Thursday, March 18, 2010

Weekend assignment: Walk in our shoes

To all aspiring movie makers, here's a weekend assignment.
You should make!

Online Collectivism and Intellectual Property Rights

I was sitting in our computer/yoga room watching my boyfriend cut and paste art into his blog, sharing ideas and works as if they were his own, but the beauty of the exchange knocked me bloody, in the face. I asked him, "How does it feel to be part of this collective, frantic online exchange of information?" He said, "Great."

I find it wonderful that he, we, can sit in Viet Nam and shuffle through a library of information and images to share with others. The world as a classroom is now, virtual reality and as Mr. Lanier, quoted in the NY Times article Text without Context "the mash-up as more important than the sources who were mashed.” Creation, most often if not always, comes from a previous creation, it's just that the pace is faster now and tomorrow will be even faster. However, I am a flip-flopper on this issue. I like the idea that all of us own ideas, music, and information as a concept, but it is difficult for me to wrap my mind around as a practice. Coming from a country where copy right is a major issue and working in schools where plagiarism is a concern, I grapple with the question of ownership; nevertheless, I think the creative conversations march or mash on without my,, or copy right lawyers' consent. Thoughts for food.

Here's the article "Text without Context" from the New York Times, which inspired my morning blabber.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Beijing Cold

The snow began to fall as I left Beijing. 
I want to remember the feeling. 


Spring Break 2010!

My friend Dyana and I are trekking through new territory (new as in I haven't been there before) in Thailand this break of 2010. We've decided to spend two days in Khao Lak, one hour away from Phuket (thank god). After some beach time, we're heading north to Chiang Mai to hike, hang out with some elephants, listen to live music and relax. If you have any Chiang Mai suggestions, fire them my way. Thanks!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Stunning Beijing

This past week I spent five days in Beijing, China. When I stood in the airport, which is the largest building in the world, I was in awe of the open space and grandeur. After throwing my trusty backpack over my shoulder, my colleagues and I took a cab to our hotel. As I walked out of the airport, my skin began to crack from the dryness and change in climate from which I had previously departed. Beijing is quite a contrast to Ho Chi Minh City in so many ways. Beijing is larger than life, and I was lucky to have tour guides, historians, and self-declared foodies to show me their city.
Joanne Li is a good friend of mine and teaches Mandarin at Saigon South International School. She’s funny (even in English), smart, and has a keen eye for good shoes, food, handbags, and on and on. Great people often have great friends, and Joanne’s friends, Mikki and Charles, were gracious enough to show me the sights and take me out to their favorite restaurants. On the first night, we walked around the Forbidden City, stood in the awesome magnificence of Tiananmen square, ate sweet and sour fish at a Chinese restaurant with an open roof, and then chatted the night away in a Tibetan bar where I had my first Tibetan beer and some ginger tea. Mikki and Charles dropped me off at around one in the morning, and I had to get up for my conference the next day, which was the primary reason I was in Beijing.
The conference was a standard IB conference where the conference leader reviews the structure and assessments in the course; however, the school where the conference was held was anything but standard. WAB, Western Academy of Beijing, is more like a spa, or a beautiful little town than a school. There are four or five buildings on the campus and a river runs through the center. Ornate bridges connect the buildings, and life-size art is displayed on the walls and grounds of the school. The high school has a pond with fish, coffee shop, gorgeous furniture, and displays of student art for all to enjoy. WAB is magnificent, and I’m sure, not hurting for cash.
Mikki and Charles picked me up again on Sunday night, this time with a stadium jacket to keep me warm. Flurries of snow fell from the sky as we walked up the “mountain” to look over the city. I loved the park where we began our ascent because there were retirees about every twenty feet or so, singing into a karaoke machine at the top of their lungs. There were so many songs and so much joy at the base of the "mountain". When we reached the top (picture of the stairs below)  I could see into the Forbidden City, and I would have stayed longer, but I was so, so cold with red fingers and a red nose that we rushed off to fill ourselves with Dim Sum.
I guess Dim Sum is more of a Cantonese dish, and I’ve had amazing Dim Sum in Hong Kong, but Mikki and Charles humored me and took me to a place where live seafood swished around in tanks, decorating the walls. While waiting, we ate sunflower seeds and threw them on the floor, so I guess the sunflower seeds were a decoration of sorts. No need for carpet! The Dim Sum was exquisite, but the cow stomach lining was a dish of acquired taste. I had to chew the stomach lining and not think about what exactly I was putting into my mouth. Yummy! We finished our meal, shopped a bit (I bought a tea cup and a bear hat), and caught a cab back to the hotel. The taxi driver spoke to Charles and wanted to know if I spoke Mandarin so he could talk to me about the blizzards in the states. Unfortunately, my Mandarin consists of hello, thank you, and I love you, so I smiled at the taxi driver and shook my head instead.

I was sad to say goodbye to Mikki and Charles, and hope to see them again soon. Thank you so much, Joanne for introducing me to two lovely people.
I am now back in Ho Chi Minh City, but Beijing lodged a place in my heart, so I’m sure I will return next year. Until then.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tet Magic

Saigon was quiet, peaceful, serene, which would be blasphemy on any other day, but during Tet, there's an entire street dedicated to walking through rows of flowers while "A Whole New World" blasts over the speakers.Surreal, to say the very least. I kept repeating "Where am I"? "Where am I?" I couldn't get over the feeling of transportation to another time and place. This is not the Saigon I know.

If you have a chance to visit during Tet, you must make a trip to the flower garden, which is constructed in one week, and deconstructed in one day.

Stunning magic!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Beijing Bound

Tomorrow, I board the plane for an IB conference in Beijing, China. This is my first trip to China, so I'm a little nervous, but prepared for both the conference and sight-seeing during the evening. I hope the conference and sights are equally stimulating.  I'll be in Beijing from the 4th to the 8th of March, so I should have enough time to eat some Peking duck and dim sum--my favorite--and shop for some new, hopefully cheap shoes.

If you've been to Beijing, I would love your advice! What should I see in four days? What must I eat? Where should I shop? I hope to meet up with my friend Joanne Li's friend, Mikki to show me around the town, but I have yet to schedule a meeting with her (must do now). I also have a stack of papers to prepare for the substitute before I leave school today and many cups of coffee to drink and miles to go before I sleep.

Life is busy this week! Don't worry sleepy Saigon, I'll be back soon.