Update: Almost one year back from Korea. What am I doing now?

It’s December 25, 2016 and this is my FIRST Christmas back in America since 2014! When you’re abroad, you tend to romanticize the holidays, so it was great to actually live through the Thanksgiving and Christmas period in real time!

Now this also means that I’ve almost been back in the states for an entire year! Instead of talking about Korea, I’ll have more references for my young adult life in America!

So what exactly does a young adult do after returning from working abroad? Well, for me and several of my friends (who also taught in Korea), the next step was teaching here in America.

I am now a 6th grade social studies teacher at a local charter school in Louisiana. I have to say that if someone had told me I’d be here doing this in say 2012 (the year I graduated from college), I’d have laughed at them. Teaching in America was not a part of my plan when I was 22 or even at 24, when I left to teach in Korea, but here I am! I just finished my first semester of teaching.

So, you might wonder: If this wasn’t a part of my plan, why am I doing it?

I have so many answers to this question, but one always stands out. I chose to come and teach (even if I had many other choices) because I really do enjoy the learning and growing process that happens in the classroom. I enjoyed it in Korea and I still enjoy it right here in Louisiana!

Now of course I’ve had MANY surprises this first semester of teaching and I really hope to share many of them here, so stay tuned and of course: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

 

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The Truth about Kpop-Percieved Innocence and Such

Alright here it is: I’ve been a Kpop fan since late 2008. Yes, that was 8 years ago (long before Gangnam Style appeared on the scene. I was a Freshman in college at the time and just starting to discover the awesomeness of YouTube. One day, my friend and I stumbled across the song “Mirotic” by top boy band at the time DBSK. For some reason, it took one viewing of that music video for me to want to know what Kpop was all about and ever since then, I’ve been trying to figure out the global sensation that is Kpop.

 

Now during my time as a Kpop fan, I’ve seen a lot. Fans of Kpop are known to be a little crazy (to say the least). From new school Koreaboos to old school Sasaeng fans I know very well how misguided, stubborn and persistently blind Kpop fans can be. After living in Korea, I can no longer sugarcoat the effects that Kpop has on kids in Korea (especially young girls). Keep that in mind as you read:

Kpop can be polarizing to foreign people who make the journey to live and work in South Korea. Here is this mass produced, seemingly innocent, group dominated music genre that plays everywhere you may go in Korea. Kpop idols start training at a young age, and during their popular years, they work their behinds off to be “successful” (which doesn’t necessarily mean rich). These idols have to withstand grueling diets and extreme schedules to make it in the Kpop world. If there is even one negative moment, or one scandal, it can be career ending (thanks to those crazy fans I mentioned before). For many foreigners, the hype that seems to follow Kpop seems foolish.

Of course, there are the foreigners who are not only fans, but believe that Kpop is somehow the innocent and perfect choice of the musical world. They believe that Kpop is the very way music should be done. They also believe that Kpop is not as violent and sexually explicit as western music.

So is it true? After being a long term Kpop fan and teaching in Korea for a year and a half, would I say that Kpop is as innocent as some believe?

Well….

Here’s my honest answer: Kpop is full of sex, but it isn’t presented in the same way that we are used to seeing in western music. Kpop girl groups still dress in sexy outfits and they still do sexy dances. I’ve found, however, that since Korean women are not as curvy as the likes of Nicki Minaj, they tend to get a pass on their sexy dancing and skimpy outfits. Kpop male groups still thrust their pelvises harder than Michael Jackson, but because they aren’t considered “thuggish” or “too aggressive”, they also get the Kpop Innocent Pass.

The funny thing is, Kpop songs tend to be full of sexual innuendos and it only takes a look at the English translations of some songs to see it. In recent years, there has been a rise in “sexy” concept music videos where seemingly innocent girl groups have changed their images to become more sexy.

While we can argue that because Kpop doesn’t blatantly discuss sex or violence, it is indeed more innocent than western music, you have to remember who the main consumers of Kpop truly are: My sixth grade female students and the millions of kids just like them in Korea. In Korea, Kpop is kids’ and teens’ music. These kids have no concept of western music’s concepts of sexuality and only see what is presented to them by their favorite girl and guy groups in their home country. As much as I would like to say Kpop is innocent, I can’t. The first time I had to turn off a Sistar video in my upper level afterschool English class for being too damn sexy, I knew I could never look at Kpop the same again.

When you see Kpop through the eyes of young people who are still trying to figure out their place in their society (and what loving, sexuality, and dating will mean to them), you realize that Kpop is just as powerful as the western music we listen to and that our western opinions over its innocence are pretty much pointless. What matter most are the opinions of the parents and adults in Korea who are attempting to guide their kids through the process of consuming media and growing up into Korean citizens.

 

 

Sit down with a teen/tween (and some adults too) in your life and watch a couple of episodes of Teen Mom 2

This post probably sounds silly. You’re probably thinking “Why would I ever watch that show? It just glorifies teen motherhood and made celebrities out of a few young women for having kids before they were prepared to,”.

Well, you’re right! The 16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom franchise that has been produced by MTV for more than 5 years now HAS indeed created celebrities out of young, mostly white women for having children when they were still children themselves. This, however, does not mean you can’t use this show as an educational tool.

I’ve watched the recent season of Teen Mom 2 online mostly and with every single episode I watched I kept thinking “My GOD how could anyone watching this want to get pregnant or put themselves in any of these situations?!” I’m 25 years old and some of the things these young women are dealing with (for instance, being married and divorced twice, all while raising three kids and struggling with depression in her early 20’s) scare me!

Take some time to sit down with a teen/tween or even a young adult in your life and really analyze one of these episodes. Look at the problems these young women are dealing with and really, REALLY discuss why they are problems and how they could be avoided!  Even the mother who is doing the best on the show at any given time is probably having “baby daddy drama”, whether it’s about custody arrangement or child support.

My main point is this: Teem Mom and 16 and Pregnant can illustrate something a lot of teen don’t really think about- the very, very, very, very long term consequences of our actions. These young women participating in these shows have no idea that parenthood is a LIFETIME commitment and so is the person you choose to have a baby with, whether you stay with them romantically or not.

I can’t say that simply watching Teen Mom/16 and Pregnant can completely convince young people to not have sex or at least not have children before they are good and ready, but I think the shows can concretely illustrate the complexities and consequences of choices and relationships. We’re always talking to kids about sex, and less often relationships, but this show can help a young person really see how different choices can play out across time.

If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to just watch an episode of one of these shows and at the end, try naming two or three things you learned from the episode and think if you would have liked to have learned those things when you were a teenager.  If your answer is yes, which I really think it will be, you’ll see my point.

Sorrows of Charleston, SC: Where is our focus America?

This blog is called “The Musings of T” and one thing I muse about on a daily basis is my place in American society. As a young Black woman I constantly find myself asking “What exactly is my place in a society that suffers from racism, even when it is rarely admitted that racism is still an issue?”  While I don’t feel any less American, I do acknowledge that America has its issues. Do I still love my country? HELL YES! Do I like those issues and choose to ignore them? HELL NO!

The massacre of nine Black people in a historically African Methodist Episcopal Church last week was devastating to me. I saw comments by many other Black American expats in the Facebook groups say that they cried, felt extremely sad, and had heavy hearts over this massacre. This massacre is beyond scary for us. When the dead look like yourself and your family, you will feel very different about this sort of situation.

The young man who perpetrated this atrocity admitted that he is very much racist and that his attack on and massacre of these nine people was racially motivated has been caught and will eventually face his day in court.

While I am pleased with the swift capture of the criminal and racist who did this, I am NOT happy with the narratives surrounding this tragic massacre in Charleston. I have been closely following the media coverage and the politician speeches surrounding this tragedy. President Obama called for better gun control, but said nothing about the systematic, historical and present racism that still plagues America. Other politicians, such as Nikki Haley Governor of South Carolina, have focused all of their efforts in taking down the Confederate flag.

While the confederate flag is an extremely racist and hateful symbol in America, simply taking down the flag at the South Carolina State House (and the halt in selling the flag on Amazon.com or at Wal-Mart) does not bring back the nine people who were killed last week and it does not solve the hateful ideas that linger in American society that allowed for this tragedy, and many, many tragedies just like it throughout American history, to happen in the first place.

The disease in America is called racism- the confederate flag is a symptom of that long plaguing disease! 

To simply center the conversation of police brutality and the massacre in South Carolina around the flying of a racist  flag, is to keep deflecting from a serious conversation about race in America.

-This is to say that YES, the confederate flag should not be seen, and common sense tells us this because of its history. However, the flag is not the BIG problem- what it stands for (RACISM) is the problem!  If our politicians cannot stand to have a serious conversations about racism in our country and how it has continued to covertly linger in American society, then maybe we should be asking why. Why can’t we tackle this issue so that we never have to experience another tragic massacre like the one that took place in South Carolina? What are we so afraid of? What good will come from continuously ignore racism in our country?

The families of these nine victims will continuously stay in my prayers. May these nine victims rest in peace.

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