wow: amazing!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

One life. One planet.

This project blog is soon coming to a close, seeing as summer time is almost here. Over the course of this semester, I've covered many issues - issues concerning both individual and broader cultural identities (not neccessarily saying that there's a difference between the two). What I've discovered, is that I have more obsevations, opinions to voice, and, well, just a bit more knowledge than I actually knew I had.

I've discussed issues that influence a human's "individual culture," and have have analyzed many people and occurences in the world around me; but, in comparison, I've said little about "my" individual culture, or, rather, what I see my culture becoming in the future. And, to tell the truth, It's not really something I'm sure about.

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The one aspect of my culture which is definite, is that it's constantly expanding - expanding in many many ways usually, although sometimes shrinking too. By that, I mean that I'm always learning more, and making more contacts. Yet, as time goes by, even though I incessantly gain more interests, friends, and knowledge, I also occassionally loose interests, or forget knowledge. And that, I guess, is because people have to find what suits them best, then focus on those sources from which they draw the most inspiration, or can relate to and apply to their own lives the most.

For example, when I was young I wanted to grow up to own a candy store. (But, that's not what I'm majoring in at college.) The country I wanted to see most was India (now I have about ten that could tie for first place on my top priority "list to visit"). I used to know some basic Spanish, but have quite learning it, somewhere along the way, and have forgotten much of it. (Now I'm debating whether I'll take it up again and become fluent, or start trying to learn a whole different language, or do both!)

I'm trying to think of which place, in the the U.S. or otherwise, I could see my self spending the most time in the future. If I were to ever live on the West coast, then it would be in my best interest to brush up on Spanish. If I could see myself spending substantial time in any part of Europe, then it would be best to learn a European language. It's a tough question, since I really have NO idea where I'll be after college. I'd considered teaching English in Japan for a while. And, though I have many Japanese friends, after thinking it over long and hard, Japan wouldn't quite be the right environment for me (to live in anyway - although I'd love to visit). I've been thinking that perhaps it would be more interesting to explore something a bit closer to my heritage, though, like a Czech/Slovak or Scandinavian country. Or, maybe I'll explore some new places, that I havn't yet formed an interest in, thus far.

Rather than try to define my CURRENT culture - I think It'd be more effective to list many of the things that significantly contribute to it.

First of all, is family contributions. Together, my parents are mostly Norweigan, Czechoslovakian and Polish, with a hint of German and Sweedish. Most of the heritage influenced cultural traditions I grew up with are Norweigan ones. That doesn't mean, however, that I'm uninterested in the other parts of my heritage. I'd really love to look much much further into the more Czeck/Slovak and Polish parts of my family's history, and really get to know that part better. (and learn more about those country's cultures) At Christmas my Aunt had been telling me about our Norweigan ancestors and something about their connection to the Slovakia/Russia border area. I'd like to hear more from her about that. . . Since my Mom's side is Norweigan, and my Dad's side is Slovakian, this suddenly revealealed connection highly intrigues me.

Secondly, college life influences my personal culture. I'm so fortunate to be a student and to have had the opportunity to learn all that I have. I've taken classes that expose me to knowkedge from all around the world. And, I've also made friends from all around the world. Through conversations with them, I've gained insighs into their cultures, and the issues facing their countries - and lots of other information that I otherwise never would've learned.

Lastly, my personal interests have influenced my culture - practically since the time of childhood. As a kid I was always interested in other peoples from around the world, and would dream of world travel for hours on end. I've always had a love of ancient things, and an itch to travel and explore. Maybe that's why I loved climbing trees, playing treasure hunt/buried treasure games with a hand drawn map, and why, in early middle school, I stayed up till all hours so I could watch Star Gate SG-1 and Relic Hunter. Oh yeah, and as a little little kid, I watched "Land of the Lost" (the 1991- not 1974! T.V. series) every Saturday morning.

