Category Archives: Foreignly Entertaining

From You Tube to books to movies and any other entertaining tidbits and stories I can come up with, this is where to look.

Ending the Holidays with Día de los Reyes

One of my least favorite activities of the year is taking down my Christmas decorations. I love the holidays, so putting everything back in the tupperware bins feels like such a downer compared to all the joy, family, and food that comes with Christmas. So last year when I heard about Día de los Reyes (also known as Three Kings Day or Epiphany) and the opportunity to extend my holidays a little longer, I knew I wanted to add the celebration to our family traditions.

Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar are from Aunt Ethel's nativity set. They are one of my favorite parts of Christmas.

Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar are from my Aunt Ethel’s nativity set. They are some of my favorite Christmas decorations.

Held on January 6th, Día de los Reyes is officially the 12th day of Christmas. It celebrates the coming of the three wise men to worship the Christ child and give him the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Three Kings Day is widely celebrated around the world, particularly in Latin American countries. In Argentina, children put grass and water outside the door for the wise men’s camels. In Mexico, the three wise men are added to the nativity scenes on the eve of Día de los Reyes. And in Peru, they actually make taking down the Christmas decorations on Día de los Reyes a celebration in itself and call it Bajada de Reyes (Descent of Kings).

To celebrate Día de los Reyes at our house, we will be doing our own Bajada de Reyes tonight. In addition to taking down the Christmas decorations, we’ll also enjoy a modified Three Kings Cake, sing We Three Kings, and exchange small gifts between us. But most of all, I hope to remember that the season doesn’t really have to end just because the decorations come down.  While maybe we can’t eat like we did during the holidays, the joy of Christmas, family, and friendships are things I don’t have to pack up with the ornaments.

Three Kings Cake

Tradition calls for a porcelain baby Jesus to be put in the Kings Cake but we are improvising and I’ve put a paper one in the bottom of one of the cupcakes. Whoever gets the baby Jesus is supposed to make tamales on Candlemas (Feb. 2nd).

Three Kings Cupcakes

Unfortunately the real Three Kings Cake takes hours to make so we modified our version. These cranberry cupcakes will serve as our individual Kings Cake for tonight.

Click here for more country-specific Three Kings Day traditions and check out these other Epiphany blog posts:

 

 

The Magic of Sinterklaas

Communicating Across Boundaries hosted a guest post today about St. Nicholas (Sinterklaas) Day as well, but from the traditions of the Netherlands.

MARILYN R. GARDNER

Earlier in the fall I asked readers for submissions on Christmas traditions around the world. I am delighted to offer you this post on Sinterklaas by Annelies Kanis who wrote the popular post The Trunk That Traveled the World.

Bright December moon is beaming

boys and girls now stop your play

for tonight’s the wondrous evening

eve of good St. Nicholas day

There is nothing quite like the magic of Saint Nicolas. Or as we say, Sinterklaas.

Nederlands: Sinterklaas tijdens het Het Feest ...

Saint Nicolas was a Turkish Saint from the 4th Century A.D. In the Netherlands we celebrate Sinterklaas on the evening before his name day, which is December 6th. The original Saint Nicolas had a reputation for secret gift giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out. And as it goes with legends, the legend of Saint Nicolas got bigger and bigger and somehow…

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I love that Letizia took a trip to China via a book. What a fabulous way to be global from home. Check out her review of China in Ten Words by Yu Hua.

reading interrupted.

I haven’t been to China yet but I went on a little voyage through space and time to take my mind off of the hurricane and its aftermath.

I had read a few good reviews of Yu Hua’s China in Ten Words and its bright yellow cover had been sitting on my desk for a few months.

As I prepared for Hurricane Sandy, I set aside a few different books to read.  I wasn’t sure what kind of reading mood I’d be in so my selection included:

Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, John Steinbeck’s America and Americans and Yu Hua’s China in Ten Words

Yu Hua explores his relationship with 10 words (such as “People” and “Writing”) and through this exploration tells a history of China interweaved with his own personal stories.

I was delighted to find that one of the words he writes about is ‘reading’.

One passage in particular…

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The Language of the World

The sheep had taught him something even more important: that there was a language in the world that everyone understood, a language the boy had used throughout the time he was trying to improve things at the shop. It was the language of enthusiasm, of things accomplished with love and purpose, and as part of a search for something believed in and desired.

~ The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Sitting at the top of the slide, his five-year old body was slumped and his face was marked with a scowl that was almost impenetrable. I called his name several times but he didn’t budge. I asked what was wrong, but there was no answer. He pulled his knees up to support his chin, which supported his protruding, pouting lower lip.

