Friday, April 30, 2010

Where do I shop for my snacks in Africa?

Whenever we are in Africa, we visit our friends in Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi.  On our way to Brundi, we spotted this little shop on the road side.  It takes about 2 hours from Butare, Rwanda to Buzumbra, Burundi, and I look for something to munch on during the travel.  Here is my Safeway in Rwanda that I stop to buy my stash.  Peanuts are tasty, just as finger bananas.  And price is great.  A little bag of peanuts costs a nickle, a banana costs a penny, and a piece of bread costs 50 cents.  

I am thankful for writers who put their heart and soul in their works.

 I just completed an entry and sent it to the editor. One of my secret pleasure is reading books by ethnic authors, especially by Korean Americans.  I have almost every book that are written by Korean Americans, except by Younghill Kang and Richard Kim. Through this project, I learned about their books, I am on a mission to get these books. 

Korean American Literature

The first wave of Korean-American writers consisted of two intellectuals who were born in Korea; Younghill Kang and Richard Kim.  Younghill Kang was truly a pioneer Korean writer.  He wrote two biographical novels in the 1930’s.  His first novel, The Grass Roof (1931), took American readers into an unknown, exotic Korea.  His second novel, East Goes West (1937), shed light on the lives of Korean intellectuals who were then living in exile from Japanese-occupied Korea.  Three decades later, Richard Kim published his first novel The Martyred (1964)—about the Korean War experience. The Martyred was on the nation’s bestseller list for twenty consecutive weeks and was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature. 

The second wave of Korean-American writers were the children of immigrants who came to America earlier in the century. They were proud supporters of the Korean independence movement.  Mary Paik was born in Hawaii in 1905.  She was eyewitness to her parents’ harsh life as laborers in sugar cane fields.  She told her mother’s story in Quiet Odyssey: A Pioneer Korean Woman in America (1990).  Cathy Song in Picture Bride (1983) captured the disappointment, resilience, and strength of the first wave of Korean immigrant women who came to Hawaii as picture brides.  Ronyong Kim in her book Clay Wall (1987) depicted the Korean immigrant’s life in early 20th century California.

After 1990 there was a third and explosive wave of Korean American literature. The children of Koreans who immigrated in the 1970’s grew to adulthood with English as their primary language.  They provided a unique voice of growing up in two cultures.  Unlike wave one and wave two writers, these younger writers delved into issues of racism, gender, and power. The quantity and quality of these younger writers makes the current landscape of Korean American literature rich and interesting. There are too many quality authors to mention in all, but here is a short list of authors who grace the current literary scene as Korean American authors; Chang Rae Lee --Native Speaker (1995), Susan Choi -- The Foreign Student (1998), Nora Okja Keller--Comfort Woman (1997), Leonard Chang --Fruit ‘n’ Food (1996), and Patti Kim -- A Cab Called Reliable (1997).  The premier source of information concerning Korean American Literature is Dr. Elain H. Kim who is professor of Asian American Studies Program at the University of California, Berkeley.

Will there be a fourth wave of Korean-American writers?  Perhaps, but perhaps not.  After three generations on American soil, people with Korean surnames may be writing no differently than their fellow American authors.

Further Reading
Kim, Elaine H.  “Roots and Wings: An Overview of Korean American Literature 1934-2003”, in Korean American Literature, edited by Young-Key Kim-Renaud, Grinker, and Larsen, 2003

Fenkl, Heinz Insu. “The Future of Korean American Literature”, Korean American Literature, edited by Young-Key Kim-Renaud, Grinker, and Larsen, 2003

Kim, Ronyoung, Clay Walls, Sage Harbor, NY: Permanent Press, 1987

Song, Cathy, Picture Bride, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983

Lee, Mary Paik, Quiet Odyssey: A pioneer Korean Woman in America, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1990

Monday, April 26, 2010

Visit to Taiwan

I was a guest speaker at National Chung Cheng University tonight -- via Ellumiate.  I was sitting in my office at 5 p.m, CA time, and they showed up 8 AM at their time.  As you see on the wall clock, I finished talking at 9:20 AM their time.  I talked about ways to use blogs, wikis, Youtube in the classroom.  We need to engage students with their own learning,  help them to use technology that they already use outside of the classroom.  They are constantly connected with others with their mobile phone, facebook, and other social medias.  My teaching has been changed because of my experience of learning with these tools.  One of the skills we need to teach our students is to help them to aware of their own learning processes, thereby they learn to learn.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Safe Shelter

(May 2010 Newsletter)

The weather has been capricious lately. Yesterday, the afternoon sun warmed our condo up to 90 degrees, but this morning was chilly and damp. As I was settling into my armchair, enjoying my morning coffee with newspaper, I suddenly heard a noise from outside the window. I thought someone was scattering salt over our veranda. It was hail! But even before I stood to look, the hail turned into showers. This is a pretty rare happening in the Bay area.

