Go, Jane! Ancient Wisdom and Modern Street Smarts for Dealing with Dicks

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Yeah, it usually comes in the form of a private message. I think it's those times when people are just alone and feeling vulnerable, reflecting on their own lives that they might need something like Big Talk. So, it's helped strengthen my conviction to keep going. Everyone's going to need to have a meaningful connection in their life in order to survive and get through. Kalina: You don't know where a conversation will lead and sometimes it led to things that I was not equipped to deal with like people sharing their deepest most innermost secrets or mental health issues.

I am no licensed psychologist or therapist, it really for me just started off as a story-telling project, journalism, making friends. So, those were the times where I just didn't know if what I was doing was right, if it was crossing a line that I wasn't ready to handle. Those are the times where I wondered if I should have done this. Because it had led to people who are just now relying on me for help and I don't even know what resources to point them to yet.


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Kalina: There's just so much beneath the surface, there's so many nuance experiences. I mean, I'll go on vacation with a friend and we'll talk about our favorite parts of the trip and they'll say things very simply like, "I like visiting this place and eating this food. Yeah, I haven't done anything with it because I It was just so taboo and random for me to just start writing a play about it but it was how I processed each encounter.

I mean, everyone thought I was a student when I was doing research at NUS or the modeling world, all that. I still felt very much like just Kalina from California and would come home and be talking to all my friends from home. I felt like I had two lives I was living at once but by sharing stories on either side I was able to still feel like I could be both. It was also when I had friends visit and then they met my friends in Singapore and then suddenly everything felt more real. Because there were times where I felt I was living this alien life and that it was really disconnected and it was in a dream.

But once, people started meeting each other and connecting, that was really cool. Kalina: Despite Singapore being a small country, big city, it's fairly quiet and ordered but you would still hear the sounds of a city in a very kind of rhythmic ordered manner. You don't hear taxis or ambulances like you do constantly in New York, for example. Hear a mixture of languages because everyone in Singapore speaks English but also they speak Chinese, Malay. Smell a lot of yummy Asian food, sweet chili sauce, that was my favorite, I would drench everything in sweet chili sauce.

And feel really hot and sweaty unless you're in a really air-conditioned place which you could walk into anywhere. The feeling was very comfortable for the most part, you always felt safe and secure and like you knew what you were doing because everything ran on time. But I think because everything was so ordered and secure, I felt like I had more freedom to do things that were outside of the box because everything else was taken care of. So, I was able to experience so much within one year, I really felt like I lived three years in one year.

Kalina: There was one night, it was at the end of my Fulbright probably, maybe month eight or something like that that I went to Out dancing at this really cool Indy movie theater and they turned it into a live dancing venue. When I was there, I ran into 10 people I knew that I had met just over the past year and it was so cool to just go somewhere in the city and have friends from all over. It was one of the guys was in the artist collective I was in, someone else I had done a dance class with, someone else I had just met through mutual friends because they had moved from Hong Kong recently.

So, it was just really cool to see through that effort and sustained energy and friendship over eight months or so being in Singapore, I had a world there and that was just amazing and I wish my friends and family could have shared in that experience.

Kalina: I hope people will walk down the street and smile more because smiling is something that's so natural and if someone is just walking down the street and smiling, you know they're genuinely, sincerely happy. It sounds cheesy but a smile can be very indicative of the world going right, being a good happy place for everyone and things being in order. Chris: We'd love to hear from you, you can write to us at ECACollaboratory state. Photos of each week's interview and complete episode transcripts can be found on our webpage at ECA.

Special thanks this week to Kalina for sharing her story and for going beneath the surface. How do you mix heartbreaking and hilarious? YES program participant Bilal Khan, from Karachi, Pakistan, tells about his life before, during, and after YES, and the inescapable conclusion is that stories like Bilal's are why we do international exchanges.

You threw yourself into countless new situations, each time with enthusiasm and spirit. He has never met anybody from Pakistan. He is six foot six aged, this military guy, very tough, everybody's scared of him. Nobody has ever seen him smile, that's somehow a legend about him until I came to his class.

I wasn't planning to make anybody smile. I'm sitting there, he says something, obviously I did not understand the English. He's like, "Khan, give me I come from Pakistan, so there's a different culture there. I get up so disappointed. I walk up to him, I take out my wallet, take out my only I'm like, "I can't believe American teachers take bribe.

He's like, "What are you doing? Then the whole class, and then it turned out I had to do 20 pushups. A hornet with a Bollywood vibe and unlearning by experiencing. Join us on a journey from Karachi, Pakistan to Herndon, Virginia in finding a path through tragedy. They are people very much like ourselves and Bilal: Hi, my name is Bilal Zubair Khan. I came close to this YES Program in We had internet in our house, this was one of the first search that I did. The others were not better not to be told about, so we would just leave it there, but the truth is that, this is not where my story starts.

This is the first time I'm sharing this story. I had a little sister, her name was Ramsha, beautiful girl, amazing. Funnier than me, better than me. May 20th, we were in our community swimming pool, and she fell down and hit her on the head. She was unconscious, she passed away. She was four, I was six. This was not my first time seeing somebody die right in front of me, because my mother passed away like few years before that. For me, my only best friend, the only person that I ever talked to after my mom passed away was my younger sister, because we had to sort of look out for each other.