Nowadays I. . . oh where could I start? I love tea and coffee from all over the world, am inspired by Asian philosophers like the Dalai Lama and Ghandi, absolutly love Irish music (like the Cranberries and Enya), like foreign films and historic movies, eat foreign foods, cheer for other countries in the olympics, collect post cards, listen to reggae, and that's just the beginning. Other cultures have also affected me in much deeper ways - sometimes to the point of where I begin to feel as though another culture were partially my own. The physical cultural environment that I was born into makes up but a fraction of what MY OWN culture truly is. Really, culture is something we're all free to choose. If something from one culture doesn't fulfill our needs, then we can replace it with - or add to it - something derived from another.

In conclusion, I hope everyone feels that each and every person can make a difference. We have one life, one planet, one universe, and each and every one of us needs make sure that we use all three wisely.

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No on ever gained true happiness by sustaining themselves on ideas of others alone. Our true moments of inner fulfillment com from the times when we can reach a self supplied realization, or else find our OWN meaning in the words of another. We can take an inspiring idea, apply it in a new or personalized way, and make it our own. we can take new ideas from others, combine/compare them with old ideas from others, as well as our own thoughts, and use it all to collectively heighten the clarity through which we view our world. That's what makes life so exiting. Our understanding of life is forevermore being deepened and redefined by, and through, the interaction of our mind with the world around us.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Technology - Taking a Wrong Turn.

I's hard to tell, in a world so highly connected by technology, what the future of all the world's cultures will be. I see technology as accomplishing both good and bad - though I think it's coming clear that the bad will outweigh the good.

International communication/entertainemt (especially telecision, movies and internet) have become increasingly dominated by the U.S.. There are mixed feelings about this all around the world. Some countries welcome all things U.S., but most countries are upset - and desperately trying to limit wastern influences in an attempt to preserve their own cultures. As things progress, the number of countries fighting westernization increases.

And what about Americans? Do they care whether or not other countries are becoming westernized? I do, and many others do, yet, apparently, there are many who DON'T care as well. Unfortunately, there are probably some T.V. stations that could sit back, watch the whole world become one global U.S. and not let it phase them in the least.

I, however, want to do more than just rephrase the given concerns which repeat themselves again and again in countless news reports and textbooks. I want to explore the real life side of this topic, and analyze accounts of how these changes affect people, and how people are fighting them. Thus, before you read the rest of this essay, you should first read this .

This article describes the Indian film coorporation Bollywood, which initially modeled itself after and gained inspiration from the United State's Hollywood. Said so plainly, this appears to be a first class case of westernization, but, after reading a bit further, it becomes clear that Bollywood fights westernization rather than adhere to it.

Firstly, Bollywood films have practically no resemblance to western films. The ideas, music, etc. in all of these films is distinctly Indian. And, the fact is, Bollywood puts out about 750 (which is two and a half times) more films anually than Hollywood does. As the article points out, this comes as a big surprise to many Americans.

So, how does Bollywood produce so many movies? It's very simple - they keep production costs down. And, Indian films are gaining popularity all around the world. I have some personal experience bases verification of this too. I have a friend from the country Morocco, in Africa. And, according to her, Indian films are very popular in Morocco. Thus, when we were assigned to watch an Indian film for a class, we were both very exited: me because I'd heard about Indians films but never seen them, and her because she'd seen many and loved them already.

As the article points out, many Indian things (one being Yoga) are catching on in the U.S.. So, perhaps one day the U.S. will become influened by Indian movies, much in the same way that other countries are influenced by our movies right now. Such reversal would be a nice change. It would create some balance. I did hear, though, on one news report that some Indian movies have been tested already and have failed in the United States The news report basically said that it was because their style was too distinct from our own. If that's truly the case, then all I can say is "Good for them!" It's very refreshing to see a case where another culture doesn't feel pressured to conform to westernized entertainment styles.

While this has been an example of a case in which a Eastern country has prevailed over westernization, other countries are often not nearly so successful. Many countries see such a high intake of U.S. movies and T.V. programs that they have to place restrictions on what percentage of their T.V. programs/movies are Amercian versus what percent is local.

And, while the article concludes itself with a list of positive effects that globalization has had on the U.S., it doesn't tell much (or anything really) about the overbearing unbalanced effects of the U.S. on the rest of the world.

