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  1. GCD Adventure- Cambodia Trip 2014

    March 23, 2014 by 15robidouxk

    In February 2014, I had the chance to participate in the Cambodia trip, which around 30 grade 11 students at YIS embark on every year.

    On the trip, we did a variety of activities, one of which was building a new school building for a school in the rural poverty-stricken area of Pursat.
    When I joined the trip, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I knew that building the school would involve manual labour in the heat but I had no idea the extent of physical strain it would demand. Thus, before the trip, I set myself a simple goal of trying my best to preserver through and complete the manual labour that was asked of me during the construction activities.  We also had a meeting with the school nurse about ways to keep safe in the heat and sun while doing strenuous activities. I learnt that is important to take frequent water breaks before you feel too tired and even remotely thirsty to prevented dehydration and heat stroke. I also learnt that 60SPF sunscreen does not necessarily protect you against sun for 60 minutes, thus it is best to reapply sunscreen at least every 30 minutes, especially when sweating.

    When we first arrived in Pursat, and started the construction work, I was stricken by the heat and the weight of the rocks and sand we were transporting to lay down as the school building’s foundation. It took me a while to get used to the strain in the intense heat and sun, however, I tried to bend my knees and use my legs to lift instead of relying solely on my back and arms for strength. I also decided to work together with my classmates and the locals, as collaboration made the tasks seem more manageable and the peer encouragement helped us all keep working.

    Throughout the week, I gained physical skills by laying the foundation of the school building and also learnt practical skills. For example, one day I was helping the local women brace metal bars together in straight lines, using metal wires to weave the posts with the square braces. At first, it was very hard for me to master the skill as the weaving technique required practice and too many twists could mean breaking the wire, while not enough twists could leave the post attached too loosely. In the end, I was able to effectively weave the wire and repeat it many times at a more rapid pace.

    Making posts to be used a s support beams after being coated with cement

    Making posts to be used a s support beams after being coated with cement

    Thus, the school construction proportion of the Cambodia trip was an adventure for me, as it allowed me to gain many physical skills and construction skills. It was also an adventure for me since I never partook in construction before and I had challenged myself to use muscles that I am not used to straining.
    If I were to repeat the experience again, I wouldn’t have changed a thing! However, in the future, I hope to take part in similar projects and be able to develop even more manual skills, while helping others, as we did in Cambodia this year.

    For more on the trip visit this post. 

  2. Cambodia Trip 2014

    March 4, 2014 by 15robidouxk

    This year, I decided to participate in the Cambodia Service Activity, which involved periodical planning meetings as well as sustained commitment to fundraising in order for each participant to raise a minimum of 50000yen for the cause. It also entailed a trip to Cambodia in February to contribute to service alongside the development agency Hope International.
    Through this activity, I hoped to gain an increased global awareness concerning issues such as poverty, water access, sanitation and education. I also hoped to be able to contribute positively to the Cambodian community in Pursat, by helping out at the orphanage, and with the various building projects. Next, I wanted to develop my communication skills and challenge myself to learn about Cambodian culture, by effectively overcoming the language barrier in some way and get the most out of the experience.
    During the fundraising period, I hoped to develop collaboration with my peers who are going on the trip and remain fully committed to the fundraising even after having attained the minimum goal. Furthermore, I hoped not only to raise money, but also awareness of the issues we are working towards solving with the Cambodia project within the YIS community.
    I hoped this project will increase my motivation, organisation, global awareness and most of all willingness to help others, as it will be a chance for me to experience what I only have read about or learnt about in class, to see poverty and poor sanitation and low development through my own eyes in areas most deeply affected by the issues.

    On February 2nd, 31 students from the Grade 11 set out on a journey to Cambodia for the well-awaited service project. Spending most of our time in rural areas of Pursat province, we participated in activities such as school construction, orphanage visits, English lessons and other community service project initiatives.

    Increased awareness of your strengths and areas for growth: While partaking in the service project part of the trip (our time in Pursat), I became more aware of my strengths and limitations. First of all, I realized that I could work on my strength more because I had some difficulty with the heavy lifting while constructing the school building. I was also struck by how advantaged of a life I live, without realizing the predicament of the disadvantaged worldwide. I learnt that I shouldn’t take what I imagined to be simple commodities such as a functioning and readily available sanitation facilities, clean clothes, varied meals and thorough education, for granted. I was also affected when we visited a family who had recently obtained a well, and saw the wooden shack that used to be their living quarters. It housed 10 people and was barely the size of my own room. Through this experience, I gained first-hand understanding of my luckiness through direct comparison with others’ lifestyles. I hope to also try to not take any luxuries for granted in the future and work even harder towards offering others these luxuries I enjoy everyday.

    Undertaking new challenges: While in Pursat, we were working to build a new school building at a rural school, since the previous one had been destroyed by termites. I had never partaken in construction, especially manual construction, before so it was a physical challenge for me to haul the rocks and sand for the foundation as well as to use the “elephant’s feet” apparatus (a tree stump between two sticks used to pound rocks and flatten them) to even out the foundation. I overcame the challenge by using my strength in the most effective way possible, taking frequent breaks and collaborating with the school children or other YIS students. Another challenge I faced was language barriers. Seeing as none of us on the trip spoke Khmer and the students at the school and the orphans had in general very limited English skills. I tried to overcome this by learning simple phrases and words in Khmer, such as hello, what’s your name, my name is, the numbers, thank you, etc. as well as not becoming flustered if there was a misunderstanding or something we were unable to express with sign language.

    Working collaboratively with others: Throughout the trip, there were many instances of collaboration. For example, when laying the rocks for the foundation of the school wing, I worked with the local children to carry heavier rocks as a team and with the group as a whole to create a production line, passing rocks and sand along. Collaboration was also evident when we played with the children and struck a balance between learning their games and introducing some of our own. There were also less obvious instances of collaboration, such as sharing supplies such as sunscreen, water and insect repellant between the YIS group. Raising money to pay for the building supplies also constituted collaboration with the YIS community as well as with Hope International, the NGO we were working alongside.