I was born in a family that was very well off, but my mother's cancer just did things to our family that we had to literally sell everything. We were like, I opened eyes seeing adults worried and trying to hide it. I see adults not having answers for me, but trying to still make me feel good. That shook me. I believe that everybody talks about minorities, the real minorities of the world are children.

They are second class citizens, nobody understand what's going on with them. At that time nobody understood, but the way my sister passed away it was a story of the neighborhood. Everybody wanted to know this, how the girl drowned because it was a community swimming pool. That hadn't happened in 10 years. I did not know how to swim. She fell down in the 10 feet, nobody knew. It was dark and I was in the shallow, so I couldn't do anything to help her.

What happened is that, the reason I'm trying to tell you this is, it will make sense, that on April 20th when she passed away, people start coming in. It's in the local newspaper, a lot of people are coming in. I was put in front by adults to repeat the story. I did not have any confidence, just let's be very clear. I was very shy. I didn't even know I was failing second grade, third grade because of the things that were happening. No mother, nobody, really you can't go and tell somebody anything.

I started telling the story of how I did not want to, I hated it. I just didn't even know what was happening, but I just told that story let's say times, so many people came up. I'm just doing these stories, stories constantly talking about that at such a young age. You have to understand I have no connection to America at this point.

I don't even know anything. I only have connection to one thing, that is my sister's passing and my mother. You have to understand that America's perceived in a very different way in other parts of the world. I saw no emotion, the way I saw emotion for my sister when she passed away. I'm really confused. I don't know what's happening. This is when they didn't censor anything in media. They were showing it as it is. The way you guys saw it here, I was watching it there, and I'm what, nine years old.

I don't know who to talk to about it, because it's not happening in our country, nobody understands until my mother, I had a step-mother by that time. She saw it and she just came and she's like, "What's wrong? If you're seeing somebody's children being hurt, you don't have to be an American to be human.

I'm like, "Who are these people? Why this happened to them? Then over the course until , for the next eight years, I had zero idea that I would ever end up here. My family's so big that nobody ever left the house. We were all people that you do one job, you have kids. This is how you live your life, so I was a wild entry. He wasn't just going to America to represent America, but to tell this story. As I grew older, I saw so much hate, they had zero idea what America is like outside of movies and outside of what media was telling them.

Every time media was sharing something bad about America, I'm going back to that little incident that happened. An average American is not out there get me. They're smiling, they're saying hello. They're like, "Hey, where are you from? I have this confidence, I have this personality that was somewhere hidden. It's only coming out by having minimal conversations on day to do basis in my high school with my host family, with my friends. That little link that we have is very, very, very useful. I had two host families. My first host family was a couple, Rose and John. I had an eight year old sister, Alex.

The reason I started the story with my sister is because, when I went there, she was the same age when my sister passed away. It just felt like, you know how you pray sometimes, doesn't matter which God you follow or which God other people follow. I prayed to do have a little more time with my sister. She's nothing like my sister. She's showing me these dance moves from Hannah Montana.

She's like, "How are they? Now she's grown up. We send memes to each other. I'm trying to get her to her first internship. All of these things, like she's there. This connection didn't end. My second host family was, my host brother was in my civics class. His name is Matt Olem. Matt and I were friends, and then my mother at that time was running for the town council election for the first time. The first time I sat in front of her, I was like, "What are you doing?

You have to win," and that's what happened. We would in our spare time, me, Matt my host brother, and my mother, at this point all three of us are going around giving brochures in all town. Everybody's like, "Oh, who's this? There was the fun, "Where is this kid from? I was friends with all the Muslim community because of my volunteering at the mosque.

They were like, "We are just voting for your mother. They didn't say anything, because I was like, "I'm going to go with my mother. When she won the town council, for the ceremony, her mother, Gracie, she is 91 years old now. I figured out that my host mother Sheila and her mother Gracie, they had a big divide in how they saw things politically. When my mother called her up, and she was like, "Hey, I'm hosting an exchange student from Pakistan. My granny calls, and she has this accent, that's one of the sweetest things I've ever heard. I understood it right away, it was her southern accent.

We FaceTime, and then she came to Herndon and I hung out with her. Then she went back and then she was like, "Send him here. I want everybody to meet him. We're listening to all this music, which is from Nashville, from Muscle Shoals and all these areas in Alabama. We went to music hall of fame of rock and roll, and she's telling me where she was in when she listened to that song. Where she was in , how she met her husband. Then there was a retiree place where all the retired people go. I went there. Gracie has a friend visiting from Pakistan, and then they call up us on stage and everybody's just looking at me because I'm very different in this area.

You have to understand, I have this beard. I used to be 50 pounds more, I won the Biggest Loser Challenge. I used to be little overweight, and they're like, "Who is this guy? I'm from Pakistan and I just want to say you guys have nothing to worry about. They just wanted to hang out with me. I got published in the local newspaper for a visit to Alabama, like tell me that happens anywhere else. The point is, when we were driving back, she told me like, I don't want to make this sound like a weird story, but I would just tell you right away that we are driving, I'm on my phone.

