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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.

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.

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.

what smell am i?

In Perfume: A Story of a Murderer, the main character perceives the world through scents. He identifies objects by the essense of what he smells from them; that was why he was driven to kill young women in order to collect and create a scent of his own.

I also remember places and people with smells. Sometimes. When I travel to England ever year, the first thing that hits me is its familiar smell. I used to catch fleeting whiffs of it in SIS–maybe on one rainy day I would smell it on the staircase–and be struck by excitement and nostalgia. I have a friend who smells very distinctly like something, and I remember being overwhelmed by this “identity” of hers when I first stepped into her apartment in fourth grade.  

But I’ve never tried smelling myself…

What I do want is to establish a scent identity, though. In summer school, one of my friends brought a huge bottle of Calvin Klein In2U, claiming that ever since the first time she smelled it she knew it was hers. I had been thinking about what she said for a while, and concluded that people choose scents that they WANT to smell like. But what if people are attracted to scents that they already are? What if everyone is destined to match with one and only one scent?

Some of my top choices these days:

  

And I just cannot choose one single scent to wear forever. How can anyone be sure about what he/she is, anyway? If I settle on just one, then I would be turning my back away from the millions of other scents that people have come up with–ones with a certain texture or tart trim that my nose might have never experienced before even after 18 years of constantly inhaling the world.

But it does feel nice to think that when someone smells a certain scent, it reminds him/her of me. Just like I miss my particular friend and our summer memories whenever I spritz myself with the Calvin Klein that she wore every day at summer school.

Responding to Mr. Jones’ blogpost about diaspora…

The Ibo people’s traditional center of life was disturbed by the intrusion of white culture. This is the African diaspora: the conflicts made by changes, by cultural expansion and reception of different customs. The way certain Ibo people responded to these changes are pretty understandable.

Even if life was “always the way it was” and people accepted it because they had no choice, not everybody wants to maintain their traditional lives. Of course, the lords and respected men want to keep their culture, and with that their stable superiority. But for those who are exiled, those who are considered the lower members of the caste, would want something different. They would want a chance to have a better life, and they would readily abandon their “way of life” because the Christian acceptance of everyone as brother and sister would give them more respect than they would earn in a lifetime as a pagan. The positive impact that the diaspora gave would be the uplifting of these people, giving new opportunities, and making changes to the somewhat unfair institutions that have been traditionally set up.

In Korea, diaspora has definitely occurred. Let’s look at how Western society influenced us:

– example 1: beauty

this was the 18th century Korean definition of beauty:

Wide hips, small breasts, and a wide face were just some of the Korean standards.

Now, with the influence of the Western standard of beauty:

the Korean standard became like this:

 big eyes, sharp features such as the nose and chinlines

and body wise:

 tall, skinny, with big breasts. NOT the Korean body type…

Because of the differences between expectations and the actual body type of Koreans, there is A LOT of plastic surgery and diffidence in one’s looks, and Koreans cannot capture the essence of their culture and heritage in their looks anymore.

– example 2: consumerism

Traditional Korean products, such as rice cake, are still being sold today. Hanboks are being sold too, because they’re used at the few traditional events we celebrate.

But if you look around the streets of Seoul….

 

Western clothes, western food are dominating youth culture.

Of course, every diaspora brings diversity and expansion of horizons for any culture. However, it does cut back on the identity of the country, the traditional customs that had remained for thousands of years. That is why America doesn’t seem to have an identity–it is such a melting pot of different cultures that you don’t see any distinctive qualities that no other country seems to have. Or has the American identity spread everywhere, and is that why I can’t see any difference?

– example 3: language

English is one of the universal languages now. One cannot function in such a global society with just a mastery of the Korean tongue. I see a lot of tension in public about the two language use.

At public places like subways, Korean english-speakers are told off by the Korean elders about not speaking their own language in their own country. As an English-speaker, I am a bit indignant about this attempt to force the traditional language on people like this. When I sometimes speak in Korean in public, students glare in my direction because they consider me a show-off–showing some competitive aspect of Korean culture that responds negatively to foreignness or a mastery of something that everyone needs to.

____

So going back to Things Fall Apart ! Even though diaspora had brought opportunity and growth, it also made the traditional core fall apart. Following this concept illustrated in “The Second Coming,” the title illustrates the loss of a cycle that had always existed.

Responding to Mr. Jones’ blogpost questions about The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats…

So the Christians predict an end of the World, when they would be saved by Jesus and be able to laugh in the faces of the poor unfortunate souls left behind who had chosen not to follow God.

“So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many. And unto them that look for him, shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” Heb.9:28.

 “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him.” Rev.1:7.

“This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into Heaven.” Acts 1:2.

The Bible, according to the quotes, affirm that Christ will appear yet again. The Christians will go to heaven with him, and Satan will be born onto the Earth to torture those who had chosen not to believe. In Yeat’s poem, this specific example is linked to the cycle of stability and anarachy.

The author of the poem is clearly not interested in the Christian salvation aspect, but the unleashing of terror and destruction upon the world where life has been sustained stably thus far. Thus comes the phrase, “Things Fall Apart,” a rather simple and matter-of-fact illustration of the utter chaos that could be caused by the loss of a core control, further specified by the Second Coming as an example.

The novel Things Fall Apart also paints the picture of a lost center, due to which the lives that revolved around tribal traditions crumbled as the revolution of Christianity and the white man’s government “slouches towards Bethlehem to be born” and to disturb the old, ancient orbit.

i <3 babies

Why do we almost instinctively treat babies as special, protecting them and enabling them to survive? Darwin originally pointed out that there is something about infants which prompts adults to respond to and care for them which allows our species to survive. Nobel-Prize-winning zoologist Konrad Lorenz proposed that it is the specific structure of the infant face, including a relatively large head and forehead, large and low lying eyes and bulging cheek region, that serves to elicit these parental responses.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080226213448.htm

I go crazy when I see babies.

I would rush over to one immediately and coo at it, wanting it to smile back. When I watch movies, I only cry when something happens to a kid. Whenever we see a little head poking out of a pram, my friends know that the first thing they’ll hear is an “AWWWW SOOOOO CUTE!!!” from me.

I love everything about kids–the simple way they view life, the most obvious and pure things they say, their innocence and general wonder about life, and..I guess..how adorable they look. Kids can make you laugh because they aren’t trying to be particularly entertaining–they are genuine, and the only times when they try to fake anything are when they are trying to be mature. Which you can see through and also laugh about.

Random baby I found on the net. Just look at him squeezing his eyes shut, scared of the scissors!

My brother’s genius, spontaneous expression when he was around 5?

Kids seem to have such different mindsets that they surprise you all the time. Very pleasantly. Although my friends try to kill my fire by ranting at me about how they are so annoying when they scream, how they always run around everywhere and ask you stupid questions. Maybe it’s because I’m so young at heart, but I don’t really mind. If I was a baby I would love to hear myself talk and get excited and be interested in everything around me.

 

 

I love it when kids try to replicate real life situations. It just shows how much they take in from the world and interpret it by their own selves. It’s fascinating to see how accurate they are when they try to portray the world, and just incredibly cute when they make a mistake trying.

Anyway, enough said. I LOVE BABIES. I guess I should marry right after college? Haha…..I’m not really sure about having one of my own though. It’s more like loving any baby, not just any specific one.

My kids will probably hate me because I might go Okonkwo on them. The things that Korean moms would do…even though they vow a decade ago that they would never…