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Archive for November, 2008

in response to Mr Jones’ blogpost about Young and Restless China… 

2. Why do you think the Chinese government has nicknamed the young people coming home from abroad “returning turtles”? [How do you think their work or educational experiences abroad have affected their ambitions in China? Why do you think these young people have returned to China?]

 

In recent years, the Chinese youth started to follow a life routine that could have never been expected from the formerly hermit kingdom. Young minds spread to the rest of the world, such as by receiving education in the United States, only to return to their motherland to settle in with a career. This is a dominant trend in many other developing countries; citizens would develop the ambitions of a western culture, but return to their homes because they can find better opportunities to succeed there. This is an especially new step for China, which was previously ruled by the communist economy in which everyone had equal pay and work, and therefore had no incentive to innovate or work any harder than others. Now, Chinese youths return to their country with a motivation to pursue their own individual welfares. This path seems to imitate that of turtles, which swim outward to the big sea once they are hatched but return to the shore to lay their eggs.

 

6. Lu Dong likens Chinese ambition to a poor kid going into a candy store and grabbing too much candy because he has been hungry for so long. Is this an apt analogy for China? Propose another analogy to describe Chinese ambition.

 

The analogy of Chinese ambition to “a poor child grabbing too much candy at the candy store because he has been hungry for so long,” appropriately observes the new burst of economic pursuits in context to China’s poor, underdeveloped economy in the past. Before this Diaspora, citizens were uniformly trapped in a poor standard of life. But now that they have been exposed to enough western values to see the opportunities that China has opened, they cannot seem to get enough of this novel change. The “grabbing too much candy” would refer to the uprooting of traditional Chinese values and the “simple way of life” for the one-road pursuit of wealth. The Chinese ambition could also be paralleled to the end of a cross-country race, after which I drink way too much water because I have been deprived of it while running.

 

8. Who do you think is the happiest of the young people profiled in this documentary and why?

 

I feel that those who were able to apply the westernizing mindset of the economy to their personal principles, while maintaining a portion of Chinese simplicity, are the happiest. Although she is not doing as well as the others in the documentary, the migrant worker seems to benefit most from the changing society. The economic development may heighten the standard of life for many, but does little to guarantee an increase in happiness. It may actually cut down on one’s moral principles and meaning in life, as testified by Lu Dong. We do know that the internet café runners are successful, but they do not indicate any satisfaction further than monetary gains and one of the partners even worried about the use of bribery in the “corrupt waters” of business. The migrant worker, on the other hand, took the western opportunity of working independently from her family and yet did not complain about her low pay. She utilized the western value of individuality and self-interest not in the field of money, but in love; she was able to break away from the Chinese tradition of arranged marriage and pursued a relationship on her own. By finding a balance between the old Chinese culture and new cultural upheaval, she was able to achieve a “happier life.”

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In response to Mr. Jones’ blogpost about the warrior tradition

Every culture had a period, or tradition, where the most honored was the strongest fighter, one who physically triumphs above all. But of course, this “hero” is depicted differently in the diverse world that we have. Every culture embraces the meaning of a hero based on its fundamental values. By far, the biggest differences lie between the Eastern and Western perceptions.

According to the Eastern definition, the warriors “discipline” their spirits, or chi, so that it harnesses the balanced forces of nature into power. Chinese fighters typically imitate the habits of animals and natural phenomenon as their techniques–picking out strengths that could be of use. This seems to go parallel with, and maybe caused by, the Chinese habit of eating every single scrap of an animal–thus, making the most out of what they already have around them.

In this clip below, Mulan says “like a rock, I must stand firm,” but also “like bamboo, I bend in the wind,” finding a balance between the opposing natural forces.

In the next clip, Shang and his men chant that they must be like a coursing river, the dark side of the moon, a typhoon, fire; they are establishing the destructive images of nature as models. It is also interesting that he is specifying traits of each natural phenomenon, such as the “swift”ness of a river, the “force’ of a typhoon, the “strength” of a fire. But also, he says that a “center” must be found, such as by being “tranquil as a forest, but on fire within,”

It is also interesting to note how the Chinese warrior, as Mulan transforms into when she decides to join the army instead of her father, pays his respects to the authorities/upper beings–such as when Mulan prays to the ancestors. It shows a certain humility that Eastern warriors are supposed to bear.

Now to talk more realistically, here is a clip demonstrating the 5 Animals Shaolin. Here, they take the strengths in the movements of a tiger, leopard, crane, dragon and snake. It’s fascinating how observant the Chinese are in coming up with these movements–I guess that’s why martial arts seem so artistic and whimsical, instead of brutal and chaotic like Western fighting.

 

If you look at the picture above, you would probably notice the hands and movements of Bruce Lee more than his face, his identity. Like this, Chinese warriors demonstrate their strength in following the movements of the world instead of from their own selves.

So, that was the Eastern Hero. I think the Western Hero can be juxtaposed also by a Disney masterpiece–Hercules.

Since Western values wind around individuality, nature or any surrounding force isn’t taken into account. Many times, Westerners define strength as literally the power one uses to fight–fists, muscle, swordsmanship.  They tend to be more aggressive because they are one-sidedly characterized this way.