Here is a small paragraph about one negative influence the west is having on Asia. Asian countries are adopting Americanized diets. Therefore, they are losing their culturally distinct and traditional foods, and the health of Asia's younger generations is decreasing as a result. (for those of them who choose a more westernized diet at least.)

In conclusion, the term "Westernization" is often used intercangeably with "Americanization." And, Americanization is also affecting other western countries. I'd mentioned earlier in the essay that many countries have to place restrictions on what percentage of their T.V. programs/movies are Amercian versus what percent is local. Surprisingly, as I heard in a class the other day, on such country being forced to enforce such restrictions is Canada!

Friday, April 07, 2006

City vs. Town

I've noticed, by talking to my Japanese and Malaysian friends, that they often have polar opposite views - when it comes to preference between living in a city versus living in the country. Now, before I name these apparent differences, I must clarify that they do not apply to all people I've met from either of these two countries. Not at all!!!!!! For example, I've met some Japanese who view cities in the way that I've noted many Malaysians do, and vice a versa. The distinction I'm about to make is not at all fact, but rather, just an observance I've made on multiple occassions. And really, the main object of my facination is not a perceived cultural difference, but, rather a possibe variation in the tone/urban atmosphere of these two countries' metropolitan centers.

In Summary, I've noticed this: Many Japanese students from large cities dislike rural living conditions and would prefer to live in a larger city, whereas many Malaysian students that I talk with (from large cities) would prefer to live in rural environment, closer to nature. Soon, I was asking my self the question - What is it about the city life in these two countries that makes Japanese wish to return to city life, while Malaysians wish to escape it?

I can't say that I know all too much about the cities in either country. I can only say that I know, for sure, quite a bit more about Japanese cities than I do about Malaysian cities. Quite a bit. But, I assure you, I won't get very in-depth about anything I don't know very well. Thus, about the only thing I can do is name some facts about both, and perhaps you guys can then formulate your own conclusions.

The common Japanese city, from what I've heard, is very compacted. I've heard it said by friends (ones who've either lived in a Japanese city or visited one), that you can find everything you need to live within one block - or even one subway/train station!!!!!! I've also heard that the city streets are relatively safe to walk, even for women walking solo at night! (in some cases). Overall, crime rates in Japanese cities are comparatively low to those of U.S. cities. Also, I've gathered, from looking at pictures, that interior and exterior architecture is quite appealing.

In Japan, there are also many heath and comfort related commodities readily available in cities. Japanese restaurants go to great lengths to ensure the healthyness of the food they serve their customers. Whether they do this out of genuine care or just because it brings in more customers, I could not say. I can only note that it makes healthy decisions drastically more convenient for any aspiring customers. Furthermore, Japanese cities have highly extensive, efficient, and affordable public transportation networks. You can get wherever you need to be without the hastle of parking ramps, gass stations, and traffic jams.

The use of public transportation, I'm sure, decreases overall pollution output several fold. And, even if there were more pollution, it wouldn't concentrate over Japan. Because Japan is an island, wind from the ocean blows away all the smog that'd otherwise hang around the small country. This keeps the air perpetually fresh - or at least fresher than, say, the equivalent of our. . . Chicago, Illinois.

Closeness to the ocean, of course, also grants Japan access to a seeminly endless variety of plants, vitamins, fish, and other seafoods. Thus, even in cities, I would guess that people can find fresh and varied ingredients with little effort. This variety of ingredients allows a wider range of food making options. But, I've already described and extensively praised all the varied flavors of Japanese food (in my previous blogs). So, next, now, it's on to what little I know of Malaysian cities.

Malaysian cities are, according to this web page, different than Japanese cities, yet very nice. Keep in mind, though, that this is a tourism page.

Her is an article about air pollution in Malaysia caused by deforestation. Since this is a news article, just know that it may not be there anymore when you click on it. News articles are sometimes posted but temporarily. This article though, I believe, tells something VERY important. It's extremely short, and reading it may imply a LOT about why many Malaysians highly value nature: they are losing it!