This is how me and my granny used to hang out. I'm on my phone, she's driving and then she's like, "Oh I'm going to show you some of my friends. I'm doing all of these things with her, I've never done that with my own mother, my sister. We're driving and then she's like, "Oh we are here. She has a car in the middle of a graveyard, and she told me that we are going to see her friends. You have to understand, by this time I'm like, well granny is 89 after all, so age gets to you, maybe she's not Then we go out to this spot that has many of her friends who passed away.

Then also like her husband, and there's like a tomb for her. That's something that never happens. It's like, you have to understand, my trauma comes mostly from graveyards. I was like, "Why do you have it now? I mean this is some dark, dark things granny. She's like, "After a while you don't worry about dying so much, but knowing other cultures, meeting you. Knowing all that I've learned about where you come from, it's a good reminder that my life has come full circle. She's the unofficial representative of Pakistan, started the job at age of That's my granny.

You know, that's why I'm here in your office. I took theater. Theater was incredible. I took ROTC, we had to wear uniforms. I did not like this class, because one of my dream when I was coming to America was to have long hair and do some crazy with that because I had the freedom. In this class they asked me to have a buzz cutt. That's how my hair was. I looked like an egg throughout my exchange year, and through that class we would go volunteer.

This is where I'm like learning about volunteers. I'm already going back to the time when my mother is sick. The funds are really low, we are selling everything. I was like, "What if there was a person who was doing community service or fundraising back then? This was my goal, that I wanted to be the person who is mentioned the most in the yearbook of that year. I'm mentioned on 27 pages. That's a separate thing that I was in the yearbook class, so I sneaked my name in some places, but I was the spirit captain for swim team.

I was the secretary for International Club. I performed in a high school musical Oklahoma. I sound very southern already as you see. I did dance, never doing it again, I was really bad. People were really nice there. They didn't boo me off the stage. I was a DJ.

I did stand up comedy. I just thought that if I could make people smile, because I had just so many stories that I had to share from my childhood, but I was not really finding the right balance yet. I had to know them, they had to know me, and that's where I realized that I cannot really force everything I know on somebody.

Or be upset if they don't react the way I want. I learned how to represent your culture in a way that it speaks to them to. As I said, my story like on human basis, what are the things I could find? I would show pictures of my family, and I would ask them like, "Oh what is it like for you guys? Again, I used humor to become friends with all of these people. During this year, I got to meet the ambassador of Pakistan to United States, and you know why? There was a big event, my host family took me to this Eid event.

Therefore, thousands of Pakistani, Indians, and like every Muslim community was there, and they had a little stage in the middle. I was so excited to see so many people who looked like me all of a sudden, because I haven't met anybody else. I just started dancing. I'm wearing this Pakistani cloth, and like it's hundred degrees out.

I'm all red, so everybody's looking at the stage and there's this one guy dancing, doing his thing. My sister taught me Macarena. I was doing Macarena on Bollywood songs, you know how awkward that is? It's very awkward, don't do it, that's the point. Then everybody who's American-Pakistani, American, the community's called Desi community, they're looking at me.

They're like, "Who are you? Do you want to know? He's like, "Hey, can you bring that guy to me? He invited me to embassy. He invited me to tea, which had never happened in YES, these pictures go back to Pakistan and boom I'm a star. Voice of America wants to talk to me, and like all of these people want to talk to me. I'm getting this early success all of a sudden. What happens with that success is that, again, it's not a Peter Parker thing that with power comes responsibility.

What I started feeling at that time I was like, "Okay, this is going in different direction. Taylor Swift, Love Story, I felt like she was speaking to me. Taylor says, "Lyrics are amazing for teenagers, no gender issues. We would listen to Taylor Swift and a lot of Kesha, because I was hanging out with girls. I was a cheerleader, sorry, I was a mascot of my school, a hornet, so I would wear the whole thing and practice for teenagers.

Go to football games and different games, and do the whole thing. They were like, "Why is this hornet looks like he's from straight from an Indian movie? I'm friends with everyone, I'm going around and whatnot. On the last game, home game of basketball, so the coach of cheerleading and the whole cheerleading team decided that they wanted to do one stunt with me, where I reveal my face and tell the whole school that it's me.

I'm like, "Are you sure? I don't want to get up and fall down and be embarrassed one last day of school. In the middle during the halftime, and it's packed, it was the last game. It's winter, it's packed, and they lift me up in the air. I took off my head and then like everybody just went crazy. I did swimming in high school. I was so bad when I tried out that my coach was like, "This has never happened because all kids swim from young age. Then I wanted to beat that fear, so I was like, "I'm going to go back to that same swimming pool where she passed away and I'm going to learn.

I went back, so I learned how to swim by myself for a little bit. Then I became the fastest swimmer for that little pool where she passed away. In , I'm sitting there and there's no lifeguard somewhere, and a few kids come and running to me. They're like, I'm 13 or 12 I think by that time. They come running to me, they're like, "We came to find our friend.

I just like dive. I find this guy who's six, two feet and I take him out, save his life from seconds. I really feel like sometimes a trauma can save somebody else. When I was in high school, when I tried out, I knew I wasn't going to make the team. I went to that same coach. I'm like, "Hey, listen, I really need this. It's a big investment for me, so just let me do something. She's like, "Okay. My timing for 50 meter freestyle was 54 seconds. The person closest to in our team was 32 seconds when we started.

