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  • jhboisselle 3:17 pm on November 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Weekly Challenge #6: Advice 

    This posting is from Gennady.
    The final challenge for our blog project: advice to potential study abroad members.

    If you’re planning on going abroad, or have already been accepted into a program, you may notice that almost everyone has advice for you. Here’s mine, take it or leave it.

    Do whatever the hell you want.

    Cliché, right? I know many people who would accompany this with a speech on how life is short, you only live life once, study abroad is such a unique opportunity, etc. I won’t be doing that. You probably already know this, and if you don’t, there are people much better versed in these lectures than I to tell you.

    I’m being cynical now for a reason. Study abroad is one of those times where everybody seems to have something they have to tell you, just like college applications period and pregnancy (or so my Mom tells me, I wouldn’t know about the latter). Many have told me, “do what you want”, but they tag on a “but consider X” or “but you should also do Y”. To me, this is like saying “do what you want, but remember to do what I want you to do”. Why in the world would anybody give that kind of advice? I really don’t know.

    Sure, the advice that was given to me was probably given with good intentions, and I respectfully acknowledge those intentions and that no harm was done. But, I often times find advice has more to do with the desires of the person giving it rather than the person receiving it. I rarely meet someone who gives good, genuine advice. In fact, while in China on my study abroad experience, I have really only thought of one piece of advice frequently, and it came from my dad. He said this:

    “Don’t let class get in the way of living”

    It was very relaxing hearing that, and in the end, class didn’t get in the way (despite what seemed to be the best efforts of some of my teachers). I did the minimum of what I had to do in order to do the maximum of what I wanted to do, and loved it.

    So if you’re reading this and preparing to go abroad, remember, do whatever the hell you want. Or, if you prefer, don’t. It’s not really about what I think now is it.

    Gennady

     
  • jhboisselle 2:38 pm on November 21, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , stereotype   

    Feeling Pretty 

    This posting is authored by Gennady.

    Almost every time I’ve met a new Chinese person, I’ve received a compliment about my looks. I often get comments on how nice my eyes are, or how strong I appear, how good my hair is, or in one instance, how nice my eyelashes are.
    While I’ve enjoyed this greatly, I know I receive these compliments for one fundamental reason: In China, White is Beautiful.
    I’m flattered to be considered such a prettyboy here, but to be honest, this trend saddens me. Billboards either have European models, or Asian models whose skin is so white (whiter than mine) and eyes are so round, it’s hard to tell if they’re Asian at all. The only posters I’ve seen with black models featured male body builders (perhaps emphasizing the ultra-masculinity of the black man that is stereotyped in the U.S.), or have featured black women in what appears to be some form of tribal dress carrying a spear (perpetuating all sorts of problematic ideals)
    Whiteness isn’t just on the billboards either. Whitening creams are openly advertized and popular here. People will wear contacts to change their eye color to look more European, and some women will actually avoid sunlight in order to stay whiter.
    This is a bit perplexing to me because most Chinese seem to be, from what I have noticed, quite nationalistic in their identity. Most people I have talked to have been proud to be Chinese. But, when it comes to their appearance, the Eurocentric model is still dominant. The beauty of Asiatic features is not accentuated, but rather discouraged in popular culture.
    So why does this make me sad? I enjoy beauty, but I see beauty in diversity. I’m not interested in everybody looking the same because, frankly, it’s unattractive. Furthermore, I don’t like to see people led to feel ugly or ashamed because they’re not white. It’s a subtle (or not so subtle) form of oppression.
    This all being taken into account, I get to reap the benefits of this social norm. I’m lead to feel good about myself as others struggle to mimic my features. Even thousands of miles away from home, my white privilege has followed, if not grown substantially. Many (white) people have told me how cool it was to be a minority in another country. They’re right. It’s fun, being the wealthiest, most beautiful, and most powerful minority in a foreign land. Perhaps it’s different in other countries, or maybe just not as accentuated. I don’t know. But, I have yet to hear a person who isn’t white tell me the “coolness” of being a minority anywhere. Maybe I haven’t spoken to the right people. Maybe white privilege is much more global than I imagined. I don’t know for sure.

    Only a month left. Good luck to all in the final few weeks!

