Chatting over Chai

Ep. 6 An Appetite for Acceptance: Race and Diversity special part 1


Episode 6 aired on Friday, March 29th. 

We began an exploration of race and diversity inspired by Whitman’s Power and Privilege Symposium:(Link -> )

First we heard a little about how our impressions of race develop from Erin Pahlke, Professor of Sociology at Whitman College.

She hosted a seminar on racial identity, and she talked about how by six months or so, babies can tell the difference in photos of various races shown to them. 
Ultimately, she says, we are not colorblind and we can’t pretend that we are. 

Following that, I shared some of my thoughts. Here is an edited transcript: 

Race is based on superficiality – skin color, facial features etc.

But people who share those superficialities often share a culture or a camaraderie.

These people also might have a common cultural background, a common language and common values.

So then, is race  really superficial? Maybe not…

Then again, if racial belonging has to do with cultural aspects, why is it so hard for some people who don’t fit the physical description of their race to be accepted by other people of their own race?

Even if you give me a dictionary definition of race, I’m not satisfied with it. Because that definition doesn’t hit on the complexity of racial identity.

How do you come up with a racial identity for yourself if you don’t have the skin color of the race you consider yourself?

There are so many complexities to that dilemma I can’t even begin to explain.

But those complexities don’t seem to factor into the conversation of racial identity.

What I’m trying to say is that part of talking about race – at least to me – means talking about each individual instance

Because each of our experiences and feelings with race is so different, the question of race comes down to each one of us working to understand ourselves, our roots, and our identities, before trying to force identities on others.

I’ve heard people say again and again that we are afraid and uncomfortable to talk about race.

If you ask me – I’not afraid to talk about race.

What I’m afraid of is that when we talk about race, I will have to look in the mirror and examine all of those things about myself I don’t want to see.

The symposium made me do just that.

It made me open the box where I keep my roots, my insecurities, my prejudices,  and my ignorance all over again.


There are so many questions I want to ask myself.

Maybe you can ask them with me.

Who am  I?

Whose blood runs through my veins?

Who do I love, and why do I love them?

What do I love about myself?

Can I strip away my physical identity?

How about my racial one?

Do I even have a racial identity?

If I look in the mirror, past the color of my skin, do I love myself anyway?

I don’t know how many of these answers I have, because I’m still stuck looking at myself in the mirror.

But then there is this tiny assurance that when everyone goes away for the night,

There are no colors to compare to,

No races to talk about.

There is just me and myself alone.

And perhaps, that’s where the answer lies….

What do you think?


Your Chai Wali

Ep. 5 Food and Family

Episode 5 aired on Friday March 1st (and yes I’m posting this a month later). 

Originally, this episode was supposed to explore the origins of our dining hall meals at Whitman college. All the posters say that our food is fresh, local and organic. I wanted to know, is that true?

My RA used to work in the dining hall as a server, so I thought I would ask her to begin. 
However, soon the conversation took a turn toward food, family, baking and future plans. All of these suddenly seemed so much more interesting than our dining hall.

Leslie Rodriguez shared stories about how food is a huge connecting force in her family. 

Being from a large Mexican family, Leslie says that all gatherings are always filled with plenty of home cooked dishes to taste and bond over.

She talked about how one day she hopes to perfect her mother’s tamales, and how her love of baking was inspired by her father.

Her father used to have his own garden where he would grow squash, tomatoes and cucumbers among other vegetables  He also used to make the cakes during family birthdays. Leslie would be the helper, and she picked up the basics of baking from those experiences. 

Now she continues to bake, picking up ideas and skills from T.V shows like “Cake Boss”.

Though Leslie doesn’t like tasking her own sweets, her favorite part about baking is the satisfaction she gets from being able to share with others. 

Someday, maybe when she retires - or perhaps sooner - she says she’d love to open a bakery.

Food, as integral as it is to our bodily nourishment, is such a part of our social lives.

How does food connect you to the people in your life?

Happiness Always,

Your Chai Wali 

Ep. 4 Swayed by the Situation

Episode 4 aired last Friday, February 22nd and it was all about conformity and being ‘swayed by your situation’, so to speak.

A few weeks earlier, my friend Emma Neslund and I had been having an interesting conversation about, well eating people. 

So we thought we’d revisit that conversation and we started the show by contemplating what we would do if we were in a situation similar to the 1993 motion picture Alive; Miracle of the Andes (Basically, a Spanish football team is in an airplane and it crashes in the middle of the snow capped Andes without human civilization anywhere in sight. So they survive on wine and chocolates for a while, then people start dying due to the cold. Out of desperation eventually some of the people end up cannibalizing the dead to survive).

Emma said that because of the situation, she would probably do the same thing that the footballers did. So I asked her about how her integrity or moral boundaries would be affected if she made such a choice. 

Her answer: boundaries depend on the situation. 

So from here we talked about the boundaries we put up for ourselves so that we can conform to our situations and eventually we got to the idea of ‘conformity’ and how we often conform to our social situations.

Kieth Farrington, Professor of Sociology, had a point of view I hadn’t really considered regarding conformity. While I see it often as a negative, Professor Farrington explained that society - as it is - cannot exist without conforming to social norms. A lot of basic interactions wouldn’t be possible in the way that they are. At the same time he did acknowledge that conformity when it leads to ‘chaos’ or a person disregarding his or her ‘inner voice’ is definitely an issue. 