I trained with this team for four weeks. My timing is 27 seconds, which is 1. I went back, I got into college on swimming quarter. I landed. After doing the whole thing in America, I would get back to it. I landed on June 20th. June 21st I was the mentor for the next year of YES students who were going. Since that day, I've been working full-time. I have gone to college. I have trained over 30, teenagers. I have done a lot of multiple jobs, over events that have been done just to bring communities together.

Every time they would task me at this, they're like, "How do you come up with these ideas? Oh you're having these stores, these Instagram friends, these selfie boots. How are you doing it? I worked with theater, so before you perform, there's the whole team. How they come together, how they're excel sheets, none of this was there when I was growing up. When I learned it, I was like, "Okay, I know, but how many people don't know? Yes, I made it, but there's a child out there who's going through the similar thing that I was going through. I have to reach to that child.

I'm presenting, I'm doing youth clubs and like all of a sudden I'm just so busy in Pakistan now. Every alumni event, you take them, this workshop, that workshop. Until three years I do this day in, day out, there's nothing more I can learn in life. I realized that I was actually running away from all the people who were not on board with my American experience. I realized people can only understand me as far as they have understood themselves.

If somebody has never left Karachi and me trying to tell them what DC is like and how to take picture, and they're never going to make it there, so I'm actually wasting their time. My best friend Hassam, he said that. I grew up with him and he just stopped me and he's like, "Bilal, you were in America, I was not. Then I looked around, I was like, "Okay, I need to do something that is more than this. Then it would look really good on my resume. I'm trying to be very honest with you. I'm doing good work, but this is what it would look really good on my resume.

Then I can apply for a college here or a college there, this is what I'm thinking. A lot of people think that, so I understand what you go through. Until this big project, I had Rupees. I was like, "I'm going to spend. I started this fundraiser in Ramadan, that we are going to buy ration for one family in this little area. I talked to my friend, I go there.

When I realized that, "Okay, this is how much it takes. I have so many friends on Facebook," so I spent those in buying one ration for one family. Then I put it up on my Facebook, and within the next five days we went to 80 families. Then we went to families in 10 cities, so it became a nationwide project. If I feed somebody who's hungry right now, he's going to be hungry tomorrow. This is the first time I googled. I always go back to Google. I was like, so the term came up sustainable solutions, sustainable development goals. I started finding ways, and then I went to UN just for this one thing, got in, selected, came back, started this vocational training center along with her.

I was like, "We are going to do something that this doesn't happen where they're waiting for food money. This woman, Maria, she's also YES alumni by the way, senior than me and she had two sewing machines only. One was her own, one was of her mother-in-law, and she had to carry it all the time. This sewing machine, I was like, "What we can do with it? Long story short, within five years, they're running a whole social welfare center.

Over women have graduated from here and have started their own business. This one project that we did and we installed two sewing machines, that changed the map of this most poverty and crime ridden area that was there. That's one project. As I mentioned, there are more of these, development wise incredible. What impact it had on me and my family, that's the most important thing, my Pakistani family.

They never traveled to America. They were not fond of America. You have to understand that when Osama Bin Laden was found in Abbottabad, he was living in a town called Bilal Town. It's small things like that. My high school friend, he was like, "Hey, somebody was talking about it, Bilal Town, and I told them. I'm like, "Did you guys forget? You were feeling all emotional when I told you this story," like to my Pakistani friends. They were like, "Yeah, he's right. I mean we cannot really trash talk about Americans," because then it means they're trash talking about my family and we don't do that in our culture.

I found these little loopholes, I'm like, "Oh this would work. I don't have to take a side, because I don't have a side. I've seen it happen with my host family where the mother is Democrat, the granny is Republican, but it never affects them because I'm their son. You don't politicize your family. My family in Pakistan had strong opinions about America, they're all gone.

I'm telling you, they're like legit gone. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Go, Jane! Before you make a life-changing decision Before you go on another date Before you go out your front door The information and stories are presented so you not only feel comfortable--but actually look forward Before you make a life-changing decision Before you go on another date Before you go out your front door The information and stories are presented so you not only feel comfortable--but actually look forward to reading and talking about them.

Jane offers the loving guidance and occasional kick in the pants that helps us make healthier decisions, develop greater self-love, and protect ourselves from uncomfortable and dangerous situations we face much too often. Part 1: Run, Jane! Part 2: Love, Jane! If you positively love good men, but could do without the Dicks Get A Copy. As long as you keep your head in the game and keep doing things, things will arise. That gives me goosebumps, just how one opportunity leads to another. It's always the little things. You never know.

One thing that really helped me lose track of time while I was in Singapore and if I was ever stressed out with research or questions about the future was music. I ended up discovering this yoga studio that had a collection of hang drums or they're called handpans also. They're these very magical mystical drums that you might see it at something like Burning Man that really sound beautiful and resonate. They're very ethereal, and I would go into this yoga studio about once a week. One of the people who worked there, he would give me hang drum lessons. I haven't seen one in the U.

When I went to Kazakhstan in September, I actually saw a maker selling hang drums in a local market. They're really cool and mysterious. In addition to cat sitting, I also turtle sat in a shop house, and shop houses are these really fancy historic homes in Singapore. They're really cool. It was a shop house that used to be owned by a government official.

