COMMUNITY

There is a short phrase we find difficult, if not impossible, to say to our parents.

“I love you.”

They don’t say it. We don’t say it. Or, so I thought.  

With Mother’s Day around the corner, I wanted to delve further into this phrase, especially in relation to our mothers. Why don’t we say it? Or, do we say it often? Should we even have to say it? I walked around UCLA and asked some of my peers what their thoughts were.

Pacific Ties: Has your mom said “I love you” to you before?
Josephine Gao: Yes, my mom has … every time before I fly to UCLA. It makes me feel very happy and loved. It is very comforting to hear, especially if she says it when I am stressed or upset.
Raymond Huynh: No, but she makes food for me which is all the love I need.
Sujan Kim: My mom tells me she loves me all the time – whenever we hang up on the phone, whenever we’re hanging out, all the time.

PT: How does your mom express her love for you?
Frank Deng: She tells me. She worries about every little thing for me.
Pauline Tze: Basically, my mom worries at least twice as much about the things I’m worried about even after I stop being worried about them, and she nags me about things I haven’t been worrying about as well. I just pick up her calls even if I’m in the middle of studying and bear through all her nagging.

PT: Do you say “I love you” to your mom? How does she respond?
Linda Yee: Yes! She says I love you back or kisses me.
JG: Yes, I tell my mom that I love her before I end phone conversations with her. She usually replies that she loves me too.
RH: Yes (laughs). She just laughs.
SJ: I tell her I love her as often as I can. She always reciprocates the mushiness.

PT: How do you express your love for your mom?
LY: I like to think that I express my love for my mom through my actions. I’ll go up and hug her, or I’ll try to help her with whatever she’s doing.
JG: Honestly, I don’t think I adequately express my love for my mom, even though I love her a lot and am very grateful for everything she has done for me. (But) when I come home, I help my mom with chores like cooking dinner, washing dishes and folding laundry. I bring her hot tea, and we spend quality time together, watching TV shows that she likes.
SJ: I call her often and send her funny pictures of my daily life while she does the same. It’s like I never left home.

After my interviews, I learned the phrase didn’t matter too much. Whether our mothers say “I love you” or express it through actions, their love comes in hidden and various forms that don’t require words at all. The three words are just three words.

So, this Mother’s Day and the days after, let’s not forget the spoken or unspoken love our mothers have for us. Let’s remind them of our appreciation and reciprocation through words or actions; either works! I know Sunday I’ll be giving my mom a call saying “I love you.”

 

Established in 1994, the Association of Hmong Students (AHS) hosted its fourth annual Hmong Awareness Day (HAD) event at UCLA on April 5th, 2017.

To second-year AHS Secretary, Paja Thao, “HAD is an opportunity to make people on campus aware of my identity, where I’m from and who I am. It is a very important day for me because I’m able to immerse my friends on campus on what my culture has to offer and what my experiences was as a Hmong-American.”

The Hmong are an ethnic group from China, Laos, Thai, Vietnam and Myanmar.  

The UCLA community were welcomed with the opportunity to fully immerse in the Hmong culture through sensory, educational stations that included history, art and food.

The Hmong history station demonstrated a timeline of political events surrounding the Vietnam and Secret War that affected the Hmong people and pushed the population to disperse and find refuge in a number of Southeast Asian countries and throughout the United States.

The arts section included language, clothing and dance.

Third-year AHS External Vice President, Linda Moua, taught students the phonetic Hmong alphabet along with a few common terms like greeting words and pronouns.

AHS also showcased traditional Hmong clothing at the event modeled on its organization members.

Hmong garments are either handmade or bought from a seamstress at the annual Hmong New Year celebration that begins in November. The clothing typically responds to the two main dialects: white and green. White dialect speakers wear white skirts, whereas green speakers wear colored skirts. However, traditional Hmong clothing has evolved to accommodate a modern generation within its cultural group.

Keeping consistent with the visual presentations that the event is predominantly revolved around, AHS incorporated a traditional Hmong dance tutorial. With Hmong music in the background, interns taught enthusiastic spectators a short snippet of a full routine.

