Monday, May 13, 2013

Time Traveling Dreams

I've often thought about what time period I would want to live in if I could choose. For a while I bounced between the Victorian Era, the 20's-30's and the 50's-60's. They all seemed so fun and exciting and different from each other. Recently, as I fully find who I am, I have been drifting closer and closer to the 50's-60's. It wasn't until this past Friday, when I watched Dirty Dancing for the first time (by the way, thank you Amy for showing me this movie), that this was really cemented in my head. I realized that I love this time period. Everything from the fashion to the music to the movies that were made at this time, I love it all. 

If I could go back to any time this is the time I would go to. The period that brought us movies like Breakfast At Tiffany's, The Sound of Music, The Great Escape and North By Northwest. The time that brought us music from Elvis, Etta James, Mickey and Sylvia and Solomon Burke (I am much less well versed in this time periods music so excuse my random choices). 

Sitting here drinking Hibiscus Berry tea I'm making plans to build myself a time machine. That is the only way I'll be able to realize my dream of at least visiting this time period. Unless the Doctor is real and he can come take me! (Any Doctor Who fans out there?) So, here's to dreaming about the impossible and using it to make your life that much better! Now tell me, if you could travel/live in any time period, when would you choose?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Women Can Only Be Accepted When Beautiful or Treasure Who You Are?

200 Pounds Beauty movie poster

Whenever I think about my weight I think about how I am a middle girl. I'm sure a lot of you can relate. Middle girls aren't overweight. We're not going to have health issues related to our weight and it's not affecting our daily lives. However, when people tell us we're skinny all we can think about is how they are wrong. We're not skinny like movie stars or people who are extremely fit. We're right in the middle. This means that although our weight is in a healthy area we still have issues with our weight and want to be skinnier. I think this is why the movie 200 Pounds Beauty made such an impact on me. This movie is about a woman, Hanna, who is overweight, and encounters many problems with this. She has an amazing singing voice, but because of her appearance she can only sing for another woman who is thin and beautiful. The other woman gets all the credit, but Hanna really does all the work. After an embarrassing encounter where she hears the man she loves insulting her, she disappears for a year in order to get full body plastic surgery. The next time we see her she is an airbrushed beauty. 



Hanna, who renames herself Jenny, then reappears and goes back to her old company to become a superstar. Long story short and cutting out all the gory details, Jenny/Hanna loses her way after the surgery. She can't remember what is important to her and damages her relationships. In the end she admits that she misses who she used to be. Her friends all accept her again and the movie ends on a happy note. After my initial reaction of surprise that she got full body plastic surgery and me wondering where this movie was going, I was pleased. She realized that looks aren't everything and that she was truly happy when she was overweight, even if she wasn't perfect. However, the movie then took a turn for the worse. We got hints throughout the movie that her manager, the one whom Hanna/Jenny loves, liked her even when she was overweight. But, in his narration at the end it mentions that he likes her even more now. I didn't know if I should take that as he likes her openly now that she looks like a supermodel or if because she realized what is important to her he likes her even more. Then, in a twist at the end, Hanna/Jenny's good friend is seen going to a plastic surgeon and asking for a full body redo also. So, does that mean the message of the movie was really that women need to look like supermodels in order to be accepted in society? 

Hanna/Jenny's friend

After I finished watching this I got to thinking. If the meaning of this movie is that women need to be beautiful to be accepted, what does that mean for me? As a middle girl I am not in the same position as Hanna/Jenny. My weight does not give me daily problems. I'm not insulted about how I look. But neither was Hanna/Jenny's friend and she still felt the need to get a full body redo. So then, is it supposed to be an inspirational story about how looks don't really matter? Hanna/Jenny encountered even more problems after her transformation and even felt the need to hide who she had been. Sitting here drinking my raspberry iced tea I'd like to think it was the latter, but there is a nagging feeling that it might not be. What makes it OK in our society to make movies like this, with a possible meaning that is destructive to women everywhere? I'd love to hear what you guys have to think. Am I overreacting, or is this movie something destructive to body image? Although I basically told you everything that happens I recommend watching it and seeing what you think for yourself. This movie is on Netflix and YouTube. It is in Korean, so make sure you find one with subs unless you are fluent in Korean ^_^

