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  • jhboisselle 3:03 pm on January 31, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , people,   

    Couple Clothing 

    This posting is from Chelsea Gannon:

    One “culture shocking” aspect of South Korean life I encountered was couples. Not only are there immense numbers of couples, but large cultural supports for the prevalence of these pairs. In Korean dramas and movies, love and dating is an incredibly popular subject.  Additionally, gender roles within these relationships are rather strictly defined with girls often acting cutesy and innocent, a trait known as “aegyo”, and the boys acting authoritative, strong, and as the caretaker of their girlfriends. With such a prominent role of couples, a culture has developed where each engages in “normal” activities such as the men carrying their girlfriend’s purses or most interestingly wearing matching accessories or clothing. More often than not, couple items are shoes or shirts, but it was not uncommon to see couples decked out in matching gear including shoes, full outfits, and bags. In extreme cases, couples would wear even matching nail polish. While this phenomenon was highly prevalent throughout Seoul, we witnessed extensive numbers of couple items due to the sheer number of Koreans we encountered on a daily basis. Couples, both dating and married, even purchased matching “USA Pavilion” cowboy hats and t shirts from our gift store, specifically asking if a certain item had one for the other gender so that it was “couple wear”. Although I couldn’t take photos while working, I was able to snap a few while on my breaks or off days, and I’ve posted them below:

    couple3couple4couple2couple1

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  • at5203 4:49 am on December 11, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: people, ,   

    Last Day!!! 

    The day has come and I cannot believe how fast this semester flew by.  Taking a look back I still remember how scared I was to cross the street and try the food.  However 12 weeks in and I am crossing the street like no ones business, eating dog, snake, and rat! The beauty of Vietnam is astonishing and it is never ending.  I recommend everyone and anyone to come to Vietnam and enjoy the busy life of Saigon and the traditional life of Hanoi.  In the future I plan on visiting Vietnam and hopefully working here for a year or so

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    • camoy1 3:31 am on December 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      The last day was so sad!!!! It was so difficult to say goodbye to my friends. But I remember how scared we were to cross the street. Those were some funny moments! I agree that everyone should visit Vietnam

    • sallyintaiwan 12:34 pm on December 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      My last day was very sad too! the one thing that kept me from not getting on the plane was the fact that I knew I’d be come back.. I’m so glad to have made such great friends in Taiwan, connections I know will last, with people I can reach out to next time i’m there whether it’s for work or for just a stop on the way to another place in Asia.

  • melinthemiddle 5:27 pm on November 21, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , people   

     Asiapod Challenge 6 posted on behalf of Melissa… 

     

     (A play written by Melissa Hosek, based on a true story)

    (Scene 1: Setting the Scene)

    ~I am sitting in the lobby of the on-campus hotel. A little old woman sits down on the sofa across the way from me. She had just come inside after walking around in the crisp autumn air and is wearing her winter coat, silk scarf, and sunglasses .  My American and Japanese classmates sit next to me on the lobby sofa as we discuss our class movie project.

    American Classmate: “Uh oh, my computer 没点了 (my computer just died).

    Me: “Now how are we going to finish the movie?”

    American Classmate: “Maybe we can go to Nyoki’s room, his dorm is nearby.”

    ~He turns to our other classmate, Nyoki, who is from Japan and speaks very little English.

    American classmate: “我们可不可以在你的宿舍里继续拍电影?(Can we continue making the movie in your dorm?)”

    Japanese Classmate: “可以! (Sure!)”

    ~American and Japanese Classmates exit the scene.  I decide to stay behind and wait for another classmate to arrive.

    Scene 2: The Dialogue Begins.

    ~ The old woman stares at my classmates and I. She is probably wondering “who are the foreigners and why can they speak Chinese?”

    ~I move to sit next to her.

    Me: “你好“(Hello!)

    Beijing Woman 1:“你好, 你是哪个国家的呢?” (Hello, which country are you from?)

    Me:“我是美国人” (I am American)

    Beijing Woman 1: “真的吗?你现在离你的家很远。 你想念你的妈妈吧。“(Really? You are quite far from home. You must miss your mother, don’t you?”

    Me:“对,我想念她。”(Yes, I miss her.)

    Beijing Woman 1:“你为什么在这儿?你是学生吗?”(Why are you here [in Beijing]? Are you a student?)

