Meet Teratai—who answers the question in this Valentine’s season: “Cross-Cultural Romance: Is it Worth It?”
Introduction: I first met Ms. Teratai Hiep two years ago. It was through an online forum for trainers and coaches who help clients transition into new and unfamiliar cultural settings. She is an intercultural and English language trainer based in the Netherlands and runs her own practice at Prokompas Coaching & Training. She is also a genuinely compassionate person who passed on a particularly wise and helpful poem to me on a day she correctly sensed I might need it.
Originally from Singapore, Teratai loves tasting new cuisines, experiencing different cultures, and especially, listening to the stories of others. You can tune into her “At The Crossroads” podcast with Dr Leslie Ahmadi, when she interviewed me on my experience of moving to Iran for cross-cultural love!
But Teratai is also married to someone from a different country and culture! As today’s guest blogger, she was kind enough to write today’s special Valentine edition blogpost on the intriguing question: “Cross-cultural romance: Is it worth it?” Drawing from her own experience, Teratai offers food for thought to anyone contemplating a cross-cultural romance—or who knows somebody who is. I encourage you to read her reflections below!
Here is what Teratai has to say:
(Note: If you would like to respond to Teratai’s post, please enter your comments at the end of the post below)
As Valentine’s Day takes center stage again this February, I remember the many couples across the world who are in love interculturally—and are also enduring a long distance between them. I was one such person.
After seven years of enduring a long-distance relationship, I remember how difficult the holidays were. I spent hours online, facing a 14-inch laptop screen with my loved one on the other side. My partner (whom I am proud to call my husband today) was in the Netherlands, and I was in Singapore. Divided not only by time (six to seven hours difference) and distance (6,500 miles) we faced other potential dividers as well, e. g.:
I was East Asian, and he was Western,
I was Malay, and he was Dutch,
I was a big-city girl, and he a small-village boy,
and so many other differences as well!
We always managed to navigate through the differences together, though. One Valentine’s Day, we made cookies on Skype together—both in our own kitchens, following the same recipe, I at my lunch time and he at his dinner time. Busying our hands with cookie dough, we laughed while shaping our cookies. But in our minds we were constantly yearning to share the same physical space.
So, the question, “When marrying across differences, will love be enough?” remains a tough one for me.
We have been together since 2010. And in 2017 we finally succeeded in my making the move to my new home country of the Netherlands. And now in 2024, as I write to you from my office in Leiden, my fingers tap heavily on the keyboard because of the gravity of this question.
I can be super optimistic and tell you love is enough! But in sharing the timeline of our relationship just now, I feel it doesn’t convey enough all the times we planned and yet failed to come together over the years. Or the effort behind learning and accepting each other’s cultures and traditions and the many mistakes we made. Or the patience and kindness it took for each of us to let go of the what-could-have-been-if-I-had-pursued-my-career instead of choosing intercultural love. And all the above could be just the tip of the iceberg for some couples who could be facing many other considerations too.
But has it been worth it? My fingers feel lighter now – yes, it has been worth it for me. It can be painful in the short term, but as I look back on the years, it has been a beautiful journey. And I am sure it will remain beautiful as the years roll in and new chapters open for us. But we must acknowledge that there will always be sacrifices involved as part of the growing.
For me, that meant not seeing my family and close friends back in Singapore as much as I would have liked. A close family member died some weeks back, and despite rushing to the airport and catching the next direct 13-hour flight to Singapore, I still missed the burial. It’s a wound that is still mending, but I accept it as a consequence of choices I have made. Marrying across differences requires consistency, patience, kindness from each other—and, despite how boring it sounds, meticulous planning too. I count my lucky stars that my husband has been a rock-solid addition to my life.
So, I send my love and best wishes to all the couples out there, as well as to family and friends of someone who is going through such an experience on this Valentine’s. Please be kind to them during this period of their lives. Intercultural love and long-distance relationships can be difficult, but they can also be beautiful. And I hope at the end of it all, yours will be as worthwhile for you as it is for me.
Note: Special thanks to Teratai for her wonderful post! If you would like to find out more about her, you can read her blog or follow her on LinkedIn and Instagram.