I met a family and they were going out of town. They asked me to sit for their turtle, so I come in and feed their turtle. What does success mean to you on your exchange? I think success means not necessarily going in with what you planned to do and accomplishing it, but being able to adapt from whatever you plan to do and come out with something that feels even better or closer to what you wanted before even knowing what it was. Success also means making relationships that last and positive and meaningful. What do you miss? On my exchange, I miss family, of course.

At least in the beginning, just responsibilities to myself and my research project.

99. "Ogres are like onions."

Now, there's a lot of other things to weigh in and responsibilities, but that's cool too. It's a different kind of experience, but I do really miss that freedom. I felt like a little Fulbright fairy just hopping around doing my project and meeting people, which was really cool and very unique experience. I miss that. Where did I find peace on my exchange? There are a couple of places and kind of peaceful zones I had while I was in Singapore. One was the Botanic Gardens. It's kind of where I went on and a lot of friend dates when I was meeting new people in Singapore, and we would meet there in the morning for coffee and walk through.

I would make it a routine on Sunday nights to run around the Marina, which has lots of bright lights. It's what you saw probably in Crazy Rich Asians if you saw it and all the movies and postcards of Singapore. But there's this outdoor theater that they would bring in performance from around the world. I would go on a run and then stop and listen to the music. What have you witnessed that has strengthened your faith in humanity? In Singapore, I did a lot of work on the periphery with the migrant worker community. Just seeing how different Singaporeans and ex-pats and people who had just been living there for various amounts of time wanted to start getting involved with it.

But there was one woman there who's from some small place in America, I wish I remember it, but she's been in Singapore for years and years. She runs this NGO that supports migrant workers tirelessly. That was really cool to see how someone from abroad had taken this issue on as her own and they become like her children.

They love her so much. On Sundays, she goes in and they're all playing music and they use the space to They're so good. I recorded some recordings on my phone because I was like, "This music is amazing. This is what we should be listening to on Spotify". Not the usual pop songs. This is a fun one. I'd say a perfect day in Singapore would be waking up early and going for a swim because Singapore is super hot and humid, but almost every building has a swimming pool.

Go to swim, then go on the morning to a Hawker center. You can pick up some milk tea, some noodles, any kind of food you would imagine. Then probably do something related to research, either through my computer, checking emails, or talking or meeting with my research advisor, and then whatever meetings. I was always meeting with different people to do Big Talk interviews or focus groups, something like that in the late afternoon. There's tons of food in Singapore, so I don't know what the perfect one would be, but there's this one place called Haidilao, that was a hot pot place where you could also get your nails done while you're waiting there.

It just ridiculous. Something like that. Then I'd probably go back and Skype or FaceTime a friend or family member from home if I could because of the time difference. That'd be a perfect day. What little things in life do you take the time to stop and appreciate while you're on your exchange? Being able to eat such delicious cheap food or have a friend at all times to be able to call by the end. Because in the beginning, I would be calling my family, but by the end I would be calling my friends in Singapore to talk about experiences.

What could you do today that you couldn't do a year ago? Well, I can live abroad. I can create a whole world, move somewhere, find friends, find hobbies, find work, research, which is a really cool skill to have and a big one. Now I know I could do this somewhere else, and I would probably do it in the exact same way. I can play the hang drum. Just busk. Always been a childhood dream to busk or like draw portraits of people on the street.

Well, one new habit I want to form in Singapore, I was just so bold. Everyday I kind of made a point to try something new or meet someone new. It really worked. That was how I was able to make lots of relationships, connections, try new things. I would like to get back into that mindset and habit now that I'm back in the States because you just never know what will happen.

It's always a pleasant surprise. How are you making a difference in the world? I'd like to say that introducing Big Talk to Singapore helped to make a difference in people's perceptions of each other. Because as I mentioned, I was doing Big Talk workshops with Muslim woman, Jewish woman, ex-pats, locals, migrant workers, students and connecting them through these very simple universal themes. Five Big Talk questions that anyone could relate to. They're just so simple, but this was out of maybe 90 questions or so.

They were, what do you miss, what do you find beautiful, what's one of the kindest things someone has ever done for you, what has been your favorite age so far and why, and the last one is, what do you hope for? Those were just simple questions, but those were the ones that it came down to after doing workshops with all these different groups and talking to people. These are ones they could relate to across cultures.

Epic Rant on Consciousness in Zen by Alan Watts

What is the kindest thing someone has ever done for you on my exchange? He hand wrote questions that were like deep questions about Kalina on her birthday that everyone answered. I just cried. It was so cute, and it was cool to just see all these people I'd met over the year actually have stories to tell about me too.

My name is Christopher Wurst. I'm the director of The Collaboratory. Code, the statute that created ECA. Our stories come from participants of U. This week, Kalina Silverman let us try her very own Big Talk cards on her, to help illustrate her experiences as a Fulbright Scholar in Singapore.

What's wrong with you? Kudos to Kalina for creating Big Talk and then helping to show us its utility. Along with Ana-Maria Sinitean, I did the interview and edited this segment. The handpan drum recording was made with Kalina's teacher, Gary. The end credit music is, "Two Pianos" by Tagirljus.

So, she tried skipping small talk, and immediately noticed she was making more meaningful connections with her peers. Yet, so much of our day to day lives are filled so much with superficiality, and yes, small talk. You want to find a way to help people get past this, you think big in order to help others talk big.

