Posts tagged Japan

What?! March all ready???

We are half way through our semester and I have great students, one from Mongolia, another from India and two from Asia: China and Japan.  The last student has an interesting background, his grandfather went to Japan from his home of Korea.  I asked this student if he doesn’t consider himself part Korean…like we Americans think of our Nordic background or Italian or French ancestry.  No…he feel 100% Japanese which is puzzling to me.  I suppose because the Koreans and Japanese don’t like each other, especially after WWII, then you have to be distinctively one or the other, not a mix.  I love this student’s laugh, he is also a big guy for an Asian.

The Mongolian student is very quiet and is not too strong of a writing student. Based on where she has come from, I can understand why writing would not be her strongest suit.  She had a GREAT story about her grandparents.  Her grandfather fell in love with this woman but then he had to go serve in the Sino-Mongolian war.  He left behind this woman who had been promised in an arranged marriage to someone else.  She slipped away just before the wedding and lived in Ulan Baator for several years until she could meet up with her lover, my student’s grandfather after he had served his three years.  Her grandmother, as it turns out, had not let her family know where she was so she could marry the man she loved and NOT the one who was arranged for her.

I have another student from several years back who had a grandfather who fought in the Navy during WWII in the Pacific Ocean. He took sick and was brought over to a hospital ship but meanwhile when he was gone from his original fighting ship, it was attacked. Every single person died that he knew because of an explosion, he was the only person to survive that attack.  He lived with survivor’s guilt all his life but he did end up marrying the nurse who took care of him on the hospital ship.

Yes, I have wonderful students who are trying to learn APA formatting so that they can write more academic papers. The first assignment is always the easiest because I am asking them to describe someone they love and respect. Some don’t know their grandparents but have heard a LOT about them from others.  I feel privileged to be able to see into these lives of the GREAT Generation, no matter what country they come from.

The spring weather is very tempting to go out with not as much wraps on, I’ve been getting some great photos of sunsets and sunrises.  I’ll show off some of MY grandparents instead.  I have reason to be proud of both sides of my family. They were farmers and hard workers. These are both of my grandpas and my Dad on Father’s Day.

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Writing articles while I have time and “Unbroken”

Yesterday I wrote two articles for our local newspaper, today I have two more in rough draft form.  I am determined to get at least seven done out of the eight that I have planned.  Some of these articles are writing themselves and as if there is an outside force propelling me on.  That is a good feeling. I also did an interview of two educational administrators eleven years ago and I am using the text of what I videotaped to put together two articles about two very different people who worked alongside each other for a time.  They were very charming in their own way, one was the consummate extrovert, the other a studious but friendly gentleman. I met the latter’s son this past summer and he reminded me of the extrovert, so different from his father was he.

We are making our final plans to see family members while our days are waning in sunny Arizona.  We saw “Unbroken” last night and it was in a BIG theater with lots of people in attendance.  People clapped at the end out of a sense of relief.  We had all witnessed some frightful things about what the cruelties of war does to people.  Hate was personified in the Japanese prison guard called “The Bird.”  He seemed to enjoy his torture of the hero in the story who after he was freed at the war’s end went back to Japan to try and find all those who were part of the prison system he was under.  He met with all of them and gave them forgiveness but the person known as the Bird would not meet with Louie Z.  He did not want to be broken down by his forgiveness, who knows whatever happened to him.  Louie Z. died in his 90s but not before he returned to run with the Olympic flame in Japan which was a high point for him.

What a story of perseverance and eventual faith.  Louie went back to his Italian family in the U.S. after two years in the Japanese prison system. He eventually got married but he still suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome after what he had been through.  He was into drugs and alcohol until he went to a Billy Graham crusade.  The American pilot named Phil who had been in the life raft with him for over 45 days on the Pacific Ocean also survived the prisons in Japan.  He was a Christian and perhaps had some earlier impact on Louie.  His family were religious but he would have none of that until he heard the message about Jesus.  I’m glad that the movie portrayed that part of his story of what he went through but they only captured a part of it. My husband read the book and he claimed that it was much more about his return to civilian life and how he coped and changed for the good.  The life leading up to his days on the ocean and then two years of capture is just a small part of the whole, real life story.

