Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Spirit

Recently I was teaching our Level 7 Speaking class and I asked them this question, “What is your favorite American Holiday, and why?” In that class were students from France, Brazil, Japan, Korea, China, Thailand, Holland, and Saudi Arabia. One student from Taiwan said, “My favorite American holiday is Christmas because I can actually feel the ‘Christmas Spirit.’  I can’t describe exactly what I mean, but around Christmas time I feel the warmth, the kindness, and the peace of American people.”  As an American, I knew exactly what this student meant.
American college students like Christmas because that usually means the end of a hard semester of reading assignments, group projects, exams, and final papers. Christmas is the time for a break from school that can last anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months. It’s a time when students usually return to their hometowns to spend the holidays with family and friends.
American children love Christmas time because it means Santa Clause will be coming by their house on Christmas Eve with a bag full of presents. One of the most exciting feelings for American children is waking up Christmas morning, jumping out of bed, rushing to wherever the Christmas tree is and discovering gifts of different shapes and sizes with OUR name on them. I got one of my greatest Christmas gifts when I was about 7 years old – my very own Red Rider BB gun!  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a long skinny package under our Christmas tree. I knew exactly what it was.  The year was 1979, and back then my neighborhood was surrounded by groves of lemon trees. I used to run threw those lemon groves all day until it got too dark to see what I was shooting at. I imagined myself to be some rough and tough cowboy on the western frontier on the hunt for giant buffalo or wild turkey.  I mostly ended up shooting rusty old coke cans and cardboard boxes. Anyways, Christmas is a magical time for American children.

But the true meaning of Christmas is not about shopping, getting cool gifts, or taking a break from school.  The heart and true meaning of Christmas can only be discovered by looking at the birth of baby Jesus over 2000 years ago and trying to understand what this means for the millions of Christians around the world. For them, Christmas is a time to celebrate the wonder of Jesus’ birth. There are many religions in the world, and there are people in America who have no religion at all. But there are a few things that almost everybody wishes for in life, regardless of religion or culture. These things are peace, happiness, meaning, love and hope. These things are at the heart of Christmas, and it is these things that create the true “Christmas Spirit.”

Author: Ty Mussack (Program Coordinator at our Orange County Campus)
Taken from our monthly e-Newsletter

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Volunteer Work @ The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank

On December 3rd, our Downtown Campus teacher (Caroline) and a group of LSI students worked alongside Disney, USC, CAA & Americorp. It was truly a wonderful organization & all had a great time. They had a brief orientation before beginning & watched a video of LA Food Bank's great mission: to fight hunger & give hope.
Caroline is very happy several of her LSI students joined her for this volunteer event. They were all inspired & ready to come back to help again.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Discover L.A.: Cafe Gratitude

Cafe Gratitude is an organic vegan restaurant specializing in gourmet vegan cuisine. They select the nest organic ingredients and support local farmers, sustainable agriculture and environmentally friendly products. The entrees come in large portions that can be shared. The first time I dined at the restaurant was with my friend Mike, and have since taken many friends there. My favorite drink on the menu is the ‘I am Cool’ which is a mint chocolate chip milkshake with Vitamineral green and raw cacao nibs. Yes, the menu gives all of the dishes monikers like "I Am Liberated" or "I Am Festive," which are meant to add to the overall positive vibe. The menu is seasonal and is always evolving so if you have eaten there in the summer and loved a soup, you might be disappointed to not and it on their menu in the fall. What consistently stays on the menu is the ‘I Am grateful,’ their community supported grain bowl. Café Gratitude chooses a local non-pro t supplier and all pro ts from that dish are donated. The minimum donation is $3. Some of my other favorite things on the menu this summer have been the ‘I am Warm hearted,’ a grilled pesto polenta with a summer vegetable ratatouille, cashew crème fraiche, almond parmesan and basil, and the ‘I am whole’ a macrobiotic bowl with sea vegetables, summersquash, adzuki beans, sautéed kale, house-made kimchee, sea whip and black sesame seed gomasio. The prices are pretty reasonable and range from $9-20. And if you want to finish your meal off with a wonderful dessert I highly recommend the ‘I Am Lovely,’ gluten-free seasonal cooked fruit cobbler served with homemade ice cream.

Taken from our monthly e-Newsletter.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Three days of volunteering at the Midnight Mission!

Our LSI Downtown campus teacher, Caroline was allowed to bring about 10-15 volunteers to help out at the Midnight Mission-- they were fully booked already but welcomed them still.
On Saturday 11/23, they were 12 total who came to volunteer. Both Sushant and Daniel (LSI teachers) came to support as well. Very positive vibe in there, everyone was laughing and having a good time. All were eager to help out any way they could. Main job they had was cutting up LOTS of ham and vegetables.
Sunday, 11/24, she had 10 LSI student. Main job they had was cutting turkey. 
Monday 11/25, was the biggest group she had. 15 total. Finished cutting all turkey and helped with yam prep. Most had never cut turkey before but the head chef trained them well with the knife:) The LA Times interviewed several of them and took lots of pictures. 

Overall, Caroline was amazed and happy with the turnout since she had only four days to get volunteers to sign up!

We would like to thank Caroline and everyone that participated in this whole thing :)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Discover L.A.: Madrona Marsh Preserve - Torrance, CA

The Madrona Marsh Preserve, located in Torrance, California, is the last
vernal marsh remaining in the South Bay area of Los Angeles and one of
few wetlands located within an urban landscape.
Formed eons ago when the mountains of the Palos Verdes Peninsula
rose to the south, Madrona Marsh is a shallow depression fed by wet
season (spring) storms as the name "vernal" indicates. After the rainy
season, evaporation, percolation and transpiration reduce the water
depth by about one-quarter of an inch (6 mm) per day. By the end of
August, the wetland is dry and remains so until the following rainy
season. Situated on land that was set aside for oil production in 1924,
Madrona Marsh was never developed—unlike the surrounding
city—and remains a valuable natural habitat for birds, reptiles, insects
and even small mammals.
Ongoing e orts are restoring native plants including wild owers and
butter y species. The area has long been popular with bird watchers and
The Audubon Society has used Madrona Marsh for their annual bird
census since 1967. El Camino College uses it as an outdoor biology and
botany lab. Public access to the Madrona Marsh trails is o ered Tuesday
through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and guided tours can be arranged
by calling the Nature Center (310) 782-3989.
Activities include bird and nature walks, natural history classes and
workshops, habitat restoration, science and astronomy programs, art
exhibits, and children's nature programs. The center opened in 2001 and
features exhibits about the plants, birds and animals of the marsh.
The marsh and nature center are closed to the public on Mondays.
From Wikipedia

Taken from our monthly e-Newsletter.