GCD Inter-Cultural Communication

As a foreigner living in Japan, I engage with a different culture every day. My everyday life in  Japan includes things like taking the bus, going to the supermarket, and eating at restaurants. And in all these everyday tasks there are situations where I have to communicate in Japanese. Since I did study Japanese back in 6th and 7th grade I’m not completely unknowledgeable in the language, but I’m nowhere near being able to speak. However, I’ve realized that in any language, some words are more important than others. When it comes to everyday communication – asking where something is, or asking for the bill – not all words are important to get the message across.

So I’ve learned some very versatile phrases that I use in many situations. Some examples of these are

  • いりません (irimasen) – I don’t need, or no need. This one I often use in the supermarket when the cashier things like plastic chopsticks, bags, and straws that I don’t need.
  • お待ち下さい (omachikudasai) – wait, please. This one I use when I’m not ready to order yet in a restaurant, or when I have to get money from my pocket to pay for a taxi or at the supermarket.
  • ありますか (arimasuka) – Do you have?, or Is there? This one I use for example to ask for chopsticks at a restaurant, or to ask if they have a specific dish.

With very limited knowledge of the language, and just a few phrases, I’m getting by quite alright. The experience of living in a country where I don’t speak the language has showed me that when it comes to communication, less is often more. If I try in my broken Japanese to construct sentences or explain things, that often leads to further confusion. So by instead being blunt about things and just trying to get the main point across, my communication is often successful.

Although upon talking to Japanese-speaking friends, I’ve realized that some of the phrases I have been using can be considered disrespectful if I use them with people I don’t know very well, which I have been doing. For me, politeness comes second to getting my point across. But granted, it is a big downside that I may come across as rude when I’m trying to communicate.

The experience has also humbled me and given me perspective on how useful it can be to know a new language. A personal example of this is that I can’t fully understand when I watch Japanese comedy shows. I love the tv-show Gaki no Tsukai (picture 1) and I’ve been able to watch it because there are a lot of english subtitled episodes online. But a lot of the humor is still lost upon me since the translations can’t capture everything. This kind of Japanese humor, called owarai, can’t be found anywhere else in the world. And it really resonates with my sense of humor, which is why I watch it frequently.

GCD Global Understanding

For 5 days during summer vacation , some friends and I took a trip together to Berlin, Germany (picture 1). 

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During this trip we visited many historical monuments and museums related to the second world war (picture 2) and the holocaust (video 1).

These visits gave me a personal understanding and perspective on how the power and privilege of jews was diminished during the years leading up to and during the second world war. Nazism, the ideology of the governing party of Germany leading up to the second world war, discriminated against the Jewish population within the country and lead to the Holocaust. We visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (picture 3)

Picture 3

The atrocities committed against the Jewish population of Europe during these years is an example of how privilege and power can depend upon religious beliefs. There are countless more example throughout history. In an ideal future there will be worldwide freedom of religion, but humanity can only get there if we learn from our history.

However, in recent times national socialist ideals have grown in political parties across Europe. In my home country, Sweden, the political party Sverigedemokraterna – The Swedish Democrats, have in the past 2 elections grown in popularity. In 2014 they received 12.86% of all votes, and in 2018 this grew to 17.53%. The political ideals of Sverigedemokraterna are founded in neo-nazism. The party’s founding members have been linked to various neo-nazistic organisations in Sweden. They propagate xenophobic ideals, which in light of the current refugee crisis in Europe, has attracted a lot of conservative and flat out racist voters to support their party. Their popularity has grown as Sweden has accepted more and more refugees.

Witnessing their growth has lead me to believe that racist ideals grow strong with fear. When entire populations experience rapid changes it can be frightening to a lot of people. In Sweden’s case, the rapid immigration of large numbers of refugees has brought implications to everyday life. And these changes can be intimidating, so people try to seek out how to stop these changes. And so when a political party shows up promising to send people ‘where they should live’ (paraphrased quote from the party’s leader), they’ll easily gain the support of the scared population.

There are many similarities between the current-day development in Sweden and what happened in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, before the Holocaust. In my trip I learned that Hitler’s rise to power partially preyed on the fear of the german population. By going on that trip and learning about history, and spending more time reflecting on what’s going on in my own country, I’ve gained a personal understanding of how fear and radical ideologies often come hand in hand. And how this can lead to discrimination, stripping groups of people of their rights.

GCD Artistic Expression

I’ve been playing saxophone for more than 7 years now. I also play piano, and I like to compose my own music, both acoustically and digitally. Music has given me so much joy in my life, and I know that I’ll keep it with me throughout my life. Possibly even professionally, but definitely personally at least.

My growth as an artist is something that I think about a lot. From playing my first public blues solo in 6th grade (video 1, my solo is from 2:28 – 2:49) to 2018, capable of leading a group, performing and improvising without sheet music. (Video 2, my rendition of Freddie Freeloader – Miles Davis). Clearly my proficiency as an artist has improved significantly over time.

In later years I’ve gotten more serious about my practice routine. And I think that the discipline that I’ve developed from my artistic growth has helped me in other areas of my life as well. Music has helped me with my academics. Firstly, by improving my discipline. But also by functioning as an opportunity for personal catharsis. That feeling after a performance when you really didn’t hold back – you gave it your all, is why I love performing so much.

Having music as a hobby has allowed me to perform with a lot of other people, which has taught me a lot about collaboration in the context of music. Video 3 is evidence of collaboration, which is a must for any live music performance. I would specifically like to point out the end of the song as an example of this. At the very end (5:26-5:35) the rhythm section is holding out a long chord. The other saxophonist and I then decided to start wailing a little bit within that chord. This communicated to the other musicians that they should keep the chord sustained until we finish our final statement. Collaboration and communication like this, particularly on stage without pre-planning, is essential for any musical group that wants to attain a professional sounding quality. And in the group we have recognized this and are actively talking about and striving towards achieving such a standard.

I’ve recently begun compiling all the old videos I have of performances, and uploading them on youtube for myself to watch. And when I look back at old videos and compare them to new ones, and see how I’ve changed as an artist, it makes me really thankful for this hobby of mine and all the enjoyment it’s given me.

GCD Community Engagement

By being a part of the Sustainability group at YIS, working to make the school more environmentally sustainable, I’ve showed engagement and commitment to bettering my community. 

The focus of the group is to 1) identify areas where the school is being wasteful with natural resources and 2) spread awareness and advocate for improvement within these areas.

I’ve been a part of the group for all of 11th and 12th grade. In this time we’ve prepared (picture 1) and sold sustainably produced products (picture 2) for fundraising each year at food fair. 

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We’ve also produced a short video advocating that students buy and use reusable bottles instead of pet-bottles (picture 3 is from the filming of this, the final video is not yet published). At assemblies we’ve spread awareness about what we do as a club, and through social media accounts we’ve further engaged with our community. We’ve also hosted activities during school-time, such as a lunch activity in the playground, promoting reuse of old clothing. (picture 4)

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In being a member of the club I’ve worked continuously with spreading information and teaching methods for people within the school to live their lives more sustainably. As a group we’ve formed connections with other parts of our community (such as cafeteria staff & janitorial services) and worked together. For example, the janitorial staff were kind enough to donate plastic bottles from trash cans around the school, for us to repurpose instead of throw away. For me personally, I’ve gotten to know people I otherwise would not have known, and we’ve worked together towards making the school more sustainable.

Being a member has taught me a lot about responsibility. Firstly, on a simple level, I’ve had to complete tasks at home before our meetings, and spent time outside of meetings doing work related to sustainability. Furthermore, the group has opened my eyes to the responsibilities that mankind has to the environment. The environment is suffering all over the world as a result of activities of humans. Historically, rapid industrialization without environmental consideration (mostly in Europe and North America) spawned a lot of the problems that were witnessing today, such as global warming, animal races facing extinction, and deforestation. Within the group our goal is to reduce our schools effect of these issues. My involvement in sustainability within our community has lead me getting involved and seeking out knowledge about world-wide issues as well. If enough people in the world come to terms with the responsibilities of mankind, maybe the necessary change will actually happen.

English Fiction over Fact Presentation

The final task in English this year was about fictional and factual writing, and the differences between the two. We were divided into 4 groups, and I was in a group with Kanna, Jinho and Vuka. Then we were to pitch a presentation on the question: ‘Fiction over Fact‘. We each picked a ‘lense’ or perspective to look at the question through. I picked ‘setting’, and my three team mates picked the topics creativityperspective &  characters. We made a presentation with an introduction slide, a conclusion and then one individual slide for each person. Our group read the book “A Long Walk to Water, written by Linda Sue Park.

Embeded below is my presentation:

I think the most important thing I learned from this assesment, is getting comfortable and feeling good on stage. I think that throughout my life I’ll have to do countless presentations and performances in front of an audience. And the only way to get good at it is to practice it, so therefor my experience from this presentation will be beneficial for me even long after I finish school.

Regarding the unit question, I value fictional writing over factual writing. This is because in fictional writing I feel that you can relate to the characters in the writing, and the addition of description in fictional writing gives me a deeper understanding of the historical context in the book. Also, I get a greater impression of the emotions of the people in the time that the book is based on.

English Poem Presentation

In English class we had a small task, which was to pick a poem or a part of a song to present to the class. We were to analyze the text and identify some literary devices used. We also picked a metaphorical image as well as discussed the overall tone of the text. I decided to present a piece of the song “Crooked Young” by Bring me the Horizon. Here’s my presentation:

Technology Unit Evaluation

In Technology class throughout this semester we’ve been working on a unit about Minecraft and collaborating  in groups of 4 to create a theme park. My group’s theme park were allotted the theme horror. Below is a short screencast of me touring the part of the theme park that I built, as well as explaining why I chose to include some things to fit our theme.

During the Investigation (the start) of the unit we wrote some Design Specifications, which we want our final product, the theme park, to meet. The design specifications were in three categories, namely Theme, General, Function, Quality and Aesthetics. Each category had three different specifications, one essential, one desirable and one must not specification. Our list of Design Specifications is as follows:

Theme: Our theme is Horror

  • essential: Our park must be scary
  • desirable: Our park should have darkness
  • must not: Our park must not be cute

General:

  • essential: Our park must be navigationable
  • desirable: Our park should have the most suited materials
  • must not: Our park must not have cliché elements

Function:

  • essential: Our park must frighten people.
  • desirable: Our park should have jump scares (pop-up scary things)
  • must not: Our park must not have completely different qualities of attractions

Quality:

  • essential: Our park must use dark blocks to show darkness
  • desirable: Our park should be built cooperatively by helping eachother with our parts
  • must not: Our park must not have misplaced materials in the wrong places

Aesthetics:

  • essential: Our park must be original
  • desirable: Our park should have aspects of our creation and none else’s
  • must not: Our park must not include direct elements from other parks.

These were my groups design specifications, and I’ve underlined the ones we didn’t meet in our final product. As you can see only one of the specifications is underlined, and it’s a desirable spec. So we met every spec but one, which I think means we made a pretty good theme park. The specification we didn’t meet states: “desirable: Our park should have jump scares (pop-up scary things)”. I think the reason we didn’t have that is partially because of technical difficulties. Making things that pop up automatically is advanced and quite time consuming . I spent time on other part of the park instead, since I think the other things (such as decoration, roads & my attractions) were more important to have in high quality. Other than that I think we did a good job on meeting our design specifications, since we met almost every single one.

In order to further check the quality of our theme park, we also devised five ‘tests’ for our theme park. I’ve listed them below, as well as the results from each test.

I could test my theme park by sending a survey to 10 7th graders with pictures of the theme park, asking them if they think it’s scary.

I’ve sent a survey, however we’ve recieved no answers from the 7th graders. Because of this, I also interviewed Ms Cofino and showed her a tour of our park. She said: “This definitely looks liks a horror park. I wouldn’t think it’s a fun park to be in. It looks really scary with the darkness and cobwebs.” So I’d say we succeeded with appealing to the adult range of our target audience. Our choice of decoration (cobwebs etc.) fit the theme, according to this feedback.

I could test my theme park by checking to see that all of the blocks used are appropriate  (Anything except for pink, purple, bright yellow) to the theme. 

Checked, and we pass this test. Because we didn’t use any inappropriate blocks. All our blocks fit our horror theme and they don’t

I could test my theme park by looking at our design brief and seeing if we built according to the map.

Looking back to our db, I would say that we did not build accordingly to the db, but we had good reasons for it. In our db we assumed the entrance to the park would be in the middle of one of the long sides, but this was not the case on the server. Our entrance on the server was placed in the top left corner, and so we had to move some of our attractions accordingly. Also, on the db we made a Fiery Dome, but when we were dividing the workload into our group we decided not to make a Fiery Dome, as that would be too much work on one of the members. Two of our team members could’ve worked together on it, but we felt like it wasn’t a big enough part of the park for us to spend time on that. We’d rather focus on the other attractions.

I could test my theme park by making sure we have not copied ideas from our sources of research by asking my group peer.

After checking my sources, I can say that we did not directly copy of off anything, it was all original ideas.

I could test my theme park by searching through it to see if we made any building errors by misplacing blocks.

We have not made any building errors with the blocks, and so we pass this test also.

Here are some possible improvements I’ve noticed from these tests. From the question on whether we built according to our db, I realized that when we were making our design brief we should’ve considered how long it would take to build our attractions, so that we could’ve avoided adding the Fiery Dome and then deciding not to include it because it would be too much for us to build. When making the design brief, we needed to think realistically about how much we are able to produce, so that we can follow the design brief when making the solution. Another thing we could’ve done is used a bigger variety of blocks as decorations. In my tunnel, I used a lot of monster heads (zombie, creeper) and cobwebs. We had cobwebs all throughout our theme park, but I didn’t see that many other scary decoration blocks. Things such as jack-o’-lanterns and bookshelves fit our theme and we should’ve used them as well as the other types for more variety of decoration.

Use of Design Cycle Evaluation

Investigation:

In the investigation part (the first part) of the design cycle we made two major things: A Design Brief and Design Specifications. In the Design Brief we wrote down things we needed to research, any questions we needed to investigate and how we plan to make our product (Theme Park). We also made a poster with information about what our park will be like. On the poster we wrote down our target audience (13 – 50), made a slogan for our park and made a small map of what the park might look like. There was also some other information on the design brief. In the Design Specification (showed above) we wrote down different qualities we wanted our finished park to have as well as 5 tests for the park after we finished it.

In the Investigation part of the unit, I think I could’ve improved on my team’s design brief. It looked pretty good, but the miniature map of our park on it, I feel, was sloppy and our park didn’t end up looking anything like it. I think just spending more time on making it realistic look like something we could actually make would’ve made the map much better. Here’s a picture of our design brief, although I’m not quite sure if you can see the small map. PIC OF DESIGN BRIEF HEEREREREREREERE

Design:

The major thing we did in the Design part of the unit was making three possible layout ideas for our theme park, and then choosing one final one to follow in the create section of the unit. We made three big drawing of possible layout, all of which should’ve been colored (but we didn’t color them). They were also generally sloppy looking, when it came to roads and such on the park. My group and I sort of fixed this by, after we had chosen our design, adding more details about materials and colors. We used a color coding for different blocks, and the final design looked good enough to follow when creating.

I feel like the biggest thing in the Design part that my group and I could’ve done better is putting more effort into the three first designs. If they were better done we would’ve gotten a better idea of the different designs. And then we might’ve chosen a better fitting design, since there would be more details to consider for us when choosing which drawing to select.

Plan:

In the plan part of the unit we did three things. First of all, everyone wrote down the steps to creating their attraction / part of the theme park. We then thought about what materials (block types) we will use and how much time it’ll take to build our part of the theme park. We then gave our plan to a random person in the class and they had to follow the plan. Then we saw what they had created with our plan, and if it was clear enough. Since I didn’t get any feedback back from my peer-assessors, I think I made a detailed and thorough plan. I didn’t include what my attraction was going to look like, but I linked the drawing we had made in the Design part. So that you can follow how I had drawn my attraction there.

This is a minor thing, but I could’ve done it in order to make my plan better. So, as mentioned above I linked my design brief in the plan. So that you can see how I drew my attraction in the design brief. I did this so I didn’t have to write down what it’s supposed to look like in the plan, since that would take a long time. But if I had more time on the Plan, I would’ve done this. Because by describing how it looks like in my plan, I’m adding more detail to my plan. That in turn makes my plan higher quality, so I could get a better grade. However I think that the plan I made is good enough for me to follow, so this would only be a minor improvement.

Create:

In the create part we spent 4 classes on just building our theme park in Minecraft. I think this was the most fun part of the unit, since we were just on minecraft the whole time.

An improvement for our park, would be to change the way our trees were made. We had cut them in half, because they were really tall and we couldn’t work as well.

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 But that looks really weird when you’re standing on top of the statue. All the trees are and you can see the roots. It looks unnatural and we should’ve changed it back. But if we were to change it back we’d have to do it manually. And we decided that it’s not worth the time doing it manually. So we didn’t change it, but if we did it would improve the overall experience of the theme park.