    Gennady

     
    • DougReilly 2:42 pm on November 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I remember a presentation by one of our students who studied the issue of whiteness and beauty in India and it was very similar to the situation you describe. Those whitening creams sound horrible…some of them actually burn the outer layer of skin off. It’s just as weird to me as seeing white people who obviously go to tanning booths…as if they’ve never seen people who have spent their lives in the sun while visiting the beach and thus don’t know what leather-like future awaits their epidermis. Anyway, studying beauty and body image is fascinating and disturbing. Oh…there were also skin whitening fads in the African American community in the US as well…

  • Sasha 2:16 pm on November 17, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Weekly Challenge #6 

    So, I had this whole thing planned out. I was psyched for this advice challenge cause I thought I had come up with a great idea! I thought why should I be the only one giving advice to others who are going abroad, or coming to Japan. I’m just one person and my perspective is certainly not the same as everyone elses. So, I took my camera and basically jumped on people around the dorm asking what kinds of advice they would give to those coming to Japan. I was all ready to start cutting and pasting the videos together into one edited video…except that I found out that I don’t have the program to do that. My small dream was short-lived. So, while I search for the means to actually make all of these videos cohesive, I’ll just put the least awkward ones up and figure out the editing a bit later (my search for proper computer programs shall continue, though!)

    I told everyone who helped with this that I would edit it before putting it up online, so please forgive the awkwardness of these videos. And my apologies to those in the videos as well for showing them just as they are. 🙂 (I also couldn’t rotate some of the videos…yes, this shows how inept I am with a computer…>.<)

    Advice For Those Who Need It From Those Who Wished They Had It

    My friend here walked around with me and helped knock on peoples’ doors and track others down. Major props to her for her amazing door knocking skills! ☺


    We all know this girl, ne?

    This kid was fun to talk to. ☺


    One of my favorite people of all time.


    This is one of the best videos I think.

    This kid here had a bunch of really good points! Definitely pay attention to him! 😛

    FYI: whenever people are sick in Japan, it is completely normal for them to wear a facemask. So no, she is not deathly ill. She just has a cold.


    This kid here always has a smile on his face.

     

    He’s…well, just watch this one. 🙂

     

    I really like this guy’s response. What he says is extremely accurate.

     

    And last but not least we have advice from someone (a visiting someone) who is spending her semester studying abroad on a ship, which is then sailing around to various places in the world.

    So, I realized I never actually put my own advice in here, but I’ll just say (probably something that was already said in one of the videos above) that whenever you go to another country, you have the chance to learn about a whole new place, people, culture. Spend your time, however long or short it is, experiencing every possible thing you can. Take advantage of every opportunity there is to gain knowledge about what’s around you. Just by seeing new things and experiencing is the best way to learn something new…and have fun! Don’t forget to have fun. It’s the single most important thing while going abroad. Don’t forget it! 😀

     
    • hwsdlc 3:27 pm on November 18, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Sasha! These are such precious clips. Thank you so much for pounding the pavement to capture them. What a great idea. As to video editing, I personally find it a bit tedious on the smaller devices, but if you want to poke at it in the future for simple stuff, Doug and I have both played a little bit with the Video Editor Free and iMovie apps. 🙂

    • DougReilly 2:41 am on November 20, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      You can also try wevideo.com, where you can edit videos online. These are great! It’s really hard to switch those videos on their side, however. The ipod shouldn’t really let you record in vertical format if they can’t format their videos…anyway, thanks for being the roving reporter. I like the contrast of the all the students studying in Japan with the visitor in the end.

  • andrewupton 5:08 pm on November 15, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Finding Your Japan 

    The best piece of advice that I can give someone traveling abroad in general is never assume you can do something twice or that if an opportunity arises that you will have the chance to take advantage of that same opportunity again.  This advice extends even to the seemingly mundane.  It is almost impossible to count the number of times this line of thought has gotten me into amazing, or at least amazingly bizarre situations that have all been great experiences.  A good example is meeting a contingancy from Lancing Michigan yesterday, including the Mayor, and I had a chance to speak with the Mayor’s wife in a one on one dialouge.  I had no intention of joining the welcoming party, I honestly didn’t know there was a mini event happening, but when Kawaguchi-san motioned us over (myself included) to begin dialouge with the delegation I thought, hey what the heck why not and had a great time.  While this example is about meeting Americans the same thing hold true when you are interacting out in the world of the host country, this just so happened to be the most recent example.

    To those studying in Japan I have even more specific advice, and advice that is very personal to me.