Friday, May 3, 2013

Lessons in How to Use Chopsticks

Warning: this post could become long and emotional

These past two days have been bittersweet. It was one of my best friends last days in the United States. Akari started out just being my Japanese tutor but then she turned into one of my very good friends. Since she was only studying at my University for a year, and the year is over, she had to go back to Japan today. She invited me and some other friends to go to Chicago with her and spend a day with her before she left early this morning. Of course we all accepted and so after my adventures at the Wisconsin Dells, I got to have more adventures in Chicago! I took the Amtrak up to the city with Abby early Thursday morning. I slept for most of the time, but we still had some time to goof around and chat on the train. When we got there we took the L and go to Chinatown to meet Akari. 

The restaurant we ate lunch at

Akari and Abby at lunch


Akari and I at lunch

Some of the food we ate: a chicken and rice mix wrapped in this leaf thing

Shrimp dumpling type things

Chicken and rice unwrapped

Drinking tea! (P.S. right now I am having some green tea that I bought in Mitsuwa)

Now, to explain the title of this post. Since I am going to be in Japan for a year four months from now, I am trying to learn how to act in a manner acceptable to Japanese culture. One of my biggest drawbacks is that I am not the best at using chopsticks. I'm decent, but definitely still terrible compared to people from Asia. So, at lunch Akari was trying to teach me and here are some things I learned about eating in Japan. 
1. Don't use your hands! There are only very few occasions when it is allowed. 
2. It is acceptable to stab food with a chopstick to make it easier. After I learned this eating became 100x easier!
3. This summer will consist of me practicing Japanese and eating everything I possibly can with chopsticks as practice. So, if you see me eating salad with chopsticks, don't question me. 
After lunch we wandered around Chinatown for a while longer.

Abby and I by our zodiac statues

Fun lanterns

Candy shop

The best milk tea you will ever have! Mine was mango with tapioca in it

When we were done in Chinatown we went back to the downtown area to meet Chi at Millennium Park. While we waited for her we wandered around the park. 

Skyline in The Bean

Another side of The Bean

Akari and I

It was definitely looking like spring!

Long line of trees

Akari, Abby, Chi and I by The Bean

The weather has not been super nice this year and we were very lucky to have a good day! It was a little chilly with the wind, but the sun more than made up for it. I loved being able to get a few nature pictures that didn't have snow in them! After we had our fill of the park we went to Michigan Avenue and did some shopping. Akari needed to buy a few more presents for her family, so we mostly just followed after her while she did the shopping. After that it was time for dinner. For her last meal in America Akari chose to go the the Cheesecake Factory. 

Chi trying to decide what she wants

Tuna tempura roll appetizer

Chicken pasta

Steak/salmon combo dish

Cheesecake #1: wild blueberry white chocolate

Cheesecake #2: tiramisu

The food was all delicious, as was the cheesecake, especially the blueberry one. All of a sudden the day was over. We went back to the hotel and it really hit me that Akari was leaving in the morning. We made the most of our night and just goofed off. 

Mustache fun (Photo credit: Chi)

The whole group (Photo credit: Chi)

This morning Akari got up pretty early and got ready to go. She woke us all up before she left so she could say goodbye. And then she was gone. I'm very sad to see her go since we became such good friends in such a short period of time. Plus, it's not like when I went to college and left all my friends. I know that I will see my friends from home when we are all on break. However, Akari is from a different country so it is not likely that after next year, when I am in Japan, that I will see a lot. I'm so glad that I got to meet her! I can't wait to spend the year with her when I study in Japan next year! I am sure we will make even more great memories together! Today, it was just Abby and I together. Chi had to go back to school to move out of her dorm. Abby and I decided just to spend the day shopping. First, however, we met one of my friends from home for lunch. I have known Brittany's family as long as I can remember. After she graduated from college in Chicago, she just stayed there, and now lives and works in the area. I thought it was a great opportunity to meet her since I was in the city. She took us to one of her favorite restaurants, Soupbox. 