Emma had an experience earlier this year when she felt stifled because of an expectation to conform. During the presidential elections, she didn’t quite know which side to pick but constantly found herself agreeing with her liberal/democrat peers even when she wasn’t quite sure about which side she honestly agreed with. She said hearing her peers vehemently dis Romney and his family was hurtful and unneeded. 

After a while however, she explained that she was able to take a stand - if even a small one - where she no longer agreed with others just because they were the majority. In doing so, she felt truer to herself. “The little discomfort inside of you, that is the spark. And that leads to the reflection ..and then you question your actions and hopefully that’ll lead to a change in the future.” 

How will you break away from conformity?

Your chai wali 

Ep. 3 Hookups vs. Relationships

Episode 3 aired Friday, February 15. 
It was originally intended to connect in some way to Valentine’s day, but that didn’t exactly happen. The theme of ‘relationships’ was supposed to be the connecting factor, but the conversation took a slightly different turn. 

We had three guests on live for the show - Molly, Maya and Cali graced the studio seats for a real chat over chai (minus the chai - studio rules). 

We talked about the ‘hookup’ culture that surrounds college campuses today, and why such a culture is convenient for the busy youth of today. 

Then we talked about relationships, and how a relationship is different from a hookup.

Does our generation take relationships seriously?

We continued to talk about each of our ideal relationships - and one thing that everyone agreed on unanimously is that ‘communication is key’. 

So while our Valentines episode wasn’t quite ‘Valentines-y’, it did spur some discussion on the way we treat relationships and romantic interactions.

Not to mention, it was just plain fun to chill in the studio and have a live, casual conversation. 

More next Friday! 


Your Chaiwali 

Ep. 2 Imaginary Friends


Episode 2 aired last Friday, February 8th and it was full childhood and all the imagination that comes with it. 

We heard from Cali Goldberg, who told us about her Imaginary Friend (on whom she would blame things), and about how she sees children turning to technology rather than imagination these days.

However the children from the preschool nearby had plenty of imagination. They took turns talking into the mic about things they liked to do. One little boy talked about his dance class, and how dancing together with other makes them want to ‘kiss each other’. Another girl introduced us to her imaginary friend Bubbles, who loves to swim. And yet another little boy told us about his blue bunny from the sky who received a carrot from the sun. 

We also asked the children what they wanted to be when they grew up…

I want to be a…

Policeman who books crooks in jail

Construction worker who builds skyscrapers and roads

Superhero who saves people from fires

Blanket that keeps people warm and cozy on all sides

Kid that can play with toys lifelong. 

Finally, the children’s teacher Linda shared her childhood memories of having tea parties with her teddy bear and making mud pies out of the dirt and the berries on her family’s ranch. Much to her students’ (and my) surprise, she said that she would eat these mud pies and wouldn’t get sick.

Linda said that her favorite part of working with children is that they offer a fresh perspective, and she loves to watch them grow and blossom - much like ‘flowers’. She also said that they show and give their ‘unrequited love’ all the time Her parting thoughts were that we all have gifts to share, and that when we know what they are and give them, then there is no such thing as a chore anymore. 

I agree with her - after all, the children were giving their smiles, their laughter and their love without inhibition. And interviewing them brought only a smile to my face. 

If being a kid means being like that, then that is what I’d like to be when I grow up. 

Its not too late.. Who will you be when you grow up?


Your Chai Wali 

(Image credit: google images) 

Ep. 1 Fear: The Feeling that Makes your Stomach Defy Gravity

Our first show aired on Friday, February 1st on KWCW 90.5fm Walla Walla. Yippee! (a version that you can listen to online will be coming soon, hopefully)

We explored fear, and how it can be both an inhibitor and a motivator in life. Kate shared a scary experience that pushed her to forge new friendships and Sarah shared a story about getting locked out of the house where she was babysitting. Finally, psychologist and blogger Gail Brenner explained the origins of fear. She also shared ways to work with fear rather than against it in order to transcend fear and pursue our dreams. 

Below is a link to her website, A Flourishing Life, where you’ll find many inspiring and empowering articles on a variety of subjects:

We’ll be back this Friday with a couple Imaginary Friends! 

Until then,

Your Chai Wali 

Chai - tea time talks and heart to hearts

courtesy google images

Over the years, chai, (or just tea if you prefer) has come to mean something really special to me.

Its not exactly the chai itself, or the caramel - bronze colored concoction spiced sometimes with ginger, sometimes with nutmeg and cinnamon.

Its not even the process of heating the water, adding just the right amount of milk and then letting the little kernels of black tea emanate their ‘tea-ness’ into the milky liquid. 

I think its what happens after the chai has been poured into ceramic cups, and sweetened with sugar to taste. Because along with the actual sense of tasting the tea, its the conversation and the relationships that form and strengthen during tea time that actually make this simple drink so special. 

In my house, chai doesn’t just mean ‘time to drink tea’, its time to sit down at the kitchen table and talk. Its tea time with a lot of heart to heart. Its the warmth of a cold winters day, and the refresher from a boiling summer afternoon.

"Chatting over Chai" isn’t inspired by tea as a drink as much as it is by tea as a way to bring people together.

So every Friday from 4-4:30, we hope you will join us to hear stories, and share experiences that can resonate with the humanity in us all. 

Just don’t forget your cup of chai (coffee, hot cocoa, herbal tea, or whatever you prefer)!

Much love,

Your Chai wali (tea lady)