I suppose Hollywood can only document so much in two hours of what was in the true story that Laura Hildebrand had written about Louie Zamparini (sp). I am glad that it was aired because watching about 20 minutes of previews showed that there are soooooo many other movies that are not worthwhile to even see. In fact, some are downright evil and dangerous to young minds.  Do people actually like going to these movies? Are there any good morals or inspiration to them?  With the movie “Unbroken,” there was the inspiration to survive and then to forgive those who had persecuted.

It will be interesting to see the other reviews on this movie.  This was only day two of it being out in the public.  I hope there is a sequel that will show the rest of Louie’s life.  He died just recently at the age of 90 or so.  What a victor and he would give all the glory to Christ.

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Kazakh “Marry” Christmas!

Who knew that 20 years ago I would meet the love of my life in Almaty, Kazakhstan!?  I had become at that point in my life decidedly single. I had trained to run the annual Twin Cities marathon, the fall of 1992 in Minneapolis to St. Paul as a kind of goodbye to my beloved Twin Cities.  I was in top physical shape and felt good.  Then I arrived to hot Almaty May 1st of 1993 and the next day I met my future husband. I didn’t know it at the time but HE did. He knew he was going to marry me and I put up quite a wall of resistance for about 8-9 months.  He kept asking me to marry him.  I’m glad Ken prevailed, he is stubborn in things like that.

We had a Christmas Eve wedding at my home church in Minneapolis and I brought over as guests a woman from Almaty, Tatyana Kazanina and a 16 year old Kyrgyz girl named Jyldyz.  Tanya was one of my bridesmaids and Jyldyz played piano and violin at our wedding ceremony and reception at Jax Café in north Minneapolis. It was a lovely day, I believe up in the 40s which is unusual for Minnesota in December.

I just wrote something on my Facebook about celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary and it was fun to get all the well wishes from friends from all over the world.  I especially liked what Nura wrote which I thought was so original, “Have a Marry Christmas!”  No one has ever used that play on words before with us.  I think it is brilliant and I told her so.  Leave it to a smart Kazakh to see that over native speakers of English!

Anyway, we are having guests over for Christmas day meal.  A Chinese guy with the Confucius Institute and his friend along with another family friend of ours.  I meant to have some of my former Korean students over along with my Japanese student.  She is already with her family in Japan and I didn’t get my act together to invite the Korean students. I suppose there is still time, I have five hours before the company arrives along with my folks.  I feel so blessed to have parents still they are very active in the community, my dad is 83 and my mom is 79.

Ken and I intended to watch our wedding video but I guess we deem it so valuable that we had forgotten that we had put it in our safety deposit box.  We will watch it on New Year’s Eve then.  Right now I have to keep working on my second book to satisfy the publishers by Jan. 2nd. So I can’t do too much holiday festivities.  I have the same word counts (350, 140 and 70 word captions) that are beastly, worse than deadlines.  When you combine the two, it means that I don’t have much of a vacation.  It also means I can’t go out x-country skiing in this beautiful snow.  Fortunately, it has been too cold so I haven’t missed out too much on that count.

In any case, I feel very blessed in our cozy home that my grandpa and great uncle built almost 100 years ago. I keep looking up all the facts about my hometown’s history that goes back about 130 years.  The turkey is baking in the oven, I need to make a pumpkin pie after I clean the floors and vacuum.  Yes, life is good on the Minnesota farm with cherished memories of Kazakhstan.  Right now that country, that is the 9th largest in the world, seems so far away.

Marry Christmas everyone!!!

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Power Distance in China between Males and Females

My husband and I just watched “Hope Springs” at the movie theater last night, it was rated as PG-13. I thought it should have been rated a bit more critically. I certainly wouldn’t want my former Chinese students to see it. They probably wouldn’t have understood the subtle humor in it.  However, it had great actors with Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep but the content was rather graphic.  The “power distance” created in this 31 year marriage was something to witness.

