Monthly Archives: June 2013

Language and the Ability to See and Feel

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons)

Dear Readers,

Yesterday, I watched a Bollywood movie titled English Vinglish.  It’s about an Indian women (Shashi) with very limited English who goes to New York City for her sister’s wedding.  The movie depicts her struggles and embarrassment with learning the language that occurs not only with her new environment, but with her family as well.  Overall, I thought it was an intriguing and touching film that I would recommend.

What I enjoyed most about English Vinglish was the interaction between the main character and a French man (Laurent) from her ESL class.  This is because during moments where there was intense emotion, whether it was anger or frustration, they spoke to each other in their native tongue.  Even though Laurent could not understand Hindi, and Shashi could not understand French, they spoke to each other in these moments without hesitation or fear that the other could not understand.  And although these two characters could not verbally understand what the other was saying, there was still a form of understanding through seeing and feeling.  They were able to really see each other and feel what the other was feeling.  I thought this was a brilliant aspect to the film, especially since I recently wrote a post about being able to see people for who they are.

It is this seeing and feeling that allows us to be more connected and compassionate with other people.  And it is this seeing and feeling that I tried to capture and invoke in my book Kingdom of Sun.  One of my goals was to make every reader feel connected to a character/s and to feel like they know, or perhaps are, just like a character/s in the book.

What I did not like about the film was how many of its characters were portrayed with stereotypical personalities and occupations.  That really bothered me for a film that is supposed to display a positive and seemingly image-changing perception of different cultures.

One of the movie’s messages seemed to dictate that learning the English language is a big way that one can receive respect and prestige, not just in America but anywhere else.  This message angered me not only because it is something that I do not believe in, but because it is something that many other people and countries believe in and practice as well.  I discuss this much more in my post titled “The Power of Language.”  Feel free to read it below if you like.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

The Power of Language

Dear Readers,

Language has always been a powerful weapon throughout time.  It was and still is used as a means of control and deception.  Think of European attempts of “civilization” and how the media tends to use certain phrases as opposed to others, for example.  The language that I want to focus on is of course English, American English to be exact.  There are not many people who truly understand the significance of speaking English, let alone the difficulty in learning it.  The fact that many who have been out of school for years have trouble differentiating “there,” “their” and “they’re” is proof enough of the English language’s complexity and difficulty.  And because of that, I honestly feel honored and blessed to posses the skill of writing, speaking and reading it.  It is also because of such that I find it shameful when those who do not posses such a skill are made fun of, or when people get irritated or even angry when English is not spoken or if someone knows very little.  I find this interesting because in other countries when a foreigner attempts to speak the native tongue, you will most likely find that the person is flattered and honored.  This is because language is a form of connection, and so an attempt by a foreigner to speak another language signifies their effort to build a bond and connect.  Why is it that some people here don’t feel that way?  Well, I believe that this is because for us, language represents change.  And many detest change.  Back in college, there was a class discussion on how students in a school recited the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish.  This was of course to signify the ever growing impact of the Spanish language in America.  The professor discussed how many parents were upset and offended by this, and therefore asked the class how they felt.  Like me, the professor was slightly offended herself that people would even be uncomfortable with the representation of diversity in the country that preaches it so often, but nevertheless, she wanted to know what the class thought.  The majority of them actually believed that it was wrong, yet what stood out the most was that they couldn’t provide a valid explanation as to why they felt that way.  Some said it was because the Pledge of Allegiance is a representation of the country and so it was strange and uncomfortable to have it recited in another language…I’m sorry, what?  This once again brings me back to the statement that many say and act like this country is so accepting and open, and yet they unconsciously reveal the complete opposite.  I say “unconsciously” because I believe that they really didn’t know the significance of their words.  And this means even more considering that they were speaking from emotions that they felt deep down.  What is there to be offended about?  Shouldn’t parents be happy that their children are being educated on another language?  Shouldn’t we be jumping for joy that something that is so important to us is said in another language?  Is there a deeper fear of something that many are afraid to say out loud?  I think so.