Kalina: Well, I actually feel like Big Talk and my research is actually my passport to the world and different environments. I've been able to work with people from broad backgrounds, from Muslim women in Singapore to Jewish women community, to churches to expats and people working in banking and finance to the artist community and students.

Because every question I ask or way I get to know someone is something that you can relate to anyone on. So, it's really helped me meet people from a variety of fields and worlds and navigate actually. Yeah, I think Big Talk is a little passport. Chris: This week, going beneath the surface, what do you want to do before you die?

And walking down the street smiling, join us on a journey from California to Singapore and the birth of Big Talk. Speaker 3: We report what happens in the United States, warts and all. Speaker 4: These exchanges shape to who I am. Speaker 5: When you get to know these people, they're not quite like you read about them. They are people much like ourselves Kalina: Hi, my name is Kalina Silverman. I'm from Santa Monica, California and I run a program called Big Talk about skipping small talk to make more meaningful connections with people and I was on the Fulbright student research program in Singapore.

Kalina: Big Talk is a communication approach about skipping small talk to ask deeper questions and make more meaningful connections instead. Maybe if you're at a networking event or starting a new school, instead of asking someone, oh, where are you from? What do you do? You might just go one level deeper ask them why do you do what you do? Or what are you What was your childhood dream?

Did you follow it? Why or why not? Having these conversations and making these more meaningful connections you can build greater empathy for people across different superficial barriers. Kalina: Big Talk was an idea that I had while I was a college student at Northwestern University because when I first came to school, I moved from California to the Chicago winters which I'm sure played a part in me feeling a bit different or cold or I moved to school and as a freshman, I felt so lonely, so disconnected but no one could see that on the outside.

I mean, I was going to all these events, joining clubs, joined a sorority, I made tons of friends, had tons of new Facebook friends by a few months in. But there'd be times where I'd just go back to my room and cry and didn't know what was happening to me and didn't know how to explain it. It wasn't until the end of the year I started a club, I was much more connected with people that we all started opening up about our experiences. It seems so obvious now but so many people had similar experiences, they were talking about anxiety, depression or seeing therapists or feeling lonely.

Not knowing Existential crisis, very common amongst college students trying to figure what to do with their lives. Kalina: But we didn't talk about this when we started school, we just talked about oh, what's your major? Where you from? What sorority do you want to join? So, it wasn't until the end of the year that I realized that these conversations that they were had in the beginning would have made everyone feel a little bit more connected and less alone. Then I was Late at night and having a deep conversation with a friend over Skype and I said, "Wow, I wish more conversations could be like this.

Big Talk just popped into my mind.

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That following summer, I did a lot of documentary projects abroad and was having so many serendipitous encounters in Ecuador, in Germany and interviewing people and meeting people of all walks of life. I really didn't want to lose that magic of being abroad when I came home, I wanted to do something about that. Kalina: My last day in Germany I saw the question, what do you want do before you die? Kalina: I did my Fulbright project on how to build empathy across cultures through Big Talk and Big Talk actually started off as a YouTube video I made while I was in college where I walked up to strangers in Los Angeles and skipped the small talk with them to ask them the deeper question, what do you want to do before you die?

I asked a really diverse range of people from a homeless man to a businessman, an elderly woman, teenage boy and it really didn't matter what people did or what they looked like but they all had answers to this one simple question. It went viral on YouTube and I started receiving responses from people all over the world who also wanted to make Big Talk and I noticed quite a disproportionate amount coming from Singapore. So, I really wanted to see on the ground why that was the case because I knew Singapore was a really diverse country and really small but it wasn't very well integrated necessarily despite being so multi-faceted and diverse.

So, I wanted to help people connect on the ground in Singapore. Kalina: Big Talk can It can definitely come off as this more emotional fluffy thing that not everyone needs but I've noticed everyone does need it at a certain point. Because there'll be people who seem like they have their cool and then a couple of years later I'll get a message from them and say, "Hey, Kalina, do you have an extra deck of those cards?

Yeah, it usually comes in the form of a private message. I think it's those times when people are just alone and feeling vulnerable, reflecting on their own lives that they might need something like Big Talk. So, it's helped strengthen my conviction to keep going. Everyone's going to need to have a meaningful connection in their life in order to survive and get through. Kalina: You don't know where a conversation will lead and sometimes it led to things that I was not equipped to deal with like people sharing their deepest most innermost secrets or mental health issues.

I am no licensed psychologist or therapist, it really for me just started off as a story-telling project, journalism, making friends. So, those were the times where I just didn't know if what I was doing was right, if it was crossing a line that I wasn't ready to handle. Those are the times where I wondered if I should have done this. Because it had led to people who are just now relying on me for help and I don't even know what resources to point them to yet. Kalina: There's just so much beneath the surface, there's so many nuance experiences.

I mean, I'll go on vacation with a friend and we'll talk about our favorite parts of the trip and they'll say things very simply like, "I like visiting this place and eating this food. Yeah, I haven't done anything with it because I It was just so taboo and random for me to just start writing a play about it but it was how I processed each encounter. I mean, everyone thought I was a student when I was doing research at NUS or the modeling world, all that.