AND NOW, A REMINDER FROM LAST MONTH’S NEWSLETTER: HOW TO ENTER TO WIN A UNIBROW LADY WALL HANGINGS FROM IRAN FOR BOTH YOU AND A FRIEND/COLLEAGUE
(Drawing on March 1)
[both made of wood and tile]
So, here are the steps on how to enter yourself and your friend in the “Unibrow Lady” Wall Hangings Giveaway (See below):
I hope you and your colleague(s) will choose to participate!
As always, Kheilee mamnoon! (i.e., “Thank you!” in Persian),
FINALLY—A HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY TO ALL:
INCLUDING SWEETHEARTS, BELOVED FRIENDS, CHERISHED FAMILY MEMBERS, AND EVERY SINGLE OTHER PERSON!
Leslie Powell Ahmadi
Dear Friends and Readers:
A warm welcome to the January 2024 blogpost of Leslie Powell Ahmadi: a Black American Christian woman who met and married a man from Iran who was raised in a Muslim family.
I met Mahmoud at The Ohio State University, married him in 1988, and four years later relocated to Iran to start a new life with him. It was not an easy decision. But ultimately Mahmoud, our two young children, and I lived in the spectacular historic city of Isfahan from 1992 – 1996. And a lot happened during those four years. It is all captured in a memoir I’ve written called Road Between Two Hearts: A Black American Bride Discovers Iran (stand by for details regarding its future publication).
Every month or so I enjoy bringing you information, an experience, an encounter, and/or a perspective related to Iran and its people that may catch your attention.
But this time--for the first time in two years--I depart from that agenda to ask for your help!
Here is my question:
Would you be willing to help me grow my community of readers—by approaching family, friends, and colleagues of yours who would be interested in the kind of content I offer in my newsletter and upcoming book?
If so, here is my request, starting today and lasting through the last day of February (which this year is February 29: a Leap Year Day!)
Would you …
Who is the Persian “Unibrow Lady”?
Inspired by a figure in Persian folklore known as Khatoon (a quaint Persian word for “The Lady”), I used to spot her emblematic image here and there, in Iranian stores and city street bazaars where handicrafts were sold.
Before long, I was looking for her (or similar images) in such places, and usually sooner or later she would draw my eye. She charmed me!
Adorned in colorful, classical Persian garb in keeping with her occupation—this one a princess, this one a chef, this one a huntress, this one a mother, this one a musician, this one someone’s beloved—what all the unibrow ladies share in common is their pretty round faces, an ageless quality and grace about them, an ambiguous hidden expression, and perhaps most of all, a unibrow—that is, a pair of eyebrows drawn as two thick black arches—joined in the middle and just above the bridge of the nose.
Look below for two examples of Iranian handiwork with “Unibrow Lady” figures:
What is the cultural significance of the “Unibrow Lady” (Khatoon)? Ask several Iranian women and you might just get a different spin from each one. But if I could sum it up briefly, my understanding is that
(1) She embodies the thick dark brows that many Iranian women have naturally before they choose to tweeze them (which traditionally in the past was when they got married, but nowadays many young women start to tweeze around puberty.)
(2) She represents a dual sentiment of many Iranian women that full and bushy eyebrows are both a blessing and a curse: i.e.,
AND NOW… HOW TO ENTER TO WIN THE UNIBROW LADY WALL HANGINGS FOR BOTH YOU AND A FRIEND/COLLEAGUE
So, here is how to enter yourself and your friend in the “Unibrow Lady” Wall Hangings Giveaway:
a. Invite a friend or colleague who might be interested in my website and related content to visit my website and sign up for my monthly newsletter.
b. If your friend/colleague agrees to consider it, direct them to my website at leslieahmadi.com, and ask them to subscribe (within 48 hours if possible) for a chance to win the Unibrow Lady—that is, one of the wall hangings that are pictured above. Actually, the prize will be one wall hanging for each of you!
c. Next, please do the following (yourself):
--Reply to this email to notify me of your friend’s or colleague’s intention to subscribe. How?
I hope you and your colleague(s) will choose to participate!
As always, Kheilee mamnoon! (i.e., “Thank you!” in Persian),
I invite you to look at this jubilant scene of the very first Christmas-- here with Maryam, Yusef, the baby Isa and the traveling wise men, also known as the Magi*:
It was painted by the celebrated modern Iranian Christian artist Hossein Behzad (1894 - 1968). Highly respected by Christian and Muslim fans alike, he is known for blending both Eastern and Western influences while leaving a "Persian flavor" intact.