    Me:“是。 我在这里学习中文。” (Yes, I am studying Chinese here.)

    Beijing Woman 1:“你的中文说很好。 你在北京呆好久吗?” (You Chinese is pretty good! Have you been in Beijing for a long time?)

    Me:“我只在北京呆了一个学期了。”(I am only in Beijing for one semester)

    Beijing Woman 1:“那你很想你的妈妈把?” (Ah, I’m sure you miss your mother, right?)

    Me:“对,我很想她。”(Yes, I miss her a lot)

    Beijing Woman 1:“你的家里人是多少?” (How many people are in your family?)

    Me:“我的家有五口人:妈妈、爸爸、哥哥、弟弟和我”(My family has 5 people: My mom, dad, older brother, younger brother, and me)

    Beijing Woman 1:“唯一个女儿吧?那你肯定是你妈妈的宝贝儿。你今年多大??” (You are the only daughter then! You surely must be your Mother’s [favorite] baby! How old are you?)

    ~Another Beijing Woman sits down beside Beijing Woman 1.

    Me:“20 岁“(20 years old)

    ~Beijing Woman 1 turns to Beijing Woman 2 sitting beside her .

    Beijing Woman 1: “看这个宝贝儿,20岁, 呆在北大学习汉语“。 (Look at this baby! 20 years old, and staying at Peking University to study Chinese!)

    Beijing Woman 2“小宝贝儿! 我今年60,70 岁左右。” (What a small baby! I’m 60 or 70 years old this year!)

    Me: “您们俩为什么在这家宾馆里? 您们在等朋友吗?” (Why are you two here at the hotel? Are you waiting for a friend?)

    Beijing Woman 2: 我们刚吃完了午饭, 来这儿休息一下, 外面太冷了。 (We just finished eating lunch. We came here [inside] to rest a bit, it’s too cold outside)

    Me: 对, 北京的天气越来越冷了。 请问, 我可不可以拍您们照片?“(Yes, the weather in Beijing is getting colder and colder. Excuse me, could I take your picture?)

    Beijing Woman 1:“我们这么老!为什么要拍我们的照片?” (But we’re so old! Why would you want to take a picture of us?)

    Me:“回国以后我想给我妈妈介绍一下您们俩。”(When I go home, I want to tell my mother about you.)

    Beijing Woman 1“好的好的。 你可以告诉你的妈妈你认识了两个老北京太太。”(Ok, Ok. You can tell your mother that you met two old Beijing wives)

    ~I pull out my camera and take a picture of the two women.

    Me: “好的。 谢谢您们”(Ok, thank you!)

    Beijing Woman 1:“不客气。 好。 我们走吧。 再见宝贝儿!” (You’re welcome. Ok, we have to go now. Goodbye baby!)

    ~They Exit. End Scene.

    ~Fin. 

     
  • Kristyna Bronner 1:50 pm on November 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , english, , people   

    Challenge 6: Talk to a Stranger 

    Professor Paul Li giving me a book as a thanks for coming to speak to his classes!

    Without planning on it, I completed Challenge 6 this past Wednesday and today (twice!) by visiting the Community College at my University. I had previously been contacted by a professor there, Paul Li, who was looking for native English speakers to come in and speak to his students. I completed three, hour and a half long sessions in which I interacted with and held conversations with about 15 Hong Kong students at a time.

    Paul would switch each class into two groups, usually ranging between 9-18 students in each depending on the class size, and I would spend a half an hour with each group. First we would go around in a circle introducing ourselves. I asked them to share their name, grade, major, hometown and their favorite thing about Lingnan. After introductions I had several discussion questions planned: What is your favorite food and what are its ingredients? What do you hope to do after graduation? and What was the last movie you saw in theaters? Sometimes the students were very shy and other times they were very upfront, choosing to ignore the proposed questions and instead ask me questions about myself. As I went through the three sections, I got more comfortable talking to the students and I came up with better questions to ask them.

    I think the students learned from me, but I learned a lot from them too. I found out that basketball is the most popular sport in Hong Kong (after 2/3 of the students said it was their hobby). One student explained that it’s because land prices in Hong Kong are so high that the government is not willing to spend the money on large football (aka soccer) fields…so financially it makes more sense to build basketball courts. I also learned that many students’ favorite food is fish balls. I have actually tried these, as I mentioned in one of my previous posts…but I definitely don’t enjoy them as much as everyone else does! I also found out about an island that I need to visit before I leave called Cheng Chau island. When I asked the groups what their favorite place in Hong Kong was, many of them answered with this island.