I still felt very much like just Kalina from California and would come home and be talking to all my friends from home. I felt like I had two lives I was living at once but by sharing stories on either side I was able to still feel like I could be both. It was also when I had friends visit and then they met my friends in Singapore and then suddenly everything felt more real. Because there were times where I felt I was living this alien life and that it was really disconnected and it was in a dream.

But once, people started meeting each other and connecting, that was really cool. Kalina: Despite Singapore being a small country, big city, it's fairly quiet and ordered but you would still hear the sounds of a city in a very kind of rhythmic ordered manner. You don't hear taxis or ambulances like you do constantly in New York, for example. Hear a mixture of languages because everyone in Singapore speaks English but also they speak Chinese, Malay.

Smell a lot of yummy Asian food, sweet chili sauce, that was my favorite, I would drench everything in sweet chili sauce. And feel really hot and sweaty unless you're in a really air-conditioned place which you could walk into anywhere. The feeling was very comfortable for the most part, you always felt safe and secure and like you knew what you were doing because everything ran on time. But I think because everything was so ordered and secure, I felt like I had more freedom to do things that were outside of the box because everything else was taken care of.

So, I was able to experience so much within one year, I really felt like I lived three years in one year. Kalina: There was one night, it was at the end of my Fulbright probably, maybe month eight or something like that that I went to Out dancing at this really cool Indy movie theater and they turned it into a live dancing venue. When I was there, I ran into 10 people I knew that I had met just over the past year and it was so cool to just go somewhere in the city and have friends from all over. It was one of the guys was in the artist collective I was in, someone else I had done a dance class with, someone else I had just met through mutual friends because they had moved from Hong Kong recently.

So, it was just really cool to see through that effort and sustained energy and friendship over eight months or so being in Singapore, I had a world there and that was just amazing and I wish my friends and family could have shared in that experience. Kalina: I hope people will walk down the street and smile more because smiling is something that's so natural and if someone is just walking down the street and smiling, you know they're genuinely, sincerely happy.

It sounds cheesy but a smile can be very indicative of the world going right, being a good happy place for everyone and things being in order. Chris: We'd love to hear from you, you can write to us at ECACollaboratory state. Photos of each week's interview and complete episode transcripts can be found on our webpage at ECA. Special thanks this week to Kalina for sharing her story and for going beneath the surface. How do you mix heartbreaking and hilarious?

Introduction to Sociology/Print version

YES program participant Bilal Khan, from Karachi, Pakistan, tells about his life before, during, and after YES, and the inescapable conclusion is that stories like Bilal's are why we do international exchanges. You threw yourself into countless new situations, each time with enthusiasm and spirit. He has never met anybody from Pakistan. He is six foot six aged, this military guy, very tough, everybody's scared of him. Nobody has ever seen him smile, that's somehow a legend about him until I came to his class.

I wasn't planning to make anybody smile. I'm sitting there, he says something, obviously I did not understand the English. He's like, "Khan, give me I come from Pakistan, so there's a different culture there. I get up so disappointed. I walk up to him, I take out my wallet, take out my only I'm like, "I can't believe American teachers take bribe. He's like, "What are you doing? Then the whole class, and then it turned out I had to do 20 pushups.

A hornet with a Bollywood vibe and unlearning by experiencing. Join us on a journey from Karachi, Pakistan to Herndon, Virginia in finding a path through tragedy. They are people very much like ourselves and Bilal: Hi, my name is Bilal Zubair Khan. I came close to this YES Program in We had internet in our house, this was one of the first search that I did. The others were not better not to be told about, so we would just leave it there, but the truth is that, this is not where my story starts.

This is the first time I'm sharing this story. I had a little sister, her name was Ramsha, beautiful girl, amazing. Funnier than me, better than me. May 20th, we were in our community swimming pool, and she fell down and hit her on the head. She was unconscious, she passed away. She was four, I was six. This was not my first time seeing somebody die right in front of me, because my mother passed away like few years before that. For me, my only best friend, the only person that I ever talked to after my mom passed away was my younger sister, because we had to sort of look out for each other.

I was born in a family that was very well off, but my mother's cancer just did things to our family that we had to literally sell everything. We were like, I opened eyes seeing adults worried and trying to hide it. I see adults not having answers for me, but trying to still make me feel good. That shook me. I believe that everybody talks about minorities, the real minorities of the world are children. They are second class citizens, nobody understand what's going on with them. At that time nobody understood, but the way my sister passed away it was a story of the neighborhood.


  • Blue Fantasy.
  • Pretty Little Mistakes;
  • Pages of Sin: A Bibliophile Mystery An eSpecial from New American Library: A Bibliophile Mystery (A Penguin Special from New American Library).
  • Decline and Fall of the Ancient Wisdom;

Everybody wanted to know this, how the girl drowned because it was a community swimming pool. That hadn't happened in 10 years. I did not know how to swim. She fell down in the 10 feet, nobody knew. It was dark and I was in the shallow, so I couldn't do anything to help her.

Introduction to Sociology/Print version - Wikibooks, open books for an open world

What happened is that, the reason I'm trying to tell you this is, it will make sense, that on April 20th when she passed away, people start coming in. It's in the local newspaper, a lot of people are coming in. I was put in front by adults to repeat the story. I did not have any confidence, just let's be very clear. I was very shy. I didn't even know I was failing second grade, third grade because of the things that were happening. No mother, nobody, really you can't go and tell somebody anything.