Finally, not knowing if he understood my words, I substituted them with funny faces. It is my honest belief that almost any child can be redirected if I try hard enough. I did moose ears, the pucker-faced fish, but it was the blown-up monkey cheeks that did him in. His lower lip slightly retreated and he lifted his flip-flopped foot up to show me a small scrape on his ankle.

“Ouch,” I said. “Let me blow your boo boo a kiss.” I put my hand to my mouth and made a kissing noise as I pulled it away. He then followed suit and kissed his hand and put it on his ankle. Miraculously healed, he came down the slide and raced me to the merry-go-round, laughing as he ran. In that moment, I understood Paulo Coelho’s idea of the language of the world. This little boy from Malaysia could not understand my words, but in the end he understood my message.

All Girls are Princesses

Did you ever see the movie the Little Princess? If not, I’ll give you a brief synopsis. The movie centers on an English girl who is being brought up in India when her single father is called to war. He brings her back to the UK and puts her in a boarding school with no expenses spared. But when the British army believes him dead, everything is taken away from the girl and she is forced to become a maid in the school. Despite all that happens, she believes in her dreams and her father’s words that she is princess.

Every Thursday afternoon I’ve been volunteering with Spero Project and helping with the children in our local refugee community. Thursdays seem to be the day where they don’t have much homework so in general, we just play. Yesterday I put out a stack of paper, crayons, tape, and ribbon and just let the kids create what they wanted. There was everything from t-shirts, to paper finger claws, to purses. But what struck me the most were the crowns. With little girls from Malaysia, Turkey, and Myanmar, every single one of them wanted to make a crown to wear. Every one of them wanted to be a princess. As I watched them play, it reminded me of the movie. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what language you speak, all girls are princesses.

Word to the Wise on Cruising

Arrr!  While digging through some old photos, I found this picture of me from a cruise I took with my parents after I graduated from college. I know I’m late for International Talk Like a Pirate Day but the picture did get me thinking about cruising.

Cruising is my parents’ preferred method of travel. They love not worrying about transportation or packing and unpacking as they move from one country to another. They have also been extremely generous to take my brother and I along during our younger years. We have certainly had some fabulous family vacations while sailing the high seas. However, with all vacations come lessons learned. If you’re planning on cruising this winter, here are my words to the wise:

  1. If your 21-year-old brother/son goes missing, assume he has found some girls to hang out with and has not fallen overboard.
  2. Be nice to your cabin steward. He will give you a lot more chocolates on your pillow.
  3. Unless you are with a big group, request your assigned dining table to be with other passengers. It’s a good opportunity to practice talking to strangers in a fairly comfortable environment.
  4. Go to the shows. They are actually pretty good.
  5. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. It will help you keep that weight off from the buffet.
  6. If going with a group, be sure not to do everything together. It’s great for everyone to go do their own excursions while at port and then get back together at dinner to share stories.
  7. Balance eating on board and eating at port. While the food on board is included and usually delicious, you don’t want to miss out on the cultural cuisine of each country.
  8. Margaritas and sea sickness don’t mix.
  9. If you are on a cruise while in your early 20s, expect that most people on board in your age bracket are either on their honeymoon, in an on-board wedding, or are part of the crew. (Excluding spring break week.)
  10. Buy one of those photographs they take of you at dinner with the pirates. Eight years later, you’ll be glad you did.

 

Three Things You Can’t Live Without

One of my favorite questions to ask people who travel is “What three things can you not live without?” Typical answers are a camera, laptop, or cell phone, but I love when people say something that surprises me.

I’m headed back to San Diego for five days and currently sitting in the airport. Want to know three things that I like to travel with?

  1. A Book – I don’t go anywhere without one. It’s my comfort blanket. Stood up for a date? Read a book. No electronics allowed for the first 15 minutes of a flight? Read a book.
  2. Scissors – I can’t tell you how many times these little guys come in handy and I pretty much take them with me everywhere. I usually carry ribbon too just in case I need to wrap a quick gift. Always prepared!
  3. The Letter Z – Hubby and I play Scrabble on date nights usually once a month and were pretty competitive. We lost the Z a few months ago and my husband and I accused each other of hiding it. It was actually under the table but ever since then I’ve had it in my wallet. Every time I open my change purse I see it and think of him.

What three things can you not live without?

 

European Reading List

For some reason I’ve been putting off making my European reading list. But last night I finally got my Global Reads by Region page up and running and I decided I need to get going with my European books as well.