I have lost count of the number of foreigners that I have met that know multiple tongues.  I will even go so far as to say that almost all of them knew at least two other languages.  I’m not talking about a couple words here and there, I’m talking about actually knowing another language.  And I am envious of them.  Why?  Let’s see, counting middle school, high school, and college I took french for six years, latin for three, and Italian for one.  Today I can only speak, read and write English. What about you? Is there not something wrong here?  I remember complimenting my English professor because she fluently knew French.  You know what she said?  “Oh, you students aren’t being educated properly.”  My jaw dropped, and I sulked back to my desk as I pondered the validity and significance of her statement.

There are so many people in other nations that are longing to learn the English language because of what it represents to them and the world.  Some of them believe that the language signifies power and prestige.  I cannot begin to count the numbers of ways that this is ironic, but I’ll let you do that.  Did you know that there is a multitude of Japanese and Korean singers and groups whose names and/or song titles are in English?  Did you also know that a chunk of their songs are in English or have English lyrics?  I have several Japanese and Korean songs on my ipod and 100% of them have English lyrics, a song title in English and/or a band name in English.  Language is used as a means to build the three Cs: Communication, Community and Connection.  Shouldn’t it be the same for us?

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Kingdom of the Sun Theme: Education- The Love of Teaching

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(Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons)

Dear Readers,

Like this blog, the theme of education and what it means “to be educated” is strongly present in my book Kingdom of the Sun (to be published soon).  The love of teaching is of course significant in that one should, or as some would say, love what they do.  In order to be successfully and truly influential as a teacher and educator, I do believe that one has to have a love and connection for what they are doing.  However, I would like to discuss the love of teaching as it pertains to receiving it.  My thoughts and words are not only based on my past experiences of being a student, but on my most recent experiences of witnessing this love through the eyes of a volunteer ESL teacher.

For a short time, I was an ESL teacher to a group of 30+ adult immigrants and refugees from all over the world.  Before I was to actually teach them, I had stopped in two days prior to observe the class and meet the teacher that I would be subbing for.  On that day, I had spent some time alone with them for about half an hour before their teacher arrived, and as soon as I stepped in the classroom, I immediately noticed an energy and atmosphere that was different than anything I had ever experienced.

These students had joy, radiance, excitement, and most of all, they had respect, admiration, and gratitude.  All of them.  I was simply an observer that day, but it was not long before I was called something that I didn’t quite expect or see myself, something that Christ Himself was called: “Teacher.”  And so, it was no surprise that my heart actually fluttered, and a form of love that I did not anticipate was conceived.  I found that love growing each time they smiled wide and their eyes lit up when they saw me.  I found it growing when they thanked me when they understood something, when they thanked me at the end of the day, and when they thanked as they placed their hands over their hearts.

I constantly found myself comparing these students and their behavior to students that I was surrounded with in the past.  There were of course those who had respect and gratitude, but this was mostly not the case, especially for substitutes.  I thought about those substitutes and educators whose first days and experiences of teaching were not as joyful as mine.  I thought of them and thanked God for being truly blessed.

Once this experience was over, I then thought about how what I was doing for these students was no different than what my teachers and professors of the past did for me.  But why was the reception so different?  As I’m sure you can imagine, these ESL students are in this new place, virtually new world, and are dependent on the teacher for guidance and support to ultimately survive and prosper in their new lives (and for many of them, it was the first education they had received).  Yet, this was mostly the same for me when I was a student.  So, what is the underlying difference here?  Well, I think this answer lies in just one of the main issues with education today.  There is a poem written by a high school student that discusses how he sits in class all day, bored and pretending to be interested when all he wants is to learn something that can better himself and his life, something that he cares about.

The poem can be found here: High School

What if the education system was less about numbers and placement standings, and more about giving students what they want and need?  What if we were to listen to these students and their needs, and help them follow their own path?  Would we see changes in behavior as well as joy and passion in our students?  My experience as a teacher has strengthened the fire in me to teach and inspire through my words because with them I hold the power to change hearts, minds, and the world.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

Kingdom of the Sun Theme: Seeing

leaf-117554_640Dear Readers:

What does it mean to see someone?  The line of “I see you,” was used very often in the movie Avatar, and it means just that: I see you, I acknowledge you, I feel you, I hear you, I see you.

