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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ravaging & Salvaging Sudan

War Child- Emmanuel Jal (Trailer) from Dal LaMagna on Vimeo.

As all of you out there know, I feel like everything I have has been given to me for a reason. I have been so blessed with an incredible platform of influence that I have through this blogsite. And I'm about to use that platform once again to create awareness about an issue in our world that we urgently needs to addressing ASAP

On January 9th, war torn Sudan will have a referendum between North and South Sudan that will determine the fate of this nation. Southern Sudan is going to vote to be free from an oppressive government that has resulted in nothing but violence and bloodshed. To make a long story short, both sides are preparing for civil war. Though the plight of Sudan has been for the most part left out in the media, they are no less important. It makes my stomach turn to think that in the 20th century, genocide is very much a possibility.

Emmanuel Jal is a former child soldier who fought in the first civil between North & South Sudan, the same civil war that took the life of his mother. Believing that he survived for a reason, he now uses his hip-hop to become a voice for the millions that do not have a voice in his home country of Sudan. And for the millions of voices that have been silenced by war and will be silenced by this next war. Join artists like Emmanuel & Alicia Keys by raising your voice and becoming a soldier for peace....


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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cross-Cultural Caring: JAI HO!

This is part 10 of the "Cross-Cultural Caring" series. The series deals with tips and tricks that you can use to succesfully make a cross-cultural relationship work.

Jai Ho! You probably recognize that phrase from the movie "Slumdog Millionare". The phrase means "May victory be yours!". And that is what I am wishing for you as I tie up this blog series. Writing the blog series stretched me in ways that you can never imagine. It took every skill I had ever learned as a writer to pull this off. As well, doing the project challenged me on an emotional level.

Even though I knew that the things we learned from our friendship could help many people, it still made me nervous to be writing blogs on our relationship and putting them on the internet for all the world to see. It was a project where I had to allow myself to be vulnerable. I kept have to read what I was writing over and over again before I published it to make sure that I was giving an accurate portrayal of our friendship. Because all this didn't affect just my life but Marisa's as well.

Little did I know that doing this project would also really make a difference in my relationship with her as well and cause me to be able open on levels that I had only dreamed of. Sitting here spending all those hours thinking and writing about our relationship really put things into perspective for me. The greatest gift doings project gave me was that in the midst of doing all this writing, I got a revelation of Marisa's heart for me.

You see, I've been in so many relationship where ego or self motivation was involved and I ended up getting hurt in the end. But at one point while working on this project, I realized that Marisa's heart for me was that she really wants to support me and do everything she can to make it work between us. I genuinely have a friendship where I don't need to worry about her being angry, offended, or hurt at me because I accidently stepped on her ego. And although this project and the blogsite and the series was all new for her, she would truly go to the ends of the earth for me to accomodate me if this is project was special and important and meant something to me.

Having Marisa's blessing was vitally important to me on this project. The thing I love most about her is that she has such a big heart and she fully supports me sharing things we had learned from our relationship knowing that it would help others. To all of you out there, no matter where you are in the world or whatever language and culture you are dealing with or even what kind of relationships may be in your world....JAI HO!

"Love can increase your creativity"


Monday, December 27, 2010

A Day in the Life of an Asado

Thanks to my video camera, you can now experience first hand the day in the life of an asado....


Cross-Cultural Caring: Extreme Makeover

This is part 9 of the "Cross-Cultural Caring" series. The series deals with tips and tricks that you can use to succesfully make a cross-cultural relationship work.

Last year when I landed in Buenos Aires for the first time, everything was new and exciting. I spent the first 6 weeks enamored with the city as I participated in a whole host of tourist activities. There were feelings of excitement all day everyday in my first few weeks here. But feelings don't last forever and as you know, things begin to change when you settle in and things are no longer new for you.