Besides, the increase of smog in cities (due to decreasiing air filtration previously provided by forests), and the smoke produced by forest fires that flourish ( especially with the lack of rain that comes from deforestation) could easily make cities fairly misserable. The forests are prized and beatiful, and they're being cut down in the process of industrialization. So, if the growth of a city you lived in was causing the forest to be cut down, and that, in turn, was making the city a miserable place to live and breath - well then. . . you probably wouldn't think too much good of cities either.

In conclusion, it is very possible that the place you live, and the factors affecting that place, can and will affect your opinion of other comparative/contrasting localities for as long as you live - and where ever you go. If you live in a highly convenient city you will possibly value any city in general for being such. Though, if you live in a city where you're choked by smog that constructions of it's like are responsible for, you may view other cities as potentially guilty of doing the same (in the future if not already). If you were surrounded by dissappearing forests you would also gain a sense of forests as having "time limits." Therefore, you would get an ingrained sense of immediacy - to enjoy the forest while you still can, being painfully all too aware of just how fragile and succeptible to exploitation they truly are.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Your Personal Lexicon (Interview Included)

In my class: The English Language (a beginning linguistics class), we were discussing how each person has a "personal" lexicon. A lexicon, by definition, is about the same thing as a "vocabulary" of words. A lexicon is the full range of words available for use. Every language, dialect, and person has their own lexicon Many factors contribute to the fomation of any lexicon, but the lexicon of a single human is unique, in that it grows according to the owner's willingness to expand it, and the areas which recieve the most attention. . . well, those all depend on the the individusl spesker's own interests and/or environment.

I've done a lot of brainstorming for this project entry and have become convinved that it will be VERY difficult to single out just a few examples and scenarios The material is endless! Every person I've met in my life would make a good example - as would I myself. My own vocabulary, I'm sure, reflects something of my "personal culture."

A good example of a background influenced lexicon is my mother's. I'd never given it much thought before, but my mother does use a few words which are distinct - not words used by others. Most of them are slang words, or phrases, or words used only in a joking context, albeit they reflect her background. She loves to, for example, say "ya ya bet ya," when she does a comical impression of the stereotypical though non-existant (in reality) speech of Northern Minnesotans. The reason she has fun with this, though, is due to her Norweigan heritage.

My grandma (whose grandma cane here from Norway, and who actually has command of a quite impressive lexicon of Norweigian words) has a great Scandinavian influence on her family. Because of her, we have developed the tradition of making lefse for every holiday, buying sven and ole gag gifts (such as joke books) for each other, and now I'm even enrolled in a college course focussed on the Scandinavian region - purely for self interest (it fulfills absolutely none of my major, minor, or liberal education requirements).

Anyway, back to my mother's language. She often uses phrases that reflect not only the era she grew up in, but also a few from my grandma's era, that she picked up from my grandma's use of them ( one such phrase is "to get your goat" - which means to "get the best of you" or "to bother you.") I first heard her use this phrase when I was a young child, and I had no idea where the heck it came from, or what it meant. Though, I've heard it enough now that maybe, by the time I'm her age, I'll have made a habit of using it too.

The concept of having a personal lexicon is pretty universal. Below, is an interview where I questioned a friend of mine. My friend is Chinese, but she'd lived in Japan since about middle school, and is now a college student - studying here in the U.S. Anything in (.....) is not a quote - just an explanation. Also, this will not be a formal interview - since the person I am interviewing is a good friend of mine.

Me - Do you ever notice people in the city Osaka useing words that aren't use in other Japanese cities?

Her - Ya, of course. IT's called Osaka dialogue. In Japan we have lots of dialogues. Osaka dialogue is used in Osaka province. The city Osaka is just one of the cities in the province.

Me - What are some of those words, translated into English?

Her - They say "you know," but not as a question. (It would be the same as here when we say, for example, "You better wear a coat outside, cause it's winter, you know.)

Her (continued) - One most used Osaka diologue word is "yanen". (She then described to me how this is just something that they add, in Osaka, to the end of a sentence where a person is telling something. The word has no real translation into English.)

Her (continued) - In Osaka dialogue they use the word "hen." It neans "not" or "to deny." The correct way to say it is "hei" but in Osaka they say "hen."

Me - Do your parents ever use words that only their generation used? - words that the new generation doesn't use?