This next essay written by a young Chinese man shows his passion for all things Japanese.  He amazed me with his acumen, his attention to detail and he is only 15 years old!!!  I think he is fascinated with Japan because that is a topic left out of the Chinese history books.  So close to the war crimes of WWII and even earlier, China does not want to know much about Japan.  Yet, this student points out over and over again how much Japan has borrowed and used things from China.  Strange “power distance” going on between these two countries.

“In some TV programs, movies and dramas, Chinese females are always regarded as weak and obedient people who hardly have power to even disobey males or decide own fate. Chinese women have little power when they are communicating with males. This opinion is easy to be accepted since it’s believed that ‘Males have more power than females’ according to “Experiencing Intercultural Communication: A Introduction,” Fourth Edition by Martin, Nakayama in 2011(P.53). However, this is actually wrong thinking not only regarding recent China but also to ancient China. In fact, it’s very common for Chinese females to get many kinds of power as males. Females’ rights are always protected by laws or moral habit. For these reasons, when females communicate with males, there is little power distance between them in China. Because culture in East Asia is similar to each other such as China and Korea and Japan, I will also put forward some examples in Korea or Japan to prove my thesis.

It’s common for females to get as much power as males. In recent China, according to “Culture Shock! : A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette China” by Angie Eagan & Rebecca Weiner in 2011(P.69), ‘There is a lovely Chinese expression that says that women hold up half the sky’. This metaphor is quite good for it describes the truth correctly. Among people who I know, females usually are not only important money contributers to families but also money managers in families because many husbands must hand over their money to their wives. It’s not a social habit just appearing in recent years. In ancient China, wives had a nickname as ‘General Manager’(In Chinese it’s written as ‘掌柜’) which means wives are the economic manager of the whole family and the deep reason is that in ancient China silk or cotton textile made by females was always an important part of family income.

For these reasons, in traditional Chinese stories, we can often see a wife saying, ‘Think of how you will live without me!’ to her husband and even now we can also see such a communication situation. In such cases, most husbands will choose to be silent. The little economic power distance between males and females also leads to little power distance between males and females in communication situations.

Females’ rights are always protected by laws or habits. In recent years, it’s undoubted that there will be well-done law in East Asia countries which protects females’ rights. However, it’s hard to imagine that females’ rights are also protected well in ancient East Asia. As a matter of fact, in Ming Dynasty(1368-1644), according to the law, if a husband married two wives, he would be “exiled to places where is over 500 kilometers to his hometown” (In Chinese it’written as “流一千里”).

Females’ rights is also be of importance in Japan. According to Wuxuezuyuan (In Japanese it’s written as “無学祖元”)’s Buddhism education to females and views about females’ rebirths by Saku Wanatabe in 2011, “On the contrary of denying females’ rebirth in old times, Wuxuezuyuan admitted posibilities of females’ rebirth.” It means in Japanese monks’ points of view, females are equal to males. And according to one Japanese laws in Kamakura, (In Japanese it’s written as “鎌倉”) period (1189-1333) which named Joei Shikimoku (In Japanese it’s written as “貞永式目”), “When a wife divorces with her husband, if she make crimes, she shall not get her husband’s property. However, if she has no mistakes, her husband shall not regret to give her some of his property.” This law admits that husband’s property is not equal with wife’s property.  In addition, another law in this code was that “The right of inheritance of females is equal with males. Moreover, if one daughter doesn’t make serious crimes, parent cannot disinherit her. This law admits that rights of inheritance of daughters is equal with sons. These are both laws protecting females’ rights in property.

