Hardcore lärande

Kära läsare,

Kul att höras igen! Som vanligt är det fullt upp, precis som det ska vara. Några förändringar har skett som bör nämnas:

  • Jag hoppade av arabiskakursen. Jag gjorde det samma dag som jag skulle ha introduktion på den. Inte för att jag ångrade mig (tvärtom ville jag verkligen läsa kursen och hade sett fram emot det) utan för att jag hade introduktion på min bildkurs på lärarprogrammet samma morgon, och jag insåg hur omfattande den var, och hur roligt det skulle bli att läsa den(!) så jag ville lägga energin på rätt ställe. Jag är glad för det beslutet, för nu i efterhand upplever jag att jag prioriterade min tid rätt.
  • Jag jobbar ungefär en dag i veckan. Det är alldeles lagom för någon som jobbade för mycket i höstas i samband med studier. Dessutom får jag träffa alla mina älskade elever lite då och då vilket på riktigt gör allting så värt. Jag bryr mig så himla mycket om dem och saknar att vara deras lärare. Att hoppa in som vikarie då och då ger mig små doser av det som gör mig mest glad.
  • Jag är väldigt trött nu för tiden, men jag är glad. Glad för beslutet att bli lärare, glad att jag snart tar examen, glad att jag träffat så fantastiska människor genom dessa val, människor jag ser upp till och som jag lärt mig så mycket av på så kort tid. Att vara lärare är ett sant privilegium som jag tar på stort allvar.
  • Som sagt, jag är trött. T-R-Ö-T-T. Jag har nog någon slags post-trötthet efter att jag stressade som en galning i höstas. För hur mycket jag älskade det så tog jag i för mycket med heltidsstudier och 50% tjänst. Det är svårt. Hjärnan och hjärtat slåss mot varandra. Men det börjar bli bättre. Jag låter mig själv vila på något annat sätt nu än tidigare.

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Jaha, där är jag med en seriös min. Egentligen hade jag väldigt roligt vid detta tillfälle! Det var en lektion vi hade i kursen där vi testade att fotografera med stora (superstarka) lampor och olika ljussättningar. Suuperspännande att utveckla mina kunskaper i fotografi och att få leka runt på det viset med ljus och andra verktyg.

Andra spännande fotoresultat som jag tycker om. Jag har redan lärt mig så himla mycket på en månad av denna kurs och idéerna flödar av hur jag kan tillämpa det när jag undervisar igen.

På tal om att lära sig. Vi läser en hel del litteratur för tillfället och VFU-perioden vankas i april. Jag brukar försöka lära mig av det teoretiska och praktiska för att sedan prova det på praktiken med eleverna. Jag tror att jag lär mig mer på det sättet. Dessutom fastnar såklart viss litteratur som tilltalar mig, mer än annan. Men jag tänkte kort gå igenom en del av litteraturen vi läser just nu:

 

Keri Smith – How to be an explorer of the world

En helt unik bok som skiljer sig från den typiska litteraturen man annars är van vid. Smith använder sig av sin omvärld för att skapa olika visuella utmaningar och boken är praktiskt taget en exempelbok på uppgifter elever kan titta i för att söka inspiration till uppgifter.

Louis Hetland et al. – Studio thinking 2: the real benefits of visual arts education

En inspirerande och välskriven bok som alltid fungerar som en återkommande källa till inspiration. Trots det internationella perspektivet kan metoderna och utgångspunkterna tillämpas i den svenska bildsalen, och den ger även värdefull kunskap som bildläraren kan använda sig av för sin egen utveckling och förståelse av bildämnet i sin helhet.

Brian Longhurst (red.) – Introducing cultural studies (2 ed)

Köp den här boken. Läs den. Helst av allt den senaste upplagan då den har helt rätt utgångspunkter för tiden vi lever i. Den tidigare upplagan funkar, men man missar ett viktigt lager som är högaktuellt för oss som lärare idag. Denna bok diskuterar kultur som begrepp i det stora och lilla. Kulturstudier är komplicerat att förstå i vissa avseenden, men det är så intressant att läsa och kunna tillämpa i sin roll som bildlärare. Bildämnet genomsyras av kultur och vad det innefattar, och det är att göra våra elever en otjänst att inte ha kunskap om kultur och dess innebörd för våra liv.

Anders Jönsson – Lärande bedömning

Att bedöma våra elever är en stor del av vårt arbete. Att förstå hur man bäst kan göra detta är inte något som bara “kommer”. Jag tycker den här boken ger tydliga beskrivningar av hur man kan arbeta med bedömning på ett formativt sätt och hur den summativa bedömningen inte är utgångspunkten för att se vad våra elever klarar av.