After those weeks here, my relationship with the city began to change because like an onion, I was going deeper in and experiencing the city no longer as a tourist but more or less like a local. And as that happened, my feelings changed, my expectations and the things I wanted from the city changed. The experiences I wanted to have changed. I didn't feel giddy feelings of delight all the time living here. In fact there were moments that things about the city annoyed the living daylights out of me!!!

But I continued to open my heart and when I did, something even more amazing began to happen. Love began to take root. I began to actually love the people and pay attention to the issues that affected Argentines. As I spent time time with ordinary everyday local folks and engage in conversations, I could feel my heart grow a little bit bigger each time with each conversation. A desire began to grow in my heart to make a difference here in the city. What happened? Love happened :)

What in the world does this have to do with relationships or Marisa? I'll explain it to you. Relationships happen the same way. When you meet someone for the very first time, everything is new and you feel excitement and anticipation. Some people may mistakenly call it "love" but it is not. It is feelings and sensation and they always happen in a new relationship whether it would be friendship or romance.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Little Drummer Girl

Alicia Keys live in Frankfurt

Merry Christmas everyone! Here in Argentina, families gather together on Christmas Eve to have dinner. This year, I'll be spending Christmas in the house of Diana, my friend from Peru. As dinner draws to an end and the clock nears closer to midnight everyone starts counting down, just the way we do for New Years Day. Then at midnight fireworks go off and the dancing begins until 2 am in the morning. But the actual day of Christmas is nothing huge here in Latin America, it's basically treated like any other day. How's that for a different holiday tradition?

Giving gifts are not a really big thing over here. In reality, only kids get presents. It would actually be out of the norm for adults to give presents to each other. But I still love giving gifts and I feel so blessed this year to be able to give a gift to all my visitors. And the gift that I get to give you all is the magnificent voice of Alicia Keys. This was Alicia's Key's first recording.....ever. So without further ado, here is "Little Drummer Girl", remixed and remastered for your listening pleasure. Happy holidays!

Alicia Keys - Little Drummer Girl by RCA Music Group

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cross-Cultural Caring: One Big Messy Family

This is part 8 of the "Cross-Cultural Caring" series.  The series deals with tips and tricks that you can use to succesfully make a cross-cultural relationship work.

We see it all time on television these glowing ads of happy families smiling and laughing together. However, in reality I think that when you get thrown together with someone in a cross-cultural relationship, the experience is more like the one the Solomon's are having in this episode of 3rd Rock. When the Solomon's first arrive to earth, they begin looking for a one word answer to all their questions about what it means to be human, only to find that there is none. And thus propels their mission even further and deeper in their quest for knowledge and wisdom.

When you bake cookies, the final product is these perfectly round smooth looking cookies that are coming out of the oven. However, the process to get them that way was quite messy. You had to get your hands dirty with batter, eggs, flour and during the process you wind up with these ingredients smeared all over your kitchen and yourself! The end product was smooth however the process was anything but smooth.

Probably my greatest tool for working out the process of this relationship turned out to be my spanish-english dictionary! Imagine a relationship where you not only have to figure out what was actually said, but there is a second level of understanding where you have to pick up emotional cues from someone in another culture. Why did they say what they said? Does it have any cultural significance? What does this phrase tell me about the emotional state of the other party? And even if I get everything right and figured out what they were saying and why, how do I respond? What is the response she is used to or is expecting of someone in this particular culture?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cross-Cultural Caring: To Bite or Not to Bite?

This is part 7 of the "Cross-Cultural Caring" series. The series deals with tips and tricks that you can use to succesfully make a cross-cultural relationship work.

To bite or not to bite? That is the questions of today. It is no secret that the first world society is far from innocent. I believe that is why there seems to be such a fascination with my friendship with Marisa. There is quite a level of innocence that exists in the dynamics between us that is just not seen in relationship between people in North American society. And I would really like to keep it that way! Unfortunately, that can be challenging at times especially when I have to leave Argentina and go back to a society full of snakes.