All the different types of soup

I decided on vegetarian chili

Brit and I

The food was souper good (^_^) and although it was a short lunch date, it was great being able to see Brittany and chat with her about everything! After lunch Abby and I went back to Michigan Ave and spent the rest of the day shopping. It was a perfect girls day! Then it was back to school. Even though spring term is over, I am still here for another month. I am taking one more class before I go home during May Term, a month long term that you can use to get gen-eds out of the way. Just a little bit longer and I will be able to go home and see my family and my pets! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Adventures at the Dells

 This past Monday a couple girls and I went to the Dells just to get away from campus and because our friend and Japanese tutor, Akari, is leaving to go back to Japan on Friday. It was a short trip but super fun. Right now I am on a short break between the end of finals and the beginning of May Term, a month long term to get gen-eds out of the way. Since I live too far away I didn't go home, so it was nice to go on a little trip with my friends. On the way there it took us about 4 hours to get to the Dells. Abby drove the entire way there and back (snaps for Abby!) and the rest of us just talked and slept. Since I was in the passenger seat it was my job to DJ the car rides. It was so much fun getting to choose all the songs that we were listening to! 

Our wonderful driver

The girls in the back seat

These two got a little sleepy

Pit stop at Wendy's for lunch

When we finally reached the Dells we checked into our hotel and went right to the water park. It was so much fun! We went down the slides, floated around the lazy river, and sat in the hot tub. We only stayed for about 2 hours, but it was still a blast. It was plenty of time to try everything they had to offer. One of the most exciting parts of the day was when I went down a super scary slide. I'm not usually one for big slides, but I thought I would give it a try. It was a body slide that started off in a slow circle, but then all of a sudden ended with a drop practically straight down. I was extremely nervous, but Chi went with me and talked me into going down the slide. I am so glad that I did. At first I was really scared, but after I went down I got such a rush that I just started laughing. It was very fun! After we were done at the water park we went back to the hotel to get all dolled up for dinner. 

The hotel

Cute room number signs

Abby and I waiting for the others to get ready

Chi doing Akari's hair

Cuties walking to the restaurant

The restaurant we went to was called High Rock Cafe. It was one of the best restaurants I have ever been to! Everyone's food was very good, but I ate so much I thought my sides were going to split open!

The restaurant

Fancy menu

Abby and Chi

Crab cake appetizer

Calamari appetizer

My wasabi shrimp wrap

Pop rock cheesecake (the pop rocks made the cake fizz when you ate it!)

Homemade Kit-Kats

After dinner we went back to the hotel and just spent more time hanging out. The next morning we left pretty early so we would have time to stop at a Japanese supermarket, Mitsuwa, on the way back to campus. Akari says that it is almost the same as supermarkets in Japan. We spent a few hours eating in the cafeteria and shopping around. I became so much more excited to go to Japan next year after going to a real Japanese supermarket! I only have 4 more months until I go ^_^ 

Shrimp curry udon 

I found the tea section!

Of course I also found the bookstore :)

My purchases from Mitsuwa

Sitting here writing this (without tea because I just drank a full personal pot of Jasmine tea at dinner) I just want to go back! It was so much fun spending time with my friends away from campus. Usually when we hang out we just stay at school, so it was really fun to be able to go somewhere new with them! It was also a fantastic goodbye trip for Akari. I can't believe that she is leaving in a few days! But, on the plus side, in only 4 months I will be with her in Japan! I hope that we all can go on another trip like this when we are all together in Japan ^_^