Ida Bagus Ari is not your typical college senior--despite his penchant for frozen yogurt, "Miami Vice" and "Donahue."
The 24-year-old art major is a direct descendant of the founding families of the Kingdom of Bali. And he is the first in his family to spend time in the United States, let alone graduate from an American college.
His parents have left Bali for the first time to attend their son's graduation on Sunday. Ari's father, Ida Bagus Sutarja, is a Jack-of-all-trades--a Hindu priest, carver, dancer, musician, mask-maker and teacher. And Ari's mother, Ida Madre, is a Buddhist priestess, considered to be an incarnation of a goddess. She is the first priestess in her lineage to leave the island in 1,200 years.
Ari and his family will spend a month in the United States before returning to their Balinese village, Mas, where, in about AD 850, the Hindo-Buddhist movement is said to have begun. Besides pursuing his artwork, Ari wants to become a cultural ambassador between his people and the West.
"I will try to help the Western tourists in Bali to better understand the Balinese culture, art and religion and also help the Balinese to understand the Western way of life," he said.
After two years of American college--one at Pitzer, from which he is graduating, and one at the New College of California in San Francisco--Ari believes he has seen "a real variety of things in a short period of time." Sponsored by the nonprofit educational Synergy Foundation, Ari said two of the "most surprising" aspects of college life were the co-ed dorms and the parties every weekend. He also enjoyed the informal friendliness between students and their teachers.
What will he miss most when he returns to Bali? The many choices among American TV channels.
"In Bali, we have only one channel," he said. "I'm going to miss (NBC's) 'Friday Night Videos.' "
Deaf Self-Defense Teachers Graduate
A precedent-setting graduation will be held Saturday when this country's first deaf female self-defense instructors will receive their diplomas.
Trained by the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women, the 21 deaf women and four hearing sign-language interpreters are already in demand.
"We've had requests for these women to teach from Northern California to Washington, D.C.," said Rosanna Hill, commission prevention coordinator who was in charge of the instruction program.
The 25 women were chosen from among 50 applicants because of their commitment to teaching self-defense to other deaf women. The reason the course was needed, according to the commission, is that women with physical handicaps are more likely to be preyed upon by criminals.
But each graduate has gained some unexpected bonuses.
"The basic thing they've come away with is a real sense of empowerment," Hill said. "What I've seen and heard from all the women is that they feel much more able to make decisions that affect not only their physical safety but also the quality of their life in general."
Already, one graduate visited New York City and wound up having a better vacation there than ever before.
"She said she used to be scared," Hill said, "but now she felt she was better able to know what to look for and feel more self-confident."
Another graduate found herself in an uncomfortable situation while waiting to use a bank's automated teller machine. A man in back of her kept leaning on her and touching her and just generally annoying her.
"Before, she would not have known what to do and maybe would have walked away," Hill said. "Now she let him know that she wanted him to leave."
After graduating, the women will be setting up classes all over Los Angeles County as well as helping out with L.A.'s Rape and Battering Hotline, which for the first time will become accessible to the deaf.
High-Flying Peace Missive Touches Down
When 6-year-old Khi-Min Jung plays with balloons, it's serious business.
That's what his classmates and some folks in Kansas found out recently.
Last October, the primary teachers at the 32nd Street-USC school, a citywide magnet for visual and performing arts, put together a weeklong celebration of peace around the world. The highlight was when students in first through fourth grades sent up more than 400 helium-filled, rainbow-colored balloons from the school playground.
Each balloon carried a tag with a child's name, the school and its address, and the slogan "Peace Begins With Me." A strong easterly wind happened to be blowing that day, so all the balloons were carried up, up and away.
For months, there was no word on whether any of the balloons had touched ground. Finally, on May 1, the school received a letter from Bettye Jo Hamm of Isabel, Kan.
"Dear USC magnet school," the letter read. "We want to thank you for your message of peace, which we found at the end of a pink balloon . . . (which) had fallen to the ground in a milo field (and) wrapped around a milo stalk."