GCD- Global Understanding

During the summer holidays, I visited Vietnam for vacation. Because I had never been to Vietnam before, I had been looking forward to this trip for a while. When I arrived and took the taxi to our hotel, I realized how the setting appeared similar to India, where I had lived previously.

Though not exactly the same, the traffic was busy, the streets unpaved, and locals selling fruits and vegetables in cardboard boxes and craters – things I would most likely never see in Japan back home.

However, the scenery changed completely when I arrived at the resort, where the walls were white and the ground polished, bright lights and marbles floors welcoming the guests as we stepped in with a free drink in hand. The stark division that existed between hotels and the streets outside were prevalent in other developing countries as well, however, I always found it shocking.

To be truthful, the comfort and sense of security that the pristine hotel gave me compared to the outside made me feel ashamed, because I was equating wealth as being better. That night, my mother asked me to venture out to the city. I was a little reluctant, but agreed. When I went to a small, local mall outside of my hotel, my mother and I were ushered into a shop that sold patterned pants. There, the people wore flips flops or no shoes at all, and one person was carrying a baby. Though we did not speak Vietnamese, they spoke to us in broken Japanese as my mother replied in broken English, bargaining and throwing the place inside out in search for that one pair with the cute pattern that we lost hold of. The place smelled stale, and there was little room for us to move, however, I was laughing with tears in my eyes as the girls in the shop complimented my mother in Japanese and tried to get her to buy a pair of pants. They were bright and kind as we took time to buy them, and I left the shop with a big smile on my face.

Later back in the hotel room, I thought back about this experience as I held a pair of patterned pants, and felt guilty for almost choosing to neglect the warm community that existed outside the protected hotel walls just because I had selfishly labeled their less privileged environment to be something undesirable. I had determined the worth of people by judging their financial status, instead of their character. I was disappointed with myself, for I should have known better, having lived in other developing countries. Comparing the atmosphere of Vietnam to Japan, I realized that I had wrongly thought this way of Vietnam because back at home, I am surrounded by people with privilege that owes it to Japan’s larger economy.

Although I had known it previously, the understanding that power and privilege coming from wealth hit me, and made me aware of in fact how great of an influence power and privilege stemming from money can have on people, as it can mold personal and societal perceptions of places or people.

The experience cleared me of my shameful tendency to immediately assume more wealth as something more desirable, as it reminded me that people who are less privileged are as, or perhaps even more, kind and secure and polite as those who are more privileged.

At the beginning of the trip, I was unwilling to leave the hotel as much, but since that experience, I resorted to eating out in local restaurants and spending a lot of my time actually exploring the city and nature that is Vietnam. I was unafraid to immerse myself in the local culture, and forgot about the differences in privilege that existed.

Throughout the trip I gained a better understanding of what creates power and privilege, and what some of the consequences of it was. The experience also reinforced the crucial understanding that privilege does not equate to someone being a better person than those who are underprivileged. Next time when I visit another country, I hope to be more accepting of the differences in privilege and power from the very beginning.

GCD- Community Engagement

I have been involved in the athletic council of my school since eighth grade, which we call the Dragon Council. Throughout the years of being an active member in Dragon Council, I have mainly partaken the job of scorekeeping, and helping run tournaments of all sports that are held at our school.

As a senior, I now look forward to second season sports, where I get to watch and score my friends play basketball – a sport I have grown to admire over the years.

I have also met many people through my commitments as a Dragon Council member, as I get to welcome students from other schools when they come to my school to play for tournaments. Such connections have lasted, and every time I visit other schools for my own tournament, I was welcomed by the friends I have made during Dragon Council.

My participation in Dragon Council have changed my view on sports, as my increased involvement with it have grown my love for not only the sport I play but for all of them. I have become to appreciate not only the athletes that play upfront, but for all of the coaches, referees, linesman, and everyone else involved in the industry that allow for sports to be continually played.

Furthermore, I have grown to notice and appreciate the opportunities that sport brings in making connections with other people, I have seen myself, in addition to my friends and even athletes on TV bond with other athletes.

I still have basketball season coming up, and I intend to make the most out of this final season, as there will be a tournament. Providing service for my community has been a fulfilling and rewarding experience, as I discovered my liking for sport. Though I am almost done with my participation in Dragon Council, I have volunteered for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as I wanted to experience something similar, but on a larger scope, and I am excited to see what that opportunity will bring me.

GCD- Intercultural Communication

Last weekend, I visited South Korea for the first time for a volleyball tournament. In Japan, where I am from, Korean culture, especially of beauty and fashion, is enthusiastically pursued, and so I had been well exposed to Korean culture prior to visiting.

Boarding the plane to Seoul, I was excited not just about my volleyball tournament, but traveling to a place I had never been before. Korea also holds a special place in my heart, because growing up in Chennai, India, where there are a lot of Korean expats, I had many Korean friends. I remember fond memories of trying to learn Korean from them, and indulging myself in amazing Korean food whenever I went to their houses.

On the first day of the tournament, a group of my teammates and I ventured out for lunch. Craving for some Korean food, we decided on a local soup restaurant. We sat down and opened the menu, only to realize that there were no pictures, and so we had no way of knowing what to order.

A waiter came up to ask for our order, and with sheepish faces, we asked if he could kindly translate. However, the waiter spoke minimal English, so he led us to a poster that featured some dishes with photos. Pointing, we would ask about the dish with basic and relatively universal English, like “pork?” “with rice?” “super spicy?” and so forth. Unfortunately, we could not communicate in even minimal Korean, as we only knew how to say hello and thank you, and we had no wifi to look to the internet for help. The waiter repeated words back to us in confirmation, and we would gesture to each other about the size of portions and how many of each we wanted. The waiter was very patient and kind, and after some while, my teammates and I completed our order. The food came to us delicious, and exactly how we envisioned.

We thanked the people in the restaurant in Korean, and left with saying goodbye in Korean as well. Despite not being able to order smoothly, my teammates and I had a good time.

Up until high school I had lived abroad, and so I had experience with working around language barriers when interacting with people that did not speak English. However, once I came to Japan, I did not have to rely on English anymore, as I spoke the Japanese. Therefore, I had rarely encountered any language barriers in the past three years, as places I had vacationed to had spoken English at conversation level.

The encountering of a language barrier at this Korean restaurant surprised me, and I felt guilty for having assumed that they spoke English, as I had not known any Korean myself and therefore my expectations were hypocritical. It reminded me that I spoke English now because I had the privilege of learning it, and that not everyone in the world had the opportunity to learn a second language.

The waiter at the restaurant was not obliged to attempt to speak to us in English, and could have easily disregarded us for not speaking Korean; instead, he had been adamant on communicating with us. His attitude reminded me that we are able to communicate without a common language – as long as we are willing to understand the other person, conversations can happen without shared knowledge.

Sometimes, when I see foreigners in Japan looking lost, I hesitate to lend a hand when I am unsure if they speak English. However, the next time I see a foreigner, I will remember what I was reminded from this experience of how language barriers can be comfortably broken, and lend a hand regardless of whether we share a common language or not.

My experience in Korea also made me realize the importance of knowing some basic vocabulary when I go to a foreign country, not just to help myself but also for etiquette. So next time, when I go abroad, I hope I learn enough to order myself a simple meal.

GCD- Wellness

In the May of last year, I found myself miserable despite the cheerful weather the season of summer brought. Pressured under the large workload of an IB student, I was quickly losing motivation and self esteem due to school and anxiety for my future.

Like many other high school students, I am often passive about my emotional and mental well-being, labelling it as stress and waiting around for the next holiday to roll in so I can finally let myself rest. But in May, summer break felt too long, and I found myself in the counselor’s office one day, blinking rapidly in failed effort to contain my tears that came with voicing my frustrations. To speak of your insecurities is something that takes courage, and I remember my cheeks getting warm and my speech stammering as I explained to my counselor how I was simply just not good enough.

Understanding my deteriorating mental well-being, my counselor recommended me three things I could do to try and improve. The three things were:

  1. Exercise
  2. Journal
  3. Download the 3 Good Things app

Considering my busy schedule, I decided to try #2 and #3, though I did try to increase the amount of daily exercise.

Journaling was reasonably straightforward, and I had heard of the benefits of it before. I had been a poor diary keeper growing up, but I decided to keep a loose journal, so I didn’t have to feel guilty if I didn’t fill it out everyday. The app, I was more reluctant about. It was fairly simple, too, where I had to write three good things that happened every day, describing each thing with less than 120 characters. I started doing those things the day I went to my counselor office in early May, and continued till school ended in June for summer break.

And, at the end, I was pleasantly surprised with the progress that my mental wellness had made over the short few weeks.

First, journaling gave me a space in which I could unapologetically express my thoughts and feelings, providing me with an outlet for my stress. After completing each journal entry, I felt lighter and more collected, as I was able to rationalize my emotions as I took time putting them into words. Moreover, the act of just writing without concentration or care was therapeutic because I was free to babble as much as I wanted, and needed to.

But, unexpectedly, it was the app that helped me most with my emotional well-being. Every night I went on the app before I going to bed, I was provided with an opportunity to reflect on my day, and most importantly, focus on the good things of my day. Sometimes it was an academic achievement, like getting a 7/7 on my English essay, but sometimes it was as mundane as grabbing bubble tea with my friend after school. Regardless, I was able to channel my energy into the happy occurrences instead of dwelling on the negative things, which eventually geared my mind to appreciate smaller experiences and think happier.  

By incorporating journaling and the 3 Good Things app into my lifestyle, I noticed my mental and emotional health improve greatly, because it helped me see the better light situations and hold more certainly within myself. Not only that, but I also noticed my relationships with my peers, friends, and family improving, as I could let myself enjoy and appreciate their company rather than constantly worrying about the next assignment. Another thing I realized was that my skin, which has light eczema, started to improve after I began journaling and going on the app every day.

These observations made me realize the great extent to which our mental and emotional well being influences our attitudes to ourselves and to other people, in addition to its stress on our physical bodies. Having neglected taking care of my internal wellness in the past, the short weeks of trying to take care of it taught me not only the significance of looking after our mental wellbeing, but also the simplicity of it. All I need is a few minutes in my day to take time for myself and listen to my worries, fears, gratitudes, excitements, and acknowledge them.

As someone who enjoys writing, I came to thoroughly enjoy journaling, it aligning with my hobby that motivated me to continue it after school ended and into summer break. As a senior now, I have continued the 3 Good Things app ever since as well, because I believe it is important to hone gratitude, and the app allows me to do so.

The experience has also made me become more intuitive, as I am now able to recognize what I am feeling, and identify why I am feeling that way. With this personal growth has come maturity, as I am now so quick to act on my emotions as I was before.

Reaching completely satisfied mental and emotional well being is improbable, but I believe it is necessary for people to work on it, and strive for it in order for us to become better grounded and more empathetic individuals. As a second year IB student, I have been told that this time of year is the busiest and most stressful time I will experience in my student career. However, I plan to continue journaling and working on my gratitude in the time to come, whether or not I may or may not be under stress.

Uncovering Rumors ft. A Pretty Piece of Flesh?

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Sampson calling a girl next door.

Today, we are joined with Capulet’s most dedicated man, Sampson, to discuss the truth behind some of the hottest rumors that have made the headlines this week. 

Q: There has been a rumor going around that you flipped one of the Montagues off just before the fight broke out last Wednesday, but is that true?
A: Oh, last Wednesday was an entertaining day. You know, I’d deny if it was anyone else… but to be honest, I did indeed flip those Montagues off! Seeing them break into a fit because of it was hilarious.

Q: And how did the fight go?
A: The fight was great banter, the finger totally ticked them off. But then the police came and told us to stop or else they’d arrest us or whatever, which totally killed the scene. I mean feuds happen all the time, no big deal right? The advantage was obvious too, if they let us fight for a few more minutes we would have pummelled them for sure! What a shame; Montague blood is very satisfying (chuckles).

Q: So can we agree that you were the one who started the fight?
A: (Rolls eyes) why is everyone blaming me for the fight! It was honestly their fault. I was manly enough to contain my anger and express it with just one tiny finger, but those Montague’s just had to be a little girl and make a huge fuss about it. Such nuisance, they are.

Q: You’re guilty of flipping off Montagues and, okay, let’s admit, kind of starting the fight — but what exactly is your problem with them?
A: The Capulets are the greatest house, and everyone knows that. We’re clearly so much better than them, yet the Montagues think they have a chance. They have the nerve to align shoulders with us, and that just pisses me off, you know. They need to know where they stand, which is no where near us. Those dogs walk in the gutter.

Q: Then what do you think of the Montague gentlemen?
A: Gentlemen? Pfft. Romeo is certainly a gentle fool, but he is no man. Moping because a woman will not give him her virginity? That’s cute. Virginity is something to take, not ask. It’s common logic amongst any men, really. I can see that softie killing himself over a girl, and chances are, she won’t even notice.