Vaike Fors & Åsa Bäckström – Visuella metoder

ÄLSKAR den här boken. Jag trodde verkligen inte att jag skulle göra det. Men jag älskar den. Den är så konkret i vad den pratar om, kapitlen är lagom långa, men de ger så handfasta tips som jag kommer kunna ha användning för resten av tiden på lärarutbildningen (t ex under mitt examensarbete) men även när jag börjar jobba som lärare. Jag tycker om dess moderna språkbruk och att det är två riktigt kompetenta författare som skrivit ihop en otroligt bra bok. Tacksam för denna bok.

Mats Börjesson & Alf Rehn – Makt

Liten och behändig bok som belyser aspekten av makt i samhället och det stora och lilla. Jag hade kanske inte valt att läsa denna bok om inte den stod på min litteraturlista för min kurs, men jag tycker den ger mig goda utgångspunkter för att granska min egen (makt)roll som lärare i klassrummet, i relation till elever och andra som kan finnas i klassrummet.

Lars Lindström & Viveka Lindberg – Pedagogisk bedömning: Att dokumentera, bedöma och utveckla kunskap

Den här boken har gett mig helt nya perspektiv i hur jag kan arbeta formativt med eleverna och dokumentera deras process under terminens gång. Att använda portföljmetodik, kamratbedömning eller andra aspekter som jag kan använda i min bedömning, i synnerhet med estetiska ämnen som utgångspunkt, har revolutionerat min syn på min lärarroll som estetlärare. Riktigt, riktigt bra bok. Rekommenderar alla estetlärare att införskaffa!

Mie Buhl & Ingelise Flensborg – Visuel Kulturpædagogik

En dansk bok som handlar om kulturstudier med ett pedagogiskt perspektiv. Jag har svårt för den här boken eftersom jag inte kan danska och därför måste kämpa en hel del med att läsa den, men när det går någorlunda bra så har den ett väldigt bra innehåll som är användbart för mig som bildlärare. Men det är en utmaning att gilla den på samma premisser som andra böcker jag läser i samma veva.

Utöver dessa böcker läser vi annat (som avhandlingar och artiklar) och mer kommer tillkomma under terminens gång, då denna kurs sträcker sig över hela terminen(!) förutom fyra veckors praktik som ligger insprängt under våren. Kursen samspelar med praktiken däremot.

Det jag tycker bäst om med att läsa litteratur som riktar sig till oss som lärare är just alla idéer och tankar jag får som rör undervisningen i skolan eller andra aspekter av arbetet i skolan. Jag behöver egentligen ha en idébok där jag kan skriva ner alla bra idéer som dyker upp och som jag vill testa i bildsalen eller engelskundervisningen. Tur att praktiken kan användas som ett bollplank för dessa idéer.

Jag har nog sagt det tidigare, men jag har redan separationsångest från min utbildning, trots att jag har höstterminen kvar också. Jag kommer sakna möjligheten att bolla idéer med lärare, få tillgång till riktigt bra litteratur som utvecklar mig så mycket som lärare, eller träffa andra som sitter i samma gungande båt som jag och som är på väg mot samma mål som jag. Jag kommer saknar atmosfären som finns på universitetet och känslan att utvecklas akademiskt.

Jag är ganska övertygad om att min relation med universitet inte är över med min examen. Jag kommer med störst sannolikhet att återvända för en master och kanske gå vidare efter det. Akademin lockar, jag vill lära mig mer mer mer.

Men mest av allt längtar jag att få komma ut och arbeta heltid med elever och mina ämnen. Jag är så himla tacksam över att få känna såhär över mitt val av yrke, och jag tror att den passionen märks av eleverna, vilket gör att vi kan ha en undervisning där de har en driven och peppad lärare, som kan leda dem i en riktning som gör dem till bättre elever, människor och äventyrare.

Ps. Har ni tips på en skola som behöver lärare under sommaren? Hör gärna av er!

Allt gott!

Izabella

 

 

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Inför termin 8

Kära blogg,

Trevligt att vara tillbaka!

Senast jag skrev här var jag på väg hem från en termin utomlands i Macao, och jag var fullständigt överväldigad av känslor och hemlängtan. Nu har en hel termin(!) hunnit emellan då och nu, och det känns som att tiden är inne att åter börja skriva här.

Ni som läst här inne tidigare märker att jag börjat skriva på svenska igen, från tidigare då jag hade en mer internationell approach och därmed valde att endast skriva på engelska. Just nu känns svenska bäst så vi utgår från det.

Precis som titeln på detta inlägg tyder, så är termin 8 alldeles runt hörnet, och mycket spännande händer i vår! Men innan jag går in närmare på det, vill jag bara sammanfatta min hösttermin.

Jag pluggade som vanligt vidare på utbildningen, och tyckte det var lite klurigt att återkoppla till hur undervisningen och inlämningar skedde i Malmö, då jag hade vant mig vid Macao, men lyckligtvis ramlar man in i sina gamla vanor fortare än vad man tror. Jag valde utöver mina studier att vikariera på min fantastiska VFU-skola, i båda mina ämnen (wow!) på 50%.