    The students have my facebook info and my e-mail address so that they can stay in touch with me for the rest of my time at Lingnan and in the future.

     
    • DougReilly 3:10 pm on November 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Kristyna,
      Thanks for rising to Challenge Six, planned or not! You earned your Vere Sandals with this post! 🙂
      Doug

  • appelsina7 7:09 am on November 9, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , people, , ,   

    Connected 

    When I entered the Asiapod program, I was given an iPod touch which I could use to send my blog entries and take photos with. I named this new device, “Temptation.” One of my interests is how technology affects our lives and what we gain but also what we lose when we adopt new technologies. I know many Americans who have the latest technological “toys” which helps them stay connected to many people but they often miss out on face to face conversations and more meaningful relationships when they are busy cultivating their “Facebook friends.” I try to be conscious of my use of technology and the experiences I may be missing while I am playing a game on my iPod instead of looking out the window at the Vietnamese landscape. I have used my new iPod to record an internship event that I had to use for a project, to listen to music, for maps to give taxi drivers directions, alarms, notes of things to do, weather and record my workouts but I do not use it in ways which inhibit m experiences in Vietnam but to enhance them. The iPod I had before I only used for music. I don’t find myself texting at dinners or playing games instead of being immersed in Vietnam. I don’t use it to take pictures unless I forget my camera and I don’t use it to write blogs or to get on the internet at all. I am on my computer enough, I don’t need to be connected to the internet every second of the day. I am beginning to worry what the Vietnamese are losing on their new quest to acquire wealth. I notice that my roommate spends more time on her computer and her cell phone than I ever do, or have done, even when I was at home in the states. I never see her studying or doing work, which greatly surprises me as I always have a list of the things that I need to accomplish during the day.

    With the rapid change from poverty to modernity, the Vietnamese have had to adapt quickly to new technologies. When we traveled to the Mekong Delta, I was very surprised to see that the people had very long antennas so that they could have TV. As we went on a bike ride through the area, passing each house on our tour, we had different theme music as it screamed out of the televisions in their homes and out into the humid air of the Mekong. These TVs, sound cranked up, bellowed that these people are experiencing wealth and abundance as they never have before and they want their neighbors to know. Their displays of wealth are very public, often the flat screens and sound systems in the cities are situated right in front of their open doors so that everyone can see that their family is prosperous and thriving.

    The young people have become addicted to their devices which are attached to their palms, reflecting the Americans I left at home. We have become their example of prosperity and wealth. They want to be like us with our cars and technology because they want to get ahead. My Vietnamese roommate here in Hanoi, gets text messages and phone calls late into the night, I never see her without her cell phone. We went to dinner the other day and throughout the meal she was on her phone. When we left we were walking down the four flights of stairs to exit the building, she fell down the stairs trying to walk and text at the same time. Her message was more important than her safety, her answer had to be instant and she could not wait even a few minutes to send the message. She was not hurt, laughed it off and continued to text as we walked, often crossing busy streets, to our building.

    I see countless men and women every day on their motorbikes and calling and texting at the same time. Urbanization has caused a rise of people moving to the cities and the roads are often over crowded. The effect of the newer law that people must wear helmets on motorbikes has made people wear helmets but they are inexpensive and do little for protection. I have seen many accidents while I have been here and my Vietnamese buddy in Ho Chi Minh City’s aunt was a fatal one. These incidents are not uncommon but there are not any laws prohibiting the use of cell phones while riding motorbikes.