    Show perseverance and commitment: I think I showed perseverance to this activity through trying to be the most open-minded possible and attempts to acquire a deeper understanding of local culture (through interaction with the Cambodian locals as well as through making the most of our visits to cultural and historical sites). I felt increasingly committed to the cause as the project and the trip progressed, especially when I got the chance to visit the home of one of our new school friends as well as partaking in two overnight village stays. I also was glad to see our fundraising perseverance and commitment pay off, by viewing first hand exactly where our donation had gone.

    Engaged with issues of global importance: I think the project speaks for itself, showing the group’s contact with global issues such as poverty reduction, access to water and sanitation, improvements in education, etc. Interacting first hand with people living in contrasting situations to my own helped me gain a real and genuine understanding of these issues, which are often treated superficially and on a general scale when dealt with in classes or from a secondary view, abroad. Before the trip, we separated into sub-groups and presented to the whole group about social, political and economical situation in Cambodia, which furthered our knowledge of the causes and effects of issues such as poverty and water scarcity, which continue to plague the region. During the trip, we also discussed about the situations of the people living in the communities we were visiting and working with as well as the positive consequences of our project. I also found the trip enriching to my academic subject, geography because I was able to draw many connections to theories and concepts we had touched upon in class such as global disparities, water scarcity, poverty levels and reduction strategies, population demographics, development, etc by viewing some issues discussed with my own eyes.

    Consider ethical implications: There were instances on the trip when we had to consider ethical implications of our actions. For example, I considered ethics when playing with the children at both the school and the orphanage, by trying to include everyone in the games so no one was left out. To be honest, this was a challenge because I had grown closer to some children so it was tempting to interact more with them more… When reflecting on the trip, I asked myself whether it was really beneficial for us to help construct the school, given the locals are more experienced and may be able to complete the project faster and more efficiently. I also wondered whether we disrupted the classes by playing with the children or acted unethically by staying in such nice lodgings while helping such impoverished communities. The ethical issue that made me ponder the most once we got back was going to the markets to buy souvenirs, etc. with money that could have been poured into the cause instead of my own unnecessary consumerism. Thinking of this now, I feel a bit guilty and in the future, when participating in similar activities, I hope I will consider ethical implications such as these more carefully.

    Develop new skills: Through interacting with locals in both the community we were providing aid to as well as the communities hosting us, I developed new found communication skills, by increasing my understanding of methods for overcoming language barriers as well as remaining open-minded and eager to learn a bit of the local language and to further understand the culture and society. I will be able to apply these social skills in a myriad of situations in the future. Furthermore, I developed physical skills through manual work that I am unaccustomed to doing, everyday we were in Pursat.

    In conclusion, the trip was an amazing, enriching experience and exceeded my expectations. It’s hard to put into words how much I feel attached to the cause after participating in it. The amazing people we met are no longer just “people we help from the comforts of our homes and pocketbooks” but are now our true friends and peers. I hope to see the progress of the school once the building has been completed and hope to remain committed to the cause we worked for in whatever ways I can. I also hope to continue to expose myself to new cultures and service activities in the future and be able to help people who are disadvantaged, both at the local and international level.

    Lastly, I would like to thank all the organisers of the trip, all my peers and friends who I got to work with on the project as well as all those of you who contributed monetarily, by donating stationary, etc. and supported the initiative. I would also like to express the deepest gratitude to the HOPE staff in Cambodia (in particular Li for having organised and made our service possible) as well as all the amazing people we met in Pursat. Finally, to my all my new friends Chian, Sly Noo, Sly Li, Pi Sai, Pi Nan, Yut, Eva, Tukkulisaa, Sokhran, Fong, Mao, Sly Mai, Chiiitaa, Goon, and all of you who I didn’t catch your names: I hope happiness continues to find you well and thank you for being so kind, welcoming, friendly and funny; you are truly what made my trip exceptionally special.

    Please take a look at the pictures below, as they can tell you a lot more about my experience than I can express in words!




  3. TOK-Human Sciences

    February 26, 2014 by 15robidouxk

    “How can we judge whether one theory is better than another in the human sciences?”

    To decide whether one theory is better than another in human sciences, one must examine the theories in question through appropriate methodology. For example, theories could be tested through experiments and quantitative statistical analysis. Since experiments in the Human Sciences are often influenced by bias and individual perspectives, experimentation can lead to high uncertainty in results. Measures to increase accuracy of the results could include double-blind experiments(to avoid question(er) bias) and using large sample size of demographically diverse subjects (to allow generalisation of the results). When theories are tested using methods similar to those listed previously, the credibility of theories may increase. Knowers can also use ways of knowing such as logic and reason, to conclude whether the theory is feasible, realistic and accurate or not.
    Knowers can also judge a theory based on their personal knowledge and past experiences. For example, when examining theories in the human sciences through the lens of religion, one may judge one theory as better due to the fact that it fits better with the beliefs encompassed by the knower’s religion. On the other hand, one may judge another theory as better, if examining it through the lens of memory, if that person has past experiences which might confirm its accuracy in the knower’s mind.

    Due to the fact that Human Sciences is an Area of Knowledge heavily influenced by bias and personal knowledge and perspectives, it is never possible to deem a theory better than another with absolute certainty, however analysis using various methodology and WOK allows some level of evaluation of theories. This has implications influencing our understanding of the concepts presented through Human Sciences as well as other areas of knowledge.

