Cinco de Mayo!

With Cinco de Mayo coming just around the corner, what things come to mind? Margaritas, guacamole, and sombreros? For most Americans, that is the correct answer. Why is it that Americans tend to celebrate Cinco de Mayo so much more than our neighbors down south? While we as Americans mark the date for parties and celebration, Mexico has much different traditions.

Many believe that May 5th represents the Mexican equivalent of Independence Day, which is not entirely accurate. Cinco de Mayo represents the day that Mexico was able to claim an unexpected victory over France during the French Intervention in 1862, Puebla, Mexico under the leadership of Ignacio Zaragoza. This marks such an important victory because of how powerful the French army had been during this time.

This victory not only had a major impact on Mexican history, but is also largely recognized by United States as an important date in history. During this battle, just across the border was the Civil War, in which the Confederacy relied heavily on the help of French forces. Due to this extraordinary victory by Mexico, the French were halted in helping the Confederacy, in which some historians believe may have helped the Union greatly, possibly altering the result of the Civil War. For this reason many Americans recognize this as a U.S. holiday, even making it a national holiday in 2005.

What makes Cinco de Mayo different in the U.S. in comparison to Mexico is the way that the holiday is celebrated. While we think of food, music and drinks, celebration in Mexico is quite different. The celebration in all parts of Mexico is not as large as what it has become in America, the largest of the celebrations in the country takes place in the city of Puebla, Mexico where the actual battle had taken place. Celebrations in Mexico often consist of parades and battle re-enactments, especially in Puebla.

The United States has ventured far away from the Mexican way of celebrating the holiday. Cinco de Mayo in the States has taken its own form. This holiday is known for partying, food and tequila. In fact, the world’s largest Cinco de Mayo celebration does not even take place in Mexico, but in Los Angeles with the Festival de Fiesta Broadway. According to HLNtv.com, Americans consume up to 81 million avocados on Cinco de Mayo! The U.S. has continued to add new traditions to this holiday that is originally meant to be a Mexican holiday. These new traditions even include ridiculous additions of celebration including Chihuahua races in Chandler, Arizona. This just adds to how much America has recreated a once Mexican holiday and turned it into its own moderation of an old holiday.

 

A Royal Arrival

On May 2, 2015 the world welcomed another heir to the English throne. After nine months of anticipation The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a daughter. The power this 8lbs 3oz baby holds, as a one day old, is astounding. The arrival of the royal baby has created crowds in the streets of London, new merchandise for vendors, and overall happiness for the all.

The formal royal announcement outside of Kensington Palace.

The formal royal announcement outside of Kensington Palace.

It was an exciting day for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate.  The royal announcement was posted outside of the palace that a royal baby was on the way.  The Duchess of Cambridge went in to labor before arriving at St. Mary’s Hospital in west London. This is the very spot their first child, Prince George, was born twenty-one months before. Many people, who were waiting outside the hospital for weeks waiting the moment when the fourth heir to the throne would be born, greeted them. Once it was announced that the royal couple had a healthy baby girl the crowds grew immensely. William brought his son, George, to St. Mary’s Hospital to meet his new baby sister. This was the first public outing for George since his birth debut.

William brings George to meet his new baby sister.

William brings George to meet his new baby sister.

Kate and Will left the hospital later that day for Kensington Palace. They greeted the crowds with smiles and waves of gratitude for the support. People have been camping out since the predicted due date. Since the Duchess was a couple weeks late, the crowds, decked out in red white and blue, remained longer than expected.

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge greet the crowds with their new baby girl.

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge greet the crowds with their new baby girl.

According to BBC, the couple said, “Their Royal Highnesses would like to thank all staff at the hospital for the care and treatment they have all received…They would also like to thank everyone for their warm wishes.” The couple was happy to bring home a healthy baby girl to add to the royal family. They returned to Kensington Palace to consult with the Queen before naming the child. Queen Elizabeth II must approve any royal baby’s name and plays a major part in the choice of the name. Which they have now announced that the princess will be named Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.  These names are all in reference to important family royal members.  Charlotte is the female of Charles, Elizabeth is after the Queen, and Diana is to honor William’s late mother.
The position of British Monarchy has changed throughout the years. The royals, as we all know, used to have the power fully rule. Now the British Monarch is considered a constitutional monarchy. This means that they do not have the right to pass legislation like members of Parliament whom were elected. They are still considered the ‘Head of Nation’, however the position of the monarchy is now more a symbol for unity. The position in the public eye through voluntary services to Britain is that of a celebrity to the public. The Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy has been followed closely since the beginning. Preceding that, there was heavy speculation of a baby bump from the hopeful community.

Royal family fans decked out in their celebratory apparel.

Royal family fans decked out in their celebratory apparel.

This obsession over a newborn held by the royal family fans has a predicted contribution to the economy as well as the upcoming election. According to The Wee The Dow Jones rose by an average of 2.4 per cent in the week following the births of Princesses Anne and Margaret and Queen Elizabeth”.  In addition, Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, says: “Births in the royal family have been cause for celebration around the world. This can spill over into the stock markets as well.” The royal baby merchandise made in celebration has been flying off the shelves. The economic increase hasn’t been obvious yet, but in the coming couple days the impact will be seen. Reports have said that, “ [A royal baby] gives the country a feel-good boost so close to polling day is usually regarded as a plus for whoever is in power.” The birth should be favorable for the Conservatives in the upcoming election.

Charlotte Elizabeth Diana  on her birthday.

Charlotte Elizabeth Diana on her birthday.

Overall the arrival of this royal baby girl has the opportunity to create a thriving economy, bring entertainment to the world, and happiness to the expecting family. It’s been an exciting day for all those in Britain and those with access to E News. We all are happy to hear about the new adorable and healthy addition to our world. Royals, we’ll see you next time.

Where do my old i-Phones and computers end up?

Thanks to the modern technology, our lives become much more comfortable and convenient with electronics, such as a smart-phone, personal computer, and television. Someday, I was curious about my old i-Pod and lap-top commuters like where they go after end of  life? It is unconvinced belief that even old devices may be used in developing country by the second or third new owner, who buys my one as a used products. Or I thought my old electronic may be dissembled by the professional hands for recycle. I never doubted that it may hurt future generation and me. However, I could know this is wrong idea after watching the video that talks about e-waste problem. Many e-wastes are sneakily exporting to developed countries to developing countries. By unskillful hands and unequipped youth labors, my old i-pod and computer has been dissembled and buried that we all have big responsibility of making the world as a hazard living environment. This problem is very serious problem as threatening all living organisms in the present and future. We should be aware of this problem immediately.