     
  • appelsina7 6:51 am on November 9, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , identity, , people, , ,   

    New 

    Getting places in a new city is always an adventure. Especially when you don’t speak the native language very well. Usually, in the beginning it involves writing addresses down on napkins and other scraps of paper, so that you can give it to the taxi driver without having to communicate very much. After being here for almost two months, I have become more confident of my ability to communicate an address to a taxi driver or negotiate a price with a “xe om” driver (man you pay to give you a ride on his motorbike). Getting to my internship meeting for the first time was more eventful that I would have liked, especially on an early Monday morning. I have started to enjoy trying out my broken Vietnamese with taxi drivers and on this morning in particular, my driver asked the typical initial questions like “where are you from?” but then skipped a few and went right to “Do you have a boyfriend?” I was happy that I picked up the words but surprised by the forwardness of his question. I replied that I did have a boyfriend and he asked his nationality, either Vietnamese or American. Not sure where the conversation was going at this point, I answered that he is American and the taxi driver wanted to know why he did not come with me to Vietnam? It was an unusual exchange and one that ended up sticking with me, especially after my taxi driver admitted to not knowing the way. So I led him to the street, paid and got out of the cab thinking that it would be easy to find my way. I ended up not being able to find it and I asked a well-dressed elderly man who did not know the way but asked around and taking my arm led me to the address. He was very sweet and I was excited to discover that he spoke French (he was the first Vietnamese man of the older generation who I encountered speaking French). He led me carefully through the early morning traffic, giving my arm little tugs when he thought I was going to walk in front of a moving vehicle, in my eagerness to be on the sidewalk again.

    Even at home I enjoy trying new foods and being in Vietnam has made me much more adventurous. Just the other day I tried snake and on another occasion, my roommate came home very excited about some wedding cake that her friend gave her. Curious, I watched as she unpacked two plastic bags of this sticky looking green and brow gelatin looking substance. She explained that it was wedding cake made of rice from the hai phong province; the cake is called banh phu the banh com. She ate it by pulling the dark green layer from the tan layer or the whitish layer (there were two different types of the cake). So I tried some and it tasted like mildly sweet rice jelly goo. I am not a fan and happily let my roommate devour the bags of cake.

    Themes have started to present themselves now that I have been here for two months. One of these is the problems that are created by the Vietnamese attempting to straddle their traditional culture and their desire to be modern. Stemming from their traditional belief that, “we are all one,” the Vietnamese continue to live by this idea. When Vietnam was still organized in Villages, people could not exist outside of their community. Not belonging to a village meant being homeless, not connected to any place or to any one. As a result, people in their villages demonstrated and follow the unique cultural expressions of their village. People, outside of their village, were identified by it but within their community they were recognized as individuals. People ask you where you are from so they can discover who you are, defined by the village you belong to, their communal traditions and beliefs, to whom you are attached. Today this idea causes problems. Location is still very important to the Vietnamese. One of the first things I am asked when meeting a new Vietnamese is always “where are you from?” This though, because I am a foreigner and not from a village, is not a sufficient question to be able to figure out who I am. They need more information, just like I can’t ask a Vietnamese person “where are you from?” and have Vietnam be an adequate answer to begin figuring out who they are. Just like I would not recognize the specific village/town/city they come from, unless it is one of the few I have heard of or visited, they usually do not know where Massachusetts is and never know where Hadley is. As a result, they generalize about Americans, as though we are all the same. Even if they did have an understanding of the town I come from, my town and the majority of the towns in he US are not made up of people belonging to the same political, economic or religious groups. My town does effect who I am, like my preference of rural areas rather than urban ones. I have found that Vietnamese youth, like my buddy from Ho Chi Minh City and my roommate in Hanoi, try to put me in this box labeled “American” and I do not fit with many of the qualifiers that they previously thought were characteristics of Americans. Their example comes from what they watch on MTV and gain from other internet shown, movies and the internet. I am frugal, do not enjoy going to loud and smoke filled nightclubs, or wearing minuscule clothing. I do not smoke or do drugs, and I like to enjoy my drinks instead of just drinking to get wasted. I am trying to show them a more real, diverse side of the “American” that the have created from the media. Just like they are all unique, so am I and location cannot be the only identifier one uses to figure out who someone is.