 

Interns Michelle Vang, Grace Yang and Mai Nhia Xiong

The UCLA community was also presented with a selection of Hmong dishes, including white rice, boiled salt and pepper chicken and Asian sausage, to relish. The Hmong dishes are heavily influenced by the other Southeast Asian cultures they are surrounded by. However, the one thing that distinguishes Hmong cuisine from neighboring cultures is its traditional religious beliefs regarding chicken. Postpartum, Hmong women must have a boiled chicken diet for a month to help their bodies heal and recover faster.

AHS External Vice President Linda Moua serves Hmong food to a UCLA community member.

Despite having a low number of participants compared to other cultural groups, AHS’s main objective is to establish and foster cultural awareness and identity, to provide a safe space on campus for Hmong students and student allies, and to encourage its members to become conscious student leaders for the Hmong community community.

AHS provides a support system and mentorship for its members through open discussions revolving around identity during its weekly meetings. In addition to weekly meetings, the AHS community challenges and provides opportunities for its members to gain leadership experience through various programs like its annual Higher-education Movement: Our Next Generation (H.M.O.N.G.) high school conference that will take place April 28-30.

“I continue being involved with AHS in hopes of providing a support system for lowerclassmen the same way AHS has done for me. I also believe in the work that AHS does, such as bringing awareness of the Hmong people to UCLA,” says Linda Moua.

With a welcoming environment for students to engage in the Hmong culture, “AHS is dedicated to upholding the voice of the Hmong community through advocacy for higher education and addressing community issues that are overlooked.”

Faith and Chai was hosted Monday, Feb. 21, 2017 , by Jasmine Patel, and Vincent Loyal, both second-year biology students from Intervarsity Christian Fellowship as a space for South Asian students of different faiths to discuss what is similar and what is different about their faiths.

Patel said that “[Faith and Chai] was created by South Asian InterVarsity as a way to reach more South Asian students on campuses across the nation” while Loyal wanted to create a space for dialogue, discussion about faith, and a community for South Asians.

About twenty students, ranging from first to fourth-years, of different South Asian backgrounds came for the first meeting, greeted by the friendly faces of Vincent and Jasmine. They explained their aims for the space to be where one learnt from another no matter the faith background. In addition, they hoped to create a network of new friendships and for participants to consider how faith and spirituality play a role in their lives this quarter and beyond.

An important community agreement Vincent and Jasmine addressed before breaking into groups was to enforce, wherever possible, the use of ‘I’ statements. They added that people are individuals, not spokespeople for their own faiths. It adds a lot of pressure on individuals to speak for their communities, rather than for themselves and their experiences. Other community agreements included having respect for others even if there was disagreement about a certain perspective, and an equal level of participation among all people in the discussion.

Before having groups of students engage in dialogue, there was a team building exercise that involved participants assembling structures from old newspapers, paper clips and rubber bands in a friendly yet competitive manner. “While it seemed silly first,” said Lamia Abbas, a second-year psychobiology student, “it eased conversations about faith later on.” The winners of this short exercise were treated to the samosas (deep fried pastry snack prevalent in many South Asian countries) and chai first.

The dialogues began about an hour after the event began, allowing  an hour’s time for the significant conversations to ensue. The questions suggested ranged from “What is the central message or chief goal of your faith” to “In your opinion, what is humankind’s reason for being?” In response to the former question, Abbas said, “[my] relationship with organized religion is complicated.” Similar sentiments were echoed by students Vineet Mathew, a second-year computational and systems biology student and a Shrita Pendekanti, a second-year neuroscience student.

There were many great takeaways from the event. One of the last questions by Loyal, “what have you come to appreciate of different faiths in the South Asian community?” made it clear how positively the dialogue impacted the attendees. Matthew appreciated “realizing how similar we all are” while Pendekanti lauded how during the dialogue, others “articulated thoughts [she] had but wasn’t able to express.” Marsha Noeline, a second-year mechanical engineering student concluded that “in the coming years, these spaces are going to be really necessary.”