E-waste – Any unwanted equipment that is dependent upon electric current of electromagnetic fields in  order to operate properly and no longer serves its original purpose. E-waste is also often called as WEEE (Waste and Electronic Equipment) that generates extremely hazard by-products, such as dioxins, furans, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polyhalogenated aromatic hydrocarbons (PHAHs), and hydrogen cholride. Regardless of its dangerous toxic, e-waste are improperly eliminated as a huge amount. Landfill, incineration, reuse, recycle, and export are all lists how to treat e-waste. More than 70% of America’s e-waste are exporting to the third worlds. China, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, and Ghana are major importers of e-waste. European Union and American  are major exporters because the proper treatment of e-waste cost too much, but nobody wants to pay for the right price to take care of e-waste. So, unwelcomed e-waste are being shipped to developing countries.

E-Waste trading route – by Green Peace

Basel Convention was held in 1989 to aim at preventing the economically motivated dumping of hazardous wastes in developing countries. Additionally, Basel Ban Amendment in 1995 prohibits all exports of hazard waste between member states. These international agreement is working as a guideline without direct regulations. According to Green Peace, “the United States has signed the Basel Convention, but has yet to ratify the Convention. In order for the United States to become a Basel party, it must rafity the Convetion and have sufficient authority to implement Basel’s terms. For this reason, the United States cannot participate in waste transfers with Basel Parties without a separate and equivalent bilateral or multilateral agreement.” In other words, Green Peace International tells that “50-80 percent of the waste in the U.S. collected for recycling is being  exported to developing countries or sold to ‘grey’ market.” The government of the United States did not ratified the Basel Convention yet, so America’s practice is legal.

MandM

E-waste is growing up super-fast that would be exceeding over 93.5 million tons annually. How do we take care of these? We do not have much capability to deal with plenty of growing e-waste and contained hazard toxins; therefore, immoral exports are being proceeding in the behind of us. Almost 70% of global e-waste ends up in China. Burning and heating are major methods to extract valuable material from e-waste that cause of serious health problems and massive ecological destruction. However, it keeps continually arriving in China because it is very profitable as China has low wages and high demand for used products. This industry also feed their family.

 

Regulations are already ready to stop the problem of e-waste, but the lack of operational system and will is another problem. Environmental protection agency, RCRA (Resource Conservation Recovery Act), and EPA policy for hazardous  waste are not function in the United States. It is same happening in China as well. There are three major reasons; the first, e-wastes are difficult to categorize into just three classifications (industrial, municipal and hazardous waste). The second, it is hard to define who is causing the problem. The third, it is hard to ensure funding of treatment.

Do you still we have a plenty land to bury waste?

This is not going to be a right solution. Lead and mercury would intake into ground water and land that would transfer to plants and animals we consume. How does it sound? You cannot still feel? Let’s check out the film of the largest e-waste site in the world, Guiyu in Guangdong Province in China.

 

This is caused by our unmindful consumerism and ethnocentric viewpoint. Serious disaster is happening  now as a sin of us. We all are interdependent beings as a part of nature. Many people may think that we are separated from other beings like other nations and nature; however, the air we take, the water we drink, and the food we eat come from the nature and various regions. In the fast growing society, mindful consumption is not easy as people do not buy new things, but we can at least try to use old one more and dump properly. For us and next generation the sustainable environment must be attained by your immediate action and awareness.

“The World’s Happiness Report”

My parents always told me that success is measured by happiness. I do believe this is true and a good value to live by. No matter what you do in life it’s almost impossible to be successful if you’re unhappy. Happiness is something I am striving to find more of and as I have gotten older, I have come to the realization that life is hard and people focus on the negative more than the positive. I recently learned in my Intimate Relationships class this semester that it take 5 positives to outweigh 1 negative in a relationship or any aspect of life.

IMG_2051

My mom, dad and I when I was a senior in high school (2012)

I was interested in finding out which countries in the world were the happiest (and saddest) and why. So I did some research. I was lucky to find some really up-to-date statistics posted on April 23, 2015 on a website called MindBodyGreen.com. The post is by Emi Boscamp, an associate editor at MindBodyGreen.com who graduated from Cornell.

The study was done by a group of international and national economists, neuroscientists and statisticians. They call their study “The World Happiness Report” and this is their third time performing the study. Based on their research, as a team, they came to the conclusion that the Swiss are the world’s happiest people. They based their data and rankings off of what they call “four main factors”. According to MindBodyGreen.com, these factors are “Sustained positive emotion, Recovery from Negative Emotion, Pro-Social behavior and generosity, and Mind wandering, mindfulness and ‘affective stickiness’ or emotion captured attention.”

This time around the research team was able to change their study by breaking down their data based on gender, age and region and they found “surprisingly big differences between these demographics” than ever before.

A happy Switz couple. Fiat 500 Geburtstagsfeier - "Happy People" in Switzerland http://www.askjeff.com/en/work/29.html#sub63

A happy Swiss couple. Fiat 500 Geburtstagsfeier – “Happy People” in Switzerland http://www.askjeff.com/en/work/29.html#sub63

 

So…… according to MindBodyGreen.com here is the 2015 list of the top 20 happiest countries in the world:

1. Switzerland     2. Iceland    3. Denmark   4. Norway    5. Canada   6. Finland

7. Netherlands   8. Sweden   9. New Zealand   10. Australia    11. Israel   12. Costa Rica

13. Austria   14.Mexico   15. United States   16. Brazil   17. Luxembourg   18. Ireland

19. Belgium  20. United Arab Emirates

 

Unfortunately, MindBodyGreen.com did not include WHY these countries were ranked the happiest in the world, so I looked at previous years of the world’s happiest countries on Forbes.com because their website gave a more detailed evaluation.

I chose three countries from the top 20 list of the “World’s Happiest Countries” to explain why they were ranked.

According to Forbes.com… I chose…

Switzerland because it is ranked #1 on the list.  This is due to their country being “number 1 in governance, 2nd in health and economy and sticking with the Franc rather than going Euro has helped make Switzerland a bastion of stability in shaky Europe right now.”

Norway because my great, great grandfather, Gustav Vigeland has his own park in Oslo, Norway, full of his sculptures. He was also the designer of the Nobel Peace Prize medal. Additionally, my Mormor (grandmother) immigrated to the U.S. from Norway as well. Norway is ranked #4 on the list because according to Forbes.com “with a per capita GDP of $54,000 Norway is among the richest in the world and ranks first in social capital and second in safety and security”.