This blog deals with what you can do if you feel like you've been "bitten" by a friend or someone from your own culture and not only are you wounded, you feel that venom is trying to get to you. I got "bitten" when I got home after my first trip. In fact, I got bitten by more than one person and in one case it affected me greatly. I could feel that there was this venom inside of me trying to get to me and affect all that was good. I didn't want to come back to Argentina a different person than the person Marisa knew and loved.

So what do you do if you've been wounded and you're afraid that what is happening in your world is going to affect that person that you love from a different culture who has no idea of the problems that exist in your culture? You do what any person does when they've just been bitten by a report it. Tell that person as soon as you feel comfortable. That is what I did, I shot off an email to her as soon as I felt OK. I wasn't expecting her to have an answer or even a response. At this stage in our relationship, all I wanted for her was that something had happened.

To tell you the truth, I think I tell Marisa just about everything if I think it's going to affect me. I don't allow myself to keep secrets from her and on her end I don't think that is a problem because she doesn't have any secrets! I've told her openly about this blog and that I am writing about our friendship and putting it on the internet and in the email I told her all my feelings and all that I was going through internally. It's really important for me to do this because I do have the type of personality that internalizes everything and then when I react, people have no idea where I am coming from.

But I don't just talk with her recent situations where I have been bitten, I have a difficult past and because of that, I get scared of letting people too close to me. And I get scared that I'm gonna hurt someone that I love. I have my own baggage that I've had to work through but I decided that there is nothing that she can't know about. I've let her know that I have issues that I have to work through so she understands my reactions sometimes and that in all things, I do love her and I would never hurt her. In fact, if I knew that I couldn't be a safe friend, I would rather that God remove me from her life. But apparently God does think that I'm a good friend so it looks like I'm not going anywhere!

This is her first ever friend from North America and I wanted her to have a really good experience so I felt really protective. I try my best not to bring any issues into our relationship and when there is stuff that is affecting my behavior towards her, I let her know. Part of me doesn't want to talk and keep things private. But like venom, those things will become poison to my soul if I don't talk, destroying every good thing in it's path. Yes, I do have a right to my privacy, but I waiver that right to protect the safety of my friend. I don't think I could live with myself if one day I ended up hurting her because someone hurt me and I didn't deal with it properly.

Our relationship is alway evolving. She is growing so fast and I am beyond proud of her! One day soon, she will be at a place where she will have a good enough understanding of the complexities of relationships in my culture to be able to take action if something that should happen that will affect our friendship. But no matter how long we know each other, we always have to adhere to the number one rule. And that is to keep in mind that the first step is always to report a snake bite....

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cross-Cultural Caring: Leggo My Ego!

This is part 6 of the "Cross-Cultural Caring" series.  The series deals with tips and tricks that you can use to succesfully make a cross-cultural relationship work.

This article is all about egging your ego because that's what you're gonna need to do if you want to see the survival of a cross cultural relationship. Marisa & I are so blessed that ego has never been a factor in our relationship. I believe that one of the key to the success of our friendship is that right from the beginning we alway had the same vision and goal. That being that we loved each other and we wanted to grow. It may sound really simple to say something like that but having the same goal really makes all the difference once you are half way into the relationship and you are trying to work things out with the other person.

For her and I, our first consideration is always the needs of the other person and to make sure they are happy and well taken care of. We do that to each other and it has produced amazing results. Because it's actually increased the level of security each other feels in this relationship. She knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that I love her and I'm not going to walk out the door the first time that I don't understand her or her culture.

Instead, I make it a point to look, listen, think, pray, research, ask questions until I find the answer. The Bible says that if you seek wisdom with all your heart, you will find it. I badly needed wisdom in my friendship with her so I really put God to the test in fulfilling this promise in the Bible. And guess what? God as usual came through and brought people into my world that explained things to me and helped bridge the gap between our two cultures.

