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Out & About in Cleveland

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Lunar New Year at CSU and Holi Festival at the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art

On Saturday, February 28th, we attended three events representative of the different cultures of Cleveland. First, we went the annual Lunar New Moon celebration that the Confucius Institute puts on each year in the main atrium at CSU. Unfortunately, Dr. Anthony Yen and Ms. Elizabeth Miller were not there when we were but we got to exchange greetings with our friend, Dr. Haigang Zhou and also saw our Mr. Jury Pychowycz as well as, of course, Ms. Lisa Wong, the president of OCA.

We watched some beautiful musical numbers put on by people of all ages and visited most of the booths where we watched people do calligraphy, learn Chinese knots, try on various Asian costumes, do creative things with paper cutting and design masks.

Mr. Tom Hu was taking care of a table that had a lot of envelopes sitting on it. He explained to us that the envelopes were being given away to people as an expression of friendship and the wish for good fortune.

We selected an envelope and found out that it contained a one yen note. Mr. Hu said that this was a sign that we will be very prosperous. We hope that he is right.

Next, we went to the India Community Center in Cleveland Heights for a Holi Festival organized by the Indian Classical Music Society and the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art.

We looked on our computer and found out that the Holi festival has its own website that describes this festival as having "an ancient origin and celebrates the triumph of 'good' over 'bad'. The colorful festival bridges the social gap and renews sweet relationships. On this day, people hug and wish each other 'happy holi'."

Here in Cleveland on this day Ms. Sujata Lakhe Barnard, with the help of her husband Bill, organized a memorable concert of Indian music by Mr. Hans Utter (playing the sitar), Mr. Jim Feist (playing the tabla), and Ms. Utpola Borah (vocalist). Unfortunately, midway through the concert we ran out of hot water for tea so we and Dr. Jessica Kumar ran across the street to Starbucks and brought back a big container of hot water so tea was served.

We talked with Mr. Robert Staib, Director of the Office of Early Childhood for Cuyahoga County, and it turned out that Mr. Staib has a friend who immigrated to the United States from Uruguay about 25 years ago and was helped by Ms. Margaret W. Wong.

After the concert, we asked each of the musicians what Indian music meant to them. Mr. Feist said that it was a very expressive art that allows the musician to interject himself/herself into the composition and go with it just like jazz. Mr. Utter said that Indian music represents a living tradition and also a type of yoga/meditation requiring rigorous discipline. Moreover it is a "pathway for self-expression which also expresses the cultural history of India." Ms. Kumar said that she had been singing since childhood and it was a major part of her life. She went on to say that she loves communicating with people through her music and "it is sharing love."

We wrapped up the day at the Turkish Cultural Center on Madison Avenue in Lakewood where we enjoyed the monthly Turkish Coffee Night which always features a short but compelling presentation about some aspect of Turkish culture followed by a tasty dinner with all sorts of vegetarian dishes that we can eat.

This month's program was introduced by two young girls named Beyza and Ayse who said, "we will have a presentation about Turkish cuisine and afterwards we will be eating delicious Turkish food."

As usual, Mrs. Seyma Gurer gave a well researched presentation and used a projector to show pictures of the various foods/dishes she was talking about which made us quite hungry and even more appreciative of the dinner that we would shortly have.

Mrs. Gurer said that much of the cuisine was "regions specific" which meant that a particular dish was mostly eaten in a particular region and each region had its own way of preparing the food. In a brief half hour, Mr. Gurer showed us photos and talked about traditional Turkish dishes, drinks, and desserts as well as table manners that were practiced there. At the end of her presentation, Mrs. Gurer said "afiyet olsun" meaning "enjoy your meal" which we certainly went on to do.

During dinner, we talked with Ms. Nancy P. McKay who teaches ESL to adults at Tri-C. Ms. McKay said that it was hard to describe the gratification that she felt after helping a student reach a new level; she said the student acted like "you've given them the whole world."

We also talked to Sister Liz Lavelle, a Sister of St. Joseph's, who provides assistance to immigrants who are brought to Cleveland from Cincinnati.

At this event we encountered our friend, Mr. Joseph Meissner who we saw earlier in the day when he attended the seminar that Margaret W. Wong and Associates gave on immigration. He told us that Ms. Wong spoke beautifully there and hoped that someone was recording her speeches because he believed that she should created a book out of 10 of them and call it "Wisdom from Wong."

Not a bad idea!

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