Seeing and one’s inability and unwillingness to see is such a significant theme in Kingdom of the Sun (coming soon).  Being unseen is something that I have dealt with for all my life, and many of you deal with the same in several ways.  The way that I would like to talk about pertains to age.

When we think of age, and the stereotypes that come with it, we often think of senior citizens.  However, how often do we associate these stereotypes with the younger generation?  Growing up, I never “acted my age,” and because of that, my face, words, and body language reflected such.  To those who did not know me, I was always mistaken for being at least 5-10 years older than I actually was.  And as you can imagine, I was placed in many awkward and embarrassing situations.  And although it was annoying at times, it felt good to be acknowledged as someone I felt on the inside as opposed to a number.  However, there were many times when those who did not know me assumed that I partied, drank, was addicted to social media, and had no plans for my future.

To many of those who did “know” me, I was looked down upon and still judged.  I cannot tell you the amount of times that I was called a “kid” and a “child,” or the number of times when I was told “kids your age should be…” or that I was boring for refusing to go out to clubs or stay out until 3 in the morning.  The most painful was having to literally sit in front of “superiors” and older colleagues and be ignored, not spoken to, and not even looked at because my words meant nothing.  And when a rare opportunity was given for those words to be spoken, my listeners’ eyes would gloss over or I would be asked a question that I only just answered when I had spoken.

There is something called the Role Theory in which people behave the way society expects them to behave.  Think about for a moment…

I firmly believe that 70% to 80% of the youth that does ridiculous, outrageous, and stupid things are because society and media portrays and expects them to.  They therefore believe the behavior to be okay in thinking that it’s the norm.  This Role Theory can of course be applied to many other  types of groups…What would happen if society were to be more supportive and encouraging of these groups?  What if the movies and news stations were to remove these groups from their stereotypical roles and place them into something different?  What if people no longer allowed themselves to be fed garbage and propaganda and instead think for themselves to see, truly see.  Focusing more on age, for the honor and respect of not only the other person but yourself, see people for who they are.

As I say in my book’s dedication, Kingdom of the Sun is “For anyone who has been subject to the constraints, stereotypes, blindness, and contradictions of society.”

And as the character Helena states “I believe that to judge another by age is to lack the wisdom and respect that seemingly comes with it and the gain of foolishness in its stead.”

 

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

The Peace Sign

DSCN0517Dear Readers,

Whatever happened to giving the peace sign in pictures?  These days, whenever I come across photos of people from Japan and Thailand, about 80% of the time someone or everyone is giving the peace sign.  So, what happened in America?  If I flip through my family album, I will see that just about every picture has someone doing the peace sign…If I were looking at the photos from the nineties, that is.  Has the peace sign become a faded out trend that is now considered “uncool”?  But isn’t “trend” the key word here?  Was the peace sign popular because everyone was doing it or because we all really believed and wanted peace?  Looking back, I guess I never really thought about it when someone said, “Okay, say peace!”

When I sign these posts and my emails with “Peace and Love,” I mean it from my heart in saying that I wish you peace and love, and that peace and love is what I give you.  So today, for the first time in a long time, a picture was taken of me giving the peace sign.  And I’m planning on many more in the future.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

Kingdom of the Sun Theme: Change…Will You Make it, Take it, or Question It?

“Kingdom of the Sun reflects the desire that most of us have to make a change, whether it be in the world or in our own lives, and how we may lack the strength or the courage to do it.”- Ariffa Bevin

ImageDear Readers,

The theme of change is ever-present in my upcoming novella Kingdom of the Sun.  With the desire, thought, and action of change comes many questions such as: “Have the promised changes occurred?,” “How long will it be until change happens?,” “How long will the change last?,” “What are the effects of change?,” and “Is this change really change,?”

Things change, and most of the time, it is inevitable.  I accept that.  But what I do not approve of is when change is accepted easily, without question of how or why or who said “change” really benefits.

“There are so many people that want change, but they do nothing about it. Then there are also those that want change but do not believe it will happen.”- Helena, Kingdom of the Sun  

Are you one of those people?

Like the character of Helena, there may be many things that are holding us back from making a change.  We must remember that when it comes to change, there two types of people: 1) Those who submit to the changes around them and are subject to whatever happens and 2) Those who will not only fight for change, but question and challenge it when it comes their way, never allowing themselves to be drones or puppets.

