Ni hao at me?

When I was almost walking past him, he looked at me and said ni hao with his hands politely folded. His smile and polite gesture pleased me, and yet I said “Oh I’m not Chinese.” After a moment, I started thinking why I had to say that. I could have greeted him nicely because I kind of felt pleasant with his gesture somehow.

I was walking down the street this morning to get a nice cup of coffee in an environment that’s more vibrant than my room, when I saw a man giving direction to a group of young men who left in hurry. The friendly looking man was wearing a flash orange uniform with his presumably cleaning materials in the cart he was pulling. When I was almost walking past him, he looked at me and said ni hao with his hands politely folded. His smile and polite gesture pleased me, and yet I said “Oh I’m not Chinese.” He didn’t seem to understand English, though. After a moment, I started thinking why I had to say that. I could have greeted him nicely because I kind of felt pleasant with his gesture somehow. I know that it can be often called racism in some context when people just assume who you are based on the look or inaccurate interpretation of the look. Saying ‘ni hao’ instead of ‘goede morgen’ when he obviously could do it can sound a bit wrong. Still, I hated that I had to say who I’m not or who I am at the genuinely-felt greeting.
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What men and what women?

What’s going on in the world? When I browse through my twitter feed, I see so many angry women about men. I see the world is collapsing and all men are bad. If I can simplify this wave of overwhelming amount of testimonies against men, it’s either that so many women were victimised by men or gender sensitivity has become the mainstream all over the place. And I wondered, why I am not angry enough.

What’s going on in the world? When I browse through my twitter feed, which mostly consists of literature and academic tweets, and other online feeds like facebook, blog, and news, I see so many angry women about men. (I will not talk about angry men about women, cos I’m not doing the ‘what about them?’ kind of logic here!) It’s not just the #metoo. If I can simplify this wave of overwhelming amount of testimonies against men, it’s either that so many women were victimised by men or gender sensitivity has become the mainstream all over the place. And I wondered, why I am not angry enough.
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Dealing with compassion

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how I’m doing. How I’m contributing to my relationship and the health of my boyfriend. I finally would like to write about it since this is the only way I know how to really know what I’m thinking, and how I’m doing. The most difficult thing is the balance. There are moments when I have to scale the level of being compassionate and being a girlfriend. I feel like being straightforward compassionate actually risks how I feel about our relationship. It’s an extremely delicate line and also sensitive to raise as an issue.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how I’m doing. How I’m contributing to my relationship and the health of my boyfriend. I finally would like to write about it since this is the only way I know how to really know what I’m thinking, and how I’m doing.
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Those women were chosen by their looks

The arrival of the “army of beauties,” North Korean cheering squad, has become the centre of the attention in the 2018 winter olympic games opening ceremony. The fact that the country is authoritarian regime highlights the injustice towards women driven by look-oriented “employment”. But the demeaning of women and their rights by emphasising their looks lies not too far from democratic societies and as close as our own television. This is my review of one of DJ Khaled music videos.

While waiting for my kebab and chips to be ready, I was watching the television installed in the kebab restaurant. With the sound turned off, colourful sparkly pop music videos were playing. When I approached to the TV, the first scene I happened to caught was a woman dressed in mesh walking with a giant ass on focus. A mesh, the garment that is extra loosely weaved together. I wondered if this was some kind of urban porn. I thought so because I didn’t know it was a music video as the sound was muted. While thinking that, another woman appeared in the scene on a white horse. Her giant breasts were jumping up and down in a slow motion as the horse trotted. They gather at a nice mansion-like place with fancy pool, where male singers stood in the centre with extra amount of garments and accessaries on and around their body. Around them, women were densely spread in a fan shape and were lightly responding to the rhythm in their swim suits.
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Giving an advice

“What do you think?” he asked. That usually means someone wants my opinion. I told him how I think of his work as carefully as I could. He said, instead of taking my advice, “let’s see how the professor thinks about my work.” Giving an advice is tricky. But I found that by asking what they think is worried about first, sharing ideas may be more pleasant.

“What do you think?” he asked. That usually means someone wants my opinion.

I opened the file and half a page of our writing assignment popped up on my screen. He was asking for an advice probably, if not validation. I scrolled down with some constructive notes in mind. Before I said anything, I sent him mine to give him some ideas that this is how I write and what I think is right in terms of the writing style. After he read my writing, I did my best to be sensitive and suggested him that he could bring up more academic atmosphere by removing some part of the paragraph. I expected him to comment about my advice. Instead, he said he would just submit and see how the professor finds it. Then I thought, alright. Advice wasn’t what he was seeking.

After a few hours, I attended the class and the professor asked us to swap our assignment paper with the next person’s so that we could give and receive some constructive feedbacks before finally handing it in. The guy next to me read my 120 word abstract paper word by word while marking some underlines and comments. I read his with another constructive thoughts in mind. It was about 400 words. I didn’t make any notes as I preferred oral discussion to understand the context better and my plain words might get lost in translation on the way to his understanding. Instead of making a statement, I thought it would be much better to ask him clarifying questions so that he could answer himself. He wouldn’t finish reading so I interrupted and suggested we’d start sharing our thoughts. He enthusiastically embarked his comment on my research abstract by adding, changing, and replacing my original words. I could feel myself wondering if I should get offended by now. I didn’t enjoy the fact that he was actually editing my writing without knowing the whole story. As if he was my instructor. Although, I sensed that he was trying to be careful by adding ‘I guess?’ remark at the end of his comment. He was giving his opinion on what it should be like and why should I get offended by that? He cannot certainly outdo his own opinion and why would I expect him to give me something that he isn’t? I wondered if it’s me being insecure about being criticised or it’s the power relation where I became the lower position by being criticised by someone else. Or if it’s simply me thinking that my abstract was flawless. Probably not.

I thought I had to explain what context I had in mind so that he could adjust his constructive advice with the proper understanding of the context, because it’s after all academic writing for the readers who have a certain degree of background understanding. And then I asked how he perceived certain words with the intention to avoid any confusion by my choosing of some words. Because that I thought was the feedback I needed from my peer.

When it was my turn to give him the feedback, I asked a question to clarify his intention of using certain sentences because as I understood, he had 2 thesis questions in one research, which should be avoided by all means. He talked about the content of his research but it didn’t really help me understand why there are still two questions. I repeated again in an indirect manner fearing he might get offended, but it somehow didn’t clear it out. It was obvious that I was taking this issue sensitively already as I was aware that it might hurt feelings including mine. It was already in my head. Maybe he didn’t understand my comment or he thought it was pointless to take into account. Maybe he felt defensive. Maybe he didn’t like my comment at all. He resisted falling to the lower position under my ‘wisdom of thought’ by avoiding to face directly to my comment.

I do not like the feeling of going down to the lower position. It evokes the thought that the person giving me the advice isn’t necessarily better than me and why I have to listen to him/her when I can figure it out better myself. It’s a different feeling to be criticised by someone I consider smart and knowledged. Maybe it’s not necessarily about the quality of advice. It’s the name tag. But why is it so hard to give and receive a piece of constructive advice? Do I not have any trust in the intention of people?

And it was yesterday, that I asked someone an advice of my essay writing. In my head, I was hoping he could kind of complement my writing, as I was very well aware of my clumsy sentences and connections between paragraphs, and point out things that are not understandable. Then he gave up on reading the full essay for the reasons that I was semi-expecting: sloppy grammar structure, unclear, scribble-like sentences. He said the problem was likely the fluency. I tee-heed out of embarrassment and felt bad he had to read them. Certainly, though, I didn’t feel offended as I was in the last feedback session with another guy.

It must be the degree of agreeableness. The degree which I can relate to, I can agree with. If that’s true, I can make giving advices more pleasant. I can just ask “what do you think is your weakness in this writing?” Then I can offer more relatable feedback instead of pointing out something he or she didn’t even think about. I will have to experiment on this for a while.

 

Photograph: Verne Ho

No such thing as everyday rebel

I struggle against social validation. Some says that’s how it is, some says my standard is too high. Shouldn’t anyone’s standard be higher than just “fitting in” to the society? Or is it the wisdom we need to nurture to be able to live in symbiosis?

I can’t fight every time. And it’s not like I can easily change the fundamental problem that’s rotting from the root. I was on the phone with my friend and told her how frustrated I was about my workplace. My mental health, my ethics, my project, my team, the people all were at insecurity because of the rotting work culture. She asked, “is there anything you can do to stop that?” I said, “I can’t do anything anymore and I don’t know if I want, either. I’m worn out.” That was a few weeks before I left.

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The art of being available

It’s surprising to know that my expectation controls what I see and hear. When I expected to know no one in my town, I saw no one around me.

I rush out of the pool exhausted, then I quietly take shower in a grateful solitude. But time to time some thoughts do come up.

‘My face is burning. I must have worked out a good amount.’
‘I should eat something now to be able to walk without my blood pressure dropping on the way back home.’
‘Does anybody read the save-water sign?”
‘Why is the floor so slippery, who designed this?’

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What I fear, what I hate, what I become

We stand up for what we value. I stood up for what I value and resisted against doing what I detested. But I realised I was standing on the thawed ice. Instagram photos, German diner, woman with a hair-roll taught me a lesson how to look inside my fragile ego. I look back why I came to hate modern day photo-taking and how it’s connected to my fear and fragile ego.

The photo album in my phone has 47 photos since 2014. Most of them are cats and screenshots or things I should remember. That’s how much I don’t enjoy taking pictures. Even more so when it comes to special moments. People say pictures help them remember the moments more vividly. Well, I have different senses for feeling the moment. I enjoy the colour smeared in the reflected atmosphere, the temperature to my skin, the smell of air, and the feeling in my stomach when I recall them. However distorted the image may be, I still prefer to experience with my emotion as I perceived than remembering the facts. The mere visual effect of photos manipulates me into see the moment flat, taking away the full experience. Why stay in the shallow water when you can dive deeper with whales.

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Being a millennial and watching my mum cook

What my mother learned and how she acquired the knowledge from her mother has lost its place in me. I learn from the internet and books and I try to satisfy the social role that’s different from the one she was supposed to satisfy. The knowledge that I didn’t learn, is it considered as loss or substituted by different knowledge for newly emerging demand?

I google constantly. Things that enlighten me and things that help me survive, from how to cook eggs to what are the prerequisites for comprehension of new information. As I’m spending more time with my mother now, I realised I didn’t inherit a lot of her knowledge in a natural way, on a conscious level. As I’m watching her preparing meals, I began asking questions why she decided to take certain steps. I ask “why are you drying it first before cooking it?” Then she responds with reasonable answers.

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How I wish I’d been taught about kindness

What does it mean to be kind to someone? I remember having learned to be kind but I don’t remember being taught what kindness is. Instead, my elementary school teacher told me to hold hand of someone who’s handicapped. She never told me why it’s a good thing or how it helps him feel better. 20 years later, I learned that kindness isn’t about holding hands and that it only discouraged me from showing the act of kindness.

After very satisfying swim laps, I stopped by at a store to buy a couple of mini containers to put my post-swimming moisturiser in. There were several kinds on display on bottom shelves so I squatted down and examined one by one to see which one fits the best for the texture. A woman next to me asked me to confirm whether the product she was holding was mascara. I said it was, thinking the Korean text description might be too small for some people to read, as my mum often asks me to read things written on products. Then I heard noises from the cashier counter. Something that always bothered me; open-mouth eating noise. The more I tried to focus on my product choosing, the more I got obsessed with the worst pet peeve of mine. A guy was having a trivial conversation with either his wife or mum with his mouth open stuffed with food. I couldn’t stand it any longer so I picked one and took it to the cashier. My eyes automatically turned to the origin of the noise and there I saw him! Familiar face from my middle school days back in 2000s. I didn’t look twice as I feared he might recognise me. I greeted kindly to the cashier and got out.

read more 〉 “How I wish I’d been taught about kindness”