In the past, I have read a number of books written by British authors. Jane Austen is my all time favorite. I read the Night Circus this year by Erin Morgenstern (I definitely recommend it if you are a reader that likes to imagine your books). Of course I’ve read all the Harry Potter novels (who hasn’t), the Lord of the Ring trilogy by Tolkein, and the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, as well as a number of historical fictions on the British monarchies by Philippa Gregory. With all that said, I’ve decided to avoid British writers. Perhaps I’ll give them a section of their own in the future. Instead I’m focusing on books I’ve heard set in Europe but that I’ve never read. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  • In the Merde for Love by Stephen Clarke (2005), discovering the culture of the French is a specialty of Stephen Clarke. After reading a great blog post about A Year in the Merde, I scoped out the local library for a copy but instead found the second book in his series. Focused on love in FRANCE, this one is bound to have me laughing.
  • The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1958), set in the 1860s ITALYThe Leopard tells the spellbinding story of a decadent, dying Sicilian aristocracy threatened by the approaching forces of democracy and revolution. I actually read this book in college in Italian but unfortunately it didn’t stick well. I thought I’d give it a try in English.
  • Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (1945), in a little town in SWEDEN the outrageous red-headed Pippi Longstocking brings adventure to her neighbors. When I was just 4 or 5 my parents took me to the play of Pippi Longstocking but I haven’t read or really heard of her since. This will be a lighthearted and easy read.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1873), a classic I’ve not read yet, Anna Karenina is one of the great novels of RUSSIA. The sensual, rebellious Anna renounces a respectable marriage for an affair that offers passion.
  • Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis (1946), the tale of a young intellectual in GREECE who ventures to escape his bookish life with the aid of his boisterous friend, Alexis Zorba

Help me add to my list! Have you read any great books by European authors?

Tea with Margaret Thatcher

 

Although I’ve watched a good number of films lately from around the globe, I haven’t been inspired to blog about any in a while. But this past week I watched the Iron Lady, and actually found myself writing down quotes from the movie (BTW, that is not a regular occurrence). Margaret Thatcher may be a controversial character in Britain’s history, but she definitely said some quotable statements during her tenure in British politics. As a woman with a great deal of responsibility on her shoulders, I think there are some lessons we can all take from her. So with a cup of tea in hand, here is what I have learned from the longest-serving British Prime Minister.

Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan.

These days without the structure of a full-time job, I think I find this advice from M.T. to be the most practical. At least I’ve made it practical and started making my checklist every morning. It’s made me contemplate my goals and write them down, even the little ones. (Today: learn 30 new words for the GRE.)

I do not know anyone who has got to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but it should get you close.

I am on the cusp of being a Millennial, a generation known for their access and ease with technology, but also regularly criticized for its characteristics of entitlement. Margaret’s quote was a good reminder that I cannot rest on the shoulders of others to accomplish my goals. It will take my own hard work and perseverance.

To wear your heart on your sleeve isn’t a very good plan; you should wear it inside, where it functions best.

As an emotional thinker, I can certainly benefit from this lesson.  If I can allow my heart and mind to function in unison, rather that allow my heart to run the show, my decisions and probably my outcomes would all be better.

Thank you, Margaret, for the tea and for the good advice.

 

Global Reading for Kids

My favorite part of being home in Atlanta is spending time with our nephews and niece. We may be bias, but they are quite possibly the cutest kids ever and we love playing with them. The week has been filled with games, the pool and reading books. With my mom being a kindergarten teacher, reading and storytelling was a part of our daily routine growing up and she has definitely carried on the tradition with her grandkids. She has a pretty great children’s book collection and this year for her birthday we helped internationalize it a bit more. Both Mom and the kids have enjoyed these bite-sized global reads:

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf is an oldie by a goodie. Teaching kids about classic Spanish culture from the perspective of a peaceable bull, this is one you may see on may 1st grade reading lists.

Tickle Tut’s Toes by Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo – a tangible way for a little one to experience ancient Egypt. My 2-year old niece loves it.

Olivia Goes to Venice by Ian Falconer and Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth are perfect for the 4-7 year old globe-trotter. With real pictures of Venice and good moral stories from Stillwater the panda, both will be enjoyed by kids and adults alike.

The Korean Cinderella by Shirley Climo is one of several cultural make-overs of the classic fairy tale. For your princess-loving kiddos, these are a great way into incorporate other cultures into their reading.

I finished off the gift with a little bit of creative wrapping by printing pictures or patterns that represented each country.

  • The Story of Ferdinand – Spanish Flag
  • Olivia Goes to Venice – picture of a gondolier
  • Korean Cinderella – Korean calligraphy
  • Zen Panda – red polka dots for the Japanese flag
  • Tickle Tut’s Toes – hieroglyphics