Her - They use words that are names of foods, that the younger generation doesn't eat anymore. So, the younger people don't know what those foods are.

Me - I've heard that sometimes young people in a few foreign countries will copy the rap and hip hop lingo of the U.S.? Do young Japanese ever copy the rap lingo from intercity areas in the U.S.? For example: hey, wasssup, yo yo yo?

Her - Ya, some young people say that, say "Yo." It's a common greeting.

Me - Would you ever catch your parents saying that?

Her - No, only between young people.

Me - Did you ever confuse your parents by using a slang word when you talk to them?

Her - Usually when I talk to my parents I talk to them in Chinese. There isn't much Chinese slang.

Her (continued) - Maybe new technilogy they don't know. Like, if we say "burn cd" in Japanese, they won't know what that means.


Thus, weather we use words from a past era, a distinct regional dialect, our ethnic heritage, or any other area of particular interest to us, those words are clues that we unwillingly put forth - clues that say more about us than we ever could known. We often make unconscios assessments of peoples based on the language they use. This topic, of course, as broad as it is, could just as easily be suited for an entire book as it is for a blog essay. But, the main idea of it is something we can all think about - something that we maybe havn't thought about that consciously before.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Feast of Nations

Last year, I had a really great time at the Feast of Nations. What the Feast of Nations is, is an even where the international students on campus have a chance to make food from, wear clothes from, and do dances from their home countries. (Or just do funny skits, sing a song. . . . or pretty much anything they want to do on stage.) American students can participate too.

It's really an amazing event. You get to see the attire of, and sample the food of many many many countries. You buy tickets for one dollar each at the door, and then you can get a small ptate of food at booths from any countries of your choice.

Really, American food is pretty flavorless and redundant - compared to the spice and variety of foods from some countries. American spices are salt and pepper. Ah Ha ha ha. Here's a brief summary of a few of the foods I saw and tried last year.

China - It was at China's booth that I first tried tofu (for the very first time.) Before that, I hadn't really even known what it was. I love it now, and have even made it for myself once or twice (though what I make isn't half as good as what I ate there! ) It is a white fluffy substance made from beans, that is usually cubed and marinated, and then either boiled or fried. The thing that makes it a delicacy, is that it soaks up flavor sooooo well! - like nothing else does!

Finland - The most interesting booth was Finland. In fact, it was so so interesting that I didn't even dare to try the food there. The food was some sort of flatbread or cracker with a sort of cheese, and shark meat on it - and the other thing was cubed sheep's brain on a toothpick. Now, don't take what I say as truth, because I could have heard the lady wrong, but I'm pretty sure that's what she said it was. That was just too unfamiliar for me. I probably should of tried it. I bet it is very good, or else they wouldn't eat it!

Russia - Ooooh. This was my FAVORITE booth! To this day, Russian pancakes are still one of my most favorite foods that I can ever remember eating. EVER! The pancakes themselves are thinner than our usual ones, yet thicker than a crepe. They are absolutely delicious! But, the best part is the variety of ingredients that you can roll up into them! Here are just the choices that they had at the booth: sour creme, mashed potatoes, diced apple pieces in sauce, other fruit fillings. Ooooh, there is so much more out there than just syrup! I like how they roll up the pancakes so you can hold them in your hands too. In America, where finger foods dominate, how come we still eat ours on a plate . . . with a fork? But then, what do I know. Maybe Russians eat their rolled up pancakes with forks too, and I was perhaps just an American who didn't know how to eat them properly!

Japan - Some of my Japanese friends has a booth with sushi. I didn't get any though, because I had tried it once before, and was too busy trying all the foods there I'd never seen! (Although I love Japanese food!)

Nepal - This booth, I think it was, had an orange spicey sort of potatoe dish, which was very good, but I'm not sure how to describe it.

Malaysia - Here, I got the snow cone of my dreams! It was a ball of shaved in a cup with chocolate, peanuts and sweet and condensed milk on the bottom, and fruit (like pineapple and strawberry) and chocolate drizzled over the top. It was an amazing dessert - fit for one of the best and definately the most diverse meal of my life.