  4. Guest Speaker- Emi Tamaru

    December 10, 2013 by 15robidouxk

    Today in TOK, we had a guest speaker (alumni and artist Emi Tamaru) talk to us about art and how it applies to knowledge. I found it very interesting to be able to hear from an expert in the field of art as well as to learn more about Emi’s work, etc.
    Three things I got out of the visit were:

    •  Art is not only about the process, it is about the perception of the viewer. As Emi mentioned, it is important to create art that your audience will understand and appreciate in order to effectively communicate your message.
    • Contrary to the popular belief, art is not simply the emotions of the artist. For example, Emi’s piece Red Light Phone Box incorporates the emotions and stories of sex workers in order to portray an aspect of their lives which may be different to common stereotypes.
    • Through Emi’s explanation of her work, I found out how art does not only fit into the arts knowledge framework, but also extends into other areas of knowledge such as Natural Sciences, Ethics and Human Sciences. Artists must consider ethical implications when selecting clients and artists to collaborate with. Linking to the methodology of ethics, artists must “extract morally significant aspects using reason from the perception of the current situation”. In Emi’s case, if she does not agree with a client’s ethics, values or management system, she will not work with them. Another example of the overlap between art and other areas of knowledge would be the Human Sciences; One of Emi’s works, Kawaii Klinik explores how art can be used a therapy for trauma patients.

    Check out Emi’s website to learn more about her and  her work.

  5. News-Knowledge, Language and Perception

    October 19, 2013 by 15robidouxk

    I recently read an article on BBC news entitled “India’s abandoned women struggle to survive“, which talks about a growing population of widows in India with no access to adequate pension programs nor familial care. The article begins by outlining the situation in Vrindavan, Northern India, where thousands of widows seek help from charities after having been abandoned by their family members and unable to support themselves through meagre government pensions. The author then goes on to describe the dire situation of the widows, forced to take part in religious chants or begging to gain end’s meet. The women often live on a single meal a day, and have little access to services, proper housing and sanitation. Finally, the article is concluded by highlighting the issues presented by India’s growing aged population and the costs required if social security systems were to be implemented.

    The first knowledge claim made by the author in the article appears when Kannan claims that ‘ageing women are more vulnerable than men’.  Next, another knowledge claim is presented: ” the lack of a nationwide national social security system poses serious risks to the economy”. Finally Kannan makes yet another knowledge claim at the end of the article stating “[N]either the government nor the private sector have any simple solutions to offer. And for some, it may already be too late.”

    After reading the article, I considered the central knowledge question raised by this piece of news. One possible knowledge question that arises is “To what extent should governments be responsible for improving elderly care and pension programs?”. Based on the central knowledge question, I also came up with 4 other associated knowledge questions:

    Associated Knowledge Question 1- How effective are government programs in providing care and financial stability for those unable to work?
    Associated Knowledge Question 2- 
    To what extent are family members responsible for elderly care and obliged to fulfil that responsibility?
    Associated Knowledge Question 3-
    In what situations can governmental elderly care programs/policies be seen to increase/decrease public health and family cohesiveness?
    Associated Knowledge Question 4- 
    To what extent does integration of females in the workplace reduce the amount of elderly struggling to survive?

    BBC new is a known to be a very reputable news source. In my personal experience, I have had most teachers recommend BBC as a reliable and trust worthy news source when required to research current events or read news articles. However, there recently ahs been a lot of controversy in regards to the news source’s reliability, with many claiming that BBC has a left-wing preference and presents news with a left-wing point of view. Here is a link to an article which describes BBC’s reputation and recent debate over its sources of bias. The particular news article about Indian widows slightly reflects the left-wing bias through the language and tone used in the article and video. For example in the article, the quotation “But the number of old people is rising steadily. The UN warns it could triple, reaching 300 million within the next 40 years.[...]With families struggling to care for their elders at home, the plight of these women is likely to become increasingly common.”, shows the BBC’s slant. The news source concludes without evidence that a growth in elderly population could result in further problems, however fails to consider the possibility that an increase in elderly population may encourage or force the government to implement care programs.  In addition, the video demonstrates the aid being provided by Maitri, a local NGO in a very positive light. However, is the work by Maitri sufficient if the widows are only receiving a single meal a day? Another example of BBC’s left-wing stance in the video is the mention of how widows “come to Vrindavan to recive charity while they wait to die”. This claim is quite gruesome and is not supported by any statistics indicating the widows want to die. The sentence is also attached to negative emotional connotations, which may manipulate audiences to adopt a left-wing stance; implying that such social inequalities be abolished immediately by the Indian government.

    On the other hand, I feel as though the article is also quite informative and somewhat objective, as it presents relevant statistics and is succinct and factual, meaning there is little room for opinion in the piece. Furthermore, in the article, there is a small section of comments by a KPMG official:

    “One step could be, can you establish a subsidy mechanism for screening or providing some medication for these people? That could have a certain cost,” says Amit Mookim, head of healthcare at KPMG.”Then, is there a mechanism to take care of certain procedures, operations or surgeries which is then contracted to private players? That is another cost.”Then there is the end-of-life care for which the infrastructure doesn’t exist – so how much infrastructure can you build?”

    The inclusion of these comments, as well as quotes from people who demand improved social security demonstrates BBC’s objectiveness. They first show the side of the story which claims governmental and familial efforts are insufficient,then subsequently show the opinion that instilling elderly care policies is not currently feasible in India.

    Based on these examples, I believe the article reflects the BBC’s bias in a minor way. However, since the bias is so subtle in this particular article, I believe it does not hinder the comprehensive communication of the story.

    In determining the extent to which governments should be responsible for elderly care, the associated knowledge question of whether or not family members are responsible for elderly care would have to be considered. In order to arrive at a conclusion about the central knowledge question, various case studies from different countries would have to taken into account. The effectiveness of various governmental policies currently implemented in different parts  of the world would have to be examined. Also, the ethical implications of forcing taxation and/or familial care upon a population would have to be considered. Finally, all other associated knowledge questions as well as their implications would have to be considered before attaining a conclusion to the central question.

    In conclusion, based on my current knowledge, I believe that governments should be responsible for providing adequate healthcare, financial aid and pension programs for the elderly population as despite no longer being able to contribute productively to the workforce, the elderly still have the basic human right to access to healthcare, sanitation and nutrition, in other words the right to live. However, depending on the nation and circumstances, policies may differ in different places based on the specific issues and needs of that a particular population. In order to determine an effective program for a specific region, the current situation, culture and infrastructure as well as budget limitations would have to be considered.