What do I love about the picture? The fluid lines, the live, luscious colors, the spontaneous wonder on every expression—where each body leans in unconscious attention, each eye falls on the baby in tender delight. A setting where strangers become an intimate circle.
I mean—if you'd been around and had stumbled upon them, wouldn't you also feel welcome to join them?
P.S.: It is true that the majority of Iranian residents are of Islamic heritage; this I knew before I met my husband Mahmoud. What I did not know was that while Islam does not teach that Jesus (Isa) is the son of God, it does present Jesus as a great and beloved prophet, born of a blessed virgin named Mary (Maryam)—as captured in the joyful depiction above.
* Finally: I am not studied enough to verify the claims some scholars make that (at least one of) the Magi were ethnically Persian. But I do find it lovely that my husband's family in Iran seems to take pride in that suggestion!
Thank you, All Readers! May this season be just what each of you needs it to be.
What better way to welcome NOVEMBER (and be sincere about it) than to remember it’s the peak of POMEGRANATE SEASON in many parts of the world?
There was a time when pomegranates weren’t as easy to find, when we’d be lucky to find them in specialty shops. But now they’re appearing in supermarkets—their succulent treasure just waiting to be discovered. So, if you haven’t ventured to try them already, I invite you . . . encourage you . . . dare you to try them!
I started my own quest at the supermarket weeks ago--lurking about the produce section . . . poking around the aisles . . . hungering for the splendid red orbs with the top notches. When I spotted the first ones in early October, they were measly and spotty to the casual onlooker . . . but to me, even then, they shined bright and glorious: the triumphant booty of my treasure hunt.
They ushered me back to memories of Iran, those sticky-sweet moments with Mahmoud’s family: our fingers drenched with the color of rubies, our tongues being alternately piqued and quenched by squirts of sweet tanginess brighter than cranberries. There were also the jubilant crackling sounds from the expert’s hands that could open a pomegranate. I can still see Baba, my beloved father-in-law, breaking off sections and passing them out as if they were chunks of a loaf of bread. Our busy fingers, dislodging the pellets, scooped their glistening goodness straight into our mouths . . .
Baba knew the secret of feasting on pomegranate: that it’s as much an event about being together as it is about the pleasures of eating it. Maybe that’s why the pomegranate was his favorite fruit!
The One who fashioned ruby
Has crafted another masterpiece:
He chiseled out the facets,
Lined them all in silver,
Wrapped them in a ball,
And called it “pomegranate."
[--a favorite poem of Baba's (poet unknown), translated from the Persian]
--Here's a short and easy YouTube demo on how to open a pomegranate
(Note: You can also use the same technique and skip the water step altogether)
--And here's an article on the health benefits of pomegranates,
About two weeks ago, some generous friends invited Mahmoud and me to share a cabin with them in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I had just wrenched my ankle badly and probably should have avoided a walk along the stunning white sands of Lake Superior. But the call of the water, the rhythmic waves, and the sandy white beach were far too hypnotic to resist.
So, I found myself hobbling along the edge of the water, bending down to collect as many colorful, sparkling, water lapped rocks as my pail could carry. Then suddenly I remembered the precious gift of a rock that a colleague had found at a nearby beach and thought of me some years ago.
It was a small, brown stone with a cool, smooth surface. Except, of course, for a few indentations—a few well-placed strokes left behind by nature. Even before I had made the connection, Nan explained what was strangely familiar about it:
“Looks like some kind of script—maybe Persian or Arabic?” Nan asked me. It just looks so cool and I thought you should have it.”
Sure enough: On the face of the stone these nicks and scratches somehow bore a striking resemblance to Persian (Farsi)! (If you'd like a preview, scroll down and take a peek at the bottom.)
It was a gift in my day that I hadn’t expected—all the more because Nan looked as excited as I was. Here was a colleague, a kindred spirit, who regarded this “treasure” with the same eyes that I did. After thanking her warmly for what she had “bequeathed” me, I wrapped it in a tissue to take home to Mahmoud.
I really wasn’t sure what would come of it: I mean, a Persian message on a Michigan rock? Its Eastern script like appearance should have been cool enough . . . but when Mahmoud told me he could actually read something (?!), I morphed into a kid who believed in magic again.