Jag har aldrig älskat ett jobb på samma sätt som jag gjort när jag jobbade förra terminen. Det finns så mycket att säga, men sammanfattningsvis kan jag säga att sådana underbara kollegor som jag hade, går inte att beskriva, och deras stöd och pepp när det var tungt studiemässigt var guld värt. Det är ganska vansinnigt att jobba 50% och studera 100% och jag hade nog aldrig gjort det igen i samma utsträckning, men sammanhanget jag hade gjorde verkligen det värt för mig. Och relationerna jag byggde med eleverna var också en fantastisk upplevelse. Jag växte så mycket i min lärarroll och kände mer än någonsin att jag verkligen hittat rätt.

Jag ska inte sticka under stol med att det var en kamp, jag har heller aldrig känt mig så stressad och utmattad som jag gjorde på grund av hur mycket jag studerade och jobbade, och i efterhand hade jag önskat att jag var mer realistiskt inställd till mängden jobb, och varit mer rädd om mig själv. När jag nu står här i januari så ser jag ändå tillbaka på det som en otrolig termin med mycket skratt, kaffe, multitasking och lärdomar.

I skolan har jag skrivit en så kallad SAG (Självständigt Arbete på Grundläggande nivå) som motsvarade 15 hp och alldeles nyss blivit inlämnad i sin slutgiltiga version. Jisses vilket jobb det varit att jobba ihop den, samtidigt som jag jobbat och haft fullt upp. Men nu är det äntligen över, och jag kan gå vidare med slutet av min utbildning! För nu är det, hur overkligt det än är, ett år tills jag tar examen, knappt. Helt otroligt att tiden gått så fort, och att jag snart får titulera mig som ämneslärare i bild och engelska. Wow!

Denna termin innehåller dock nya äventyr. Jag har (äntligen!!) tagit mig i kragen och ska läsa arabiska på distans vid sidan av mina studier. Jag kan redan tala arabiska, men jag har aldrig kunnat läsa och skriva. Dessutom talar jag med irakisk dialekt vilket visat sig vara ganska kontraproduktivt då elever som till exempel är nyanlända knappt förstår vad jag säger. Hehe. Så, på halvtid ska jag äntligen få lära mig arabiska ordentligt, och jag är så glad för att jag äntligen bestämde mig för att satsa. Det ska bli roligt att dela med mig av min progression här.

Hur som helst, detta var en snabb liten uppdatering på hur livet varit fram tills nu. Vad roligt det ska bli att blogga igen!

Allt gott!

Izabella

Goodbye Macao

Dear readers,

The time is suddenly here, and I am not even in Macao to write this post. Rather, I am sitting at Hong Kong Airport, waiting to board my plane back home.

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I do not even know where to start trying to describe my stay at the university, the country, with the people there, or without everything I am so used to having around me.

Quite honestly, as I have written before, I am not the typical “let’s go to Asia and discover new places and travel after the semester is over and be one with the people”. In all honesty I almost envy those who are, because there is an adventure-side of it that appeals to me. But, as stated before, I love my home city, I love my life there, and the place I call home. And it has literally hurt my body to be away from it. However, it is always good to break free from what is comfortable and challenge one’s self too, which is ultimately why I decided to apply and go on exchange. I was terrified during the whole application period because I was not sure if I would have the braveness to actually go. But sometimes you just have to close your eyes and just do it.

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Excuse my poor picture, but I seems to only have taken pictures like the shown above when it comes to representing the faculty I was part of. I loved being part of this faculty. Although I seemed to have set ideas of what to expect, they were of course shaken into what reality holds for you. No, what I really did appreciate was that I found all of my teachers so devoted, interested, and fun to listen to. All of them are radically different to one another, and I am happy for that, because I have literally seen five different ways of teaching a subject that I will soon be teaching myself.

Furthermore, being an exchange student in a new place is a scary and somewhat scary experience, because you feel like you did in 7th grade, the insecurity creeps up on you and you wonder how the hell you are supposed to just behave like you naturally do, without throwing too much in people’s faces. Happily, however, I had really supportive teachers who, despite my breaking down in front of them, stood by me and encouraged me through some difficult times. Being a teacher is of course not only about professionally teach a subject to a group of people in a way that would be interesting for them all to listen to and learn, but just as much a person-to-person relationship where you have to adapt your level, energy, content, and everything in-between that in order for your students to feel like they are being seen in a room full of people. Of course this applies the other way around just as much. A teacher is also human and needs to have a bad day without it destroying the lesson for others. Teachers are, to say the least, flexible people. Back to what I was saying before, I am so grateful for the times I was able to talk it out with them and keep my head up and continue even though it feels like my heart is breaking of homesickness.

