This two-part culture challenge will help you dig out of your self-care doldrums AND provide a fun way to learn about other cultures. In order to appreciate and advocate for other people, we need to first learn about them. #culture #socialjustice #selfcare #selfcaresunday

Self-care isn’t just about taking care of ourselves. It also involves learning how to take care of others in kind and courteous ways. When we learn to approach others with curiosity and kindness, we discover endless possibilities for self-improvement. This month’s Self-Care Sunday posts will focus on reaching out and learning more about other cultures so that we can fulfill our greatest potential by helping others. Social justice begins with me.

Check out this culture challenge to help you dig out of the self-care doldrums! Sometimes our self-care routines get too, well, routine. We do the same old day after day, week after week, month after month. The bonus result of this culture challenge involves learning more about other cultures. By broadening our horizons, we not only get unstuck, but we also gain an understanding of other people.

This two-part culture challenge will help you dig out of your self-care doldrums AND provide a fun way to learn about other cultures. In order to appreciate and advocate for other people, we need to first learn about them. #culture #socialjustice #selfcare #selfcaresunday

A Culture Challenge at Home

“Come on, trust me. Just try a bite,” Pedro exclaimed as he held out a beige lump on a spoon.

“I’ll try a tiny bite,” I conceded, “but not as much as you’re offering.” After all, I knew the beige lump consisted of a cookie, peanut butter, ice cream, and nutritional yeast. All mixed and mushed together in an unappetizing beige blob.

For years, Pedro has made concoctions and eaten them with relish. Seven times out of ten I turn down his offers to sample his creations. Looks matter to me when it comes to food.

I like it best when he creates variations of foods from his Caribbean culture. Boiled green bananas with sautéed red onions and sharp cheddar cheese. Yucca root with mojo (garlic sautéed in olive oil with lemon juice. Tostones (sliced boiled green plantains that get smashed and deep-fried). Congri (also known as morros and Cristianos).

I confess I could eat the same exact thing over and over again for days on end. It took cancer to broaden my culinary choices. Pedro’s cancer, not mine. When the hospital at home gave up on Pedro’s non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma with central nervous system involvement, they shipped him off to the University of San Francisco Medical Center.

The oncology ward of the Parnassus Campus of UCSF sits close to Irving Street—home to dozens of ethnic restaurants. When his immune system could handle outside foods, Pedro would send me out to find alternatives to hospital fare—Vietnamese, Thai, and Indian topped his list of favorites.

Food for Thought

I came to appreciate cuisine from other countries. Between hospital stays Pedro would venture with me to the restaurants. Often times, the waiters hovered near our table, offering kind suggestions and showing us how to eat the food we’d ordered. We laughed a lot, and the waiters laughed with us.

This two-part culture challenge will help you dig out of your self-care doldrums AND provide a fun way to learn about other cultures. In order to appreciate and advocate for other people, we need to first learn about them. #culture #socialjustice #selfcare #selfcaresunday

One day I realized we had eaten a wider variety of food from other countries in the six months Pedro spent receiving treatment in San Francisco than I had eaten in my entire life. Even though I had spent a school year in Spain and traveled around Europe for a summer.

During my time in Europe, I stuck to the pastries, chocolate, fruit, and bread diet as often as possible. I had two excuses for my limited diet. Poor-college-student-status and I’m-a-vegetarian-and-there’s-nothing-I-can-eat. In reality, fear of the unknown played a huge part in my restricted dietary choices.

When Pedro weighed 135 pounds, I lost my fear of food from other cultures. I did anything I could to help him maintain his strength and gain weight. Even if it meant trying food I’d never eaten before and ventured into restaurants where I couldn’t read the menu or understand the waiters.

Culture Challenge, Part One

This week’s challenge? Go to a restaurant that serves food you’ve never tried before. Even better, support your local immigrant economy and find a little hole-in-the-wall mom and pop restaurant where the owners don’t speak much English.

Pretend you’re in a foreign country. Smile, ask questions, and listen. Relax and enjoy living outside your comfort zone. If you love the food, leave a positive review on Yelp.

Report back to me! I’d love to hear about the culture you explored through food. Did you try spicy, savory, or sweet and sour options? What tickled your taste buds the most? Do you think you’ll return to the restaurant?

Living in a small town, we only have one authentic restaurant from another culture—Aliberto’s. The cooks and counter staff speak Spanish more often than English, and the television plays telenovelas and soccer games.

For those nights we crave Indian food but don’t want to make the drive to Flagstaff for the best Indian restaurant west of the Mississippi, I experiment at home. We both love this chana masala recipe.