     
  • appelsina7 4:50 pm on October 27, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , people,   

    Inquiry 

    One of the things that I have been thinking about lately is being uncomfortable. I have become comfortable here in Vietnam but there are moments when I am shaken by something I observe or something that is said. It can be as simple as learning that I can wander the city by myself, get lost for a while in the busy streets and meander my way back to an area that I know. There are some things that I will never get used to. I will never be accustomed to people throwing trash into the streets, or urinating in public. There are some cultural differences that I consider to be abrasive and learning how to respond effectively, so that I will neither offend nor feel poorly myself is an important skill to be developing. I was having dinner with some of my American study abroad group members as well as some of our roommates and three of their friends whom we had not yet met. We were getting to know the Vietnamese students, finding out what they study and what they like to do outside of school. They asked if we had boyfriends and we were answering. I was the only girl in the group with a boyfriend, so the Vietnamese students were trying to figure out why my friends weren’t in relationships. One of the Vietnamese guys, then made a comment about women needing to be in a relationship because even a weak man can protect them. I found this comment offensive, and understanding that Vietnamese culture tends to be very sexist I contained, what in the states would have been a scalding rebuke, and calmly asked him, “why does a woman needs a man to protect her and why would even a weak man be stronger than any woman?” He looked at me and smiled. I then heard one of my American friends say under her breath, “Wow this is not the time.” I was confused but let the conversation turn to other topics without an answer to my question. I wanted to know why my friend said that, so after dinner when we were walking back I asked them and they said, “it just was not the right time to be challenging the cultural norms when we were just meeting them.” Then they got defensive and walked away. I still believe that I was not challenging his beliefs by simply asking him about them. I did not say that he was wrong but only wanted to know why he thought women should be in a relationship and not be single. I wanted to know more about how Vietnamese people, as old as myself, view romantic relationships. This is why I came to Vietnam, to gain an understanding that I would not be able to, if I were to travel here on my own and for a shorter period of time. We are here to be immersed in the culture, I understand that asking questions and having discussions can be uncomfortable because it is those conversations that I find to be the most valuable. So when is it the right time to ask someone a question? Do I wait, like my friend suggested, until I know them better, to bring up the topic? I do not think I acted in a way that was offensive, I believe that it is best to ask the question when the topic is brought up naturally. If I had not said anything I would have felt more upset being left without a reason for such a statement. I don’t believe that in many of these cases that there is going to be a “right time,” if the question is controversial, no matter when you ask, people may feel uncomfortable at first but that does not mean that the questions should not be asked. I think it would be even more accusatory if I had waited for another time and asked randomly “so what are your views about the roles of men and women in a relationship?” Or if I had waited for an issue or problem to arise, so I would have to confront him directly, because of a comment that he made about me or someone else that I felt was demeaning or just plain rude. So this is one of the important issues that I have been mulling over. Let me know what you think. Have you had any similar experiences while traveling abroad?

     
    • Nancy Lowry 10:42 am on October 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Melissa – What an incredible conflict, and you wrote about it very movingly, thoughttully, respectfully, and clearly. I have no answers, but perhaps you might want to pose your questions again with the woman who commented at the table. or someone in your group that you trust. Nancy L [and Dover]

    • DougReilly 4:20 pm on October 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Melissa,
      Thanks so much for posting this, it’s very well written and thought provoking. There are no easy answers to your questions. Interhuman relations in the same culture are complex enough, let along putting a language and context between people. I think you handled the situation with thoughtfulness and care. If you met someone in the US with such attitudes, you wouldn’t pause over cultural considerations or because you just met them, necessarily. Why would it be different suddenly? This is the hard thing, balancing relativism and our innate sense of right and wrong. But I think that’s okay, cross-cultural dialogue is not always going to be smooth sailing. If it was, I don’t think either side would learn much. You’re not there to become Vietnamese, but better understand both the cultural context and the individual variations. And understanding often takes questioning or even challenging. What will the dissonance you provide as you refuse to go along with sexist ideas going to accomplish? Hard to know, but it might have been the first time anyone disagreed with the guy in question. Who knows if that will make him think…Anyway, thanks again for the post, it’s a great window into what it’s like to truly cross cultures!
      doug

    • sallyintaiwan 2:30 pm on November 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      So glad to hear you post this! On one hand, it’s certainly interesting to hear of the differences in ways of thinking about the roles of men and women in the family, society, and relationships. But I, like you, can’t get past being uncomfortable with certain “norms.” On the same subject, I’ve been told matter-of-factly that Taiwanese men are simply uninterested in and not attracted to “western women.” The reason for this being they are considered too independent, too stronger willed… at least that is the way it’s been put to me. I think your question was appropriate. It doesn’t sound like an attack, it sounds like an inquiry—simply a means for you understand a way of thinking a little better. I actually would have like to hear their answers!
      And by the way, I’m glad to be considered independent and strong-willed (:

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