Keep up with Embracing Cultures!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 16 other subscribers


What Happened?

Saturday we had another interactive and fun meeting. All of our members were in attendance, plus three honored guests! Liana was our Toastmaster of the Day and she set the theme for the meeting as “Mindfulness.” We all did our best to remain focused and free from distractions through the duration of the hour.

Samreen delivered a heartwarming speech about her grandmother, and Ayesha provided us with some concerning statistics and information about the reading abilities of American children and teenagers. Both speeches were well-delivered and well-rehearsed. You ladies were so poised! Thank you both, Samreeen and Ayesha.

Our guests joined in on Table Topics and it was inspiring to see their confidence!

Their confidence reminded me of the following quote, “If you are peaceful and happy, know that you are very close to yourself. If you are sad and stressed, know that you are close to your ego.”

Many of us try to be perfect and desire to impress others with our skill and ability. We want to know exactly what to say to a struggling friend, strive to be completely prepared at school or work, and eliminate errors and mistakes completely.

These high expectations come directly from our egos. Our egos recite all of the “shoulds” and “musts.” Our egos tell us to be perfect and inform us of what to strive for. When we inevitably fall short of meeting our lofty goals, we become depressed for letting ourselves and others down. It follows that our own egos can be blamed for low self-esteem and decreased confidence.

The solution is to be accepting of ourselves and to be realistic about our abilities. The more we banish judgement, accept ourselves as we are now, flaws and all, the sooner we will know happiness. And with happiness comes confidence.

You may be thinking that this theory directly contradicts the purpose of Toastmasters clubs. In Toastmasters we are encouraged to push outside of our comfort zones, set high-reaching goals, and to make progress toward achieving them.

But upon further inspection you’ll note that theory works perfectly with the Toastmasters purpose. One of the cornerstones of Toastmaster growth is to be able to give and receive constructive criticism with grace. To be able to receive such comments without feeling absolutely crushed or discouraged, we require stable and sound self-esteem. We need the confidence to acknowledge that we are not perfect and likely never will be. We must instead accept our flaws and be willing to work towards improvement. To accept advice, we must be far from our egos and close to ourselves.

As the quote implies, when we are close to ourselves we know true contentment.


We had 100% attendance for our April 12 meeting, and even welcomed one new member and one guest speaker!

Liana gave a humorous speech, followed by Brenda, who provided us with a comprehensive discussion and training on Easy Speak. Following this helpful demonstration, we listened to an educational speech entitled “Evaluate to Motivate” from guest speaker Syrena Glade. She gave us some inspirational guidance regarding how to improve our speech evaluations.

Our group is growing and we would like to invite anyone interested in learning about other cultures, making new friends, or improving their speaking and listening skills. Come sit in on a meeting! There is never any pressure for guests to speak. Just come to get a feel for the club.

Of course, we also have the upcoming Open House on May 3rd at 10:30. We are very excited about this event and are currently busy planning and spreading the word. I’m most looking forward to the food. We will all be bringing dishes that remind us of our cultural background. It should be a comforting, homey feast. We’ll also have fun decorations that are sure to be conversation starters.

In other news, today (April 16th) is National Stress Awareness Day. It’s the day after our taxes are due here in the US, so today should be a relief for many of us. We’ve crunched the numbers and are hopefully anticipating a large return! Stress Awareness Day was started by the Health Resource Network in 1992 to increase public awareness of the causes and cures of stress.


So how do you mitigate stress? Exercise? Talking about your struggles with a trusted friend? Listening to music? Taking a bath? Chocolate? On Saturday, our meeting theme will be Mindfulness. Many believe that by focusing on the present and approaching life mindfully, we can reduce the stress in our lives because we let worries about the past and future go. Come join us at our meeting to be a part of the discussion!

Well, it’s mid-April and Easter and Passover are just around the corner. Here in the Portland area, we’re finally getting into short-sleeve temperatures, the sun is shining brightly in the clear, blue sky, and the flowers are in colorful bloom. We’re all starting to get our groceries at the farmer’s markets again, rather than hitting the closest Fred Meyer. The Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn is in full swing, which means there are acres of gorgeous varieties of tulips just a short drive away. (It’s the perfect background for that new selfie!) And at this moment, I’m staring out my window to take a look at the planter on my balcony. The flowers that I was sure had frozen to death in our uncharacteristic winter have grown back with purple and yellow gusto.