Although the event was supposed to end at 9 p.m.,  conversations lasted for far longer than that. Both student organizers received a lot of positive feedback, and Patel said they “want to continue to create spaces where South Asian students can come together to share about their own faiths and learn about others. We are also very open to collaborating with other South Asian groups on campus to make these events more widely known and more welcoming to the South Asian community.”

First-year students Agnes Bautista and Charlotte Duldulao found a new family at UCLA before they even began attending the university. They were both invited to Bruin Life Weekend, a new admit weekend hosted by Pilipino Recruitment and Enrichment Program (PREP) specifically designed for Pilipino high schoolers to briefly experience college life. The weekend involved campus and housing tours galore and group bonding activities. It was here that Bautista and Duldulao met new and current Pilipino students from all over the globe. When they made the ultimate decision to commit to UCLA, they also joined Samahang Pilipino to spend more time with the people they had met during the weekend event.

First-year Samahang Pilipino members (a.k.a SPams)

First established in 1972, Samahang Pilipino is one of the most active and thriving student culture groups at UCLA, and it has expanded with each coming year. This cultural group’s mission is to be a home away from home for students of Pilipino descent. Not only does the organization provide a close-knit family for its members, but it also serves to educate the Pilipino community off-campus as well.

Samahang consists of three entities that all have their own unique goals. There are SPEAR, SPACE, and SPCN.

SPEAR, or Samahang Pilipino Education and Retention, aims to help Pilipino UCLA students realize their full potential by supplying them with academic resources and counseling. Third-year Benjamin Azul and many other student counselors are assigned to a few Pilipino students to regularly check up on throughout the quarter to monitor the students’ progress.

SPACE, or Samahang Pilipino Advancing Community Empowerment, reaches out to underrepresented Pilipino communities, mainly in the greater Los Angeles area. The purpose of this program is to encourage Pilipino high school and community college students to pursue a four-year university degree. Currently, SPACE interns offer tutoring and advising services at El Camino College, Belmont High School, and Carson High School.

Lastly, SPCN, or Samahang Pilipino Culture Night, is the pride and joy of this organization. Taking place in spring quarter, SPCN features many different performances ranging from Samahang Modern, one of the most competitive hip-hop dance groups on campus, to Tinig ng, a beautiful choir group that sings in Tagalog, the native language of the Philippines. Many Samahang general members are going to perform in SPCN this upcoming spring. In fact, Bautista and Duldulao will both be performing in dance numbers.

Tinikling performance during last year’s SPCN

There are additional subgroups within Samahang Pilipino such as internship and mentorship programs. There are four different internship programs that educate members about Pilipino history and prepare them to become leaders within the organization. Each internship program deals with varying aspects of Samahang, such as outreach relations or internal community.

On the other hand, the mentorship program (called One Step Ahead) pairs a third-year or fourth-year student with a first-year or second-year student. The mentor shows their mentee the ropes throughout the school year and helps them bond with other Samahang members.

“[The mentorship program] is a great way to meet other people. In SP, everyone knows each other, which is pretty nice,” says Duldulao.

One Step Ahead Mentorship Program ice skating outing

Samahang Pilipino prides itself on being an inclusive cultural group for all UCLA undergraduate students.

“[Everyone was] so welcoming and warm towards me that I knew from that moment on that I found my community here at UCLA, even a family and a home,” says Bautista.

While it seems to be exclusive to Pilipinos only, Samahang Pilipino welcomes all students of any race/ethnicity with open arms. Their general meetings are held every odd week on Fridays from 6-8 p.m. in Haines A2. Anybody can join at any time!

BY LUCY MA and VIVIAN GIANG.

UCLA Kendo Club is holding its 10th Annual Yuhihai Intercollegiate Kendo Tournament this Sunday on Feb. 26. The tournament will be in the gym in the Student Activities Center and start at 9 a.m.

Written as “剣道” or “the way of the sword,” kendo can formally be described as a way “to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the katana,” says Jenny Huang, a fourth-year business economics major and vice president of the UCLA Kendo Club.

In simpler terms, explains Jenny Chim, a fourth-year psychology major and the club’s president, kendo is somewhat like “Japanese fencing.”

