One-Child Nation

Anyone living in America will probably agree that our nation kind of sucks. But the truth is, Americans have no idea what it’s like to live in a truly terrible country.
Until recently, many Asian countries really suffered. China began suffering over-population and risked the depletion of all their resources. In the early 80’s, the Chinese government enacted the One-Child Policy, stating that it was against the law to have more than one child.
The extremity to which this policy was enforced was barbaric. Women were abducted and forced to be sterilized. Midwives and doctors performed thousands of abortions. And, as Asians valued male heirs over females, often baby girls were placed in baskets and abandoned on the sides of the streets or in market places.
In America, the idea of selling another human is considered inhumane and referred to as “human trafficking.” In China, these people were referred to as, “matchmakers,” for helping abandoned babies find homes, by selling them to orphanages. Their goal was not to make money, but rather to save lives. These people were arrested and sent to jail.
A decade after the enactment of the One-Child Policy, Chinese orphanages opened up to international adoptions, which assisted in saving the lives of thousands more babies.
Because of the nature of these adoptions, the chances of ever being reunited are near zero. And as an adoptee, this movie, this look into another side of adoption startled me. I have always operated under the belief that parents put their children up for adoption so that they can have a better future. And while I know that that is not always true, I had never once entertained the idea that parents might be forced by their government, to the extent of having their children taken away, to be adopted just to survive. My own cousins, adopted from China during this policy, both happy, healthy, beautiful girls. I can’t help wondering if this policy played a part in their being adopted…
In 2015, China realized that with so few children there would be too few to take care of the elderly, a custom in many Asian countries. They declaired that at the beginning of 2016, families would be allowed, and encouraged, to have two children.

Mad World

Just watched this movie, Mad World, and it was really good.
Working where I do, mental health isn’t a mystery to me. I understand it, but for a lot of people, it is the invisible illness. People would rather not acknowledge it. And sometimes, entire countries fall into that category.
This movie, about a Chinese man with Bipolar Disorder, shows how other countries views on mental health can be extremely different from ours. After being discharged from a mental health facility, he is unable to reintegrate into society. He is seen no better than a murderer released from jail.
But, first and foremost, this movie is about a man’s struggles with Bipolar Disorder. Having been discharged from the facility, he moves in with his estranged father. The tension between them is obvious. The father, while wanting to make ammends for his absence, does not know how to care for and understand his son. We see the, “just take your medications,” and the, “why can’t you just TRY to be happy,”s that are the textbook responses of someone who truly doesn’t understand mental illness.
Through out the film we are peppered with the young man’s memories of taking care of his ailing mother. Abandoned by his brother and father, he alone was left to do it. And it is extrordinarily difficult for him. Perhaps burdened by the tradition of respecting and taking care of elders, he refused to place her in a home. Just as the father is burdened with the choice of sending him back to the facility, and risk their relationship forever, or continuing to try and care for him himself.
This film opens one’s eyes a little bit into the world of mental health. How it’s not easy, how disruptive it can be to one’s life. And how important it is to have love and support for those who suffer from mental illness.

Spaghettis of the World

I love Spaghetti. I love noodles. While mindlessly scrolling through Pinterest (filled with food ideas), I kept seeing unique Spaghettis from other countries.

So I decided to go on a Spaghetti Journey..

Persian Spaghetti

Special ingredients: Cinnamon, and the crispy bottom (that I failed at achieving) called Tahdig.

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Makaronia Me Kima

Greek Spaghetti

Special ingredients: Allspice, Clove, and Cinnamon.

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Dominican Spaghetti

Special ingredients: Adobo, Sazon, and Evaporated Milk.

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Cheat Day

Chinese Spaghetti

(Sauce came from a jar.)

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Filipino Spaghetti

Special ingredients: Hot Dog, Banana Ketchup.

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Espagueti Verde

Mexican Green Spaghetti

Special ingredients: Roasted Poblano Peppers, Cream Cheese.

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Haitian Spaghetti

Special ingredients: Smoked Sausage, Habanero.

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German Spaghetti

Special ingredients: Bratwurst, German Beer, Stoneground Mustard, Apple Cider Vinegar.

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Spanish Spaghetti with Olives

Special ingredient: Green Olives.

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Napolitan Spaghetti

Japanese Spaghetti

Special ingredients: Hot Dog, Ketchup.

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Mama’s Spaghetti

Special ingredient: Love.

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What did I learn?

Buy your Spaghetti noodles from Costco.

But also, I loved just how unique and different these countries do “Spaghetti.”

Thus ends another world tour through food.

Raven and the Box of Daylight

White Raven, a trickster

“Raven decides that he will try to do something about the darkness, for himself and for the world. As he follows the Nass River, he encounters the Fishermen of the Night..”

“Raven knows he will not be welcome in his raven form and devises a plan to transform himself into a tiny speck of dirt. His plan is to float down the river into the drinking ladle of the Daughter of the Nobleman at the Head of the Nass River. That is how he will sneak into the Clan House.. Raven is ingested by her and she becomes pregnant..
Raven is born in human form.
Raven grows into a precocious and precious human boy..”

Three carved boxes containing grandfather’s most prized possessions: the stars, the moon, and the daylight. Raven asks for the boxes and is told he cannot have them. He cries and cries for the boxes and eventually his grandfather relents. He gives his grandson the boxes, which he immediately opens. The stars, moon, and daylight, slip through the smoke hole in the Clan House and take their places in the sky..”