    The knowledge claims and questions that arose from reading BBC’s article made me think about a similar article I had recently read. This article talked about a 94 year old woman in China who sued her children for emotionally and physically neglecting her and refusing to take care of her in her old age, after a new rule was instated obliging children to care for and frequently visit their parents. The article draws many parallels to the situation in India and further considers whether the elderly are a responsibility of the government of of family members, and can be read here. The article about the situation in China offers an example of a country where governments require  children by law to take care of their elderly parents. This led me to consider the ethical implications of such laws and of the absence of such laws and the human rights and freedom of choice issues it raises.

  6. On Language- TOK

    October 12, 2013 by 15robidouxk

    October 8th and 9th 2013

    This week in TOK, we talked about how language affects our perception of the world as well as how it shapes the way we think. We watched many interesting videos such as this one (which compares different languages and the demands for the speakers)  and this one (where Stephen Fry discusses the impact of language manipulation in Nazi Germany) as well as reading an article by Guy Deutscher, exploring the relationship between language and perception of the world. In addition, I read through this article, which outlines a study conducted on language, which examined people’s ability to grasp the concept of counting in a language where there are no words for numbers above 2.

    In response to the week’s session, I started reflecting of ways my own language impacts my way of thinking. I also brainstormed a few thoughts I considered:

    My Brainstorm

    In Guy Deutscher’s article, Deutscher begins by outlining a paper published in 1940 by Benjamin Lee Whorf, where Whorf claims that Native Americans’ knowledge is limited by their language. Whorf supports his argument by claiming since the aboriginal language has no specific word for “fall” or “stone”, thus they cannot know of these two concepts. Whorf’s claim seems logical on the surface, however, when examined more closely, its merit is limited. Deutscher rebukes Whorf’s claims with an example of an Australian aboriginal language, Guugu Yimithirr. This language is a geographical language which indefinetely uses compass directions and has no words for left, right, front and behind.  Just because there is not a specific word for a concpet in a certain language, does not mean the speaker will be unable to grasp the concept. I this is quite an agreeable counter-argument and I think it applies to me very much. Being a native French and English speaker, I have surely come across  words which do not have a direct equivalent. For example, in French there is an adjective, frilleux or frilleuse which basically denotes someone who is sensitive to cold, who feels cold often and easily, or someone who feels cold, despite the temperature being relatively warm. Although there is no specific word that is equivalent in English, I think English speakers are quite capable of understanding the concept of someone being sensitive to the cold.

    I think this is the issue with poor translation, and the reason why some things are said to be ‘lost in translation’. If every word is translated literally and exactly, you end up with a series of words, which do not necessarily work together to form a coherent sentence, which communicates the same overall message. In short, every word in the sentence may have the same meanings however the sentence may not carry the same meaning anymore. If we look at the tool GoogleTranslate, I think this is very clear. The online translator can only translate words individually as opposed to being able to translate ideas, which is why the translation is rarely accurate. This made me consider the way in which I learn Japanese, and my habit of searching for an equivalent word to the English one I am trying to translate. Instead of searching every time for an exact word, which may or may not exist, it would be useful to consider the connotations, meanings and concepts tied to the word rather than the word itself as well as what message I am trying to convey at that particular time.

    Thus, I agree with Deutscher in that language does not restrict what we can comprehend or what we can think about, and there lacks conclusive evidence of the contrary. However, I do believe one’s language creates boundaries for the speaker in terms of their way of thinking, which impacts their perception of reality.

    As Lera Borodotsky says in her presentation, different languages demand different things from their speakers, leading to different ways of thinking. For example, in French each noun has attached to is a gender and for a sentence to be grammatically correct, the noun must be defined as masculine or feminine. In English, speakers do not need to constantly consider the gender of objects when speaking. Someone in class argued that just because a gender pronoun is attached to objects, it does not mean that they perceive the object as having specific feminine or masculine traits. His argument makes sense, however I disagree with it because I think unconsciously, speakers of languages which require gender specification always have to think of gender, leading to a somewhat divided view of the world, with objects fitting in to categories of masculinity and femininity. Personally, I think that since I speak French, a language with gender differentiation, I always pick up on the genders in situations (not always necessarily concerning objects) and remember events in that way. For instance, when recalling trips, I always seem to remember a clear image of who and what were there. I believe that having to think about attaching gender to everything makes me focus on objects/people in a given situation. Also, if I were to recount this trip to a French speaker, it would require me to utilise details (therefore, I would have to have picked up on them and remember them)  about the genders of my companions and/or of objects/places, as opposed to if I were recounting in English, where I wouldn’t have to be so specific about the people/objects/places.

    This lead me to wonder to what extent learning a new language could change your personal view of reality and whether it has the same amount or kind of impact as mother tongue languages do. I also thought about whether the differences would be more or less significant depending on whether the language is being learnt remotely or locally. I think that a new language can in fact alter one’s view of the world, as it adds another way of thinking. I think this is especially true if one becomes fluent in a new language. Learning Japanese at has helped me to pick up more in terms of tone and subtext. Since there is no defined future tense in Japanese, as opposed to French and English, the sentence ‘hon wo yomimasu‘ ([I] read a book OR [I] will read a book) can be interpreted in different ways. Also, the subject is omitted, making the sentence less direct than it would be in English. This ambiguity forces speakers to focus on considering the context and forces listeners to interpret this based on tone and other parts of the sentence and the framework within which the sentence lies. By constantly considering context, learning Japanese has made me to look at groups of sentences as a whole to find meaning, as opposed to examining individual sentences. This has caused me to notice tone and subtext portrayed by speakers more. Although I feel as though learning a new language has added a dimension to my way of thinking, it has a lesser impact on my perception than my mother tongues, because the habits and way of thinking about events/things/concepts have not been ingrained throughout my whole life and throughout all my experiences. I also believe learning a language locally has more of an impact than remotely because learners get the opportunity to live the language. If the new language is integrated into your daily life, you will constantly hear it, see it and need to use it in both formal and informal real, unscripted situations. As you begin to grasp the language gradually, as you hear it you might start to see the world how speakers of that language do, and begin to perceive reality ever so slightly differently.

