny

2-5. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/25/spring-holidays-around-th_n_178955.html

Links to Spring Festival info:

This post has amazing photo’s and a great general description of several different religious, spring holidays.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/25/spring-holidays-around-th_n_178955.html

This website has all the different kinds of spring celebrations organized into different regions of the world.

http://www.metaphysicalcenterofnewjersey.org/article/spring.html

Thanks for reading!

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As spring break comes to an end and all of us in the Midwest are wondering when exactly spring is going to arrive, I thought I would bring to light a spring festival that might lighten everyone’s spirits.  Last week when many people in the US were celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, the Hindu population of the world were celebrating Holi.

Holi is the Hindu traditional spring festival that celebrates the triumph of good over evil.  Westerners might know this festival as the Hindu “color festival” (this is where the Color Run originated) or “festival of love”.  The festival starts with a Holika bonfire.  This bonfire is supposed to represent the Bonfire that Holkia, who is the “evil” in the Holi origin story, was burned on.  The next day is sometimes knows as the “carnival of colors”.  This day everyone takes to the streets throwing colored powder and spraying people with dyed water; and everyone is fair game!  During Holi all social barriers fall away as strangers throw color at strangers, children at the elderly, and the poor at the rich.  People also carry musical instruments, playing music and dancing in the streets during the celebration.  Holi is also a time for friends, family,and foes to all come together and laugh, talk, and make amends.  Finally, that night everyone cleans off the color and dresses up to go visit family and friends.  

This is a beautiful festival that not just is a celebration of good vs. evil; but is also a time for people to make amends and start new in a time of spring.

If you want to read more about Holi you can visit the two links below.  

http://www.holifestival.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holi

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Earlier this month I. life decided to address the issue of gender inequality by using the average wage gap between men and women. To do this I. Life had a free bake sale in which sugar cookies were handed to the students with the wage ratio written out on them. The cookies with blue frosting had $1 designed on it (they represented the amount males make on average) and the pink frosted cookies sported the $0.77(they represented the amount females make on average). Thus, providing a tasty way to talk about a rather bitter topic.

To continue the theme I. life would like to talk about some other numbers that just do not add up about gender inequality:

Source: interculturallife

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Earlier this month I. life decided to address the issue of gender inequality by using the average wage gap between men and women. To do this I. Life had a free bake sale in which sugar cookies were handed to the students with the wage ratio written out on them. The cookies with blue frosting had $1 designed on it (they represented the amount males make on average) and the pink frosted cookies sported the $0.77(they represented the amount females make on average). Thus, providing a tasty way to talk about a rather bitter topic.

To continue the theme I. life would like to talk about some other numbers that just do not add up about gender inequality:

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Below is the link to a video that we can all learn from. It’s a long one (around 20 minutes), but I highly encourage you to watch it! In the video, the Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, tells the story of … well, a story. Or rather she tells of how we must be aware that many times, we see a one sided view of the things around us; we only hear only one story. This video points out that we mustn’t make judgments based on these shallow bases of knowledge, but we should instead seek the multi-sided truth of the people, cultures, and situations of the world. All of these things cannot be described with only one story. Enjoy!

http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story

So how can this be applicable for us here at Central?

Well, there are some pretty obvious answers such as trying to not judge people without getting to know them. But beyond that, we must recognize that others’ stories are not the same as our own, and we can try to be a place where people can share their stories that they have. To foster the sense of cultural awareness and acceptance that Intercultural Life strives to maintain, it is imperative that we recognize and appreciate our differences as well as our similarities. This week, this month, and for the rest of the semester, I challenge you all to continue to move closer to this acceptance and openness that will create a heightened sense of community on campus. Instead of being okay with not knowing the people around you, invest in this community and find out the stories that have led to your classmates being here in Pella, IA.

I will leave you with this quote from Mahatma Ghandi:

“A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.”

Thank you for your assistance!