Putting the Present in Perspective

It’s a pretty day outside today. The sun is shining, the weather is finally warming up after the dreadful coldness of the past few days ( a little too warm for my liking if I were being completely honest), and the squirrels are jovially chasing each other about without a single care in the world. As this beautiful scene unfolds itself before my eyes, I’m tempted to take a picture with my smartphone. As I unlock the camera and attempt to capture the perfect shot, the only view that greets me from the other side is a blurred and out of focus image.

out of focusSometimes the moments we are living through are like the blurry picture, frustratingly obscure and meaningless, out of focus. We can’t seem to grasp the significance of certain occurrences. Maybe we just got fired from our job for no apparent reason. Maybe we opened our fourth rejection letter from colleges. Maybe we studied so hard for that one test but still bombed it. Maybe that concert we’ve been waiting ages to go to just got cancelled. Whatever it is, we are disappointed, lost, and unhappy, walking through the lonely streets of life with no one at our side. We wonder out loud for the hundredth time, “Why me of all people? Why now of all times?” On a miserable day that couldn’t get any worse, the rain starts pouring, flawlessly completing the gloomy scene.

I have a confession to make.

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Jingle Bells

Christmas is my favorite holiday because everyone is always so merry and in high spirits. It’s when families reunite to share good food and good cheer, gifts are exchanged, friends sip on hot chocolate together, lovers kiss under the mistletoe, gingerbread cookies are baked, and children listen to stories next to the fireplace. No matter who we are, young or old, Christmas will always carry a familiar juvenile notion and leave traces of childhood magic in the hearts of all touched.

The colorful reflection of holiday lights mirrored by the bright glint in our own eyes, the dash of glitter sprinkled amongst the pure white snowflakes falling into our hair (let’s pretend that there’s snow where I live), the sound of laughter and the sound of bells ringing out into the quiet night air. So powerful is the unifying spirit of Christmas that during WWI, soldiers dropped their weapons and joined hands with their enemies on the front line, temporarily establishing peace on what had previously been a bloody battlefield.  Merry Christmas!

Japan Trip (Part Two)

The exhilarating saga continues.

Day 4

We woke up bright and early to travel by bus to Fushiki High School where we met up with our host sisters and host brothers. The school kindly presented us with little gifts to keep as souvenirs. Being a school in a more rural area meant the school didn’t come equipped with air conditioning. Each classroom had huge windows that opened into the hallway and most of them featured blackboards, just like the Chinese classrooms I had experienced when I still lived in Shanghai. One difference was the switching of outdoor shoes into sandals for indoor use throughout the whole campus. I could never imagine doing that in American schools, just because of the sheer inefficiency caused from having the 3000 or so students in my high school change shoes and then put them inside a cubby to be locked away every morning. We all sat in on varying levels of English lessons and participated in games lead by a British ALT (Assistant Language Teacher).

ramen

From that class we moved to a cooking class and even though I’m usually horrendous when it comes to such things, apparently I’m really good at chopping cucumbers – the best/most intricate slices in my group happened to be mine. Since our group had to prepare food for the teachers as well, we fell behind others and the Japanese students ended up doing most of the cooking for us, leaving us with only side jobs such as washing the dishes and chopping vegetables. The noodles we cooked were Japanese-style Chinese noodles yeah I don’t really understand either and they turned out fantastic! The fruit desert tasted equally yummy.

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Japan Trip (Part One)

tokyo
Tokyo in all its morning glory

So I never did make a post about the amazing experience that was my trip to Japan last summer. Our school had an opportunity to visit the country on an exchange program called the Kakehashi Program (Translating roughly to “bridge to tomorrow”) entirely funded by the government. Since not enough Japanese language study participants signed up, the International Baccalaureate Program candidates were also given the chance. I love traveling, so of course I signed up. I felt so excited the night before the trip as this was my first time traveling internationally without parental supervision. When we boarded the airplane before our 14 hour flight, I was shocked to learn that some of my classmates had never even been anywhere outside of Texas, much less flew on a plane. Having had so much previous international experienced made me feel privileged in comparison. Read More »

The Trouble with Sleep

Is falling asleep always like an arduous battle for you?

Do you always take sleeping pills and would like to stop?

If so, you will be glad to hear there is a solution out there! Read on for my own take on the “How to Sleep Faster” guides.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve hated sleeping. Nap time? More like close-my-eyelids-and-pretend-to-be-asleep-when-the-teacher-comes-around time. Sleep 7-9 hours a night? More like 4-6 hrs. In sixth grade, I unnecessarily stayed up until 11pm doing an art project one night and I thought I was so cool because my parents had already gone to bed. Haha I was such a naive girl (just wait until you experience high school all nighters).

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Counting in Chinese: A Linguistic Case Study

三七二十一…

七八五十六…

I always catch myself counting and doing math operations in my first language, Mandarin, even though my most fluent language now is English (my thoughts are always in English, and this is usually a definite indication of which language is an individual’s strongest). Anyway, the action piqued my interest and I decided to do a little research online using information collected from forums and various articles.

Apparently using your native language to do math operations is a fairly common phenomenon for bilinguals. Furthermore, Psychology Today conducted a study which found that the language of instruction is more essential than an individual’s first language. Since we had more concrete practice and our brains made more neural connections when we first memorized the multiplication table and began to understand other operations, it is easier to recall the primary information than new material processed later on .

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