    In conclusion, although I don’t believe language limits our knowledge, I do believe it plays a key role in our way of thinking, comprehending and ultimately our behaviour as well. Although it may be argued that our personal knowledge is unaffected by subtle differences in emphasis in languages, I believe that the type of language one speaks as well as the number of languages one can speak affect the way we think and perceive reality, thus impacting our personal knowledge.

  7. TOK; “We see the world not as it is, but as we are…”

    August 31, 2013 by 15robidouxk

    “We see the world not as it is, but as we are.”- The Talmud

    Talmud’s quotation claims that humans view the world based on who their personalities and perspective as opposed to the way the world is, in a factual context. Several points counter this quotation, however several also support it.

    First of all, if the quotation is examined in a literal context, it claims that ‘we’ see ourselves in absolutely everything in the world. It could be argued that it is impossible to physically see yourself in everything that you see. For example, if one were to look a at a rock, one would not physically see themselves, but instead see the rock, which is made up of billions of basic atoms (whose presence has been scientifically proven, notably by the phenomenon of electron emission spectra). Secondly, since the ‘we’ is very vaguely employed, it could possibly mean to include individuals, groups, all of humanity,  or everything that makes up the world. If the ‘we’ is interpreted in the broader fashion, we must see this world the way it is, since ‘we’ essentially make up the sum of the world.

    On the other hand, it can be argued that our perspective of the world is entirely based on our personal experiences and identity, causing our view of the world to be unique and personal. Perspective develops as knowledge grows in an individual, thus individuals will have different associations and their view will constantly be changing. For example, when I was younger and I found out about my first expatriation to Turkey, I was reluctant to leave my home country and move overseas, due to the fact that my perspective was very close-minded as well as the fact that I had only been exposed to my country’s culture and other cultures in my family. However, after moving and having an amazing experience, my perspective completely changed and by the time of my family’s second expatriation, I was excited and willing. This is evidence that we see the world as we are, because I saw the world as scary, since I was afraid of the unknown, and then as I became open-minded and interested, I viewed the world as interesting and inviting.

    Furthermore, the Talmud’s quotation can be supported by the argument that as we grow up, we are taught to think in a certain way and believe in certain things, depending on where one lives, one’s native culture, their religion, their education, gender and language. Due to these factors, people may associate different people/things with their own experience, which changes their perception. For example, someone who loves dogs may associate these animals with happy childhood memories or positive experiences related to dogs, however another person who may have been attacked by a dog, or had a negative experience with a dog may associate dogs with viciousness or fear. In contrast, some may argue that before one has had an experience to create an association with what they may be looking at, they see it as it is. Although this raises the implication that previous experiences may influence the initial perspective and way of looking at the thing/being in question.

    With several arguments in agreement and opposed to this quotation from the Talmud, the extent of truth in the statement it is quite debatable. I believe the main implication of this debate is the question of how we can be sure whether what we are seeing is reality or a biased version of it. How can we possibly objectively evaluate this question with assurance, without (whether consciously or sub-consciously) injecting individual perspective and view? How can we judge whether our answer to the last question is true or perceived?

    Some interesting links:  This TED talk also raises a point that I found very interesting; “The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is. It’s that you can see the world as it isn’t”.

  8. Art Reflection- Creative interpretation unit

    May 31, 2013 by 15robidouxk

    For this art unit, we were trying to find out where good ideas come from and also explore. We had to create a series of compositions relating to one chosen theme and one of the pieces had to include some sort of pattern.
    Firstly, we chose a couple of themes and brainstormed about our chosen topics. We also had to research pictures, artists and anything else related to our theme. After this, we continued researching artists, styles, mediums and cultural influences to include in our pieces.
    Out of the two themes we initially brainstormed, we had to research one and explore it in depth. I chose conflict and beauty, however in the end went with beauty because I felt that beauty encompasses conflict as well as a broader range of other areas and also because I thought I could relate to beauty more than I could to conflict, which would make my work more personal and creative.

    In my research book (which can be seen here), I tried to document all sorts of random pictures I found while browsing books or the internet. I then wrote down different aspects of the works that I liked or disliked, or simply commented on the work. I also researched different cultural influences. for example, I started off by researching Turkish art (for instance the traditional, arabesque and ottoman patterns used in the pottery, tapestries or other decorations) because I used to live in Istanbul, so I felt a personal connection to the culture. I also researched Japanese art (and patterns used in traditional dress, lacquer-wear, etc) given I currently live in Japan. Finally, I researched the Russian matryoshka dolls, as I was interested in these and used to play with them as a kid, so I could personally relate. As for artists, I researched several different ones such as Xiaogang, Nara, Moriyama, Klimt, Uekawa and Berber. In my work you can see influences from some of these… I also contacted Canan Berber directly and got to learn a bit about her art and inspirations, mediums as well as artistic process. This helped me to realise better where I can get my inspiration and also helped me consider different ways of personalising my art. For movements, I researched mainly art nouveau because I did not know much about it, liked the arabesque and decorative side of it and also because it incorporated pattern often. I did not really research mediums in depth, which I think I could have done next time to improve my work, instead of blindly approaching my pieces without having practiced or familiarised myself with the medium. Finally, throughout my research I thought about what beauty means to me and considered the positive and negative aspects of the theme and how I could convey this through my art.

    The first piece I made was a large sized acrylic painting of a head being fished out by a fishing hook (drawn with ink pen).

    1st piece- acrylic paint

    For this piece, I used a simple harmonious cold colour scheme that comprised of pastel hues: baby blue,purple,pink,peach, and of course, white black and grey. The features and head are enlarged, disproportioned and centred on the page, with the fishing line on the right third line.  The eyes are also located on the bottom third of the centre division.