Taking out the ego factor is even more important than you realize. Perhaps in a relationship with someone of your own culture you could afford to have a little bit of the ego thing going. But in a cross cultural relationship, you absolutely CANNOT afford it because you are dealing with so many differences already and other potential pressures. There are already a million ways for us to misunderstand each other. Things like being defensive or not wanting to admit mistakes or putting pressure on the other person to make you happy is gonna be a relationship killer.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Erupting a Chivito Volcano....

On Dec. 15th, I went to Uruguay to celebrate my birthday. I needed to renew my visa by leaving Argentina and then returning. Due to the scheduling of my round trip tickets, I wound up with about 2 hrs to kill in Colonia, Uruguay. Which gave me enough time to do the one thing I love more than anything else in the world.......EAT!

From my last trip, I remembered a restaurant called "El Porton" where I could sit in the sun and enjoy traditional Uruguayan cuisine. I headed back to that restaurant and ordered a coke and a Chivito. A Chivito is....well, you'll just have to watch this video of me getting cheeky with a Chivito to find out what exactly a Chivito is :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Andy Spandy's Award Winning Entry

Check out Andy Spandy's award winning entry....


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cross-Cultural Caring: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

This is part 5 of the "Cross-Cultural Caring" series.  The series deals with tips and tricks that you can use to succesfully make a cross-cultural relationship work.

As this cross cultural friendship with Marisa progressed, I began to notice abit of a phenomenon. Sometimes we would mimic each other's moves or have the same mannerisms or gestures. I didn't think much of it until I stumbled onto some articles on the internet on a behavior psychology and body language experts called "Mirroring". When someone "mirrors" someone and copies or mimics their actions and gestures, it is actually to create rapport between the two of them.

I cannot describe to you the wonderful feeling that went through me when I found that out. My friend has subconsciously been trying to create rapport between us through "mirroring". And "mirroring" can actually help when you and the other person come from two very different cultures. Her culture is more open, loving, and demostrative while me as a Chinese Canadian tends to be a little bit more reserved.

Sometimes I do sense that she does hold back and be a little bit more reserved towards me when my behavior is reserved. I think she does it because she wants me to feel comfortable and doesn't want me to feel uncomfortable in any way shape or form. And on my part, I am learning to be a little bit more open and loving because I know that she needs it and it makes her feel comfortable and it's what she's used to. Bit by bit we are striking a nice balance and finding a happy medium between a culture that is tends to be more reserved and a culture that tends to be more open.

Quite frankly, this first year of friendship has really been alot of experimentation on both our parts. The friendship can't be Argentinean style because I'm not Argentinean. And it can't be North American style because she's not from North America. Our friendship really is a combination of a little of both cultures. I really had to try alot of different things to find out what parts of the North American culture sit well with her and what parts she could live without. And it goes the other way as well with her trying out stuff from her culture with me.

You never know whether someone is going to like something or take to it if you don't try. Some days I have to "mirror" her and do things Argentinean style and some day she has to "mirror" me and be OK with things being done the North American way. And I gotta hand it to her because I'm actually a mix of many cultures and she's doing a wonderful job, considering that she's only been exposed to only Argentineans her whole life :)

Learning to mirror someone is one of the keys to a good relationship. Watching and observing actions and reactions and responding accordingly is vital. It can mean life or death in a relationship and in the case of these Cirque du Soleil performers it could mean life or death literally!

Mirror, mirror on the wall....

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cross-Cultural Caring: One Size Does NOT Fit All

This is part 4 of the "Cross-Cultural Caring" series.  The series deals with tips and tricks that you can use to succesfully make a cross-cultural relationship work.

Growing up in North America where culturally people are taught to be expressive, it is easy to take on a "One Size Fits All" mentality. What I mean by that it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we all deal with things like stress, anxiety, loneliness, fear, embarrassment in a very similar manner. But as my friendship with Marisa progresses, I am learning that one size does NOT fit all and in fact, her makeup as a person coming from this culture here in Argentina is entirely different than someone from North America and it is something I have to take into consideration all the time.