“So what does it say?” I asked eagerly (and a little impatiently).
“Well…what do you know? I can just make out words that read ‘Emdad gheibee' (امداد غیبی),'' he offered. “Translated, it means something like ‘Help from Beyond.’”
"Help from Beyond"! Could this really be possible: A genuine message . . . with a touch of mystery to it? I truly wanted to believe in the magic—but I wanted confirmation from other Iranians.
So I showed the rock to four other people--and what do you suppose happened? Every Iranian read something different and wonderful:
--The first one saw اسد الله ("Asad Allah"), which means “Lion of God.”
--The second one saw اسرار ("Asrar"), translated as “secret.”
--The third one saw دسر ("Deser"), the word for “dessert.”
. . . And the fourth one ended up seeing a picture: a woman on each end with two kids in the middle!
So, how to explain this perplexing mystery? The "script" was just clear enough to appear to be readable--and at the same time just vague enough to require some interpreting! It's a wonderful reminder of yet another mystery: how we can view the same "picture" and yet see it quite differently! How aptly this describes the learning curve I experience at times when learning to see things from another culture’s point of view! (Of course, people from the same culture often view the same picture and see it differently as well!)
So the "mystery rock" now awaits your interpreting, whether or not you are Iranian! If you would, please tell us what you see "inscribed" on it. A photo of Nan's gift is presented below, along with the script interpretations already mentioned above.
امداد غیبی' Help that comes from beyond
اسد الله Lion of God
… plus the image of two women with two children in between!
So, thanks for letting me be a kid again!
And happy future hunting of your own “mystery rocks”!
(For the recipe, go directly to the bottom)
In 1981, when I was attending a master’s program in Spanish at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I developed a secret crush on the driver of the campus shuttle bus I took every day (this was at a time and place before Mahmoud!) His name was Andy, and it was definitely his soulful eyes that got to me.
But evidently he had noticed me too, because within a couple of weeks of my becoming a regular passenger, he asked me out one sunny fall day, when I was the last one to exit the bus!
Our first “date” was lunch in his bachelor apartment, a meal sweetly prepared by his own hands. But for the life of me, and to my embarrassment, I can’t remember what Andy served me that day. That is, all but a side dish that struck me as strange: a bowl of gleaming white yogurt. Plain. Stark. And unsweetened at that!
Okay, I got it. One glimpse at Andy’s build and it was clear the guy must have been working out regularly. Apparently, he was committed to a healthy diet to match. When I said, “I see you eat your yogurt plain,” as casually as I could, I was surprised and relieved when he just laughed out loud and playfully finished my secret thought for me, saying “Yeah …what’s up with that?”
As it turned out, Andy’s glaring bowl of stark white yogurt led to a fun discussion. About the fact that Andy actually preferred the taste of plain, unsweetened yogurt to the popular, ready-made, jam-laced variety in the grocery stores. That he liked the creamy, rich, whole milk version over the low-fat variety. And that if I were to give myself half a chance, I might develop a taste for it, too.
Little did I know that twelve years later I would be living in a whole other region of the world, joining my husband and his Iranian family in a feast of amazing dishes, among which included—now get this—little bowls of gleaming fresh white yogurt, waiting for someone to scoop up a dollop of it with a wedge of Persian-style flatbread! Go figure.
And little did I know that thirty years after that, I would be sharing with you, my readers, one of my favorite recipes for a hot summer day! A Persian recipe that can serve as a main dish, a side dish, a cool and refreshing soup, and yes, even as a dessert! A dish whose main ingredient consists of—yes, you guessed it—creamy, white, rich, refreshing yogurt! And with all kinds of delicious, natural ingredients in it. Like diced cucumbers. And fresh mint. And dill. And green onion. And walnuts. And golden raisins. But not jam. Or added sugar. What do the Iranians call it? Mast-o khiar (mahst-o-khee-yar)—literally meaning “yogurt and cucumber.” My review? It’s light, it’s refreshing, it’s healthy and flavorful, with just enough “sweet” and just enough “savory.”
Are you intrigued at all, or at least curious? I hope so, because then maybe you’ll check out the recipe for yourself (below). As my friend Andy told me, if you give yourself half a chance, you might find you enjoy it—especially on days it’s too hot to cook! If you do try it out and you like what you taste, please let me know in the comments section!
