special occasion

It’s Holi today. Ear-splitting Hindi music beckoned from downstairs. Unwashed, I tied my hair back, slicked coconut oil on my skin on and wrapped my camera in kitchen plastic.

Trek trek trek. Six floors downstairs. Unarmed. No powder nor gun. Just a camera. Cling wrapped.

“Miss Sacha!” Children screamed. They water sprayed me. Pelted water balloons. Slathered powder on my face. All in the spirit of fun.

Holi, festival of colors, signifies triumph of good over evil. More color wars. Pelting pelting pelting. The evil that pervades. Rainbow colors used as weapons.

Tradition attaches colors to meaning. Red is purity. Matrimony. Pink meaning nothing I can find.

Holi (for me) ended with a sweet milk drink, peppered with cardamom and pistachios.

But from my sixth floor cave, hours after a hot shower, the music plays on. To the beat of the color war.

Pelt pelt pelt.

I’ve been working in international schools for the past eleven years and International Day is always my favorite special event. Yes, I know that we have to get beyond flags, food and festivals, and focus on culture, diversity and other concepts. But still! I don’t mind being thematic even for just one day! I love traveling to classrooms that represent various countries. I love tasting diverse flavors. I love the colorful costumes, fun games and awesome dances. I love it when parents help out and participate! Hope you enjoy viewing these photos as much as I do! 🙂

Students representing South Africa!

The path to Sri Lanka

Love it when parents help!

South Korean fans inspired by their flag's colors

Indian artifacts!

More Indian artifacts

R's child representing Sri Lanka

Can't get enough of Indian artifacts!

Posing by the Hall of Fame stars in Seema's class which respresented the US of A

Cherries are a common fruit in Norway

It’s Indian Republic Day today. There were speeches, songs and at one point, an ear-splitting shrill voice attempting to sing in my neighborhood. Children also released orange, green and white balloons, perhaps as a symbol of freedom from the former colonial rule. I also come from a colonized country and I know that with any type of freedom, for it to work for an individual or country, you need a deep sense of care and responsibility. You’re on your way, India. One day, one step at a time. Happy Republic Day to everyone and keep persevering! 🙂

The highlight of my fourth of July weekend was getting to know B’s mom — Linda. Selfless, yup, selfless is the first word that pops into my mind when I think of how she opened her door to her home and welcomed us with maple cookies. (And milk for B.)

Linda with her granddaughter, Naomi

Her hospitality knew no bounds. She lent me Christian books, whipped up a taco salad, brought us to church, and during the long weekend we visited her parents. She also gave up her role as a player to patiently teach me pinochle, a game more confusing than pusoy dos!

Linda, Frank (her father) and B

Linda resides in Croghan, a village in the northern part of New York State. Very near Canada. Have you ever watched Pleasantville? That’s what Croghan reminds of with its low rise turn of the century buildings, ice cream and candy shops.

Linda, B and I strolled down to the ruins of an old lumber mill. I have since discovered that in the 1800’s and 1900’s, Croghan’s main industries included logging, lumbering and tanneries. The abandoned lumber mill was breathtaking.

Later that evening, Linda drove us to her daughter Laurie’s home, where there was a Fourth of July shindig.

Paul discusses the art of roasting a marshmallow

The next day, she tirelessly led the way to Tug Hill Winery. I was quite surprised that no one was there during the fourth of July. In Asia, a place like Tug Hill would be full of visitors during a holiday. Perhaps it was a blessing because we had the whole place to ourselves.

We ended our fourth of July weekend with a toast.

But honestly, that weekend was waaaaaay toooooo short. I have a feeling that Linda is the mom many children dream of having. I’m imagining her cooking and baking cookies and reading picture books. She knows her children and B has only good things to say about her. (And he’s possessive over her too!) I also have a strong feeling that she never takes credit for the good she’s done. In my heart, I can see that her main goal in life is to please the Lord.

Before the weekend ended, me and Linda talked about traveling on my next visit. Perhaps we’ll start with Upstate New York.

Time to fix your passport, Linda :-D.

In the Philippines, long before the South Beach diet hit Manila by storm, we used to serve lechon during birthdays, baptisms and Christmas.

Manilenos often buy one from a lechon store in their vicinity because it’s a labor intensive project. Market Manila says that there are many ways to prepare this Pinoy delicacy. It starts with choosing the right size for a pig, perhaps 28 to 30 kilos. The pig then needs to be cleaned thoroughly, and seasoned with sea salt and herbs. Market Manila also emphasizes that the charcoal needs to be placed at the sides rather than the pig’s bottom during the roasting process.

In early July, it was Nancy’s high school graduation. Nancy’s father was very proud of his daughter’s achievement and he wanted to commemorate the event with a party and roasted pig!

Louie, Anne Marie and Nancy in the Lapp's breathtaking farm

I was surprised that Louie was assigned the task of roasting the pig! Most Americans I know don’t even want to lay their eyes on a fish head so they settle for bland frozen fillets. And their shrimps are headless and deveined! Unthinkable for a Southeast Asian like me who enjoys dipping shrimp heads in Datu Puti vinegar and sucking its salty, mushy brains!

Louie drove up to Philadelphia, New York two days before Nancy’s graduation. His brother-in-law and grandson helped him season the 300 pound pig, carry the 300 pound pig and roast the 300 pound pig in this box–

At some point, the box caught on fire!

So did the pig’s skin!

But you know what? It was still one of the best roasted pigs I’ve ever tasted.

My photo doesn't do justice!

It was soft, and I loved how the sweet juice squirted on my tongue! But most of all, I love how Nancy’s family went out of their way to roast a pig with their bare hands.

Congratulations, Nancy! Congratulations, Louie, Matt and Kyle! And here’s to the next graduation…and the next pig roast!