“As the stars fill the sky, and the moon takes its place, light begins to fill the Earth. When the sun takes its place in the sky, bringing daylight to the world, it is frightening for all those who have been in darkness. The people are able to see the world around them for the first time and are startled. Those wearing animal regalia run to the woods and become The Animal People. Those wearing bird rigalia jump into the sky and become The Winged People. Those wearing the water animal rigalia become The Water People. Those who remain strong (and stubborn) become Human People..”

(Taken from a Tlingit culture exhibition in the Tacoma Art Museum, Museum of Glass. Based on an old Tlingit story. Glass art by Preston Singletary. )

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

This morning I finished the book, Kim JiYoung, Born 1982, by Cho Nam-Joo. A novel that paints a picture of the long standing, extreme gender inequality in Korea. While, a little underwhelming to me, as I had just finished a memoir that painted the same picture, this novel was extremely well received after it was gifted to the Republic of Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in.

Truly, flawlessly, completely, she became that person.

In a small, tidy apartment on the outskirts of the frenzied metropolis of Seoul lives Kim Jiyoung. A thirtysomething-year-old “millennial everywoman,” she has recently left her white-collar desk job―in order to care for her newborn daughter full-time―as so many Korean women are expected to do. But she quickly begins to exhibit strange symptoms that alarm her husband, parents, and in-laws: Jiyoung impersonates the voices of other women―alive and even dead, both known and unknown to her. As she plunges deeper into this psychosis, her discomfited husband sends her to a male psychiatrist.

In a chilling, eerily truncated third-person voice, Jiyoung’s entire life is recounted to the psychiatrist―a narrative infused with disparate elements of frustration, perseverance, and submission. Born in 1982 and given the most common name for Korean baby girls, Jiyoung quickly becomes the unfavored sister to her princeling little brother. Always, her behavior is policed by the male figures around her―from the elementary school teachers who enforce strict uniforms for girls, to the coworkers who install a hidden camera in the women’s restroom and post their photos online. In her father’s eyes, it is Jiyoung’s fault that men harass her late at night; in her husband’s eyes, it is Jiyoung’s duty to forsake her career to take care of him and their child―to put them first.

Jiyoung’s painfully common life is juxtaposed against a backdrop of an advancing Korea, as it abandons “family planning” birth control policies and passes new legislation against gender discrimination. But can her doctor flawlessly, completely cure her, or even discover what truly ails her? -(back cover)

While in America it is difficult to understand the cultural difference of gender roles in Korea. The Confucian influence of the patriarchal society dating back to long before America was even colonized. From birth, women were already at a disadvantage. Boys were prized above all, to be successful, carry on the family name, and bring honour to the family. Girls received less, as everything must be provided to the male heirs. Women were discouraged from attending higher education. The role of the woman was to get an education high enough to secure a good marriage, then they were expected to give up everything and become a housewife. Often a woman’s mother-in-law would live with them. It is the role of the woman to raise the children, clean the house, do the laundry, cook the meals, and care for the mother-in-law. It is back breaking work and women suffered physical ailments.

Reading Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 was not as shocking to me because I had just read the same story right before. It is a not uncommon story for Korean women. But it is bracing, because Kim Jiyoung was born only a few years before me. Were I still in Korea, would my life mirror these stories I just read?

Shortly after the book was released, they made a film version, starring Jung Yu-mi and Gong Yoo. While the book focuses mostly on Jiyoung’s upbringing and what shapes the person we meet at the beginning of the book, the movie acts almost as a sequel, focusing primarily on Jiyoung after we met her in the beginning of the book. As with all film versions, a lot of liberties were taken. While mostly staying true to the story, I also feel like they lost sight of the message. The biggest problem was, changing the psychiatrist from a male, in the book, to a female, in the film. It flips the dynamic and changes the feel of the story..

To Kill a Tiger: A Memoir of Korea

A couple of days ago I finished this book. I had read it a few years ago, but felt compelled to reread it now. A lot of reviews put it down for its weird combination of memoir and history lesson, but that was what I enjoyed the most about it.

The memoir takes place from around the 50s on. It talks alot about the politics of the time. It was all kind of confusing and hard for me to grasp. For much of the 1900s, Korea was not its own country. Growing up in America, I don’t know what it is like to live under the occupation and rule of another country. I also don’t know what it is like to fear even harboring thoughts of dissent against the current governmental rule.

One concept I was able to understand, and which was heavily prominent throughout the book, was the extreme suppression of females.

Since the age of 6, the narrator did not understand and rebelled against the idea and practice of men being superior. Her father, raised under the practice of Confucianism which stressed the superiority of men, was burdened throughout her life with an independent mind. Secretly, but passionately opposed to the dictator-style ruling of the country, he was arrested and tortured multiple times, an occurrance that happened to many during that period. He lived in fear and poor health, turning his nose up to well paying, high position government jobs, and saw his family struggle to get by.

The practice at the time was to give the best and most to the men. For her disaggreement, Jid was often abused severedly by the males of the family, and her mother never defended her. It was this way in all Korean families of the time. Most people know the strong desire of an Asian family to produce a male heir. Most people don’t know the extent of the privilage they receive.

As the book progresses and Jid grows up, while still strong in her belief in gender equality, she begins to truly see how much her parents loved her, and the struggles they faced just to survive. She was able to see that while the men were fed first, sometimes her mother sacrificed her portion to ensure that Jid also was fed.

It is embarassing to me, how little I actually know about the country I was born in, despite my pride and love for it. This book gave me the ability to experience some of it though. Through her life, and her experiences.