On the Silk Road to Langley

Posted in Community, Culinary, Feature, More Stories, Theater and Dance

Whidbey Life Magazine contributor
June 25, 2014

Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other- Genesis 11:7

I had always suspected that something was not right in the area of language since the Tower of Babel became an unfinished construction project. After speaking with Josette Hendrix, my suspicions were confirmed.

Ms. Hendrix is the founder of Northwest Language Academy and her belief that language represents a potential for neural enhancement, a doorway to other cultures and an intersection between world views is an important part of the organization’s core mission.

The entrance to the Northwest Language Academy - showing the current events (photo credit Martha McCartney)

The entrance to the Northwest Language Academy – showing the current events (photo credit Martha McCartney)

“Acquiring new language gives people a tool for gaining self-knowledge and that is where a change begins. The act of learning opens uncultivated pathways in the brain and challenges the student of language to think and explore concepts in fresh ways. It is by following these paths that we can attain a firsthand perspective of cultures other than our own, and it is through these means that we can learn to co-exist in peace.” said Ms. Hendrix while explaining the role of Northwest Language Academy.

Northwest Language Academy was founded in Langley in 1996. It all began as a summer camp for children with a focus on language education and has grown into the diverse program it is today. The summer camps continue and each experience includes a sampling of different cultures by incorporating regional food, dance and music along with language.

A pond filled with water lilies graces the grounds of the Northwest Language Academy (photo credit Martha McCartney)

A pond filled with water lilies graces the grounds of the Northwest Language Academy (photo credit Martha McCartney)

The heart of the Academy is the Cultural Center, which is located on three well-groomed acres on Southern Whidbey Island. The Center includes an expansive kitchen–suitable for several people to participate in cooking or to watch a demonstration–surrounded by spacious meeting areas both inside and outside that can be utilized for classroom or dining. There are six large attractively furnished guestrooms that can be rented to provide accommodations. The facility is also available to be used for private functions and is not limited to Center events.

In addition to serving the youth populations, there are adult-learning programs and “drop in” conversational groups for all ages. There are immersion weekends in which intensive instruction on different levels is given, ranging from beginners, to updating already mastered skills. All programs include partaking in cultural experiences with native speakers and the sharing of stories–an essential part of the learning method used by Northwest Language Academy.

NWLA’s June 28th event, “China Pearls”, is perhaps the largest and most diverse to date, certainly one of the most exciting. The program is divided into several components throughout the day.

The first is a Chinese cooking class, which can be considered a stand-alone event, being held from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. This class will be taught in the kitchen at the Northwest Language Academy Cultural Center at 5023 Langley Road. Cooking students will learn to make traditional dishes including shaved noodles, hot pot and dumpling. As a take-away, each participant will receive a cookbook with recipes contributed by the instructors. Space is limited and pre-registration required. For information and additional details call 360-321-2101. Tuition for the class is $35.

Dancers for NWLA's "China Pearls" (photo credit: Melody Institute)

Dancers for NWLA’s “China Pearls” (photo credit: Melody Institute)

The dinner and performance portion of “China Pearls” takes place at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts (WICA) at 565 Camano Avenue in Langley. Dinner consists of a Dim Sum buffet and cocktails from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The final part of the program will follow dinner from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. with a unique blend of contemporary and classical music incorporating traditional Chinese elements, a selection of folk song and traditional dance. The performers all hail from Cascadia and include composer Austin Huang with the Saratoga Orchestra musicians, Imperial Dance Ensemble, Melody Xie Dance School , soloist Chrystal Yu hai Yang and Whidbey Island Dance Theatre. English and Chinese translations will be provided throughout the event.

“Each element of the daylong program is similar to one treasured pearl, which is being strung together by the sharing of story, a blend of learning and culture, aided by translation” Ms. Hendrix said.

Tickets for China Pearls at WICA can be purchased now. China Pearls cooking class registration can be completed by contacting 360-321-2101. Details regarding the menu and performances will be posted on the Academy’s blog.

Northwest Language Academy is planning upcoming events including a Bavarian Festival on September 27 and a Russian Winter Festival in early December. All events and classes are frequently updated on the website.

(photo at the top: Talented Chinese traditional dancers will be featured in NWLA’s “China Pearls” event June 28 (photo credit: Melody Institute))

Martha is a poet, photographer, mixed-media artist, persistent gardener and candle-maker. She has never really gotten over not being photographed for a Richard Brautigan book cover. Currently she is learning to navigate by using her inner compass which she keeps pointed towards her own true north.

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