A photo of Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway.  Slawonir http://www.panoramio.com/photo/80107330

A photo of Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway.
Slawonir
http://www.panoramio.com/photo/80107330

The United States because it is my home country. According to Forbes.com it makes the top 20 list of happiness because it is “an excellent place to start a business, the U.S. also ranks no. 1 in health, a function of high immunizations, clean water and the highest levels of gov’t spending on healthcare”.

Happy Americans. "Crowd Holding American Flags" http://www.corbisimages.com/stock-photo/royalty-free/42-20942474/crowd-holding-american-flags

Happy Americans.
“Crowd Holding American Flags”
http://www.corbisimages.com/stock-photo/royalty-free/42-20942474/crowd-holding-american-flags

Maybe one day I will be fortunate enough to travel to all of these countries so I can experience happiness of all different cultures and forms.

Although I’m choosing not to blog about the top 20 saddest countries in the world, because I do not want to dwell on the negative… I have included the list below in case anyone is interested.

1. Togo   2. Burundi   3.Syria   4.Benin   5.Rwanda   6.Afghanistan   7.Burkina Faso

8.Ivory Coast  9.Guinea   10.Chad   11. Central African Republic   12.Madagascar

13. Tanzania   14.Cambodia  15.Niger 16.Gabon   17.Senegal   18.Uganda

19.Comoros   20.Congo (Brazzaville)

Love Boat: Taiwan Study Tour

2012 Love Boat Group Photo: EYTC Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/EYTSC)

2012 Love Boat Group
Photo: EYTC Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/EYTSC)

The summer right after you graduate high school is a strange limbo. It feels like you are just anticipating your new life as a university freshman. I originally planned on lounging around with friends, but my parents had other plans. I would be in the country I had unappreciatively been visiting every other summer since the first grade: Taiwan. However, this wasn’t just a family vacation. I would be attending the Expatriate Youth Taiwan Summer Camp, which I would later find out to be nicknamed “Love Boat.”

On Chientan Campus

The camp itself was a month long culture and language program in Taipei (Taiwan’s capital) made for Taiwanese or Chinese kids, ages 14-18, who lived overseas (usually American, Canadian, and European). We spent about the first two weeks on the Chientan campus learning Mandarin Chinese, sorted into levels 1-6 depending on how well we knew the language. I was sorted into level 2. Mind you, I grew up in an area where they shut down the Chinese school for lack of Asians anywhere near my age group. So, I could speak and understand from speaking with my parents, but my reading and writing level extended to my name, numbers 1-10, and 小心 (be careful).

Chinese Yo-Yo or Diablo Photo: Brooke Meyer

Chinese Yo-Yo or Diablo
Photo: Brooke Meyer

Along with the Chinese classes, we had a choice between taking traditional calligraphy and painting (which I chose), kung fu, or Diablo, which is a type of yo-yo, for our culture class. Occasionally, during our time in Chientan, we would further our cultural learning by watching films based in Taiwan or learning to sing a song like this gem.

In all honesty, I didn’t learn much Chinese in class nor did I learn much from calligraphy class other that I shouldn’t do it professionally. I actually learned more about the culture and polished up my Chinese speaking skills when we snuck out of the camp to explore the city.

Exploring Taipei

As mentioned before, the camp has the nickname “Love Boat.” The purpose of our camp, according to a press release, was to improve and enhance our knowledge of Taiwanese and Chinese roots. However, the camp got its nickname from vacation-like attitude the students took throughout the camp and, of course, the hook-ups that inevitably occurred. There are articles online that illustrate the camp as a way for parents and government to match Taiwanese descendants to find each other and get married. Regardless, there was a huge amount of “love” going around because of the freedom after bed check.

When I say sneaking out after bed check, I mean walking right out of the front door without being seen by certain camp counselors. With Taipei night life right at our fingertips, it was incredibly difficult to resist. There were so many night markets, restaurants, and clubs that opened up an entirely new aspect of Taiwan I had not yet seen. In an attempt to shorten this post, I will only share two of my favorites.

Stinky tofu stand at Shihlin Night Market Photo: Will Jackson

Stinky tofu stand at Shihlin Night Market
Photo: Will Jackson

One MRT stop away was Shihlin Market, one of the biggest night markets in Taipei, filled with so much life. Lining the crowds were cheap food vendors, video arcades, and shops of almost anything you could think of, from clothing to cute stationary.

Ximending Photo: Carrie Kellenberger

Ximending
Photo: Carrie Kellenberger

We were also close to Ximending, a famous district known for the shopping and clubs as well as being the main LGBT district of Taiwan. The first time I went to the shopping district was to get my first tattoo in the famous Tattoo Street. I would return to Ximending many more times for Party World KTV or Karaoke Television, a place you get an entire room, fully equipped with comfy couches, a menu, a large table and TV to match, and microphones, to a group of friends and sing really off-key to old songs for about three hours for only about 400NT to 600NT ($13-$20) per person.

Exploring Taiwan

2012 Group at Eluanbi Lighthouse Photo: EYTC Facebook

2012 Group at Eluanbi Lighthouse
Photo: EYTC Facebook

In the remaining week, we got an overload of Taiwanese culture, as we travelled around the entire country, hitting major Taiwanese landmarks and destinations, eating at whatever local restaurant had enough room for our massive group, fully equipped with Lazy Susan tables. Taiwan is fairly small, not making it difficult to travel around the whole country. However, on this weeklong trip, we travelled to at least two locations per day. We started out at the National Center for Traditional Arts, to Taiwan’s southernmost point at the Eluanbi Lighthouse, and ended in the Old Street in Danshui (Tamsui) District back in Taipei. Again, for the sake of the length of this post, I’m going to cut down to some of my favorite stops.

At the Kenting Night Market Photo: EYTC Facebook

At the Kenting Night Market
Photo: EYTC Facebook

On day 3, we stayed in Kenting, Taiwan’s first national park. The area is best known for its beautiful beaches. Unfortunately for our group, there was a big storm throughout the day. Though, that didn’t stop us from exploring the beach later that night. But, another fun thing about Kenting is its night market. The storm throughout the day did not keep massive amounts of people from coming that evening. There are so many vendors selling small souvenirs, activities, and so many delicious Taiwanese snacks.

Ten Drum Art Percussion Group Performance Photo: EYTC Facebook

Ten Drum Art Percussion Group Performance
Photo: EYTC Facebook

Mid-tour, we stopped by Taiwan’s Drum Culture Village close to Tainan. The village was formerly a sugarcane factory and converted to a cultural drum village after the Japanese rule. Because we took the tour, we had a brief drumming lesson and then a special performance by the Ten Drum Art Percussion Group.

The skywalk at Xitou Nature Education Area. Photo: Foreignsanctuary.com

The skywalk at Xitou Nature Education Area.
Photo: Foreignsanctuary.com

Throughout the tour, we basically hiked until our feet bled. One of my favorites was hiking in the Xitou Nature Education Area, which is well within the mountains of Taiwan. There is so much wildlife and foliage, especially when compared to Taipei and any city we had encountered. There was also an option to go on the Sky Walk, which is 22.6 m aboveground, allowing maximum observations of the forest.

Although I might not have taken full advantage of the classes provided by the camp, Love Boat 2012 is an experience I could never forget. The amount that I learned about my native country on the month-long program outweighed anything I picked up on from the previous eighteen years. The amount of tradition and life within Taiwan is abundantly clear, and you really just have get out there to experience it and learn.

Medz Yeghern: The 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

armenia logo

The official banner commemorating the centennial anniversary of the Armenian genocide in the UK.

 

 

armenia 2

A depiction of the Syrian desert death marches.

ottoman map

A map of the Ottoman empire of 1914.

 

April 24, 1915 marks the date that started the carnage sealing the fate of an estimated 800 thousand to 1.5 million Armenian people who were systematically murdered at the hands of the Ottoman Turks in what has come to be known as the Armenian Genocide. Similar to the Jewish holocaust of World War II, the Armenian genocide was the governmental extermination of Armenians as a minority within the region that is now known as the Republic of Turkey. The first cycle of this bloodbath (that didn’t end until 7 years later in 1922), involved the mass murders and forced subjugation of physical labor of the young and robust male population. The second cycle of the Armenian genocide involved the Syrian death marches.

Women, children, and elderly in large numbers were marched southward to the Syrian deserts where they were then subject to frequent incidents of rape, robbery, and physical abuse. Many died on these marches from starvation, and lack of water. Those who tried to stop and take a break were shot on site.

The ancient Armenians had inhabited what was known as their homeland for many years prior to the Turk invasion in the eleventh century. With this invasion came significant problems for the Armenian population. For one, the Turks were mostly followers of the Muslim religion and began to rule while labeling Armenian Christians as second class citizens denying them their right to vote and going so far as to tax them for identifying as Christian.

young turks

A painted depiction of a meeting of the Young Turks political group.

 

With the growing trend of Turkish nationalism came the creation of a political group known as the Young Turks who were an ultra nationalist organization whose political ideologies included the end goal of a wholly Muslim and Turkish state. Behind the smoke of World War I, the Ottoman Turks began their attack on the Armenians starting by targeting the thousands of Armenian soldiers enlisted in the Turkish army. This event is known to the Armenian people as “Medz Yeghern” meaning Great Crime. On the 24th of this month, the Armenian community, along with its sympathizers remembered this time of sadness in fellowship with marches, rallies and speeches centered around this harrowing topic. However, Armenians today face another hurdle concerning this 20th century genocide—recognition that it was a genocide in the first place.

 

100 years later, the modern Turkish government does not recognize the massacre at Anatolia to be deemed a genocide. Perhaps even more surprising (to me anyway) is the fact that the United States and Israel are also among the ranks of the few nations who also refuse to use the language specific to genocide when talking about the event. Turkey’s denial of the Armenian genocide comes from claims within the Turkish and Azerbaijan governments that there was no plot to exterminate the Armenian race, but that there was a more complicated inter-ethnic war taking place, that Muslim Turks were also killed during that time, and that the numbers produced by scholars concerning the number of Armenian dead are inflated.

Speculation has been made that President Obama’s refusal to use the term genocide is largely because of the United State’s alliance with Turkey— despite that a majority of 43 states have declared their agreement that the massacre of 1915 was indeed a genocide. This year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the event, a recorded 130 thousand people marched in Los Angeles from Little Armenia to the Turkish Consulate in solidarity. On the eastern side of the United States, there was also a gathering of thousands of Armenian-American youth in Times Square where they marched waving the Armenian flag,  wearing Red carnations and chanting, “Turkey is responsible for genocide”.

It would seem that 100 years later, Armenia still has something to fight for—even if it’s just the recognition their bloodied history deserves.

Armenian-American rally in New York for the centennial anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

Armenian-American rally in New York for the centennial anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

Banned Books Across the Globe

The power of knowledge is a terrifying thing for parts of the world, while for others, it’s a sense of liberation. Knowledge comes from experience and books. The ones with experience are the ones who write the books, and the stories in books are what gives people ideas, promotes imagination. Allowing people to create stories of their choosing for others to read has been a controversial topic for about a century now.

 

The United States prides itself on “freedom of speech” for its citizens. Nowadays it is incredibly hard to ban a book in the United States, near impossible. Sure, there are still books that are highly frowned upon in which there are less copies made, and some school districts and organizations ban books from being in their libraries and put into school assignments. But there are many books that were taken out of circulation even in the US for a while. In fact, many classic books are still frowned upon. Books like The Adventures of Huck Finn and Uncle Tom’s Cabin have been controversial due to the amount of derogatory race-relate worlds and cruelty towards African Americans. These are just two books that have been banned in the past, but are now available and just marked up as some of the books that “aren’t with the times” and dated. There are many more books that have been banned just in the United States that make a person roll their eyes.

Many countries outside of the United States, even ones as progressive, are still banning or taking books out of circulation. Books like American Psycho have been classified as demeaning to women and violent. American Psycho is still banned in Queensland, Australia. The Anarchist Cookbook gives how-to’s on how to build bombs and make drugs. This book (for obvious reasons) is still banned in Australia and the U.K. Many others are on this list of banned books, and there are still books in the United States still being controversial. A Texas high school banned simple, everyday books that a college kid like myself actually owns. In fact, if I had been able or even prompted to read some of the more mature books, it could have helped me mature faster and open my mind to a different thought process. The Art of Racing in the Rain was removed from the high school’s library shelves for one scene with sexual content. High school students know about sex. Reading a story that has a scene about consenting adults should not be condemned, in fact, it SHOULD be brought to attention. With the amount of crime and widely accepted or ignored violence in the world right now, a book like this is harmless.

 

Who makes these arguments to rid their world of these books? Why do they get a say? As an avid reader, having read several of these “banned books,” I thrive on the knowledge and understanding I get once I read a book. People want to know. There is never enough information about any topic. The world wants to know more, but it has become apparent that there are governments, activists, conservatives, and people who have just plain radical thoughts… basically people from all spectrums… who want others to see their sides. They fear people who have different ideas, and thoughts, and the ones who can persuade others to open up their eyes and have an imagination take a lot of heat.

 

It’s understandable that certain governments might not want a “How to cook up drugs and bombs” book circulating, but many governments, including South Korea, ban books that have potential to inform its audience of sketchier instances within its own boundaries. Other books that are included on the list of banned, disapproval, and ones that have been limited on publishing and circulation are ones that have characteristics such as being very progressive and forward thinking, revealing a pitfall of a government, group, or a major scandal of some sort. Mysteries, such as The DaVinci Code, thrillers, classics, and informative texts have all had their turn in being banned. Even in places like France, there have been books banned. Classic books, by Voltaire, have been banned.

 

We live in a world that is very dependent on “the system.” We trust our governments and our legislature because it’s easier, we don’t think we’ll get anywhere if we do speak our minds, and we’re scared of being the one to stand out. With public shaming being very apparent with the help of the internet, someone always watching your every move. This is something that everyone fears, for example, who’s reading my blog post right now? This relates to the banning of books. People (specifically the authors and the ones they influence) are speaking their minds in their books. They’re stating facts, opinions, stories, and people are listening or reading them. It creates ideas, movements. And ultimately, that is a universal concern. People fear ideas that are different from their own.

Coping in Bhutan

While sitting in my room, sick as can be, facetiously thinking, “I feel like I’m dying” I started contemplating death. Death, in general, is an uneasy topic for most. It brings up sad memories or is associated with the fear of the unknown. However, this is one aspect all people, regardless of their beliefs, have in common. We all will die. Most of us go through life without thinking of our demise from day to day. The thought of our death is usually only upon tragic incidents. While it may seem distorted to talk of how we will die or what we would like to happen after we leave this life, in Bhutan this is the norm. Ironically life in Bhutan has a lot of focus on death.  Addressing their death produces happiness, less stress, and a fuller spiritual path.

Arial view of Bhutan's capital, Thimphu.

Aerial view of Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu.

The Bhutanese people’s ‘secret to happiness’ is to incorporate the meditation of death into each day. CNN’s Eric Weiner spoke to many people on his recent visit to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital, and found death was not an unspoken fear to any of them. While opening up to a stranger during his travels he mentioned his panic attacks he’d experienced, despite the fact that his life was going particularly well. The kind stranger, Ura, replied with “You need to think about death for five minutes every day… It will cure you.” This statement left Weiner both stunned and intrigued. Ura continued with his advice, “It is this thing, this fear of death, this fear of dying before we have accomplished what we want or seen our children grow. This is what is troubling you”.  This task of thinking about death each day would seem to send most into a downward depressing spiral, but Ura explains that in Bhutanese culture the thought of death goes hand in hand with happiness and the attainment of a full life.

These prayers flags are found all over Bhutan to represent the lives that have been lost.

These prayers flags are found all over Bhutan to represent the lives that have been lost.

Their acceptance and comfortable nature with death allows them to live a less nerve-racking and fearful life. While expected to think of death five different times a day, the Bhutanese people work on the their acceptance and readiness for death. A University of Kentucky study in 2007 found that, “death is a psychologically threatening fact, but when people contemplate it, apparently the automatic system begins to search for happy thoughts”. This reaffirms Ura’s message that the recognition of death is a necessary part of having the ability to live a whole life.

The psychological cost of not expressing things we fear can take atoll on the satisfaction we have within our lives. The teaching of thinking about your fears so much until they no longer are a fear is a process that differs from our western lifestyle. Western civilization centers on success as a key to happiness. This success typically pertains to one’s career and the strides they take to rise up.

Massive Buddha Dordenma statue found in Thimphu, Bhutan.

Massive Buddha Dordenma statue found in Thimphu, Bhutan.

In eastern cultures it has been observed that success is rooted in spirituality, personal happiness, and mental wholeness of the person. This is evident in Buddhism, which is a prevalent religion in Bhutan, where death is not the end of the spiritual life of the person, but it is the end of the body. This belief gives comfort to Buddhists who lose loved ones or are near death themselves.

In recent news a tragic earthquake has struck Bhutan’s neighboring country, Nepal, has produced a large death toll.  This earthquake was a 7.8 on the Richter scale resulting in casualty count surpassing 4,800 .

Map showing Nepal and it's proximity to Bhutan.

A map showing Nepal and it’s proximity to Bhutan.

Their lifetime of meditation practices helps them prepare for unexpected sorrow like this.  The belief in an afterlife provides an explanation of death and also a meaning to life. Meditation every single day makes passing on seem less devastating.

Life in Bhutan and in other eastern cultures’ daily meditation leads to very happy lives for its locals. This practice could teach westerners that the mere thought of our departure can make the anticipation involve less fright and leave room for more joy.

Loving Venice to Death

When we think of Venice we think of riding down the Grand Canal atop a gondola while sipping wine and listening to a gondolier sing. Though this experience is still plausible, the cherished gem of Italy, with its rich history, exquisite art, and many attractions, is sinking. This city has been on the top of many travelers’ list of where to touch down abroad. Due to the rising sea level Venice is a wonder that is slowly slipping out of our hands, and therefore the rising interest to see the city before its too late is alluring to most.  Venetians are slowly leaving their homes due to the fact that what they once called home has changed so much.  Granted time will tell as to when the city submerges, Venice continues to take a beating with high tide and a growing tourism scene.

An arial view of Venice, Italy.

An aerial view of Venice, Italy.

The city is sinking approximately 0.08 inches each year and because of the progressive sinking, Project Mose was put into play.  Starting back in 1982, after the massive flood of 1966, the plans and implementation have been drawn out. Consorzio Venezia Nuova (CVN), Venice’s best-known construction company took on the job.

Gates will be built at each entrance to the lagoon.

The gates will be built at each sea entrance to the lagoon.

This project is a multi-billion underwater floodgate system installed to keep Venice afloat for as long as possible. The gates create a barrier that will help with the annual flooding by blocking the Adriatic Sea from entering the lagoon.  With the help of a pressure system the gates will rise to block the high sea level from flooding Venice.  This ambitious construction will cost upwards of $7 billion dollars and should be completed by 2016.

There was a skeptical halt to funding for the project to save Venice in June 2014.  Mayor, Giorgio Orsoni was arrested for accepting money for his personal political campaign from CVN. Corruption and money laundering made donors hesitant to help the submerged city. “It is a tragedy of epic proportions” expressed by the former chairwoman of Venice in Peril, a donating charity to Project Mose. Project Mose will continue, though it’s controversial and heart breaking that people would do that to their own city.  The high tide has driven some Venetians out of the city, but most stay because it’s been home for so long. This contraption should aide to the citizens’ protection and the survival of their properties. Venice is slipping away more than just physically, but culturally.

The crowds of tourists in Venice, Italy.

The crowds of tourists in Venice, Italy.

Another form of aide that is needed in order for Venetians to stay in their city and that is tourism control.  Tourist season in most vacation spots is dreadful to locals, but it is beneficial for the economy and the merchants. This increase in tourism would seem valuable for Venice’s citizens by creating a boom in the spending in the city.  The current typical tourists usually take day trips, and after the day is out they board back on the cruise ship. Even though they don’t stay long, when the cruise ships unload, the tourists engulf the city.  The tourism scene certainly brings in money, but it has taken over residential areas. Venetians are slowly leaving the city because their former streets of unique artisan shops are now filled with products geared toward the visitors.  Merchants change their product to appeal to the customer, which happens to be a mainly visitors.  According to Travel, “Since 2002, the number of Venetian properties dedicated to tourist lodging has increased by 450 percent.”  This rise in tourist lodging causes the price of residential properties to soar driving Venetians to the main land.  The residents are outnumbered by the tourist population

Venice is disappearing from what it once was. Venice being the top of the list for many travelers has sent the city into a downward spiral of change. The tide is rising along with the tourist count leading this cultural change to take the charm of Venice out of Venice.

Un-Belize-able!

belize 1

View from our hotel, Kanantik

When the country “Belize” comes to mind, many Americans are surprisingly unaware of what this country has to offer. When I visited in January of 2013, I had no idea what to expect. I thought to myself, “Great, another country where everyone will make jokes about me in Spanish right in front of me.” I was wrong. Belize is the only country in Central America whose official language is English. Spanish and Belizean Creole are also spoken, however everyone knows, and speaks, English. Being only a quick two-hour flight from Miami, Florida makes Belize even more appealing to tourists.

Anyone flying into Belize must fly into Belize City.  From there, smaller aircrafts will take you elsewhere.  My family traveled to the Placencia Peninsula, which is only about a 45 minute plane ride from Belize City.  Once we landed, we got a bus ride to our hotel, Kanantik.

belize 4

The best beer Belize had to offer!

The next morning we rented bicycles to sightsee in Placencia.  The city of Placencia is about a twelve mile stretch, so a bicycle is all you need to go from place to place.  We quickly learned that dogs wandering around the streets was normal (and sad – a lot of them had fleas), the locals would stare (mainly because I was the only person in that twelve mile stretch with blonde hair), and the temperature would not get below 85 degrees (luckily we had Belizean beer to cool us down).  Nonetheless, we were also told that many celebrities vacation down to Belize quite frequently, such as Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lawrence, and Tiger Woods.  Finally, after a long day of sightseeing, we headed back to our hotel for dinner!  Belize is a tropical place where you can relax in your cabana, lay on the beach, eat, and drink.  However, there are also plenty of activities to do, such as zip-line, horseback ride, snorkel, scuba dive, shop, and go cave tubing.  Although we did not do all of those activities, the ones that we did is what made the experience at Belize so amazing.

belize 6

Groups in front of us carrying tubes to the caves

The next day we took an hour and a half bus ride to Nehoch Che’en National Park, also known as Caves Branch Outpost.  This area is in between Belize District and Belmopan, which is the capital city of Belize. Here, we were going cave tubbing for the day.  I really didn’t know what to expect when going cave tubbing.  “So do we just sit on a tube while floating in a cave for 5 hours?” is what I thought to myself the entire hilly and bumpy bus ride to the National Park.  Once again, I was wrong.  After carrying our tubes for about a mile to the entrance (that was the worst part!), we placed our tubes in the water, adjusted our life jackets, turned on the flashlights on our helmets, and got in the water.  The guide had a rope around all of our tubes and he was in charge of pulling us the entire way through the caves.  The excursion lasted about two hours, which was more than enough time for us.  We did learn a lot about the caves and we saw bats inside of them as well as the beauty surrounding the caves.  Although our adventure did not stop there, cave tubbing was a memorable experience and one that I would definitely do again.

belize 5

View from inside the cave

I begged my sister and my dad to go zip-lining with me, because who wouldn’t want to zip-line at a National Park in Belize?  After much persuasion, my sister decided to go.  After getting our harnesses adjusted, the instructors told us how to zip-line properly.  We did ten different rounds, each going higher every time.  Zip-lining definitely made the entire experience. Even though it was my first time zip-lining, it is definitely not my last!

belize10blue

Picture of the Blue Hole

Although these are just a few of the activities that we did while exploring Belize, I definitely recommend doing it all. If I were certified (and had more time) my family and I would have gone to the  Blue Hole of Belize.  Not only is it a top attraction in Belize, but it is a world class destination for diving.  The Discovery Channel even ranked the Great Blue Hole as number one on its list of “The 10 Most Amazing Places on Earth.”

The whole point of traveling is to explore different parts of the world, so why not try it all?  Belize is an “Un-Belize-able” place to visit.  Although we never stayed long enough in Belize to visit Belize City, many people do.  With the average yearly temperature being 84 degrees, it is considered a retirement haven for many adults.  Belize is also known as “the Hidden Jewel of the Caribbean” because many people are unfamiliar with this country.  I know that I will be back to visit, so if you ever have time, take the quick two-hour flight from Miami to explore this beautiful “Hidden Jewel” of a country.

belize 2

Sightseeing in Belize

 


 

Foreign and domestic: similarities and differences between video game blogs across the world

While reading both American and foreign blogs about video games over the last few months, I’ve realized there are some distinct differences in how they are written, but they also have many similarities. In this blog post, I’m going to take a look at what distinguishes and connects blogs from across the world.

In order to look at these differences, one first has to look at how the blogs are published. Both blogs from the U.S. and blogs from other countries have multiple ways in which they reach audiences. The first is through the bloggers’s own website, in which they’re the only one who writes and they’re really the only reason to visit the site. This seems to be a popular way to blog in both the U.S and other countries, but the blogs I came across like this seem to get more attention in other countries compared to similar blogs in the U.S. For example, “Sun Rising Blog,” a Japanese blog dedicated to video games and anime, gets comments on many of the articles posted by the only writer, Michael Vincent. Comparable U.S. blogs receive comments sometimes, but it doesn’t appear to be as often as “Sun Rising Blog.” Perhaps this is due to the oversaturation of U.S. centric blogs, that is to say that people wanting to read about games in the U.S. have more places to look to find gaming news they care about. This spreads the consumer base out, leaving many blogs with few readers. People in other countries may have fewer options of what to read when they decide to go search for blogs about their passion, and so the blogs which do exist garner more attention and thus more comments.

When one looks further than one-person websites, however, the amount of community interaction increases drastically both in the U.S and other countries. All around the world there are larger websites which host writings by bloggers, giving the writers a larger audience and the websites which host them more pageviews. Blogs which are featured on sites like these can get hundreds of comments, as opposed to rarely ever making it into the double digits of comments on self-hosted blogs. There are, however, some differences in who hosts these blogs. In the U.S., these blogs are hosted either on sites dedicated to hosting people’s video game blogs, such as Kotaku, or in a section of a dedicated video game news website, such as IGN’s blogs section. In other countries I managed to find video game blog sections on mainstream news websites, such as The Guardians’s video game blogs section. Despite having not been posted to in about a year, The Guardian had something I couldn’t find on similar U.S. websites.

One effect these differing strategies have is the ability for blogs to make it to a mainstream audience. In both cases, they don’t seem to be able to, but in the U.S. people seem to have to go less out of their way to stumble across a blog post. For example, to see a blog about video games on The Guardian’s site, one has to specifically go to the video game blogs section, something which isn’t too easy to accidentally stumble across. Kotaku, on the other hand, is made up entirely of blogs, making it easy for people who go to the website to find them. IGN often features well written blogs on their front page, so consumers of their content also can often stumble across community blogs instead of professionally written articles. While this may make it seem like video game blogging content is easier to find for a normal person in the U.S. (that is, someone who doesn’t typically consume video game news), people in the U.S. would still have to consciously go to IGN or Kotaku to find that content, meaning it seems to be just as unlikely to pop up in everyday life in the U.S. as it is in other countries.

Other countries seem to also have “regular” blogs which feature games in some of their posts. That is to say that instead of the entire blog being about video games, just one or a few posts on the blog are about video games. For example, “Ask a Korean,” a blog about all things within Korean culture, has had a couple of posts dedicated to video games (namely, StarCraft and Homefront), and a few other posts have mentioned gaming or games within them, but the blog itself is not centered around video games. In my search of video game blogs, I did not come across any instances like this in American blogs.

It’s been an interesting few months following blogs from foreign countries I may have never even heard of if not for this class. Seeing just how similar gamers are no matter where they come from creates the feeling of a tight-knit community spanning the planet.

The Prison Labor Marketplace

The United States currently imprisons more of its own citizens than any other country in the world. Since the 1980’s and the beginning of the war on drugs, the prison population quadrupled to 2.3 million in 2008 – and 1.57 million in 2013. When we look for the cause of such a vast escalation, we examine our laws. However, despite the rising population, the goal of this post will not be to discuss ‘how they got there’, instead we will examine what they do once they are incarcerated.

When a man is sent to prison it is an attempt on the part of society to punish and reform. The mission statement of the Bureau of Prisons reads: “It is the mission of the Federal Bureau of Prisons to protect society by confining offenders in the controlled environments of prisons and community-based facilities that are safe, humane, cost-efficient, and appropriately secure, and that provide work and other self-improvement opportunities to assist offenders in becoming law-abiding citizens.” These words paint a picture of a hierarchical, organized effort towards the responsible and just operation of penal facilities which incorporates reasonable, medical care, and a means of self-improvement. However, as we will see, prisons have violated this ethos in various ways.

Prison labor, a concept born of the brutish practice of slavery, has morphed in modern society and entangled itself within multiple facets of American life including politics, local and national business. Prisons are companies and their products are the human convicts. They sell the labor of prisoners with a deep discount to wages, a labor force that cannot organize against management and continually adds to its numbers. By making the labor available for sale, this practice creates incentives for lawmakers and business owners to construct a system in which maximum penalties are enforced for minor offenses. This aim resulted in the proliferation of ‘mandatory minimums’ when it came to minor drug possession charges. The penalties for crack cocaine are far more punitive than those for cocaine powder.

There are additional benefits for sourcing labor solely from inmates; for instance, companies also save on extraneous labor costs by their inability to organize labor unions and demand better conditions and wages. They are seen both by the company and the public as condemned and it is difficult to overcome their apathy when attempting to address prisoner concerns. A prisoner is perceived to ‘deserve it’ for the crimes they committed. So in addition to the years for which they are incarcerated, a convict is now harnessed with the yolk of local and corporate economic growth.

There are also numerous side businesses that are born when prisons begin to privatize. Prisons require food, cleaning supplies, and electricity. In a particularly upsetting case, Philadelphia-based firm Aramark Correctional Services was accused multiple times of underfeeding inmates with maggot-infested food. This must be considered a massive failure to provide even the most basic human rights to incarcerated American citizens. While the egregiousness of each case varies, the fact that this company’s contract was renewed shows a clear lack of public outcry – and thus, little force for change. It is likely that other organizations such as this will continue to operate outside of the public view.

The scale of the production output is staggering in numbers and variety. “…the federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98% of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93% of paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armor; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21% of office furniture. Airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.” Private prisons have also become a much larger part of the penal system. “Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit 360,000, according to reports.”

Now that we have a more complete image of the implications of prison labor, what are the questions we should be asking? Is it acceptable to punish people with longer sentences for crimes, burden them with producing and assembling a large portion of military and civilian goods, and allow companies to profit greatly from their largely discounted labor? In terms of public perception, we once again run into the apathy problem. However, if we were to discuss this only in the context of the ideal, then life in a prison would alter immensely. The long-held moral of Western civilization which states ‘that it is reprehensible to profit from the trade of human lives’ is at the core of the argument against slavery. Since the incarcerated are serving a sentence, their lives are in the hands of the state – or more accurately, the companies which the state hires. Thus, prisoners lose the element of choice in their actions, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.