What this means is that her definition of friendship, ways of bonding, her needs or wants as a friend don't resemble anywhere close to what our idea of friendship is in North America. And even her way of dealing with things intangible like emotions and communicating her feelings manifests itself completely differently than anything I am used to.

Granted, we have established in our friendship that she will always talk to me if she ever wants or needs something from me as a friend and I would happily do anything I can to support her....however there is a second level of challenge that I'm just beginning to see. Can she actually recognize when she is feeling that something is lacking? She can't communicate something that she doesn't know that she needs. As a North American, I know when I am feeling that something is missing and I can easily write it out in an email and articulate it to her but I am not sure she can do the same.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Cross-Cultural Caring: So You Think You Can Love

This is part 3 of the "Cross-Cultural Caring" series.  The series deals with tips and tricks that you can use to succesfully make a cross-cultural relationship work.

This one friendship has taught me is the many ways that love can be manifested from culture to culture. A key thing to remember is that sometimes someone is trying to show me love but it may not come in a form that I recognize or am used to and to acknowledge the person's efforts to offer comfort or love. For example, Diana and Marisa both have ways of showing me support. Diana's way of showing me love is more or less in a form that I recognize and am used to.

If I need comfort, Diana's way of showing me support is by telling me a story about her life that I would be able to relate to. That is what I am used to and what I recognize. Marisa's way however took me abit longer to recognize. The nite that my flight was scheduled to leave Argentina, that very days Marisa and I were using SMS to chat abit and try and tie up loose ends. I was telling her that I was gonna miss her and that it's hard to leave her here. She text me back by telling me "Oh but you must think of all your friends and family abroad that haven't seen you". Diana would have probably said "Oh, I'm gonna miss you too, it's gonna be hard" which is more of what I would be used to.

But Marisa said the absolute sweetest thing to me that someone in my own culture and background would never have said. Her comment reflected who she is and how incredibly unselfish this woman is despite how much she was gonna miss me. She text me back and said "We all have to share this one person that everybody wants!" She was saying that Canada's got to have a turn in sharing me. I will never forget that comment as long as I live.

There were other times that I had to really research and gain an understanding of her culture to understand her mentality and point of view. One thing that I found out is that love in this culture is something that is freely given and is shared and is for everyone. But in the North American and European cultures, your love for someone is special and a little bit more exclusive for those whom you trust. Here in Argentina, friendship is friendship but in other cultures, there are many levels of friendship and connection.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Andy Spandy Watches U2 Make History


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Cross-Cultural Caring: Clash of the Cultures

This is part 2 of the "Cross-Cultural Caring" series.  The series deals with tips and tricks that you can use to succesfully make a cross-cultural relationship work.

The blog today is about "clash of the cultures". It was half way into my friendship with Marisa that I began to realize that the way Argentines are set up is very different from the way that North Americans are set up. The way that we show love, deal with stress and anxiety, communicate frustrations....ALL of it was different. And it took a tremendous amount of love on both our parts to make this friendship work and get past both our language and our cultural barriers. But I feel so blessed to have a friendship where the other person is just hell bent on making it work and I truly believe that in our minds there was never any other option other than to end up with a successful relationship.

One of the challenges was the Argentine cultural values and the North American cultural values are very different. And there were times where we couldn't understand each other and didn't know where the other person was coming from. It wasn't until I read some articles and had some chats with people that I understood more about Argentine culture and her mentality and point of view. But I will tell you that there were times that it would have been VERY easy for me in that moment to have been insulted or feel offended by comments made that weren't intended to be an insult at all.

For example, I was chatting with her one day online and said that I wanted to get to know her more. She commented back "Oh, there is no reason to get to know me more. There is not more to see that what you already see." A North American hearing a comment like that might think that this woman does not have a good self esteem to say something like that. But they would be getting the wrong idea of my friend because in fact she is very healthy and does have a good self esteem. It's just that Argentines don't think of themselves as these deep complex spiritual beings who are ever-evolving. The truth is that we all are but they don't sit around and seek the meaning of life or go on a journey of self discovery. It's more like "This is me....what you see is what you get!" Her comments are a mere reflection of her culture.