Wasn't sure what to write

I have to say, when I sit down to write one of these project blogs, I sometimes don't really know where it will go. But, as we've learned in class, that is how blogging is supposed to be, so I suppose it's all right. I usually wouldn't mention anything about the writing process itself in my blog, but since it's nearing the end of the year, and it's past midterm, I'm due for writing a few more "reflective" posts - as I'd contracted that I would do.

So, it just so happens that this is one of those times when I don't really know what to write. But, even as I physically type that I "don't know what to write," I'm beginning to form some ideas in my mind. This has often been the case - when I've written blogs for this class. Sometimes I go to the computer knowing exactly what I want to say, and other times - like now - I can't really think of much at all, untill I start putting words on the screen.

Also, I've noticed that the busier I am with school, the harder it is to come up with really good and blog worthy material. Maybe that's because I don't have much of a life to write about when I'm to busy to do much of anything but work. Also, it's hard to recall good material from the past when my mind is so preoccupied with the big garbled test, assignment, and due date filled mess of the present!

Hmm, I'm thinking of more things now - enough to fill a whole post. So, that means this is the end of this post - time to write on to a new one. My next post will be about the annual on campus event called the "Feast of Nations."

Well, now you know I come up with my blogs. How do you come up with yours?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Picture Tour

When you think about it - the world is a photogenic place. Really, our world is truly beautiful!

Below, is a picture of Ireland - a place I've wanted to visit for as long as I can remember. When I think of an Irish landscape, what usually comes to mind are brilliant green meadows and sheer seaside cliffs (like those in the movie "Far and Away").

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Below - is something similar to a "picture perfect" minnesota winter. Except, our snow hasn't been as deep as it had been in previous years. That is sad - since there can only be one cause for that. This picture, though, could also be said to resemble a European or Canadian countryside. I can't tell, but it appears as though there are mountains in the distance.

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See thae canyon below? It would be nice if I were exploring that canyon, rather than typing this assignment. In the Northern Eastern part of Minnesota, you could definately find a canyon very similar to this one. (especially when you get closer to the canadian border, or the more rocky Lake Superior region of the state.

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The following two paragraphs show how you can find such pictures (on your own) to use for postings in your own blog. So, for anyone in the world who happens to be wondering, and happens to stumble (I mean surf) onto this - here is something I hope you find helpful........ . . . . . . . . .

Her is a link to a place where you can find pictures that are availible for use. Some of them have partial rights reserved though, but you can also find lots of pictures that are 100% in the public domain. After you save a picture into your computer, you can go to Image Shack to get a code that you can paste to your blog. Use the code titled "Hotlink for Websites" or, for a smaller picture, the one titled "Thumbnail for websites." That code will then magically appear as a picture!

When you paste the code onto your blog, you need to be in the "edit HTML part"

If you ever have to put a code somewhere where an actual box for your url is provided [URL= ],chose the "Direct Link to Image" code then earase what is already in the url box - or the code will say URL twice at the beginning of the image, and the image will not show.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Always Learning

It seems like I'm always learning something - learning something new about other parts of the world, through what I'm told by friends, family members, travelers, and what I read and see on t.v. Movies could be counted too - except that I'm usually hesitant to believe a lot of what I see in movies - since movies tend to reflect the views of where they are made.

Many people I know, as I mentioned before, come from places where it is common to be fluent in multiple languages. Most of them tell me they'll return to their home countries, after college (and perhaps a few years of work in the U.S. - since already having work experience when they go home can help them secure a job faster. Some of them are from countries with extremely competitive job markets). Some of them, however, are unsure of whether they'll live here in the U.S. - for the long term - or return to their countries.

I am surprised too, to find myself thinking lately, that I am not sure (at all) where I want to live. I could end up living in another state or, basically, even anywhere in the world. A handfull of years ago, I wasn't even considering the second option. Even though I was interested in visiting other countries, I just always assumed that I would live in the U.S.. But, now I'm not even sure of that. It seems that the more I learn about other countries, the less I want to live here.

I can be sure of one thing though - even if I do not end up living in another country - I will (for sure) want to visit other countries often (once I have a job and the money to do so - of course).