I have always been fascinated with learning about other cultures, languages, and religions ever since I was a child thanks to "Sesame Street." My favorite language of interest was Spanish, but I also was intrigued with the Chinese and Japanese culture. I think what started my interest in Japanese culture was "Big Bird in Japan." I liked the story about the Bamboo Princess and the Japanese song "One, two, three means Ichi, Ni, San." As I got older, I took a strong interest in learning Japanese on my own -- it was very hard since there were no Japanese classes where I lived nor could I find any books on learning the language; I scrambled through Internet articles, tour guide books, and what not in order to be able to continue learning how to read and write in the language. Anime was also a big help; I used to watch anime such as "Sailor Moon," "Dragonball Z," "Gundam Wing," "Paranoia Agent," "Neon Genesis Evangelion," "Full Metal Alchemist," "Ghost in the Shell" (the movie and the series), and a lot more.
Japanese Culture: I got into Japanese culture due to my love for anime. I was watching some anime with English subtitles and began thinking that it would be great if I actually could understand the language without having to read the subtitles; I actually managed to learn hiragana, katakana, and a bit of kanji...I remember some people at my school thinking that I was odd for wanting to learn a foreign language such as Japanese because it is rather difficult to learn; but I loved every second of it. I studied the geisha culture, work environment, school environment, and so forth. I even had Japanese penpals.
Chinese Culture: Chinese culture is another culture that fascinated me. I always liked the mythology such as "The Weaving of a Dream," which is rather a male version of "Cinderella." The video game "Jade Empire" renewed my interest in China...rather mythological China, that is. I shopped on YesAsia.com and bought some videos such as "Avatar" and "The Shadow of Empress Wu." There's also a young Chinese woman by the name of Amoura Rose who sparked my interest in wanting to be a Web Designer when I was studying Business in college; she really is a great designer and can use Photoshop very well.
Indian Culture (Not to be confused with Native Americans) and Middle Eastern Culture: After playing "The Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time," I began watching Bollywood movies (thanks to the character Farah) and listening to Middle Eastern music (thanks to the Prince). I accidentally confused Persian culture with Arab culture at the time, however. The first Bollywood movie that I saw was "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai," and my favorite Bollywood actors are Shahrukh Khan and Kajol. My favorite Desi singer is Vasundhara Das. Occasionally, I'll watch "Koffee with Karan," which is a talk show about the actors, actresses, and movies in India. Also, I used to collect bindis and jewelry made in India. As for Arab music, my favorite singers are Amr Diab and Nancy Ajram; I like other singers such as Sherine Ahmad, Ruby, Tamer Hosny, Waed, Mohammed Hamaky, Mohammed Mounir, Elissa, Ranin, and many more.
Religions: I've studied ancient Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and a bit of Buddhism. I don't know much about Buddhism -- I only know of the story of its founder, Siddhartha Gautama. When it comes to religion, I try to understand why people feel the way that they do and how religion helps shape their lives. I also try not to look at people from a bigoted point of view when it comes down to religious beliefs. For example, when 9/11 happened, a lot of Muslims experienced discrimination based on what some extremists did. From my perspective, if a person is going to call themselves Christian and persecute someone who isn't Christian -- he or she should remember the following: "Judge not lest ye be judged by the measure that you judge others." Last I checked, didn't Jesus associate with people such as prostitutes, the poor, and tax collectors in order to teach them the right way to live their lives. As for Islam, yes there are extremists just like there are in all religions; but just because some evil, insane people did terrible things doesn't give anyone the right to label an entire group of people who haven't done anything as bad people.