As my understanding of the differences in our cultures increases, I am beginning to have tremendous revelation into how we are shaped culturally. From the day we are born, our cultures begin to teach us lessons. Lessons on proper behavior, dealing with emotions, making friends, cultural values and taboos. What makes things difficult is at times the lessons that I've been taught culturally are almost opposite to the lessons that she's been taught culturally. What is important in one culture isn't important in another culture. What is considered taboo or inappropriate behavior may be behavior that is welcomed, valued, and encouraged in another culture.

None of us really knew how much our cultural beliefs had been ingrained into us until friendship with each other shed light on our differences. It was only when learned to flow together and made our two cultures live in harmony with one another that our friendship really began.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Rock & Vida 2010

Rock & Vida this year would serve a very different purpose for me than what I was intending. My original intention was to cover the event thoroughly like I do with all major events in this city and write an in-depth blog about it. That was before the idea for a blog series popped into my head. After spending almost a week of doing nothing but drafting, writing, rewriting, planning and organizing for an 8 part blog series, I was tired but happy. Seeing as I worked so hard on the series for all my fans and readers, I decided to let Rock & Vida be for me to relax, have fun, and kick back abit as a reward.

I still managed to get fantastic footage of the event. As you can see from the pics & the video, our team came up with some creative ways to get people's attention to our event. It was kind of hard not to miss these guys! And Diana, my friend from Peru, makes her debut apperance trying out her english skills....


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Cross-Cultural Caring: Listen Up!

The inspiration for this blog was sparked the other nite by a conversation with a friend here who is latino and is in the same situation as me where she has made friends with a foreigner to whom she feel there is strong potential in their relationship. A year of friendship with Marisa has taught me so much and I was glad to be able to share some pearls of wisdom with my friend here on how to maintain a relationship with a foreigner. While chatting with her on MSN, I made a joke that Marisa and I should write a book and we would sell millions.

It then occurred to me today that why not start a series of articles here on my blogsite that deals with this very issue. I know for certain that I am not the only one in the world who has a cross cultural friendship. There are thousands of other people in the same situation and now that Marisa and I have figured out a way to navigate through our cultural differences, I am sure that others would love to hear how we make it work.

It may sound sweet to have a cross cultural connection but the truth is that to maintain it takes a tremendous amount of love, commitment, and patience. When you meet someone for the first time, (whether it's a friendship or a romance) there is excitement in the air and lots of feelings and emotions. That's awesome but what do you do when the newness starts to wear off and you are more used to that person? And if that isn't enough, what do you do when it is clear that your friend wants a relationship with you but doesn't even know one word in your native language? As well, comes the stress of having to deal with the fact that not only do you have two different cultures but you also live in two different countries and you spend part of the time abroad.

What I was explaining to my friend last nite is that love goes beyond feelings and emotions. Love is what stays when the newness and the sensation of meeting someone begins to die down. A great example is her first message to me a few days after I arrived in Canada. Remember that our friendship was still fairly new and this was a whole new situation for us. She messaged me on FB and a portion of the message read "I hope that you are quick to return communication because you know that you have lots of friends back here". Translation: "Angelina, I don't want to wait months and weeks for a response!"

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

"Digital Death"

Today is "World AIDS Day" and is a day dedicated to create awareness on the spread of AIDS and encourage people to take action. Here in BA, we are dilligently preparing for Rock & Vida which is set to happen Saturday, Dec 4th in the Plaza del Congreso. As well the church has some events planned that are set to happen today as we join with others around the world in the fight against AIDS. One of the people who will be joining us in his campaign to stop the spread of AIDS is Bono of U2. World AIDS Day 2010 just wouldn't be complete without some "bits & bites" from Bono as well as watching the "Digital Death" of some of our favorite celebs.....

Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas