Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Letter to the Editor on International Students at Oxy

Dear Editor,

I hate to be blunt, and hostile, but what I’m about to write will seem that way.  It’s just a problem and it’s frustrating.

Honestly, the article [Building Relationships Across the Pond;Embracing Diversity in the Classroom] is pretty true.  I have friends on both sides, and I know when my international student friends just hangout, eat and talk with other international students, and rarely interact with others.  On the flip side, my, for all intents and purposes, “domestic friends” also hardly interact with international students.  It’s hard.  For one, there is a huge communication barrier, and not just language or accents.  In Asia, when people talk, a “How are you” is not a greeting but an actual conversation starter that leads to a short if not important dialogue.  Here, “how are you” is shouted across the quad and is used very casually.  People in the US don’t talk unless it’s important.  There’s also the cultural barrier.  A key example is last weekend: Homecoming.  Besides the fact that we know our parents won’t pay X amount of money to fly 10+ hours to come visit us, we also have no idea or comprehension as to the importance of Homecoming.  Most of our universities in our home countries are massive and it doesn’t really matter when alumnis go back, let alone watch a sports game.  If you were at the game, I can guarantee that most of the international kids weren’t there.  We just have no interest and no understanding as to the importance.  Yet, in the US, homecoming is not a college thing but a high school phenomenon as well. Dances, kings & queens, parades, the whole idea is just foreign. 

In larger schools, a lack of interaction between these two bodies is fine, because they’re so large that each group has its own culture.  Here, the overwhelming culture is Western liberalism and it’s starkly different from what most international students grew up with.  This culture can be hostile, and is one of the reasons why international students band together.  There is a level of lack of understanding if not ignorance that also contributes to the lack of interaction.  A couple weeks back, I posted on Facebook a status asking students to wear yellow in support of the protests that were happening in Hong Kong.  Protests for democracy.  I thought, Oxy is such a social justice school, there’s bound to be some people who are interested.  Sadly, nothing happened.  I’m sad to say, but as much as Oxy prides itself on international students and diversity, the huge lack of understanding and ignorance is so pervasive that I’m not surprised that international students just stick together.  Because at least, when we’re in our respective groups, we understand each other.


Nicholas Yeh

Monday, October 27, 2014

Thoughts on Technology

I have a friend who quit Facebook. She says it’s a distraction for her and I respect that, but when she did quit, my first thought was: “How am I going to communicate to her or post pictures for her?” Luckily there are other forms of technology like Dropbox and texting to solve those issues, but at the time I just didn’t understand. 

For some inexplicable reason I do now. Technology has killed some of my friendships. Let me say that again, technology has killed some of my friendships. Now, once again, for those who know me, I like talking to people. Not just offline, but online as well. I am a big proponent for Video Chats. Now it may be weird for some, but I just feel that you can say more things and be sincere about it when you are talking to someone “face-to-face”. Sarcasm, or other inflections in tone just doesn’t go very well through chat. As a result, I sometimes feel like I’m losing connections with people as time goes on, and it’s just heart-breaking. For me, it feels like I’m standing in front of a crowd and just watching people slowly fade away. On the other hand, it shows me which people I can talk to and not worry about drifting away, whether it be offline or online. The fact that they care to talk to me through both mediums means everything to me.

This all came to me when I had an epiphany about the lost art of phone calls. When was the last time you called someone to have a conversation out of the blue. Not a conversation about a question of where is everyone or where is everyone going to eat, but actually calling someone to talk. TO have a dialogue where something important is shared. When I made a phone call to a friend the other day, it just felt so foreign. Yet, I had a great conversation where we talked for quite a while and it felt real and true. I wasn't waiting for some awkward emoticon to understand what she was going through.

It’s sad. That people don’t talk to each other meaningfully through technology. Rather just using it as a medium to get what we want. Now I’m not saying that we should all end our Facebook and Snapchat accounts right now, because I’m not. I will continue to try and start conversations on chat hoping for a meaningful exchange, and maybe, just maybe. Move a conversation from the keyboard, to the phone.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Releasing the weight from my shoulders.

For those of you who have known me for quite a long time, you know that I don't give a crap about the way I look.  I mean, for the longest time my outfit everyday was: T-Shirt, Cargo Pants, and Flip Flops.  Any day, any season.  If I felt different, maybe I would wear a Polo, but otherwise, same style everyday.  I also never really cared about what people thought about me, however, like everyone else I would be grateful and appreciate praise when I received it.  But for the most part, I didn't care.  Now this may be due to the fact that I used to be bullied in elementary school, and I stopped caring as a defense mechanism, or I am so confident that I don't really have self-esteem issues.  Whatever the case, I will say that in all honesty, I may have just been lying or deceiving myself.

I am a pretty large guy.  Ever since I moved to Taiwan from Japan, in 2003, I kinda started getting fat. Now Taiwanese food is pretty amazing, but my school also had tons of sweet drinks, and in middle school, I used to eat french fries and tater tots everyday after school....and so on and so forth.  My parents were always worried that I would become like my dad and weigh 100kg by the time I got to senior year of highschool.  Sadly, I broke that record by the time I was either in sophomore or junior year.  At my highest, I weighed probably 120-125 kg (265-275lb).  I am a pretty large guy, and I knew that. I knew because I started wearing XXL by the time I was in sophomore year, or I had to get new suits for MUN.  I knew I was a big guy.  Yet I deluded myself, I shielded myself and lived a lifestyle where I purposefully wore clothes to not draw attention, to block any potential hurtful comments.

This all culminates to this summer.  After alot of talks and conversations, it was time for a significant lifestyle change.  After about 2-3 years of no consistent exercise, I began working out with my uncle, who is a personal trainer at the American Club in China (ACC).  I was also taken to a nutritionist by my mother and was put on a somewhat relatively stringent diet over the summer.  Keep in mind, when I was in lower and middle school, I used to swim regularly, till about 8-9th grade when I quit.  However, this lifestyle change was definitely different, and tough.  I began working out 4 times a week at ACC, doing exercises that my uncle would prescribe to me each week during our appointments.  All of my effort was going to that, while I put in somewhat, if bare minimum in my diet.  I'll tell you, it worked somewhat.  I dropped about 3-4 kg, and I felt better.  Then things changed.  School was starting again, so I went back to the US a month before school started.

No gym, no nutritionist, no workout. I lied to my parents whenever they would ask if I was doing my non-weight workouts over the summer.  I just had no motivation.  I still watched what I ate, but I didn't even really care about what my nutritionist said.  Fast-forward to school starting, and I began once again working out.  4 times a week.  I have missed 1 week and 2 sessions in the 7-8 weeks I've been in school, but I've been on track.  I've increased weights, worked harder, and I am feeling great.  Going to the gym is not so much of a chore but a habit.

Now you might be wondering, where is this leading to?   Well today, I had to go workout, and I haven't done laundry in a while so I was left with one option for workout clothes.  This relatively tight-fitting polyester (?) TAS Athletics shirt that my parents got me when they sent me a care-package a couple weeks back.  Now, when I first wore this shirt, I was like: "Nope. Too tight, it just makes me look big, this is going to the back of my drawer and never seeing the light of day."  Today, I think, I truly did not care, or felt confident enough to wear this shirt to workout. Granted, my belly looks kinda big in it, but it felt good.  I think I've come to a point where I recognize the necessity of what I am doing, and also recognize that people are there for me.  I shouldn't have to shield myself or protect myself from hurtful comments.  I should work towards bettering my body, becoming healthy and living a life where I am glorifying God by making sure that my body, my temple of worship, is good enough for him.  I will say I don't have self-esteem issues, but I know that I'm not ready for XL size clothes just yet. I guess writing this literally feels like a "weight" is off my shoulders, pun intended.

Now some of you may be asking, what do you weigh now?  Well at the time of this post I weight 117kg which is roughly 258lbs.  I currently workout 4 times a week, and have recently internally celebrated a milestone where I deadlift 4x12 100lbs.  I ask, if you can, to pray for continued strength and motivation as I continue to work to become healthy.
You can't see it, but my belly pops out. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Smelling the Roses

So I'm sitting at the top of the stairs by the Hameetmen Science Building, where it leads down to Campus and Armadale. I'm originally sitting with a podcast playing waiting for a text message. So I'm sitting and sitting and the text message arrives. I read it, turn off my phone and sit. For the next 10-15 minutes (I think I lost track of time) I just sit and just stare. I don't remember the last time I just sat, did nothing, and thought stuff. Mind you the first thing I thought about was what I would do if someone came up behind me and slashed my throat (I think I would try to remove my shirt, tie it as tight as I could around my neck and call 911 and wait for them to arrive. Though a cut to the jugular is basically unstoppable, according to tv shows and movies.). But I just sat here and watched as the sky turned from a beautiful assortment of colors, to the darkness brightened by the majestic moon. I'll say it again, I can't remember the last time I just sat and did nothing. What kind of life am I living where I can become desensitized to God's creation?  He made this world that we live in and yet I wonder if the proper verb is living if I don't appreciate it. I'm trudging (throwback to A Knight's Tale), in life or I'm rushing in life, going from one thing to the next, or just being absorbed in the false reality that technology creates. It's sad that I forget when the last time I just stopped and appreciate God's glory, when I should really forget about the things that pull me away from His glory. God is good, all the time.