Meet Christina Zakimi
Christina is the Private Events Coordinator at the Japanese Friendship Garden. Her knowledge and love of Japanese culture, language, and art extend into the events she organizes in the Garden. With the Cherry Blossom Festival days away and the great increase in both private and public events at the Garden, Christina explains how she and her team continue to blossom through creativity and resourcefulness.
1. How did you first get involved with the Japanese Friendship Garden?
I majored in Art and Japanese in college and have always been a huge fan of Japanese culture and the Garden. I wanted to volunteer here and met the Volunteer Coordinator who suggested I apply for the Events and Marketing Coordinator position. She recognized my passion for Japanese culture, arts, and history- along with my fluency in Japanese- and thought I would be a great addition to their team. So, I went in to become a volunteer but left with a job offer!
2. What is the most interesting part about working at the Garden?
It’s definitely the team. Everyone here really loves the work they do and is excited to be here. I am passionate about the programs we host and it’s another reason why I love working here. As a team, we all have a chance to be part of the program development process and it s truly one of the greatest aspects of working here. For example, The Edo Marionette Puppet Theatre is coming to the Garden on Sunday, April 30th for a performance. The troop will be traveling all the way from Japan to put on this traditional performance of Edo Marionette, ranging back to the 17th century!
3. As the Cherry Blossom Festival quickly approaches, what can you tell us about this celebration?
The Festival is inspired by the Japanese tradition of Hanami, or “flower viewing”, as a welcoming of spring. Our celebration will combine performances, a beer garden, shopping, food, demonstrations (such as a traditional tea ceremony), and much more, with the beauty of the Garden and cherry blossoms being the highlight of our festival. This year we are hosting the event for three days, March 10th, 11th, and 12th from 10am – 6pm. In addition, Balboa Park employees can attend the Festival free through General Admission! This only applies to Park employees, guests must purchase tickets.
4. What is the most difficult and most rewarding part about organizing the multiple events at the Garden?
Keeping up with demand and developing new programs is the toughest part of my job. We have to juggle putting on programs and events that people will want to attend with finding performers, instructors, or artists that can lead these programs, since many of them are not commonly found outside of Japan. The most rewarding part is seeing people experience Japanese culture while having fun and learning something new. It is always great to introduce people to experiences and practices they may not of had the opportunity to be a part of anywhere else.
5. Best advice for encountering a new situation at work or obstacle during an event?
My greatest piece of advice during events is: “Do not freak out!” It is important to stay calm for yourself and for your teammates. If you lose your cool, it can not only make you and your team uneasy, but also your client, and you always want your client to know you have everything under control. My second piece of advice is don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you have assigned yourself to too many roles, ask a teammate for help. In the end, your work becomes more manageable and it helps reiterate that you are not alone in the situation.
6. What do you like to do outside of Balboa Park?
I actually love to garden. I have a vegetable garden at home where I am currently growing lettuce, carrots, and brussel sprouts (to name a few)! I also love playing video games, watching Korean and Japanese dramas, and working on cosplay pieces.
7. Favorite book/TV show/ movie/ song?
My favorite books are the Lord of the Rings trilogy and my favorite movies are the Lord of the Rings films, I’m a huge fan of both! I also like a variety of mangas and comics, but there are too many to name.
8. What is your favorite season to visit the Japanese Friendship Garden and why?
Besides cherry blossom season, the Garden smells very fragrant and beautiful when the Jasmine’s are in bloom. This is typically around May or June so it’s coming up!
9. What is your favorite spot in Balboa Park?
Here at the Garden and the Zoo. I love nature and animals, and both places have just that!