    Yoshimoto Nara’s work (Source)

    Close up of shading

    The message I was trying to convey in this piece was: identity and how by searching for perfection and to conform with norms, people can sometimes lose their own identity. I was also trying to communicate the ‘dangers of  fishing for compliments’. By choosing to have the person’s mouth and hair omitted, the identity remains anonymous so the piece becomes less of a specific portrait and more of a message.

    Close up of eye

    The missing mouth also represents how the person’s voice has been silenced by trying to fit in. The blank

    Hooked eye

    background represents loss and dullness. The enlarged head also shows how the compliments have inflated the mind of the subject. The hook in the eye represents how the person is still feeling pain, yet can;t show it because they’ve no mouth. The fact that the hook is black creates a contrast with the pastel colour scheme, which bring focus to it and makes it seem more ominous and precise.

    Shading at side of head

    To achieve the blends of colour and shading used in my composition, I created my own acrylic colours and blended them on the paper using my fingers, as opposed to a paint brush. I also used water to help everything mix together. I think this created a unique texture that along with the purple shading and non-realistic face helped to add to the surrealist feeling of the piece.
    I this piece, I particularly inspired myself from Yoshimoto Nara and his non-realistic style as well as light colour schemes and large heads.



    The second piece I made was a very small (1/8 of A4 paper) charcoal monochromatic portrait of a person looking out a window. The small size and anonymous person of the piece once again deals with identity and shows how I find beauty in simplicity.

    Close up of the face

    The piece cropped the top of the person’s head and many of her features were blocked by a scarf.

    Close up of the scarf- details a bit vague

    I think the best part of this piece is the nose, because I built up the shading slowly and it was detailed. The weaknesses here are that I rushed too much with the shading and applied too much pressure on the pencil,

    Details of the hair- showing how I pressed too hard

    which instead of gradually darkening the region, actually created a shiny and glossy finish that was then hard to erase, blend, modify, etc. Next time I work with charcoal, I would want to remind myself to work slowly and gradually build up.


    Details of the nose

    Charcoal piece

    The third piece I made was on a large cork board I found at my house. The board made an interesting background texture,

    Background texture

    a little similar to rice or sand, which connected a bot to the Japanese influence of the piece. I drew three small heads of ‘maiko’s and then used patterned paper stuck on to the board to create their bodies (kimonos). The

    Three Maiko

    maiko were very small and only occupied the bottom left section of the frame. I chose to leave a lot of negative space because I thought it might be interesting to experiment with the amount of negative space and the mood it gives. The small size made the maiko seem simpler, more elegant and fragile. It also made then seem more distant and mysterious. This was effective at conveying the message of beauty in simplicity and also beauty in cultures. To improve this piece next time, I would like to be more precise when drawing the maiko heads and deviated less with my pen to create smoother contours and less of a messy look. I would also like to make sure the maiko’s bodies were all symmetrical, as this would have fit better with the whole piece. It would also be interesting to experiment with different ways of creating the piece. For instance, using fabric or dyed rice grains to make the kimonos or using different backgrounds.


    Next, I made a patterned piece that had no negative space at all. I used a monochromatic colour scheme with sharpie pens and at the end added a touch of blue with  highlighter to create contrast and focus. In this piece, two heads can be seen, one upside down. I was trying to convey the themes of identity and self-image (the two circles with the heads are like mirrors and the patterns represent the different parts of someone’s personality. The blue highlighter shows how sometimes the personality is less looked at.

    Fourth piece- sharpie and highlighter on paper

    Fifth piece part 1 – sharpie and pink pen on A4

    Fifth piece part 2- Sharpie and blue pencil on paper

    As a 5th piece, I made two works focussing and exploring eyes. I made a pattern with eye shapes and swirls in black sharpie and then added contrasting elements in the centre such as a blue eye or a pink contour. These pieces represent the visual aspect of beauty and how beauty is a very subjective and visually influenced thing. To improve these pieces, I would maybe like to experiment with different colours and maybe even incorporating typography to make it more interesting and specify a message.

    Side 1

    Side 2

    Finally, I made a small playful piece. It is an optical illusion that has an image on either side. When you wind it up and twist it, the images come together and form one image. I drew a girl holding balloons to represent happy aspects of my theme (balloons are a symbol of happiness and youth is a symbol of innocence.) I brought this out using bright colours and soft coloured pencil shading. The piece although mostly happy also had a more serious side: By having an optical illusion instead of  a simple picture, the balloons now also represent how the girl is reaching for beauty but can never really have it and that any happiness is actually fake.

    In conclusion, I think this unit really challenged me to explore different things and developed my research and application skills in art. I also learnt that good ideas come from a variety of places and had fun exploring art more freely than in any other past units. In the future, I would like to explore different mediums such as collage,digital, sculpture and photography and experiment with different styles, for instance   abstract.

    Take a look at some of my classmates’ work here.

  9. Drama Blog- Overview of performances (Directing Seminars)

    May 3, 2013 by 15robidouxk

    This week in drama class, we got to direct a short seminar on one of the scenes from Robert Yeo’s play Changi and perform it for the class. This helped me a lot for the exam because it aided me to explore the play’s themes and think about the characters and dramatic possibilities as well as experiment with techniques we learnt over the semester. I found this task challenging because I had never directed drama before alone and have never worked on something as the absolute leader, so it was a bit strange and fairly new to me. I decided to approach the directing task as a diplomatic director, to the best I could because I think it would allow me to express my vision for the piece, however also not restrict the actors too much and hinder their connection with the performance. However, in the end I think I probably reverted to being autocratic, as I felt I was talking a lot and stopping a lot during my seminar.

    Here is my plan I wrote about the task.

    Annotated script and notes (I directed the first portion of this page)

    Stage map and the first part of my annotation

    I chose to direct the 9th scene of Changi, during which Chye converses via telephone with the Minister of Home Affairs regarding Reg’s hunger strike and imprisonment conditions. I chose this scene because I believe although it is simple, the dialogue reveals so much about Chye as a character and the complex relationships he has in the piece. it also subtly and symbolically showcases  through the scene Chye’s internal struggles and objectives, developing his character and relatability to the audience. This also related to the stimulus ‘Social Networking’ because the scene showcases the social networks present in the play. In the intro, you can hear about my interpretation of the play as well as a brief sypnosis, analysis and explanation. Then, you can view my directing seminar, working through the scene and exploring it.