Both Huang and Chim joined the UCLA Kendo Club as first-years, without any prior kendo experience. Now as the club’s vice president and president, respectively, both women are eager to help pass on the “kendo college experience.” Part of that experience is the annual tournament, Yuhihai, which they are the primary organizers for.

This year’s Yuhihai Tournament is particularly special because it marks the tournament’s 10th anniversary.

“I think we’re hoping to really showcase how much Yuhihai has grown throughout the past 10 years,” said Huang.

This year’s Yuhihai Tournament will include 11 schools from across the U.S. and around 160 participants. The tournament will begin with opening ceremonies that include guest sensei, or instructors, from Japan – Shinotsuka Masuo and Tadaomi Hojo – both of whom are members of Japanese law enforcement.

Shinotsuka sensei was also the one who named the annual tournament “Yuhihai” — which means “a great leap full of bravery and ambition” — with hopes that the club and the tournament will help students aspire to bravely move forward, face adversity head on, and to always keep a sense of determination.

Kendo1_by_StevenKim
Photo courtesy of Steven Kim and the UCLA Kendo Club

After the opening ceremonies, the tournament’s competitions will begin with individual rounds in the morning, while the team divisions will take place in the afternoon. Chim and Huang also gave high regards to the club’s women’s team, which has taken gold in the individual division for two years in a row.

For the team divisions, the club took third place last year and second place the year before in the Yuhihai tournament. They also placed second for two years consecutively in Harvard’s Shoryuhai Tournament.

“We’re aiming for first this year,” said both Chim and Huang.

The Yuhihai Tournament is not only a place for kenshi, a kendo practitioner, to test their skills. It is also a symbol of “kendo presence in California,” explained Huang.

Yuhihai was originally founded to fill in a gap for kenshi on the West Coast.

“Ten years ago, people only talked about Harvard’s tournament,” Chim said. However, there was already a sizable kendo presence in California, so “why not do it here?”

With participants that include opponents all the way from Boston University, the tournament’s existence highlights the ongoing expansion of the kendo community from the West to East Coast.

While there is currently no official inter-collegiate competition in the U.S., Huang hopes that the Tournament’s continuing success will “raise kendo to a more prominent level.”

On a more personal level, Chim and Huang are looking forward to the culmination of their work as Yuhihai’s primary organizers. Huang explained that she cherishes learning “exactly how much effort it takes to make the tournament enjoyable for everyone.”

Chim also feels that sense of responsibility, coupled with the unity that comes from meeting and connecting with different generations of the Kendo Club’s members and alumni.

From the time they spent with others and the experiences they shared with other members at the club and tournaments, Chim and Huang feel that it is definite that they will return as alumnas to continue the long-held, generational tradition that lies within kendo and Yuhihai.

For more information on UCLA Kendo Club, please check out: UCLA Kendo.

Contributing authors: Cindy Tran and Katrina Galian

“Free Outgoing” by Anupama Chandrasekhar opened at East West Players in Little Tokyo on Wednesday night to an almost sold-out audience. The theater company’s 51st season, Radiant, focuses on featuring stories by and about women. “Free Outgoing” is an intricate play centering around traditional values in conservative Chennai, India.

When teenage schoolgirl Deepa is caught on video with a boy in a classroom, her entire family’s reputation is thrown into disarray. With the aid of mobile technology and social media, the video goes viral all over India. Malini, Deepa’s mother, must cope with each new consequent development as it comes to light, while also trying to protect her daughter from both the sexual double-standards and the prying eyes of society.

Free Outgoing” is directed by Snehal Desai, who is currently in his first year as Artistic Director of East West Players. He is the first South Asian Artistic Director at East West Players. Prior to the Los Angeles production, “Free Outgoing” played at Boom Arts in Portland, Oregon in March 2016 with the same director and four of the same actors.

Chennai-based playwright Anupama Chandrasekhar is currently the first international artist-in-residence at the National Theatre in London. We were very fortunate to speak with her last week at the David Henry Hwang Theater in Little Tokyo as she spent preview weekend working with the East West Players cast and crew.

Anupama Chandrasekhar on the gorgeously detailed “Free Outgoing” set at East West Players. Image courtesy EWP.

