A Community Beyond Berkeley

My roommate asked me to attend a music event called “Soul Speaks Open Mic” at the La Peña Cultural Center with her, for an extra credit assignment in her music class. We took the AC Transit F bus to the stop at Ashby Bart and walked for about 5 mins to get to the cultural center. When we entered the cultural center, we saw a small stage and some chairs all set-up for the event. We also saw an entrance that connects to the next-door Mexican restaurant called Los Cilantros.


As my roommate and I waited for the event to start, we went to the restaurant to grab a quick dinner. I ordered the “Enchiladas Verde” which is a huge dish with 3 corn tortillas wrapped with filling (I chose chicken) and served with green salsa, cheese, sour cream, beans, and radish. It tasted really delicious, it’s spicy and sweet at the same time. My first taste of a true Mexican dish was really great.


While I was eating, we heard a person from the open mic area welcoming the audience. I stayed behind to finish my food while my roommate went to the event. I was sitting in a long table that could fit about 6-8 people, so a man was led to my table and he sat at the other far end. When his order came, I realized he ordered the same dish. I felt the urge to strike a conversation, since we were the only two people in the whole restaurant that were sitting by ourselves, and not with our family or friends. So I did, and I had a great conversation with him about Cal and mostly his job in the marketing industry, which I’m very interested in. It turns out he has a business meeting at Cal the following day to introduce a software his company created.

Later on, an old lady came to sit at our table, and surprisingly ordered the same dish as we did. We brought her into our conversation and continued talking about our jobs (she was a 1st grade teacher) and the community around the area. We each share as well our traveling stories to other states and other countries. I had a great time learning about the different lives of these two people and learning more about the American culture and lifestyle.

Although the purpose of this trip was to experience different music styles in a different setting, I ended up finding a great and loving community outside of my Berkeley community and creating connections over delicious food and common interests. I look forward to meeting new people, tasting more cuisines, and experiencing new cultures soon!

Author: Rani Chan

Hi there! My name is Rani Chan. I’m a sophomore double majoring in Media Studies and Political Economy, and I’m also an international student from the Philippines. I really love food! I love to eat, cook, and go on food trips. Also, I love traveling, watching films and musicals, acting, dancing, singing (in the shower), and learning new languages. In addition to being a Campus Ambassador, I am a Planetarium Presenter at the Lawrence Hall of Science, where I get to share my love for Astronomy. I’m also part of the Cal Archery Club, hoping to become the next girl Robin Hood. I’m truly blessed to be a Golden Bear, and to be in an environment where I always feel welcomed and where I’m constantly learning, discovering, and being a better me. There’s no place I’d rather be than here at Berkeley. I’m very excited to share my Cal stories with you! Go Bears!