I think it’s easy for the public to simply write-off this section of society as inconsequential. Politicians are fixed in their punitive positions, as altering that stance would label them “soft on crime” and lose elections. The results speak for themselves in this case. But whether we are a nation of ideologues or calculating pragmatists, Americans must take it upon themselves to conduct the informed debate upon these issues.

Bernin’ it Down, Swiss Style

IMG_1630

City of Bern (personal photo).

Let me take you to our time in Switzerland, the most naturally beautiful country of the 9 we visited (albeit with some tough competition). We were lucky enough to experience two cities in the magnificent, and frankly almost unrealistically majestic landscape populated by the Swiss. Our first stop was the capital, Bern. Throughout our trip, we tried to find the “off the beaten path” activities and places, even in the bigger cities. There was nowhere else where we succeeded in that more than Bern. Staying with Airbnb hosts made this considerably easier for us; to experience the city more like locals than tourists.

We stayed about a five minute train ride from the main Bern train station, and considering the relatively small size of the capital, from there it was no further than a fifteen to twenty minute walk to anywhere we wanted to go. We made it there in late June, and even during that time, it reminds you of a picturesque winter wonderland, minus the snow. The buildings are reminiscent of what I would picture the North Pole to be, very robust, stone and brick construction, with elegant features including spires, clock towers, and pillars, and a river snaking through the stunning architecture; the Aare.

IMG_1639

 

Astronomic clock tower, downtown Bern (personal photo)

It took us about a day to get a really good feel of the city, all while trying the infamous chocolate and cheese (highly recommended). It was jacket weather about the whole time we were there, except the second day. And we jumped on that opportunity… To take a step back, on the nicer, hotter days of late summer it is a popular activity for the residents of Bern to swim in the crystal clear, and magnificently colored Aare River (pictured below). Now, considering that it is composed of melt from the Alps, it is easy to imagine the frigid temperature of the water that so appealingly invites you. Of course, on a hot day, this freezing water would be as refreshing as imaginable, but it was not one of those days, and we had no idea how cold it really got, all we could focus on was experience, and all in all, it was absolutely worth every second. There are entrances that line the calmer, swim-worthy stretch, but we decided that was too easy, and found a bridge, and there is no easing your way in off of a bridge… The shock was breathtaking, quite literally. When we re-broke the surface, we were gasping for air, and for a moment fearing we had made a big mistake. Normally, your body adjusts to the surrounding of a cold temperature, but not at this level. We floated until we got to the nearest exit, maybe 100-200 yards from the bridge, laughing in both anguish and joy, the whole way.

IMG_1644IMG_1651

Aare River, from an overlook (personal photo). Bridge from which we jumped.

The rest of our time there was spent walking to the further outskirts of the city, admiring architecture, and hiking a beautiful but long way to a viewpoint from which we could see the entire city, topped off with a rainbow to reward our efforts.

Our final stop in Switzerland was to a mountain town called Gimmelwald, nestled neatly in the Swiss Alps. Not to be confused with the popular Grindelwald resort town, Gimmelwald ended up a hidden gem, and an absolutely gorgeous, isolated two cable car ride from the base city, where we both wish we could have stayed for an entire six-week stretch. With a population of just over 100 people, not much exists in the town outside of its residents, but one hotel, and one hostel. To buy groceries, it takes another five-minute cable car ride to the next town, suspended over a seemingly infinite drop, but an even more beautiful view of the all encompassing cage of the Alps, shielding us from the outside world.

IMG_1687

Via Ferrata trail, Gimmelwald, Switzerland.

Activities there were exclusively hiking; wasting time doing anything else in that area is an inexcusable waste of beauty and time. The highlighted hike of our stopover was a three and a half hour trek of which I could write an entire post. To keep it short and sweet, it was by far the most steep of any hike I have ever experience, and being from Oregon, I have done my fair share of the activity. We began at an elevation of 1,638m from the town of Mürren, to the cable car station of Birg, mapped at 2,677m, and when we narrowly made the car down to the shop from which we rented our boots, both the operator and the shop owner were astounded that we had tackled the high-difficulty trail (much higher than we anticipated) at all based on our lack of experience in the Swiss Alps, let alone the time in which we finished. To say the least we felt quite accomplished, and went on to Italy with an extra load of pride in our packs.

Kimchijeon: Korean Kimchi Pancakes

Kimchi, pronounced kim-chee, is a traditional fermented Korean vegetable side dish. It is served at almost every Korean restaurant and made in almost every Korean household. There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi but it is most commonly made using cabbage, radish, scallion, or cucumber as the main ingredient. Cabbage is the most popular kind of kimchi. People may use kimchi as just a side dish to eat with rice or they may incorporate it into other main dishes like kimchi jjigae (kimchi soup) or the dish I am writing about today, kimchijeon (kimchi pancakes).

In Korea they have different types of pajeon, or Korean pancakes. I’m writing about kimchi pancakes but they have other pancakes that are more popular like vegetable pancakes or seafood pancakes. The pancake shops are busiest on rainy days as Koreans love to eat pajeon and drink makgoulli (milky Korean rice wine) when it rains. Why is that? According to my dad who grew up in Korea, you have to look at the history of the poor farmers in Korea. He says that when it rained, farmers couldn’t work so they would spend the day inside. Making pajeon was cheap, easy, and everyone could eat it together. They paired it with makgoulli because it was also very cheap to make and everyone made their own and had some on hand. Nowadays, people like pajeon on rainy days because it’s comfort food and cheers them up on a gloomy day. Others may provide a more scientific explanation. No matter the explanation, it’s been raining a lot lately, I’m craving Korean pancakes, so let’s get to it!

IMG_0735

Kimchijeon

Makes 1 large pancake

1 cup finely chopped kimchi (you should be able to find kimchi at your local Asian grocery store)

3 Tbs kimchi juice

2 Tbs chopped onions

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup water

Vegetable oil

IMG_0732

This recipe is pretty simple. Just put everything listed above, minus the vegetable oil, into a medium sized bowl and mix well.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet, I used a 12 inch skillet, over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, pour all the contents of the bowl onto the skillet and spread evenly into a nice, big circle. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the bottom turns crispy, and then flip it to the other side.

IMG_0733

Reduce the heat to medium and cook this side for about 2 minutes. You’ll also want to use your spatula and press down on the pancake every now and then. If you don’t think the other side is getting crunchy and you notice that there isn’t any oil left, you might want to add another tablespoon to help get that crunchy texture. Flip it back to the other side for another minute and then it’s done!

IMG_0738IMG_0739Cut it up and now it’s ready to be shared! Enjoy!