Beautiful Patterns, Common Threads


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Beautiful Patterns, Common Threads

from Avi Black

Avi learning Balinese dance from Ketut MadraHave you ever felt like you just don't fit in? Maybe you speak a different language from most of the students in your school, or you eat food your classmates think is "weird." Sometimes, maybe, you have to miss out on a party to go to a special religious event with your family. Or, you wear clothing that makes you stand out, or you just plain think about things in a different way. Well -- this site is dedicated to YOU!

It's also dedicated to others of you who think it's not only okay to be different, but it's even GOOD. You guys think it adds to the richness of your experiences to have people around with different ideas and ways of living their lives.

And, it's even dedicated to you who think YOUR way is the BEST way (or even the ONLY way) to live life. I hope you all will see in this web site some "other ways" that are interesting, and that you can add in to your own "best way" to make a "new way" you like even more!

What does any of this have to do with Southeast Asia? After all, that's what this site is all about. Well, I've traveled a lot. And, to me, Southeast Asia is the place more than any other I've seen yet (I've got lots more places to see!) where people BORROW other people's ideas and use them for themselves without feeling like that means they're not as good as the people they borrowed them from. In other words, they don't feel that their own way of life is the "only" way or even the "best" way; instead, they think they can always make their lives better by borrowing like that. And, by borrowing all those ideas, they've come up with REALLY interesting ways to live, as I hope you'll see in this site.

What are some of the things you'll see? Southeast Asian cultures have great food, beautiful clothing, fun games to play, fascinating arts and crafts, incredible buildings, and lots of other exciting aspects. Check out the threads cover page of the web site--then come back here! What you see are photos of beautiful fabrics woven in each of the countries I'm visiting. These fabrics are all make from similar kinds of thread, made in similar ways; but, each fabric is different and beautiful in its own way, with a very different pattern. Likewise, the countries of Southeast Asia have some "common threads" (like growing and eating lots of rice, for example), BUT they "weave together" those "threads" into different "patterns" of life.

I think we can all learn a lot from those patterns. We can end up living better lives for ourselves if, rather than feeling that OUR way is the only, best way to live, we instead SHARE with each other the best things we each have in our own lives and even mix those things together. Here's what I mean. I'm not African-American (some people think so because of my name, I guess), BUT Kwanzaa's one of my very favorite holidays, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King are both heroes of mine, and I LOVE soul and blues and hip-hop and funk music. I'm not Chinese, either, but I sure love living near Chinatown in San Francisco so I can see some beautiful calligraphy, eat kung-pao chicken and take tai-chi lessons on weekend mornings. (Sometimes I even go into a Chinese temple to pray!) I AM Jewish-American; I'm a rabid fan of Woody Allen movies, I think Albert Einstein was an incredible genius, I STILL love to read Dr. Suess, and my favorite baseball player of all time is still Sandy Koufax (who's Jewish, too!). And I could name dozens of things that I've learned from my Latino, Filipino, European, Vietnamese, Palestinian and many other neighbors and friends in San Francisco that are important parts of my life.

BUT, some of my VERY favorite things in the world are where those cultures come together and create NEW, exciting things. I really love world beat music, with its mixture of styles especially from the Caribbean, South America, Africa and the Middle East. Maybe my very favorite food is California cuisine, which fuses together the best of Asian, American and European cooking traditions. [I want to add more examples here--please send me e-mail if you have suggestions.]

And that kind of "mixing" of traditions is what Southeast Asian cultures are all about!

If you agree, and like these kinds of things, I think you'll really like this site. It has LOTS of pictures to show these cultures to you and to explore how they got to be the way they are. And even if you don't agree with my view, or aren't sure if you do, I think you'll like the photos and find some interesting stories and descriptions of things people do there. So: ENJOY!!

If you have comments or ideas you'd like to share with me, PLEASE write me at

Copyright 1999 by Avi Black
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