    Find your Japan and hold onto that Japan once you have found it. This may sound simple, but believe me much of the time it can be anything but (especially in study abroad).  While study abroad and your program there may get you to the country, and indeed immerse you, the burden still falls to you to make the most of your experience.  Experiences won’t happen for you, nor without your consent.  In this way this piece of advice ties in with the general advice above.  But back to your Japan.

    How does one find their Japan?  What does that mean?  Your Japan, or your China, or your Korea etc. refers simply to ones place in Japan (and other host countries) that is free of any outside influence, or rather, it is the moment when one sits down by one’s self and understands through their own eyes what Japan is.  It is finding and understanding, or even in some cases coming to terms with your connection to that country.  Of course this phrase means many different things depending on the person.  It takes a long time to find one’s Japan and even longer to understand it.  It is in part what drew you to Japan, or the host country  in the first place, but even moreso the connection that now exists, the part of Japan that you can take with you anywhere.

    How do you find your Japan?   I am not an expert, by any means, however you must search for the things that best represent Japan to you.

    For me my Japan is Tokyo, it is my brother’s house near a ramen and soba shop, it is a life lived five minutes away from Shibuya, Harajuku, and Shinjuku.  My Japan is the curried rice my Japanese mother makes, watching operas on TV with my Japanese father, playing Super Smash Brothers with my older brother, Sitting with friends in an oshare (fashionable) cafeteria, or cafe in Shibuya and just talking.  Taking a family portrait every year I am in Tokyo and seeing the changes, no matter how slight.

    This is just my Japan, and it is colored by my previous experiences in Tokyo with my family.  For me Japan is not so much about the places – although those are important without a doubt – as it is about the people.  My Japan is what it is because of the people who have helped me build a world and a life here.

    Here is a video clip that I took of a lone violinist this past Thursday when I (in my mind) went home to Tokyo to see my brother and my family.

    While this video can never do the actual musician justice, nor will it, nor can it mean to you what it does to me I want to share a peice of my Japan, however small.  (I doubt it needs to be said, but I will anyway, because this is a very fond memory of mine and one which holds a good deal of meaning for me, I ask that it be treated with the utmost respect, I am sure many of you feel the same way about your own experiences abroad).

     

     

    Now go out, search, and find your Japan.

     

    P.S.  Both sections of this blog really can apply to any country, but the second section is just a bit more focused and tailored.

     
    • DougReilly 3:11 pm on November 16, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Andrew,
      So much to respond to here, but in this short comment I just want to say what a cool video that is. I love how the right side is so calm and peaceful and the left side is so hustle and bustle. There’s also the way the calm music works against the activity of the city, reminds me of the two different schools of thought about movie soundtracks, that they should mirror the action or be the opposite of it. This is a good example of the latter school of thought…and it really works here. Nice memory, well captured!

      And just to clarify, what do you mean by “my family” in Tokyo? Is that a host family or…?

      cheers!
      doug

      • andrewupton 11:11 am on December 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        My family in Tokyo refers to my exchange brother, Shun, and his family in Tokyo, but most of the time I just call them my family and sometimes my family in Tokyo, so I apologize for any confusion. I apparently tend to do this a lot. The thing is, this is the way we refer to things in my family, so I rarely change my way of communication when it comes to this subject. I also feel that, in some ways, if I was to refer to them in ways that make sense to other people – such as friends, or close family friends, exchange brother, or even best friends – it could in some odd way be insulting to the way our families actually view eachother and our relationship. (We think of ourselves as the family in Barker and the family in Tokyo).
        I also want to add a bit of an amendment to my advice above. While it is entitled finding your Japan I just realized that if you actually are expecting something, or actively search you may never find it. It is more the idea that you must pay attention to the world around you and then come to slowly realize your place there. Of course your own choices play a huge role in that. Like Gennady said in his latest blog telling readers to “do whatever the hell they want”. While actively looking for something may mean you never find it, actively participating may mean that you find it sooner.

  • jhboisselle 2:27 pm on November 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Meet Joe 

    This posting is authored by Gennady. Please note that he currently has limited access to this blog, so there may be a delay in reading any comments.