Joseph Crossman once said,

“Middle age is when your broad mind and narrow waist begin to change places.”

I don’t want that to happen to me. I’d rather keep my body fit and my mind agile. In addition, I want to learn to respect and embrace people from other cultures.

The Oldest Board Games

My grandpa had a beautiful wood carving on his coffee table. It had twelve cups carved into two rows, with a wider, tray-like section carved at each end. I have no idea where he found such a beautiful carving, but as a child, I loved playing with the colorful rocks that sat inside each cup.

As I grew older, I learned the name and rules of the game—Mancala. We have a smaller, version of the game in our own home these days. When students come over on Friday nights for cookies and milk, they’ll sometime ask about the game and we tell them how it works and challenge them to a game.

Most people agree that Mancala, or some variation of it, dates back thousands of years. Cultures in both Asia and Africa played the game.

Another ancient game, Go, hails from China. I first heard about this game in Roseanna M. White’s latest release, The Number of Love.

I’ve given little thought over the years to games from other cultures, stunting my knowledge and appreciation for people who live elsewhere. Fortunately, we can learn new things at any time we choose. Part of balanced self-care involves developing a growth mindset. Maybe learning how to play Go after fifty will help stave off the onset of Alzheimer’s. It doesn’t hurt to try!

Check out this culture challenge that will help you dig out of your self-care doldrums. #selfcaresunday #selfcare #culture Click To Tweet

The Value of Appreciating Sports from Other Cultures

Ask any American about the important sports that represent our culture in the United States and they’ll probably list football, baseball, and basketball. After all, those sports must say something about our culture because the talented few who play them make millions of dollars each year.

This two-part culture challenge will help you dig out of your self-care doldrums AND provide a fun way to learn about other cultures. In order to appreciate and advocate for other people, we need to first learn about them. #culture #socialjustice #selfcare #selfcaresunday

I remember watching my first Olympics and marveling at the variety of sports. I’d never seen a soccer match, dressage, rowing, nor water polo. My horizons expanded when I realized that ping-pong has a life outside the United States and isn’t just a garage game for fun.

This summer, as I watched Alaska Native youths demonstrate traditional games, I marveled at their coordination, talent, and skill. Spending time at the Alaska Native Heritage Center made me realize that things I thought belonged to white culture actually came from Alaska Native culture: Kayaks, waterproof jackets, spray skirts, sun visors, and snow glasses.

This realization brought home the truth that if I stay in my own cozy comfort zone, I’ll remain ignorant and uninformed. In addition, I’ll miss out on the beauty and knowledge that another culture can offer.

Culture Challenge, Part Two

The second culture challenge for the week involves games. You can do a simple Google search for games from other cultures, or look up a game you know comes from another culture (such as lacrosse). Find out some facts and learn something new.

Think about what the game or sport teaches the players. Does the game or sport resemble something found in your culture? What does that tell us about the universality of play and the similarities between cultures?

If organized sports and games don’t excite you, look for board games from other cultures—check out Go or Mancala. Discover something new and share with us what you found.

By participating in, learning about, or watching new games and sports, we break out of our routines AND broaden our cultural understanding. A win-win in self-care.

These resources will help you get started. Some of them include lesson plans for teaching games to students (great for homeschool families and teachers).

Native American Games

A variety of Native Games from North America.

Games specific to the Lakota people.

Native Games with instructions specifically for teachers.

If you want to earn certification as a Native games instructor, check out this website.

Games from India:

This website has descriptions of games played in Indian along with game rules. For games children in India play, check out this website.

Games from Africa

This website gives detailed descriptions of games and the country of origin

Some of the games are the same on this website, but you’ll find new ones, too.

Games from Asia

This website has games from China, and this one gives instructions as well as a little history lesson.

If you’re looking for traditional games from Japan, check this site, or this site out.

South America

This site has games specific to Brazil, and this one has Latin-American games, while this one has great games with detailed instructions for teaching kids how to play them.

Games from Russia

I found a site with games from Russia, too.

Alaska Native Games

One of my favorite sites has Alaska Native games along with lesson plans appropriate for 7th-12th graders. This site includes instructions and the history of the games.

I’d love to hear about your experience with games from other countries. Make sure to come back after you try some of them out. Together we can inspire each other to dig out of the doldrums and explore another culture in a unique way.

Inspire Me Monday

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  1. I think this is such a unique and great challenge. I may can do trying out a recipe but can’t at the time eat out. My family Can do a new game, excited to find the right one!