    VIDEO–coming soon?

    I think my strengths here were analysing the piece and expressing its messages as well as providing background. However, next time I think I could have extended the workshopping itself (I had actually planned to include forum theatre and trying the scene as if the Minister was in the room as opposed to offstage), however I got nervous I would go over time, which didn’t end up happening… I also could have pushed the actors more and maybe been clearer with my vision to them so that their performance could be enhanced even more.

    {I found it most difficult in this task to sit back and watch actors perform because I always felt like i wanted t engage myself in the drama..}

    Next time I would like to try and be even more creative and inventive and try to bring unconventional and unrealistic elements to the stage, which would be quite challenging in a good way for this piece, as it is heavily politically rooted and reliant on the realistic and heavy nature of the plot. I also think i could have prepared myself a bit better, and sought help as I was a bit confused as to the requirements of the task…

    Overall, this has helped me a lot because I got to observe others’ visions and get ideas for when we have to write as directors in the exam as well as consider my approaches and visions towards the piece so I can accurately write well about it in the exam. i also got to try working independently and exploring my own creative development, and teamwork which has helped me as a dramatist.

    I was really interested in Walter’s interpretation because I thought it was very unique to play around with the status and explore the relationships of power and positions in the play. I think it really helped to develop the expression of the play’s themes, as Walter explains in the post-mortem session in the video below:

    VIDEO– coming soon?

  10. Drama blog-Overview of performances

    April 25, 2013 by 15robidouxk

    Drama Journal 10- Lesson of Monday April 22nd and Friday April 26th 2013

    This week, in drama class, we began devising short 5 minute pieces based on the IGCSE 3 stimuli in groups of 6. We have t devise a segment for each of the following stimuli: The Shape of Things to Come, Social Networking and A Wonderful Surprise and then perform these one after another, with some sort of a transition between each, in order to form a dramatic collage. The pieces don’t have to be related stories/character-wise, however it would be good to have some element of any sort that connects the three pieces together so that the flow is not disrupted or so that it isn’t confusing for the audience.

    On Monday, we separated into our groups and began discussing ideas for the pieces. We also stood up and physicalised our ideas, and experimented a bit as well. On Thursday, we continued rehearsing and developing our ideas until we were ready for the performance. Then, each group performed to the class. My group’s story for each of our stimuli were the following:

    Shape of things to come: For this piece, we decided to explore how little insignificant things can completely alter the shape of the future and the amount of attention people award to certain things can completely change the circumstances. We also explored how small and easily missed shaped objects can in fact have larger impacts than objects that are more noticeable. Thus, in our piece we used a scrunched up piece of paper. In the beginning, there are a two characters that enter on stage and sit on the chairs. We set this piece at an airport, thus, we set up a row of chairs to use as a waiting room in a terminal. After the two characters have entered, we had a voice sound on the ‘inter-phone’ (offstage) of the airport asking a passenger to report to the gate, in order to establish the setting for the audience so they could focus on the action and characters. Next, the characters interact somewhat, however both still playing on their devices. Next, one of the characters leaves stage, leaving the other on his phone, playing loudly. Suddenly, the scrunched paper rolled in.  Then, one by one we kept entering and exiting from the stage as different characters and interacted with the one sitting and playing on his phone. Some just looked at the paper strangely and walked off quickly, while others asked the boy if he had dropped something, or if it was his. Some got angry at the boy and accused him of littering and dirtying the airport, etc. We also had someone act as a security guard, trying to  eliminate the threat of an unidentified object. Meanwhile, the boy kept playing on his phone with the music loudly and when he did interact with the others, it was a careless nod, head shake or shrug. After several people had made entrances and exits, all the character surrounded the paper and began talking at once, voicing their views about the paper. As the volume of this mounted, the tension of mystery for the audience was heightened (what would happen next? who is the boy? what is the mysterious paper? why are they all so affected by it?) and the tension of the task (hard to get the boy to react or hard to find out the identity of the paper) was also intensified. Furthermore, the focus was on the boy since everyone else was talking at once, and he remained silent, isolating him from the other characters. Once the mood had gotten very chaotic and the volume very loud, as well as the tension high, we all fell silent. Then, two of the characters picked up the paper and walked towards the audience. Finally, they asked “Is this yours?”, marking the moment. In our piece, we explored the insignificant object deeply, by having anonymous characters and undefined plot. This allowed the audience to keep guessing as well as create their own details about the piece. The lack of definite storyline in our piece also maintained the audience’s focus because it established great tension of mystery. Next, we used tension of relationships between the boy on the phone and the other characters. In our piece, we tried to use the space element by incorporating chairs in a neat row, with one person only sitting. The rest were standing at different heights and levels. Also, we used the element of place and chose our setting carefully. By choosing to set the action in an airport, we considered symbol of place. Airports are often associated with the future, where people start anew. Airports are also associated with unknown and adventure. A lot of people would also agree that airports are places where traffic is so routine that most go unnoticed and little things seem insignificant. the symbol of future and lack of identity relates to the anonymity of our characters as well as the stimuli behind our piece, helping it to come together as a coherent segment that was clear enough to the audience, yet still abstract in meaning and practice.