In this clip of Hercules, we see that he pursues this individualistic approach to life, saying that he can do it, that if he just overcomes, he will be a hero and he will find his identity. When he realizes that he’s a mortal, his father Zeus tells him that he has to prove himself a true hero. So, the Western warrior tradition lies in showing what you have, achieving an identity, and doing things “on your own.” 

In this one, the muses describe how Hercules is strong and brave; he is commemorated as a statue in the position of a Western warrior, with muscles flexed and posture high and confident. The fighting is, as seen, the fierce lashing of the sword.

It’s also interesting to see how in the end of this clip, Hercules is commemorated as a constellation in the Western warrior-style positiion, with legs apart and hands on his hips–a demonstration of confidence and courage.

 

above is another demonstration of the Western values in how a warrior should look like–muscular, heavily armed, focusing on himself and nothing else.

 

What kind of warrior exists today? I think everyone is moving onto a modernized Western definition: self-expression. The fighting is, of course, gone–we apparently consider ourselves much more civilized–and in place is the pen. I think Maxine Kingston has an interesting quote about this in Woman Warrior:

The swordswoman and I are not so dissimilar. May my people understand the resemblance soon so that I can return to them. The reporting is teh vengeance–not the beheading, not the gutting, but the words. (Kingston, 53).

Today is a time when people use the power of the pen, the power of speech to bring attention to the world’s injustices and initiate change for the better. At least, I want to be that kind of hero.

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Replying to an article about the Woman Warrior

The Woman Warrior stubbornly refuses to be either entirely fictive or entirely real. Perhaps the second most remarkable thing about the book is that in its wake, the American literary world still seems to regard the tissue-thin boundary between memoir and fiction as absolute and inviolable.

Kingston’s method of merging real experience and fiction is deceptively simple, so much so that the reader hardly notices it as it happens.

I do see the embracing of different perspectives that Kingston uses, but am not sure if this is as incredible as the article says. The technique confused me more than anything at first; so what I can conclude about this strategy is that it’s very brave of her to take a risk like that. Sudden shifts like that are much more susceptible to not being able to be interpreted than the dialogues of Blindness, where the reader has to figure out who is saying what.

I don’t think I’ve gone deeply enough in the book Woman Warrior to figure out of this skill was used effectively in any way, but I’m not sure if I’ll be any more enthralled by it at the end of the book either. I’ve read many stories that hold the perspective of different people; Tracy Chevalier, for instance, spins her story by interchanging the narrative with point of views of her different characters. The Virgin Blue also shows shifts between timelines, going back and forth from history to present day. I guess the only difference is the sudden, unwarned changes she makes between the perspectives–but again, is this really effective?

I’ll try to keep an open mind about it, though. Let’s see if she can carry her point across with it.

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In response to Mr. Jones’ blogpost about the percentage of Korean students dropping out of top American colleges

So this is one of the many ways in which teachers find a reason to shake their heads at Korean students. Looking down on them, in other words. They say we bite off way more than we can chew, and after we do we choke. Although I would like to fiercely insist that it isn’t, I would have to admit that I do see some truth in it.

So student researcher Kim says Koreans prepare for American university in the wrong way. According to him, Koreans spend so much time being surrounded by books that they don’t realize that in America, institutions look for the whole package, the well-rounded person who can not only digest information but communicate with others, play sports, have a social life. We might as well blame it on the basic Asian mindset that is driven towards success. The belief that knowledge is power, and power is a better life. This is an inevitable string of logic coming from a country like South Korea, which used to be so poor before.

What interests me, though, is the statistics. In the article, Koreans have a substantiately higher dropout rate than not only US students, but also Chinese and Indian. What is it that Chinese and Indian students–who would also be from a success-driven oriental culture–do that makes them adjust better in American college than Korean students? So would Kim’s main argument–that Korean students aren’t able to adjust in the holistic environment of American college life because they focus so much on studying–still be strong?

Could it be that they don’t go to hagwons?

 

From what I know, the hagwon syndrome is biggest in Korea–where students don’t learn by themselves but grab the hand of a teacher who pulls them through their textbooks. Maybe it isn’t the social life that’s the problem, but the students’ ability to learn by themselves that causes the difference in dropout rate percentages. I think either argument stands.

So…how am I preparing myself for college?

One, I think I found my own passions. As long as you find something you love and feel motivated to do, I think you would find a purpose in college life. I found hobbies, sports, competitive activities that I want to pursue even after high school.

Two, I learned to be open to people. Although I can’t exactly stay energetic and social the entire time–I do need  some time to be quiet in and some air to breathe–I enjoy the company of others and love sharing experiences. Probably because in my childhood I grew up in three different countries, I feel comfortable interacting with people that have grown up in environments I have never been in before. I think you don’t have to be extremely outgoing in order to survive in an American college–you just need the basic will to communicate.

Three, I’m developing my own perspective and approach. I have the Rachel way of studying for tests, for understanding concepts and applying them; I have my own portion of the window that I use whenever I learn something new.

Four, I established me drive. I have an ultimate goal that I want to pursue, that will help me overcome the bumps of post-secondary education because in the end I am running towards something bigger. So big that college even seems tiny.

I think I have some of the basic tools for my college-survival kit materializing in my hands. They might be fuzzy and vague; and this is when I try it out, sharpen them, make them real.

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