“Virginity is something to take, not ask”

Q: “Virginity is something to take not ask”. So… you force yourself on women?
A: I mean, I don’t do anything to get myself into deep trouble. The Capulet royalty runs in my blood, remember?

Q: Yes, of course; how classy of you to degrade women.
A: I’m just saying that women don’t really deserve to have a say in what happens to their virginity you know, because having it taken is surely a great privilege. Plus, it only happens whilst they’re young and plum, so women just need to stay quiet and appreciate what they can get before they rot.

Q: You have been brought up in the media not only for your passionate hate for Montague’s, but women too. What do you have to say about that?
A: Passionate hate for Montague’s, yes, ー but women?! I love my women.

Q: So would you argue that you’re not a sexist? If so, then what is your explanation for your remarks using negative connotations related to women, as well as your derogatory comments towards them?
A: (Shakes head) Everything a man says is considered sexist nowadays! I am not a sexist, I am just a man with common sense who understands that women are less worthy. All they do is bat their eyelashes and reproduce. They have life so much easier than we do; and respect comes with power. Most women can’t accept the truth because it’s so humiliating, including you, miss.

Q: Alright. Thank you for today, Sampson; your insightful opinions seem to have definitely confirmed the dirty rumors surrounding you.
A: (Smirks) my uttermost pleasure. 

Tourism Highlights

The top three countries in terms of international arrivals in 2014:
1. France
2. United States
3. Spain

The top three countries in terms of international receipts in 2014:
1. United States
2. Spain
3. China

Explain the difference in patterns depicted by your answers of question 1 and 2:
Countries with the highest international arrivals do not necessarily have the highest international receipts.

Describe the recent trends of tourism in Africa:
Tourism in Moroccow is growing while arrivals in Tunisia are decreasing. In addition, counties such as Côte d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Mauritius, and Zimbabwe have increased arrivals while South Africa has remained unchanged.

Describe the changes in international tourist arrivals between 1950 and 2010:
The amount of international tourist arrivals in Europe, Asia and Pacific, and Americas have increased by a large amount, as well as more people travelling to Africa and Middle East in 2010, which were not so popular in 1950.

In your opinion, why has tourism increased since the 1950s?
I think tourism has increased due to the advancement of transport, because now people can travel across the globe further, quicker, and without much trouble compared to 1950s.

Clouds for Alma Reflection

Our koto class worked on the piece ‘Clouds for Alma’ through December to March.

The areas I focused on most for this piece were: playing the correct strings, and being able to stay in tempo that matched with the koto 1s. When we were introduced to the piece a few months ago, I found it quite difficult to be able to play movement one, especially the 5 string transitions amongst the lines. The same thing happened for movement three; at first I could only play that movement if I paused to count the strings every two lines. However, during the concert, although I was a bit shaky, I was able to play all correct strings except for one: I played the wrong string for one of the notes in movement three. Aside from that, I played without a slip, and knowing the notes also made it easier for me to keep in tempo with our ensemble since it gave me the composure I needed to listen to others. I had conquered both of my goals through continuous practicing; playing it countless times helped me drill the piece into my memory and my body which I found the most reliable and effective. Many people used devices such as the metronome to help them with their counting/tempo, but that did not work so well for me. I found it very distracting, and I found myself falling out of beat every time. For me, simply practicing many, many times worked, because my fingers and ears would remember better each time, helping me achieve what I did in the concert.

Next time, I would like to working on the more of the skilled aspects of playing the piece earlier, including dynamics and syncing. Although we did agree on some of the major dynamics of this piece, I felt as though we were a little too rough about it, and I think our performance can be improved if we give some more attention to it. Regarding the syncing I think we did well, however, there were a few parts during the performance where we fell apart, and I think this could be fixed by looking at those specific parts more closely at practice.

I think our class performed very well, and I was happy to be able to play Clouds for Alma with everybody there. Our tempo for movement one started well, and our dynamics enhanced the whole piece. I especially loved how we played our dynamics in movement two as the quite parts were very soft, and the loud part were bold and strong. I think we could have worked on the intervals between movements, because we were a little bit weary during those times. As an individual I think I performed decently well, and not just on stage but during practice as well. I made sure I did not pull our class behind, and I think I did that well. Next time I would like to increase more practice time and use efficient class time.


Has your perspective of Colombus changed?