What does this have to do with Toastmasters? Well, it’ll take a couple of steps, but I’ll get you there. What I described in the prior paragraph are events symptomatic of many folks’ favorite season: Spring. Everyone starts thinking about cleaning and organizing, children get a well-deserved week off from school to refresh, people begin thawing out and revisiting nature. It is metaphorically and literally a time of rebirth.


We at Embracing Cultures are simultaneously going through a “rebirth” of sorts. A new Toastmasters term began on April 1st. Our membership and Officer assignments have shifted slightly. The website has been updated to include our current meeting time and location: Saturdays at 10:30 in the white house to the left of the parking lot at 4115 SW 160th Ave, Beaverton, OR 97007.

In addition, we came together last Saturday and recommitted ourselves to the group. We began a Membership Drive in an effort to get some new guests and potentially new members. The Drive will culminate on May 3rd, when we will be holding our Spring Open House! We are very excited for this event, which promises to be a lot of fun. We’ll have some entertaining and informative prepared speeches, as well as a dynamic round of Table Topics. We’ll also be listening to a couple of member testimonials. Here, we’ll learn first-hand what our members have gained through their participation in the club. It should be an impactful and engaging morning. Be sure to arrive hungry, because we will all be bringing dishes representative of our cultural backgrounds. It will be an exotic feast, so bring those adventurous appetites!

We hope to see you in a meeting soon. Feel free to show up any Saturday, or if you have further questions, just shoot us a message.

Our first meeting in our new home at Hillsdale Library, turned out to be a great success!

Our guest speaker of the evening, Steve Asson, from Creekside Toastmasters spoke to us about his Italian family.
We experienced first hand, just how important family is within the Italian Culture.  Steve’s wife came to support him and then as very much of a surprise to Steve, his Mom & Dad and Sister arrived to support Steve.  They had driven for three hours to get to the meeting.  Now that is support!

We had a lively table topics with everyone participating.  Penny dropped in as a guest again, and we called on Penny to help out with the Grammarian role for the evening.

We look forward to many more exciting meetings at our new location!

NOTE — NO MEETING next week — Enjoy your Thanksgiving!



Travelling north of the border, Brenda took us on a journey giving us some excellent background into the Canadian electoral system, their cultural salad bowl and their bilingual heritage.  Without Canadians we would be zipperless and we would have a difficult time carrying our cases of beer.  It seems that a large number of the top comedic actors of the last number of decades have all been Canadian.  We have a great deal to thank our northern neighbors for.

Our guests for the evening helped out in by participating fully.

Next week — we are in our new home — Hillsdale Public Library.


Lorri took us on a wonderful trip through time for the Czech Republic.  We learned of her families history and what the price of freedom was for the Czech Republic.  Many new words were practiced.  We had a number of 4 guests for the evening to help along the festivities.

What a great meeting!  Xiaoxin Fan delighted and educated us about the Spring Festival celebrations in China, which start before New Years and continue on for 15 or more days.  Many traditions of honoring and respecting family and the gods of the Kitchen.  We were taught the proper hand gestures to pay tribute to our elders.

Our newest member, Martha, gave us a gift of her first speech in the club.  Martha practiced a presentation that she needed to do for a conference.  Clearly Martha comes to us with many great speaking skills and we are so blessed to have her.  One of our guests, Penny, stepped up and gave Xiaoxin a great evaluation.  Penny is very experienced in ESL, so her evaluation brought many additional insights.

Our grammarian for the night was Division Governor, Simon.  He did a fabulous job (word of the day credit here!) at counting our ums and ahs, and catching excellent word phrases used throughout the meeting.  Lorri, also a Division Governor, gave us great table topics in which our guest Amit participated.  Amit had presented before on life in India and this time he brought his wife Deepti.

We had a great spread of fabulous (WOD credit again!) treats from China, selected by Xiaoxin.  A green tea birthday cake was unveiled.  It had a very rubbery texture, but was very delicious.  The least favorite treat was the one with red bean paste.

Thank you to Marc for stepping in at the last moment as Toastmaster as Dora had lost her voice.