  2. Anita,
    I admit that I love a good rut of routine, but lately, I’ve been coaxed into trying some new things. My husband and I go out to eat maybe once per month to a restaurant whose menu we’ve not tried. We usually all order something different and then we share. It’s a great way to sample the cuisine of other cultures. We’ve had our laughs over trying to eat new dishes. I love the idea of trying games from different cultures. My husband and my mom are both highly competitive people and I’m sure they would rise to the challenge of a new and different game over the holidays. Thanks for the extra nudge I needed.
    Bev xx
    Bev @ Walking Well With God recently posted…On Giving Gifts With Eternal Benefits – GIVEAWAYMy Profile

  3. I grew up in southern Texas, where there’s a lot of Mexican influence. I *love* Mexican food. I grew to appreciate Mexican arts and crafts even though they weren’t something I wanted to adopt.

    I didn’t like oriental food until trying some with my husband. Now we have a couple of favorite oriental restaurants. Reading books set in Asian cultures helped me appreciate their beauty.

    My daughter-in-law is Indian, and, of course, we’ve learned a lot about Indian culture from her. I’m afraid Indian food isn’t my favorite (except naan bread!), but my husband and sons love it. I’ve found a couple of not-too-spicy things when we go out to Indian restaurants or when she makes them. She also introduced us to the carrom board–something like shuffleboard only square and much more active.

    With a lot of food from other cultures, I have to get past “It’s not what I am used to.” But once I do, I find and enjoy a lot of great things.
    Barbara Harper recently posted…What I Learned from Bare TreesMy Profile

  4. This is a great challenge. I have a hard time not so much with trying new foods but with textures. My husband on the other hand, tries anything and loves experiencing new foods. Food and games – a fun way to approach trying new things, and can be done with family and friends.
    Joanne Viola recently posted…Roots & ThanksgivingMy Profile

  5. This is a great time of year to learn about new games from around the world. As we gather to celebrate our version of American Thanksgiving, we can throw in a bit of another culture while we digest.

  6. What a great challenge. I am a picky eater, and like you, what it looks like matters. I also have to know what is in it. Recently, I went to China and took a bag full of protein bars. However, once there, I decided to be a little brave with my eating. I am so glad. I tried food I never would have and thoroughly enjoyed them.

    Now you have encouraged me to keep this going. Thank you.


    Maree Dee recently posted…Do You Want the Benefit of the Doubt? – Link-UpMy Profile

    1. I’m with you on needing to know the exact ingredients ;). Part of that is due to being a life-long vegetarian. Congrats on being brave and eating out! I have to push myself to do the same (especially at church potlucks 😉 ).

  7. Lots of good encouragement in your post. Our son has taken us to ethnic restaurants in New Mexico and I am learning the different levels of hot (peppers).
    When the kids were little we were avoiding wheat, dairy and sugar due to allergies/intolerance. We discovered so many new foods! Figs, nuts, millet, quinoa and more. God has abundantly created so many different fruits, vegetables, grains.

  8. Once again, Anita, you demonstrate a level of courage and open-mindedness that inspires. Being a social studies teacher by nature I enjoy learning about different cultures. Years ago, I wanted to share some of that adventuresome spirit with my class of 3rd graders each Friday during the last half hour of the day. We’d focus on one culture a month beginning with an overview, followed by weekly exploring of new foods, games, and art/crafts. Amazingly, I got push back from the principal who said we could only teach “the standards”. Not a problem: I aligned each lesson with standards from the four core and shared with her. How sad that she couldn’t see that learning and reaching out to something different than our corner of the world was not a good use of instructional time. Thank you for the reminder that sometimes our bubbles need to be stretched.

    1. I’m so grateful that I work at a Christian school where we can teach biblically AND tackle hard issues (we believe in equipping kids to learn and make decisions, not just meet a bunch of core objectives).

  9. Thanks for keeping us aware and giving us great ideas for learning new cultures. I used to teach my church kids to play Mancala during missions lessons. Loved teaching them about different cultures.

    I still need to learn to widen my repertoire of international foods. My daughter’s new husband has push her into new things. I’m glad about that.

    God bless Anita.

  10. Jeff and I are SO unadventurous when it comes to new foods, so I need to take you up on this part of the challenge at least. 🙂 It’s good to step out of our comfort zones and experience the world likes others do.

  11. Anita, we have a Mancala game!!! I love it! I had to look on the Internet to see how to play because it didn’t come with instructions. It’s hand-carved with little stones. I picked it up at a secondhand store for like nothing. I don’t think they even knew what it was. It’s precious to me. I wish I knew it’s history.

    Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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