    Everybody, meet Joe. I met Joe at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practice, and have since taken to training San Da with him as well. Joe has a special place in my mind for a number of reasons. The first stems from our first training session together at BJJ. At the end of practice, we had some time to grapple, and I was paired off with him. I started sitting with one knee up and the other touching the ground, and he started kneeling on one knee. As soon as the round started he shot past my legs and took side control, pinning me to the ground and ripping apart the puzzle mats behind him. He then mounted me, and spent the next 4 minutes trying for submissions, all the while tearing apart more of the mats (he ended up getting the submission, a neck compression in the last 30 seconds). If you would like a visual, imagine Zeus jumping off of mount Olympus, shattering it with the force of his jump, then landing on you, and causing the earth to crumble beneath you as he wrestles to get your neck or arm. But besides what was perhaps the most intense grappling round of my life, I like Joe for other reasons. Guys like Joe are great to train with because they put martial arts training in perspective. I’ve been training in martial arts for 11 years, and it would be easy to let that go to my head. Joe takes those eleven years and crushes it like he crushed me on the mat. He’s a perfect example of why belt color simply doesn’t mean a damn thing. I like training with people like that. Also, Joe falls into the category of “Humble Giants” who I’ve trained with since Karate. Thus far, the category includes Len Sonia from Dojo1, Fred Greenall from Team Malevolent China, and Joe. Each of these people could likely destroy me on the mat, in the ring, and on the street, but they’ll probably never say it. Instead, they devote their time to building other people up, teaching what they know, and living their life. This explains the humble part. I call them giants because all of them, besides their high level of martial skill, are large hulking masses of muscle. All together, it’s quite an awesome and intimidating combination. I’m lucky to have trained with them. Best wishes to the readers and to my fellow asiapod bloggers, Gennady

    Everybody, meet Joe.

    I met Joe at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practice, and have since taken to training San Da with him as well. Joe has a special place in my mind for a number of reasons. The first stems from our first training session together at BJJ. At the end of practice, we had some time to grapple, and I was paired off with him. I started sitting with one knee up and the other touching the ground, and he started kneeling on one knee. As soon as the round started he shot past my legs and took side control, pinning me to the ground and ripping apart the puzzle mats behind him. He then mounted me, and spent the next 4 minutes trying for submissions, all the while tearing apart more of the mats (he ended up getting the submission, a neck compression in the last 30 seconds). If you would like a visual, imagine Zeus jumping off of mount Olympus, shattering it with the force of his jump, then landing on you, and causing the earth to crumble beneath you as he wrestles to get your neck or arm.

    But besides what was perhaps the most intense grappling round of my life, I like Joe for other reasons. Guys like Joe are great to train with because they put martial arts training in perspective. I’ve been training in martial arts for 11 years, and it would be easy to let that go to my head. Joe takes those eleven years and crushes it like he crushed me on the mat. He’s a perfect example of why belt color simply doesn’t mean a damn thing. I like training with people like that.

    Also, Joe falls into the category of “Humble Giants” who I’ve trained with since Karate. Thus far, the category includes Len Sonia from Dojo1, Fred Greenall from Team Malevolent China, and Joe. Each of these people could likely destroy me on the mat, in the ring, and on the street, but they’ll probably never say it. Instead, they devote their time to building other people up, teaching what they know, and living their life. This explains the humble part. I call them giants because all of them, besides their high level of martial skill, are large hulking masses of muscle. All together, it’s quite an awesome and intimidating combination. I’m lucky to have trained with them.

    Best wishes to the readers and to my fellow asiapod bloggers,

    Gennady

     
  • DougReilly 4:32 pm on November 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Challenge 6: Advice 

    Congrats to last week’s Challenge winner, Sasha. She ran unopposed, but deserved it too for that great upload of Koto playing.

    This week’s Challenge is Advice.

    We’re asking you to reflect a little bit on what you’ve done so far while abroad. What did you do right, how did you misstep? What advice would you give students that come after you? How have you made the most of your semester, and what might that suggest to those who follow?

    Advice can be specific (like, there is this fantastic Bánh mì seller on the corner outside of the dorm) or general, although advice always works best when you use personal, real-world anecdotes. You can use video, audio or writing, or images or combine any of them at will.

     
  • julialeavitt 5:01 am on November 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Duck/Chicken Hybrid 

    The Ducks in Sapa were incredibly strange and fascinating. The had the duck beak and webbed feet but their behavior and facial features were that of a chicken or rooster. The way the walked around and bent their heads to eat was similar to the way chickens move their head and neck. But check out the face! Weird!!

    this one looks like the Fonz….Happy Days anyone?

     
    • Derp 6:30 am on December 5, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Those are muscovy ducks.

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