Happy eating—and enjoy the summer! The mast-o khiar recipe follows below:
Yogurt and Cucumber: Mast-o Khiar*
1 long burpless cucumber
½ cup golden raisins
3 cups plain yogurt (whole milk recommended)
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup chopped scallions
1 tablespoon chopped mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill weed
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
½ teaspoon chopped fresh or dried mint for garnish
1 dried rosebud and a few petals (optional)
Variation: This may be transformed into a refreshing cold soup by adding one cup of cold water and two or three ice cubes to the mixture.
*Please note: This recipe is shared by permission of Ms. Najmieh Batmangli, master chef and author of Food of Life: A Book of Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies (1986). Washington D.C.: Mage Publishers, Inc.
[Finally, confidentially to Andy: Wherever you are, thank you for introducing me to plain yogurt: You were right on target! I wish I could send you this recipe to thank you with!]
Happy 35th anniversary! (since our wedding on June 25, 1988!)
When I was 16, I came across an article that struck me—one where the (female) author made an intriguing conjecture about women:
“Unconsciously,” she said, “We don’t want to marry someone just like our fathers; we actually want to marry someone just like our mothers.”
Hmmm. Was that true—at least for a good number of us women? I pondered its meaning for thirty seconds or so. But somehow the notion remained in my head.
Seven years later my mother died at 54, and six years after that I met you.
And that’s when I understood the author’s words. I had fallen in love with someone—a sweet man from Iran—with something in his makeup that reminded me of my mother!
It isn’t just that you’re a nurturer by nature, just like Mom was in her strong, yet understated way.
And it isn’t just that you’re generous to a fault, by which you freely give away your time, talents, and acts of service, like Mom did.
It also lies in the uncanny and quirky coincidence of qualities you share—I mean, my darling Mom and the darling man I married:
Had Mom been alive, I believe she would have been the first in my family to understand that you were for me.
And you were the first between you and me to find Mom’s graveside again when we returned from Iran after four years away.
The truth is—without ever having met, you are kindred spirits in my eyes, and you both still bloom in my heart.
How deeply and gratefully I celebrate you both on our thirty-fifth (coral) anniversary!
Her name is Mitra Farrokh, she is 28 years old, and she lives with her husband in Iran’s capital Tehran. Although I am actually the American wife of her second cousin and not of her uncle, I like how she still calls me “Zan Daeii” (“Uncle’s Wife”), just like my husband’s actual nieces and nephews do--since there is no special term of endearment for “cousin’s wife” in Persian. Because of her vibrant and free-spoken nature, Mitra has endeared herself to me too, and she has a way of bringing out the playful side of me! Coincidentally, she shares a birthday with Mahmoud’s and my son “Niki” (Nikiar)—right down to the very year and day!
In the following 17-minute videotaped interview*, Mitra will share some details about herself, including important decisions she made for her life growing up. She will also share her observations of how certain cultural practices have been changing in Iran.
*Please note that because of limited internet access currently in Iran, video and sound quality will be impacted during the interview replay. Thanks to my viewers for your understanding, and a special thanks also goes to Ms. Mary Landrum, whose technological talents made posting the videoclip possible.
I very much appreciate your attention and interest! If after the interview you have any questions or comments for Mitra, please feel free to enter them here or in the “Comments” section that follows the video.
Mitra, we thank you [Kheilee mamnoon] for being the fifth person to take part in this interview series!
Finally, Friends and Readers, you will also find Mitra’s video interview on YouTube!
(Please invite others to view as well)
April is National Poetry Month! As it turns out, many believe that some of the most philosophical, romantic, and lyrical poetry in the world comes out of Persian culture—going back thousands of years of recorded history. So, this seems an appropriate month to recognize some Persian poetry—and to have a taste (or retaste) of it!
Some of us poetry aficionados may recognize the big names of Persian poets like Hafez, Saadi, Ferdowsi, and Khayyam (whose famous translated works appear in the popular book The Prophet). And if you happen to be of Persian heritage, chances are that either you or someone you know of like heritage can recite poetic verses by heart when they feel so inspired—something I admire a lot about Iranian culture. Back in the day, when my husband and I were first dating, the mere sound of some of the love poetry he recited spontaneously would play on the strings of my heart. And they still do.