Next week we are looking forward to learning about the Czech Republic.


G’Day mate!   We had a ripper of a meeting.  It was choice!

Xiaoxin was the Toastmaster of the evening and got us all going in a great way.

Our first speaker was Karen, who gave us a birds eye view from atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge while she told us of her accidental 19 hour tour of Australia.  She packed more into her 19 hours (and her speech) than most do in 3 weeks.  Can’t wait for Karen to come back and tell us more about her travels.

Kevin was second up and told us of the extreme culture shock when arriving in the land of the long white cloud (New Zealand).  His speech was very entertaining as we were all enthralled with the simplicity of the words — but we were left shaking our heads as we realized we didn’t understand English.

Karen and Kevin both had us laughing and rushing to buy our tickets for our own adventures down under.

Our evaluators gave both our speakers some great insights on how to improve their already wonderful speeches.


We had other guests for the evening as well.  Steve , who stood in as Timer, Brian, who gave us a great table topic


Tonights meeting was a great deal of fun!

Marc, our president opened the meeting and Lorri gave us the thought of the day.  Our Toastmaster Brenda, introduced all the key roles:  Dora as General Evaluator, Xiaoxin as Grammarian (and timer).


We had two guest speakers for the evening.  Tahseen Mohammad gave us a delightful speech about his childhood, telling us of a story about riding his scooter, picking up a priest and being save from corrupt “smokies” (police) by the priest.  The speech was filled with lots of humor.  We wish Tahseen the best of luck as he competes in the Downtown Division Humorous Speech Contest on Friday.


Our second speaker was Amit Kumar.  Amit went through Grad School with Xiaoxin in Iowa and now they are both working at Mentor Graphics.
Amit gave us a wonderful presentation which highlighted the key influences that India has extended to the rest of the world.

These key contributions include food (Yum!), most of what we know as Indian food comes from the area around Delhi.  Bollywood, which generates movies in all languages.  Yoga, which is practiced world wide and Spirituality.Both our speakers wanted to have “round-robin” evaluations, so each attendee was given an opportunity to give a short evaluation of each of our speakers.  All the evaluations praised both our speakers for the great things they did as well as providing opportunities for improvement the next time they spoke.

Brenda, was our Travel Guide for the evening and took us to an India .vs. Australia cricket match, asking for translations [ Embracing Cultures – Hindi-Urdu ] of the words to get to the cricket grounds and describe the colors of the uniforms.  PS … Australia won the match (more about that at our next meeting when we visit “Downunder” (Australia & New Zealand).

During the meeting we enjoyed lots of snacks, including Samosas and Chutney, Hummus, and an Indian sweet called Sonf Papdi.

We wrapped up the meeting with the final evaluations by Dora and Xiaoxin and continued to socialize and eat!



What a wonderful meeting!  The room was turned into a Spanish Cafe, with table clothes and  lots of traditional Hispanic goodies.  The words of the day were “Fiesta” and “fe” (faith). Marc, our president greeted us all in Spanish and brought up Dora to tell us a story.  Dora certainly kept us amused.  Lorri was our Toastmaster for the evening and got things underway.

Dora was our first speaker and told us all celebrating “Las Posadas” in the 9 days leading up to Christmas.  She even sang for us!

Lorri took us on a trip to Mexico — but we had forgotten all our spanish books and had to make do with our Travel Cheat Sheet.  We learned many new Spanish Phrases and now will have no problems ordering beer or finding a washroom.

Xiaoxin and Dora gave great evaluations and feedback  for our speakers and we can all learn from the excellent tips they shared.


Table topics was led by Brenda, as she had the participants tell us about their experiences with inventing Ceviche, attending their own Quinceañera (15th birthdays for young women), playing Escondite (Hide-and-Seek) and what they liked (or didn’t like) about Día de los Muertos ( Day of the Dead – November 2ndholiday.

Our General Evaluator Xiaoxin gave his evaluations of the evaluators and Marc gave his Grammarian report.

We capped off the evening by lighting the candles for Marc’s birthday cake and he enjoyed hearing his birthday wishes sung in both English and Spanish.

Can’t wait for next week, when Tahseen Mohammad is our guest speaker for our India and Middle Eastern night.