Before reading and watching the real facts about Colombus, I saw him as an explorer who had taken America away from the Native Americans, and had built an industrialized colony. However, I later learned that he had driven the Native American settlers out of the country through unethical human trade and genocide, all because he wanted gold and fame. This made me question the respect and popularity Christopher Colombus is given through textbooks and common knowledge, as many believe he discovered America and that without him America would never exist, when in reality he did not discover a country, but instead supported and carried out colonial slavery by abusing the Native Americans that were dehumanized and were considered unimportant through long periods of time in history.

Of Native Americans?

I used to have a stereotypical image of Native Americans, with their feather headbands and face paint that are often used to represent them, however from the reading I realized that there were many kinds of Native Americans, or people who had already settled in America prior to Columbus’s arrival, including Eskimos in the north and indigenous people in the south, and that they already had developed societies.

If you were to write about columbus, what themes would you focus on, knowing that you cannot write everything about everything?

I would write about the time he spent at the Native American’s land, and how he enslaved and took all of their jewelry to feed his greed and please the Queen back in Spain. I would not write about his voyages, but strictly what happened between the Natives and Colombus, for example the war that broke between them.

What themes did your readings choose?

My reading focused on the ‘discovery’ of America, and the voyages of not only Colombus but other explorers as well. The historian who wrote it proved that it was not really Colombus who discovered America, and that there were other people who made more progressive discoveries regarding new lands.

Koto Blog Post: Clouds for Alma Part Two

For movement three, I focused on getting the rhythm of the notes right, and for this I practiced using the metronome. At first I used the beats on the machine to get my timing right by playing the first two notes before the second beat came on the metronome. However, I realized that I could not rely so much on this method, as I will not be able to listen to a metronome or somebody’s consistent claps throughout a performance. So I then decided to tap my toes whilst I was playing to keep the rhythm of the beat myself. I started doing this with the metronome at first to make my body remember the beat, and then stopped using the metronome entirely. This method helped me play the parts with a consistent rhythm, which was my aim. However instead of toe tapping, I think it will be more effective and efficient to count the beats in my head as I play the strings, or listening to the koto 1s and see how their part goes with our part to get a grasp on when to play, and I think this is my next goal in mastering this movement.

My goals for lines 1-6 in movement four was to be able to count in 1,2, and 3’s, in order to be count how many lines I have been playing. At first I counted how many groups of 3’s there were amongst the 6 lines, and tried to count like that, however that got more complicated as there were more than 20 groups of it, and I eventually started to loose track of the number of lines. So then I changed my goal, and aimed to be able to count the lines, as well as each individual note. I started to count the number of line first followed by the notes, for example One, 2,3,4,5,6, 1,2,3,4,5,6; Two,2,3,4,5,6, 1,2,3,4,5,6. Although I went back to counting in six’s, with six’s the number groups could be reduced, and I found it a lot easier to count this way. I also play the first note of a new line stronger to remind myself that it is a new line, and this helps me keep track on what line and note I am on. Another method is to listen carefully to the koto 1’s and see when they add their right hand in, as koto 2’s echo three beats later. This could be a useful technique instead of counting.

During these lines I usually accidentally touched a different string or played a different note, and to conquer this I practiced the same part over and over again. I first practiced playing just my left hand and the strings 八 and 斗, and then added my right hand movements one string at a time. My slowly adding my right hand movements string by string, my body had an easier time adjusting to playing two different parts with different hands, which helped reduce the amount of times I played a different string. I could have also started by marking some of my strings, so I could easily see what strings I needed to play, and that probably would have reduced the chances of me playing different strings.

Koto Blog Post: Alma

Although movement 3 has simple strings, I struggle with keeping the rhythm of the movement, since I tend to play really fast like the recording, and not with everyone else during practice. My goal for this part is to be able to play it slowly with a consistent rhythm. I plan to practice keeping a consistent rhythm by using a metronome, so I can hear the beat whilst I play and get used to a certain pace.

My goal for lines 1-7 of movement 4 is to be able to count in 1,2, and 3’s, since right now I count with 1,2,3,4,5, and 6, making it harder for me to keep track of the strings and the number of times I play them. I will do this by memorizing the number of times I need to repeat it and then work backwards from there, because the counting will come easier if I know how many times I have to do it like the back of my hand. I also aim to make my 斗 and 八 strings louder.

My transitions of strings of my left hand is not very smooth, and I also accidently touch or play a different string, and my goal is to make sure I only play the strings written on the music sheet. I plan to achieve this by practicing it again and again, since practice makes permanent.

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