Of course, love poetry across the world is often complicated, expressing a contradictory mix of feelings like joy, longing, fulfillment, loss, grief, and hope. Poetry that reverberates and is often meant to be read aloud. And if the poem is both heard and enacted—engaging the senses of both sound and sight—perhaps it can be appreciated all the more.
It just so happens that there is an ancient Persian poem written three centuries ago, commonly referred to as Navaii (pronounced “Na-vah-EE”)--but better recognized in Iranian popular culture as a folksong by the same title. Although there are conflicting views on the origin of the poem and what the title means, most sources agree that among other possible meanings, the word navaii can refer to a sound proclaimed, as in a song. At face value, this poem-turned-folksong seems to refer to a grieving lover’s broken heart over a lost love. But others interpret it as referring to love on a more transcendent, spiritual plane—to a land of love where the heart, “a wild bird,” seeks to dwell and find its true home.
In recent days and weeks, Navaii has been circulating on YouTube across cultures and continents. And it is presented both visually and vocally by the beautiful Iranian American actor/artist Niousha Noor—who enhances the richness of its presentation with fellow world citizens singing across the globe.
As we witness and take in the melancholy of this simple poem—bemoaning the universal human experience of love lost or betrayed—we also detect an unmistakable spirit of love and hope among the singers. Given the words of grief and suffering in the poem (see English translation below), how can love and hope also be so evident? I believe they come from a collective empathy, that transcendent love, and a solidarity shared among the singers—who in turn invite us into a solidarity of hope. Hope for whatever is needed, hope for love to win out. What do you think? Interestingly, April is also the National Month of Hope.
I hope you’ll take two minutes to click onto, watch, and listen to Navaii--this old Persian poem sung in a new way--as interpreted by Ms. Niousha Noor:
(An English translation of the poem follows below.)
Navaii! Navaii! Navaii! Navaii!
Your youth passes you by, but its worth you don’t see.
It will not easily return.
2. How wondrous
Is the land of love!
In that place, there’s no distinction
Between a beggar and a king!
(Repeat Chorus twice)
3. Navaii! Navaii! Navaii! Navaii!
Everyone else is faithful,
But you, O Flower--
You are not.
Question: What does the date March 20 mean to you when it rolls around every year? For some, it signals the first day of Spring. For others, including people from Iran, it also marks the first day of their country’s New Year--corresponding to a season of rebirth and starting anew. For a brief explanation of the Iranian New Year Nowruz (pronounced as “No rooz,” and translated from the Persian as “New Day”), please refer to my blogpost on the Nowruz celebration (from March 2022).
Nowruz is a favorite holiday in Iran and one of the longest, officially celebrated for nearly two weeks (this year it will be celebrated from approximately March 20 – April 1). So, if you happen to know or meet anyone from Iran and want to pleasantly surprise them sometime between March 20 and April 1, just wish them “Happy New Year!” in Persian by saying “Saleh no mobarak!” Even if you’re uncertain of how to pronounce the words, your efforts are sure to impress!
Being US American, I still celebrate New Year’s Day on January 1. So, in my January newsletter to you all, I declared that as a new year’s resolution I would be more visible to my readers. That means sharing with you more details about me, my current life, and significant others in my life, whether the details relate to themes from my book (Road Between Two Hearts: A Black American Bride Discovers Iran) or something entirely spontaneous or random.
I count myself fortunate that I have a colleague and fellow writer who is helping me to do just that! Her name is Elizabeth Ducie, from Birmingham, England. A published author of cozy mysteries (and who doesn’t like a cozy mystery?), she playfully declares on her website that, among other things, she enjoys “telling lies for a living!” She has also made it her business to interview ME as a fellow female author and post the writeup of her interview with me on her blog (where, incidentally, the last time I checked, I didn’t spot a single lie)! I hope you’ll pay a visit to the sites, and, in the spirit of International Women’s Month, read about two women (namely, Elizabeth and me!) for yourselves!
Dr. Leslie Ahmadi discovered her intercultural calling in her parents’ home at age four--where between the jazz, the spirituals, and the rock ‘n roll music, she heard folk songs in languages from around the world. Thirty years later she had a doctorate in foreign language and culture education--and her folk song guitar never far away.