    Social Networks: For this stimuli, we decided as a team to explore the social aspect of this phrase; the relationships that exist between people and the intricate webs of relationships it forms, as opposed to more stereotypical associations such as technology or the internet… With our piece, we wanted to explore how some people could know one person, however all have different views on that person, therefore making the sociogram complicated. We also explored how gossip affects social networks and how when gossiping, one might change their perspective on certain people, etc. For our scene, we decided to set it in an airplane, in order to have a connection to the first scene. We maintained the same stage set-up: a linear arrangement of seats facing the audience. At the start of the piece, we sounded an announcement  like those on flights and translated this into French as well, to establish to the audience the setting. Then, passengers began to pile into the cabin and two flight attendants helped them to be seated. This calm beginning, very normal for a flight established tension of mystery because the audience was anxious to find out what would happen next, since it was unclear as well as the fact that the scene seemed uneventful and it did not appear to have a conflict yet… After the passengers were seated, the two flight attendants began to gossip, to stage right (one of the most powerful positions, where the audience would look first), however upstage (establishing a secretive atmosphere). They began to gossip about a certain person they knew. Meanwhile, in the cabin, the passengers were also gossiping and interacting as characters. Then, the flight attendants began to distribute the meals. As meal trays, we used paper cards and distributed them to each passenger, with a few problems along the way, such as passengers not knowing which meal to choose, passengers wanting two meals, etc., etc. This created tension of the task, because it was an ordeal to get all the passengers settled and satisfied in order for the women to return to their gossip. Once all the characters had the cards, they lifted them. On the cards, there were labels, reading ” Sally is a hussy”. This captioned what the flight attendants had been talking about earlier. Then, the passenger who had ordered two meals flipped his other ‘tray up, where several insults were written all over the card. This represented each of the characters’ views on this particular Sally and demonstrated how although they may not all be referring to the same Sally, a complicated web of social relationships exists. After this, all the characters slowly started reciting insults about Sally. Slowly this built up until all were doing so loudly and at the same time. This was similar to the strategy conscience alley, however there was no character present getting affected by the insults, creating more tension of mystery, as the audience was left to wonder about the supposed character Sally. We also used the elements of space at this moment because the flights attendants we standing behind the passengers, creating level. Throughout the piece, the element of place was also used because airplanes represent a means of transport, that people use to connect with other people, other societies, etc. and sometimes people are interrelated and connected on flights, relating it to social networks. After the conscience alley type part, the characters began to leave the stage, leaving the audience still tense from mystery and wondering who Sally was and what in fact had happened.

    A Wonderful Surprise: The third piece was the hardest for my group to devise I believe, because we felt as though the stimuli was very hard to devise from and we found it difficult to come up with original ideas that related. Finally due to shortness of time, we decided to devise a very stereotypical storyline and interpret the stimuli in a very expected way, however, try to incorporate different elements and techniques as well as dramatic strategies to make it more interesting. We started off sitting on the chairs previously used in the other scenes. Then, one person stood up and began narrating the start of a story. When the paused shortly after starting, we all got up and formed into a freeze frame, using elements of space to use different levels and position to represent status, relationships and circumstances as well as to make it interesting visually for the audience. After holding the frame, we returned to our starting positions and someone else stepped forward to narrate. We repeated this a couple of times. This tapped into the technique of freeze frame as well as thought tracking, as the audience was exposed to characters’ inner thoughts and feelings towards the event. During our narration, we decided to remain very vague about the event in order to heighten tension of mystery and make the mood uncomfortable and very tense, increasing audience interest. After one of the narrations, we moved into positions and began actually playing out the described scene to the audience. What happened was the scene was set in math class, going normally, when a character walked in and disrupted the class. they were demanding to see Ellen and were very aggressive about achieving their goal. Suddenly, they took out a gun and demanded further to see Ellen. All the characters were terrified and frightened and reacted to the gun by ducking down. This gave the gunman upper status, as he was at a higher level than the other characters. ANyways, after that, Ellen stepped forward and began discussing with him. After a huge dramatic build up, where the boy outlined how he is feeling about their relationship, he pointed the gun at her and shot it. However, instead of a bullet that came out, it was a banner and on that banner was inscribed an invitation to the prom. After realising the surprise, all the classmates jumped up in celebration, as well as the teachers and the scene concluded in chaotic celebration. I thought our ending was terrible, uncoordinated and completely ruined the piece’s tension. I also think the audience lost interest completely after that because we were unfocussed in our characters and weren’t considering their reactions. This made it very unbelievable to the audience, who was probably annoyed at the disappointing denouement…

    I thought my group’s strong points were: our use of various dramatic strategies explored in class as well as our character development. I thought it made our piece more interesting that we used techniques such as labelling, marking the moment, freeze frame, narration, conscience alley, etc.  However, we could have improved our closing of the final scene as well as our focus during this because it seemed very unbelievable and we seemed to have just given up on our idea, when we felt the scene was going wrongly. In order to improve this, we would have to think of what kinds of strategies or techniques we could use in order to conclude the piece and how we could finish the scene with a proper denouement, that still left the audience absorbed in the story. Also with the third, i think we would have to try and find a way to connect it more to the other two pieces, as it seemed completely random and there was absolutely no connection (Maybe we could have set it somewhere related to travel? Or had a principal’s announcement sound at the start to establish setting?)

    The other group’s strengths of their performance were: their use of elements of drama and implementation of dramatic techniques and strategies to enhance the piece. I also thought they worked very well as a team and it seemed as though they had good chemistry and group dynamics. The particular elements of tension, mood and human context were well explored  well as well as movement and place and space. Specifically, I liked how the second group’s last piece interpreted a Wonderful Surprise in the opposite sense of the words, and left me feeling the tension of mystery because the whole time I wondered what the wonderful surprise was.. . I also thought in the third piece, the use of conscience voices behind each character was effective and interesting and helped to establish human context and tension of relationships.

    Overall, this devising task was very useful to further explore the stimuli for the IGCSE and they will help us to write the final exam that is fast approaching. It was also a great exercise to experiment with dramatic strategies and techniques, to build creative drama, to work as a team and to devise in short amounts of time.

    In order to improve next time, I think we should spend less time discussing and more time acting, practicing and tweaking, as we barely practised for our pieces, especially the third.  This has continually been a challenge for us a a group, throughout the year, to spend a whole 80% practically experimenting and I think the reason we find it so challenging is that we are scared to run off with ideas and scared of failure. However, I believe failure is a part of the artistic process and it will help us learn more. Take the third piece as an example…