Here in California, we are blessed with good year-round climate, but in many places, people live in the midst of harsh and unpredictable storms. Thunder, lightening, downpours, hail, and blizzards are commonplace. When I hear thunder and lightening, I know a storm is approaching. I quickly find the nearest shelter to weather the storm and stay dry. I know that if I ignore the signs, a storm might catch me and I might catch cold, or even suffer from pneumonia.

Just as we run into storms in nature, we run into storms in life. When you see a life storm approaching, what do you do? Do you run to a safe place? Or do you ignore the signs and suffer the damage it causes? As children of God, we are fortunate that we have a safe shelter – a hiding place – to run to in times of need.

Korean Poetry class

I think Korean language is a poetic language. In our last poetry class, we read poems written by Mr. Kim who taught the class. The title of poems are byul 별 하나, 별 둘, 별 셋.... the Korean word "byul (별)" is "star" in English. When we translate the byul into the English word star, the poem loses flavor. If the word is a person, the effect is almost like losing an arm or a leg. When I hear the word "byul", it brings up so much more than the word 'star". Same as the word hanul 하늘 and the word "sky" does. I can say so much more with few words in Korean. This is why I prefer to write poems in Korean, and prose in English. It has been fun to play with Koran words for a few months.

I miss my mother

I am planning to go to Korea in May. During this trip, I am going to visit my home town, a little village where I lived till I was 10 years old. My mother was a stranger to this little village. She was a refugee from North Korea during the 1950 Korean war, she fell in love with my father who was the first son of a rich land owner. His family rejected her with many different reasons; one of reasons was that she was a "modern woman" which means that she was exposed to the western thought. They called a woman a modern woman, if she was educated, wear a dress or skirts instead wearing a hanbok, wear a short-cut hair style, and she chose her own mate.

Mother has been gone for 5 years now, and I miss her more and more as the time goes by.

Modern Woman

You taught me how to walk

Like a lady

On our monthly outing to the village market

I would hop ahead of you

Hurrying to get to the bustling market place where

Vendors called my attention with their exotic wares

Pulling on your skirt

I was impatient with your measured walk

Instead, you stopped in the middle of the road

You told me to watch those scurrying people

Pointing how they walked

"Like a grasshopper, when a woman sways her hips and shoulder"

"Like a duck, when a women walks with her feet point outward"

Then you showed me the proper way to walk

"Step one foot over another as though you are walking on a rope in the air"

I watched you closely for the first time

On that dusty, gravel road

Lined with tall poplar trees

Wondering where the road leads

You were different even to my seven year-old eyes

You had schoolgirl hair-cut when others had rolled their hair up

You had a western dress when others had a hanbok

The villagers called you "modern woman"

With reverence and envy

Since that day, I have practiced walking straight

One foot over another like a tightrope walker

When I am afraid of falling

I think of that "modern woman" who showed me

A road out of that little village

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A surprise visit

Peter, one of my former students, surprised me last week. As always, he finds a time to visit me whenever he is in SF. One of the best gifts for a teacher is to hear from graduates. Surprisingly, not many of them would contact their teachers after they graduate.

Peter took a class from me more than 10 years ago. While he was an undergrad student in the Broadcasting Department, he saw the future with digital media. His department at that time taught radio and TV programming, but his keen sense told him that he needs to go outside of his major to learn about new media. When he showed up in my multimedia course, my class was full. We usually can’t take undergraduate students in our department due to the limited number of computers in the lab.

When I told him that there is no room in the class, he looked so sad. I told him he should come back next week, and check if any student might drop the course. No one dropped. I told him that he has to work with his own computer and also I told him that he has to work hard to keep up with graduate students. He worked harder than anyone I knew in that course. I still remember, for his final project, he turned in a movie length multimedia project.

I was impressed with this young undergrad. To make a long story short, after Peter finished his BECA degree, he came to our department for his master’s degree in Instructional Technology. In 2002, he went on to get his from University of Idaho. While he was working on his doctorate degree, we stayed in contact for a while. I didn’t hear from him for a few years.

A few years ago, I got a phone call from him and said that he became a professor in Taiwan. He wanted to invite me to his university. That was in 2008. I visited Taiwan for the first time, I enjoyed the visit immensely. He arranged me to speak at several universities, and he made a plan for me to see the beautiful island, Taiwan. I enjoyed soaking in the famous hot spring, hiked on the most beautiful mountain that I ever saw, met so many wonderful students, and his colleagues who became my Facebook friends now.

Peter called me last Friday (April 2, 2010), and told me he is in US for two days. I invited him to my home and we had a lunch together. Our conversation covered from work, research, family, electron gadgets, religions, travel, and food. What a blessing to have a friendship like this. We are planning to do a research project together, so I can visit Taiwan again. I hope that day will come soon. Mean while I need to pack my bag for a visit to Korea in May.