Females’ rights are also protected by moral habits. For example, widows and young girls are always regarded as people who need protection most especially widows, and people violating their rights usually will be punished promptly. It’s the same in Japan. For example, in an ancient Japanese historical book named Heika>(In Japanese it’s written as “平家物語”),there is a female samurai named Tomoe(In Japanese it’s written as “巴”). According to The Tales of Heika, “Tomoe was especially beautiful, with white skin, long hair, and charming features. She was also a remarkably strong archer, and as a swordswoman she was a warrior worth a thousand men.”(In Japanese it’s written as “巴は色白く髪長く、容顔まことに優れたり。強弓精兵、一人当千の兵者なり”). It’s not something imaginary. As a matter of fact, in ancient Japan, females usually received martial arts training because they were supposed to protect family with their husbands or brothers.

When females communicate with males, there is little power distance between them in China. For example, my father has told me some stories about his grandmother. When she talked with her husband, brothers, children or grandchildren, she was very serious and no on dared disobey her. It’s because she was the actual manager of a large family and she had her own property so she could influence the economics in the large family . In recent China, however, there are few large families now. However, females are still important managers in Chinese families. When my mother communicates with my father, she is at an equal situation to my father. And when my mother talks with other less powerful male family numbers such as her brother, he can only do nodding and saying yes. It’s the same situation among my classmates in China, a girl usually can control her boyfriend in communication well rather than always obey her boyfriend.

In conclusion, it’s very common for Chinese females to get many kinds of power as males and females’ rights are always protected by laws or moral habits. More importantly, it’s sure that there is little power distance between males and females in China. China is a lawful country not only in past but also in recent times. However, it doesn’t mean that China is a highly-hierachical society. Females communicate with males without any power distance is very common in China and East Asia.”

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Kazakh language conflict on the ski slopes of Kazakhstan

I very rarely feature another blogger on my own blog since I have so much to write about Kazakhstan. Besides, I don’t want to lose my blog traffic to someone else who might write better than me. 8) Anyway, I’ve met a few of the other bloggers out there who focus on Kazakhstan, both in Almaty and Astana.  I’d like to meet this American(?) expat woman Clare who wrote about a little altercation she had recently on the ski slopes of southern Kazakhstan.

At least I thought part of Clare’s blog was a good followup of our conversation with Annemarie last week about Kazakh culture and what values are being taught. We discussed this very dilemma in class the other day.  See what you think should be done to re-educate the Kazakh parents of children who are snooty about knowing Kazakh language and put down their own people or foreigners who don’t know the language of this country. This also happened in western Ukraine years ago where my husband tried to speak Russian to a Ukrainian. He was rebuffed by the Ukrainian person who pretended not to hear my husband.  The Ukrainian man refused to communicate with anyone who didn’t know the Ukrainian language.

Here’s my point, how can the Kazakh people expect everyone (expats and their own people included) to drop all that they know (English or Russian) and have studied for years on end and then to know and speak Kazakh language immediately? They can’t!!! These things take time and training AND a huge dose of patience.  By the same token this is true of the current Kazakh teachers all throughout Kazakhstan. How can they know all three languages (mandated by their government to be well versed in Kazakh, Russian and English) and then know their subject material PLUS to be computer literate?

The stakes are high because most of these Kazakh teachers know that they are teaching the future of their country. They are doing the best they can with what they know, but I believe they need more professional development training and quickly!  But I digress…I think also the parents of these children need some re-education or training in teaching their children manners and civility.  Look what is currently going on in Japan with all the heartache and death and destruction of earthquake, tsunami and now nuclear complications, there is no looting of stores.  Many things may be broken, damaged or people missing in Japan, but there are morals and characters that are broken in Kazakhstan that need fixing.

Here’s what Clare wrote:

“…What was not a lot of fun was the waiting in line.  Granted, waiting in line is never fun.  However, this was a quick moving line so it was pretty painless. Or rather, it should have been pretty painless.  However, there was a group of local kids (middle school age) who felt entitled and kept cutting the line.   Not only were the skipping the line—thus making it much longer for other people—they were doing so and splitting up families or groups that were traveling together.  So, for example, I always wanted S or his brother to be there person right behind me.  I knew that if there was a problem and they were going to ram into me, either of them would have thrown themselves to the ground or done anything humanly possible to no risk injuring me or the baby.  I did not have this confidence in random strangers.  But, these kids, would try and cut in the middle.