So many factors fall into making change and taking change, but two questions will always stand true:

1) How bad do you want it?

2) Will it/does it make a difference for the better?

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

Kingdom of the Sun Theme: Education…It Starts at Home

“Like other educators, our Scholars teach and give themselves to their work and their students, and they are highly respected for it. But unlike other educators, they are not expected to be babysitters or social workers, and every citizen of Sooryan recognizes that without the Scholars, they are nothing. One who is willing to give their time, energy, and minds to educating others is one of true honor.”- Helena, Kingdom of the Sun

UnknownDear Readers,

One of the main themes in Kingdom of the Sun (soon to be published) is education.  So many people do not realize that education starts at home.  Nor do they realize the pressure and stress that are placed on a teacher because they do not know this.  Imagine their workload: teaching the coursework, grading the coursework, making sure that their students pass, the stress of other teachers, the stress of their personal lives, and the stress of the expectations that they are to babysitters and/or social workers.

Now, because many people do not realize, understand, or accept that education starts at home, blame is placed on teachers pertaining to things that are really the parents’ fault.  So, let’s dig deeper.  Education starts at home in two ways:

1) Social Education: This pertains to parents teaching their kids manners, respect, self-presentation, respect, respect, and respect.

2) Academic Education: This relates to the fact that parents should teach their kids how to study, when to study, and how long to study.  It also involves monitoring and controlling how the student spends their time at home (video games, television, friends, etc.).

If parents took these two factors into account, then I guarantee that we will see greater improvements in behavior and test scores.  However, doing this may bring us back to the initial issue: Some parents do not believe that they have any responsibility over the education and development of a student.  That’s a bit ironic to me.

The education of a student is a three-way partnership between the teacher and student, the teacher and parent, and the parent and student.  Everyone has to believe this in order for the partnership to work and be successful.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

“It’s Not That Easy”

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons)

Dear Readers,

Do you remember the show called Meet the Natives?  It aired in 2009 on the Travel channel, and it was about a group of men from the island of Tanna in the South Pacific.  The cameras followed them as they made trips to various areas of the world and experienced things that they never would have if they stayed in Tanna.  Examples being riding a roller coaster, going to a national park, etc, etc.

One moment that stood out to me the most was when the men took a trip to New York city’s Central Park.  While exploring the park, the men came across a homeless man sleeping on a bench.  They could not comprehend why this man was sleeping in the cold when there were so many buildings and homes surrounding them.  They also could not comprehend why other people were ignoring this man and not doing anything to help him.  Now, I haven’t seen all of the Meet the Natives episodes, but this was the first and only time that I had seen them visually upset and angry.  One of them said “I can see that there are many buildings in New York, how is it possible for a man to sleep in the street?”  Another Tribesman tried to provide an explanation for this sad situation in saying, “It is clear that nobody loves him. That’s why he is sleeping out in the cold.”

And so, I ask, should there be an excuse for homelessness?  Whatever the reason be for the man’s situation, should we accept it because he lost his job or was on drugs?  Is that what someone or anyone should deserve?  It’s interesting because we tend to think and accept things as the norm until an outsider comes along and opens our eyes.  The Tanna men’s concept was so simple: brotherly love and camaraderie.  But sadly, so sadly, it is not so simple in this world.

“It’s not so simple,” “It’s not that easy.” I unfortunately hear these words a lot.  I tend to ask a lot of questions that have seemingly easy answers and solutions such as: why is that several countries have free healthcare and we don’t?  Why is that Japan recycles all of their waste, yet we have disgusting mounds of garbage on the Earth?  Why is that commercials and schools preach that going to college will guarantee one a great career, yet those “great careers” never come for most, and those “careers” end up being extremely low-paying jobs for many.  I can go on and on.  And I can keep asking “why?”  But though the solutions may be simple, it will more often than not, tie back to whether or not it will be an inconvenience for someone or if it will mean less money in someone’s pocket.  And it is because of these things that life is not as simple as it used to be.  It is because of these things that life is not as simple as it should be.  So let me ask you: Do you accept it?

“Everyone is the same, and no one is homeless”- A Tanna Tribesman

Peace and Love

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