I started telling the story of how I did not want to, I hated it. I just didn't even know what was happening, but I just told that story let's say times, so many people came up. I'm just doing these stories, stories constantly talking about that at such a young age. You have to understand I have no connection to America at this point. I don't even know anything. I only have connection to one thing, that is my sister's passing and my mother.

You have to understand that America's perceived in a very different way in other parts of the world. I saw no emotion, the way I saw emotion for my sister when she passed away. I'm really confused. I don't know what's happening. This is when they didn't censor anything in media. They were showing it as it is.

The way you guys saw it here, I was watching it there, and I'm what, nine years old. I don't know who to talk to about it, because it's not happening in our country, nobody understands until my mother, I had a step-mother by that time. She saw it and she just came and she's like, "What's wrong? If you're seeing somebody's children being hurt, you don't have to be an American to be human.

I'm like, "Who are these people? Why this happened to them? Then over the course until , for the next eight years, I had zero idea that I would ever end up here. My family's so big that nobody ever left the house. We were all people that you do one job, you have kids. This is how you live your life, so I was a wild entry. He wasn't just going to America to represent America, but to tell this story. As I grew older, I saw so much hate, they had zero idea what America is like outside of movies and outside of what media was telling them.

Every time media was sharing something bad about America, I'm going back to that little incident that happened.

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An average American is not out there get me. They're smiling, they're saying hello. They're like, "Hey, where are you from? I have this confidence, I have this personality that was somewhere hidden. It's only coming out by having minimal conversations on day to do basis in my high school with my host family, with my friends.

That little link that we have is very, very, very useful. I had two host families. My first host family was a couple, Rose and John. I had an eight year old sister, Alex. The reason I started the story with my sister is because, when I went there, she was the same age when my sister passed away. It just felt like, you know how you pray sometimes, doesn't matter which God you follow or which God other people follow. I prayed to do have a little more time with my sister. She's nothing like my sister.

She's showing me these dance moves from Hannah Montana. She's like, "How are they? Now she's grown up. We send memes to each other. I'm trying to get her to her first internship. All of these things, like she's there. This connection didn't end. My second host family was, my host brother was in my civics class. His name is Matt Olem. Matt and I were friends, and then my mother at that time was running for the town council election for the first time. The first time I sat in front of her, I was like, "What are you doing? You have to win," and that's what happened. We would in our spare time, me, Matt my host brother, and my mother, at this point all three of us are going around giving brochures in all town.

Everybody's like, "Oh, who's this?

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There was the fun, "Where is this kid from? I was friends with all the Muslim community because of my volunteering at the mosque. They were like, "We are just voting for your mother. They didn't say anything, because I was like, "I'm going to go with my mother. When she won the town council, for the ceremony, her mother, Gracie, she is 91 years old now.

I figured out that my host mother Sheila and her mother Gracie, they had a big divide in how they saw things politically. When my mother called her up, and she was like, "Hey, I'm hosting an exchange student from Pakistan. My granny calls, and she has this accent, that's one of the sweetest things I've ever heard. I understood it right away, it was her southern accent. We FaceTime, and then she came to Herndon and I hung out with her. Then she went back and then she was like, "Send him here.

I want everybody to meet him. We're listening to all this music, which is from Nashville, from Muscle Shoals and all these areas in Alabama. We went to music hall of fame of rock and roll, and she's telling me where she was in when she listened to that song. Where she was in , how she met her husband. Then there was a retiree place where all the retired people go. I went there. Gracie has a friend visiting from Pakistan, and then they call up us on stage and everybody's just looking at me because I'm very different in this area.

You have to understand, I have this beard. I used to be 50 pounds more, I won the Biggest Loser Challenge. I used to be little overweight, and they're like, "Who is this guy? I'm from Pakistan and I just want to say you guys have nothing to worry about. They just wanted to hang out with me. I got published in the local newspaper for a visit to Alabama, like tell me that happens anywhere else.

The point is, when we were driving back, she told me like, I don't want to make this sound like a weird story, but I would just tell you right away that we are driving, I'm on my phone. This is how me and my granny used to hang out. I'm on my phone, she's driving and then she's like, "Oh I'm going to show you some of my friends. I'm doing all of these things with her, I've never done that with my own mother, my sister. We're driving and then she's like, "Oh we are here. She has a car in the middle of a graveyard, and she told me that we are going to see her friends.

You have to understand, by this time I'm like, well granny is 89 after all, so age gets to you, maybe she's not Then we go out to this spot that has many of her friends who passed away. Then also like her husband, and there's like a tomb for her. That's something that never happens. It's like, you have to understand, my trauma comes mostly from graveyards. I was like, "Why do you have it now? I mean this is some dark, dark things granny. She's like, "After a while you don't worry about dying so much, but knowing other cultures, meeting you.

Knowing all that I've learned about where you come from, it's a good reminder that my life has come full circle. She's the unofficial representative of Pakistan, started the job at age of That's my granny. You know, that's why I'm here in your office. I took theater. Theater was incredible. I took ROTC, we had to wear uniforms. I did not like this class, because one of my dream when I was coming to America was to have long hair and do some crazy with that because I had the freedom.