We watched several times flabbergasted.  For the most part, I was not actually tobaggoning.  I did a few runs, but mostly I watched everyone else and took care of the stuff.  We also knew a lot of other Americans there that day: people from work, my boss and his two girls, our friends we had traveled with.  Finally, I got fed up.  The kids tried to cut inbetween S, his brother and the daughters of my boss.  Using my best Russian, I explained that there was a line and they were expected to go to the end.  They decided to cut right behind us.  Luckily, someone else (another American I know with better Russian than I) saw this happen.  He went and got the kids and marched them to the end of the line.  You know, to make sure they knew what a line looked like.

Next round, the kids cut again.  This time, they had a MOTHER with them.  She told them to pay no attention to me.  She told them to only speak to me in Kazak as I spoke Russian.  She, the mother, the supposedly responsible adult was blatantly telling her children to disrespect others and treat the system. This is the attitude in Kazakhstan that drives me absolutely nuts.  Yes, people are selfish and generally act in self interest, but refusing to stand in line, illegally parking my car in because you don’t want to park ½ a block down, and doing anything to push down another to get something first drives me nuts!

After watching this, it was hard to blame the children. This is what they are being taught.  And, it is frustrating.  It was particularly infuriating for the children in our group who also wanted to go more times, who also didn’t want to stand in line, but who had learned in kindergarten and at home to respect others.

After a while, the mother disappeared. The kids continued to push in line.  At one point, I physically put my big pregnant belly between them and cutting between my bosses kids and my husband’s family.  When one pushed his way around me, telling me that he spoke no Russian (same kid who had spoke to me in Russian an hour earlier), I picked him up and put him behind me, forcing him to wait.  I guess, in some ways, I became the bully.”

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Charity Bazaar Choir and More of “Where’s Walda?”

I have more photos of people, parties and gatherings I have attended in this last week, a busy one for sure!  Next week will be even busier but for now I want to show photos of our annual charity bazaar last Sunday.  That was a highlight for many of us because we didn’t know how we would do in sales, it all came together in the very end.  I had gotten about ten or twelve boxes of books from some American friends of ours who are leaving Kazakhstan for good. They are moving on to warmer climes. (that could be about anywhere compared to Astana (;-) Their welcome donation of books was a good jumpstart for what we did at the bazaar.

What fun to hear the Christmas music done by the choir. They sang in Latin, Kazakh, French, Ukrainian and other languagess. So many nationalities were represented at this bazaar. What was funny was to see a sign in Russian at the table for Netherlands. For just 100 tenge you could get a photo shot for simply standing next to a Dutch girl in costume.  I wonder how many takers bought in to that sweet deal?  Wilma? And, where’s Walda?

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Hungry Buddy Bears Visualize “Whirled Peas”

Fun to show off what Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, has for its tourists this summer until the end of July.  At least 125 Buddy Bears are standing with arms up in the air close to the Baiterek tower, from as many different nations painted brightly with motifs or themes that typify that country.  I can’t understand the cubism of blue and beige squares for Canada’s bear I blogged about yesterday.  The U.S. bear shows the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty, which I featured several days ago on this blog.  Japan has the one red dot against a pure white bear and some other Japanese calligraphy.  China has a bear wearing a silk jacket with dragons on it.  I don’t understand why the Kazakh artist chose the blue colors to represent Kazakhstan but to each artist, his own. I was wrong about the one I have today that looks Uzbek, it is really from Tajikistan.

I am showing off more of these bears today, see if you can guess what country they represent.  Our bumper sticker of “Visualize Whirled Peas” got a lot of mileage where we used to live in Washington D.C. area when Ken and I were first married.  I could see people in my rearview mirror pointing their finger up and whirling it around and smiling as they imagined whirled peas or “world peace.”  Let’s visualize along with the Buddy Bears world peace with all nations.

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