May Zeng: Deepa and Jeevan, the two in the video, are never shown in the play. Can you tell us about your choice to omit those characters?

Anupama Chandrasekhar: The primary reason why I omitted Deepa from the play is that I wanted to focus on the repercussions on the society by this act of sexual indiscretion by a teenage girl. [It’s] not so much on if you’re throwing the pebble into the water, but the ripples the pebble created. The best way I felt that I could do that was not to have the girl on stage because if I did have the girl onstage than the question would be, “was she right or was she wrong?” That was not my intention to question this girl’s morality. It was for me a way to look into society and the double standards of society.

MZ: You were living in India when the Delhi Public School MMS Scandal happened in 2004. What was that like?

AC: It was the beginnings of the mobile revolution. It was also the beginnings of the media revolution. Television was just starting to take off in a huge way and the kind of coverage that the family was getting it just exploded something small into something that captivated an entire country. I was watching in horror what was unfolding day after day, minute after minute, and the poor girl was vilified all across the news channels. For me, what was disturbing was how the boy was going scot-free and the girl was being vilified. That was what prompted me to start the play.

MZ: What kind of parallels were there of the things being said about the girl in the DPS MMS Scandal in comparison to the things that were being said about Deepa?

AC: I’ve used a lot of my own imagination [in creating the reactions in “Free Outgoing”]. A few months after the MMS incident, a Tamil actress wrote in her column that women should practice safe sex [to prevent HIV/AIDS], and again, that just exploded way out of proportion. The general public thought she was promoting premarital sex. With both these incidents, the aspects of female sexuality were clearly disturbing the Indian community. So the question regarding female sexual rights was something on my mind when I was writing it. I mean, do girls have right to their bodies at all? Do girls have sex? That was something that was playing all in my mind when I was writing this play.

The play takes place inside of the family's living room. Set photo by Katrina Galian.
The play takes place inside of the family’s living room. Set photo by Katrina Galian.

Cindy Tran: How did the reactions to the play differ in the different countries that the play was performed?

AC: Different countries, different reactions. Sometimes same reactions too. I did not expect the kind of positive responses from the western world because I always thought, “Why would the West be interested in an Indian play?” and what I’ve discovered is that the motivation of parents are the same across the world. They want their children to be better than they are. They want their children to succeed. They want to protect their children. I’ve found that perhaps the Western world is not as different than the developing world that I had imagined; that people in the Western world too have a concern about the role of technology and teenagers’ sexuality and sexual lives. It’s a concern that is still being explored and discussed even now when you’re talking about cyberbullying and about sexting.

What was also sad was a few months before the play opened in Canada in 2014, there were two separate incidents of young teenage school girls who were [cyber-bullied and committed suicide], So cyberbullying was very much in the full front of public consciousness when the play opened in Canada. There was an added layer of relevance when the play opened. So [the reaction was] extremely positive, extremely touching responses from the audience.

MZ: How do you think the climate in Chennai has changed since 2007, when the play was written? Is it still a very conservative city?

AC: I think it has become more conservative in the last ten years. And often there is a question of “what constitutes Indian culture or Tamil culture?” and the way a good Indian girl should behave. And I find those discussions regressive and very Victorian in the way they think – society thinks – the way women should behave. Whereas technology is ensuring that people progress in a certain direction, you have a very conservative society trying to go in the opposite directions. It is a play about the conflict between the old and the new. between technology and the conservative society.

Anil Kumar as Ramesh (Malini's awkward co-worker and friend), Anna Khaja as Malini (Deepa's mother), and Kapil Talwalkar as Sharan (Deepa's older brother). Photo by Michael Lamont
Anil Kumar as Ramesh (Malini’s awkward co-worker and friend), Anna Khaja as Malini (Deepa’s mother), and Kapil Talwalkar as Sharan (Deepa’s older brother). Photo by Michael Lamont.

MZ: Can you tell us a little bit about your transition from journalism to playwriting? Does your journalism background influence your playwriting?

AC: When I was a journalist, I didn’t think of playwriting as a career – it was not part of my agenda at all. I just kind of accidentally got into playwriting. I studied journalism at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). There was one particular program that I was absolutely fascinated with and that was long-form journalism. The art of literary journalism is similar to the art of creative storytelling, except it is completely dealing with facts. [Literary journalism taught by Professor Walt Harrington] was one of the most inspiring classes that I’ve been in. I’ve often found that in researching my stories for my plays, I am using techniques that I have learned in that class. How do you ask questions? How do you get the details? That sort of thing.

Television news here and in India are not that dissimilar in that a fact is often exaggerated in order to get television ratings. So you find a space that has been left vacant by this new journalism, the television journalist. I find that some questions aren’t being asked, and I think the role of playwright now is to ask those questions. We [playwrights] are not hampered by facts, but at the same time we can get to the truth of the matter by looking at the gray areas, by looking at how people behave in certain circumstances. I think our job and the jobs of journalists are very much similar. and somehow now I am finding that a lot more playwrights are occupying the same space that journalists once had.

MZ: Why is water constantly mentioned in the play?

AC: I come from Chennai, the southeast coast of India, and we have a perennial water problem. The year I started writing “Free Outgoing,” we had the most severe drought. We really had to literally run down from our flats with buckets in our hands when the water comes to our street. The water was being rationed by the government, and we would hear the lorry (truck) water tank in the beginning of the road because he would honk, and we all rushed down stairs with our buckets. Because our flats didn’t have lifts, we had to take as many buckets of water as possible because this was the water we used for cooking and washing purposes. Because we lived on the coast, our wells have been corrupted by salt water so potable drinking water that particular year was very difficult to find. As I was writing, you start to look at the type of pressure a family can face and the first question I had to ask myself was “What happens if there is a lot of crowd in an apartment complex?” and “How does that affect a community?” At that point [the water crisis] would have been the primary problem that we [were] facing. Water becomes a metaphor for time. Time is literally running out for this family – so is the water – because of the act of indiscretion by the child – this 15-year-old teenage girl. It’s a family in crisis, in tremendous crisis.

Anna Khaja as Malini, who is shaken after fighting her way through the crowds that gather outside of her flat after the video leaked. Photo by Michael Lamont
Anna Khaja as Malini, who is shaken after fighting her way through the crowds that gather outside of her flat after the video leaked. Photo by Michael Lamont

CT: What does the title of the play, Free Outgoing,” mean?

AC: In 2007, mobile phones had just started to catch on, so companies were offering free outgoing calls to families. But it’s also, in a way, about Deepa. She was free, she was outgoing, but obviously she becomes less free and outgoing by the end of the play.

I would say that in a conservative society, often it is the free, outgoing girls who are brought down. And I’ve noticed that somehow a good girl is a girl who is silent, or who is quiet, or who does not cross the bounds of society.

MZ: What is the importance of Tamil culture in this play?

AC: I mention the bounds of society and those are bounds that are etched really deeply in Tamil society. We are far more conservative than say, Bombay or New Delhi. You are looking are a very conservative society, a very traditional society, a culture that is proud of its [classical] art forms, its conservative nature, but then you have to watch the full play to understand how that particular society functions.

MZ: What would you want young adults, such as college students, to get out of in this play?

AC: I wrote this play about Tamil society but it could well be about the society you come from. Be aware of the sexism and misogyny in your society. Sometimes you are so used to it that you take it for granted, that it is how our society is. But it shouldn’t be, and there has to be a change. So I hope that by watching this play, youngsters would be aware of the sexism that a lot of girls are facing across the world, and also be aware of how our technology can take control of a person’s life.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

If you are interested in learning more, check out the “Free Outgoing” study guide compiled by Nightwood Theater, where the play was premiered in North America.

“Free Outgoing” 90 minutes

East West Players, directed by Snehal Desai

Runs February 15 to March 12, previews February 9-12

David Henry Hwang Theater in the Union Center for the Arts

Single tickets $35 – $50

Pay-What-You-Can night Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 8PM

$5 discount for students with valid ID and senior citizens, $10 off for UCLA Asian Pacific Alumni members

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