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Speaking of home, it was evident that I was nowhere near home, and it hit me that all the tall buildings, the neatly packed blocks and the massive amounts of people that live in this place was a bit too much for me to handle. I understand why the buildings are high, and it does have a visual effect just as much as a practical one. But you grow to enjoy your view at the end, anyway. I sort of appreciated the difference after my “neutralized” period actually kicked in.

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Whenever I wanted more of that claustrophobic feeling, I could just take the ferry to Hong Kong and love the view. I LOVE HONG KONG. I should almost get a t-shirt with that printed on it. I adore Hong Kong. I cannot even explain why. I think it is the feeling of a big city although it is not that big in reality. And I love the mix of massive (MASSIVE) buildings with the picturesque cute bars and parks in the middle of it all. Not to forget the beautiful nature and culture that surrounds Hong Kong.


So, to say that my past five months have been full of new experiences, feelings, meetings with new people, food experiments and so much more, is an understatement.

But I am also exhausted. Exhausted in the way that it becomes too much and I need to rest my brain a bit, with what is familiar to me. What I know that I love, to know where the street leads to, what I can find in the supermarket, who to call when I feel like going out for a drink, to study together with other friends who are also becoming teachers and can nerd it down with me. I miss speaking the same language as the majority of the population. I miss my life, so it beyond wonderful to know that I will be home in about 13 hours from the time this post is being written. Yay for that!

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I think in time, when I have landed back into my regular habits again, I will reminisce back to certain things that were important to me during my stay here. But for now, I think it is simply too soon to try to understand how this has affected me in the long run. All I can say now that is absolutely has been a life changing experience that I will never forget, for many reasons. They just need to grow on my first.

Lastly, as this experience is now officially over, I will go back to writing in Swedish and I will most likely have an English section for non-Swedish readers. I will also go back to focusing more on my studies and work regarding teaching. Also, I want to include more thoughts about research, articles, and news about my profession and work place (in general).

Sweden, here I come!

Love,

Izabella

Midterms, Midways

Dear readers,

Sorry for not posting for a while, time has been lacking for all things I want to do, so I have had to decide what I should put most time on, which has been studying. Last week, I had two midterm exams which I have studied a lot for.

Is it not funny, by the way, when you have studied and taken notes and really had the conviction that you got this, you still end up with a total blackout of some important detail that you need to know, while at the exam? That happens to me all the time, and I have to go through every mental note I have in a last hope to remember the name of a character or the name of an author. Luckily, it comes to me at last.

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This is one of the ways I annotate, when I need to know of certain themes and where I can quickly find them during the test. The numbers represent the different questions on the study guide we had received from the teacher, and I also knew that some of the questions would be on the real test. This exam was an “open book, open notes”-exam, which meant that I could bring the literature and my notes to class.

Well, that is an odd way to have a test, I thought when I heard of it, but honestly, since I had read everything in time and taken notes, as well as studied for the exam, I winded up opening one of the books one time, and that was for a page reference. I have learned that my brain can hold so much information at once which is just brilliant.

The midterm exams are officially over and now we look ahead for the final examinations which will be during May. On top of that, I have several papers that I will have to write at the same time and finish before April ends. Interesting concept for me who has only had a maximum of two courses at the same time in Sweden, but am now sporting five. So keep me in your prayers.

As you could see in the title, I am also Midways through my stay here. A few days over that even. March 13th marked my 50% left before I take the flight back home again. My feelings on being here have truly been a roller-coaster and I have not always been happy about it.

You see, I am not an adventure seeker like many of my peers are. I enjoy shorter trips and to explore cultural and historical aspects of a place. And food of course. Being on the other side of the earth (sort of) for half a year is not really what I would normally get myself into.

Now that I have been here close to 3(!) months, I have now overcome my worst homesickness (at least I hope so) and have started to neutrally accept things around me. A friend showed me this:

homesickness chart

I kid you not, up until now this has been my exact feeling about my exchange. I am at “adaptation” right now and will hope that the pre-return ups and downs will not kill me, because goodness it has been rough.

I know that some of those who read my blog are about to go on exchange, and let me tell you, look att his picture, save it and remember that this will happen to you, and that is completely normal.

I wish I gave myself enough credit that I actually came here, as I could have easily turned it down because of being too scared to try it. But I can already feel how much I will have learned by being here, about myself, about my studies, about the profession I will soon enter into, about people and cultures, but above all.. *cheesy moment* about what matters in life.

I miss the most ridiculous things from back home. The smell of certain food or nature, locations I otherwise would take for granted, being close to my friends and family, using my time well. It feels as if I have just assumed that another day will come for other opportunities that I missed that day, but here i have become so much more productive and good at, as NIKE would say, “just do it!”, and I am very happy about that.

I will not postpone next post as long as I have since last time I wrote, as I have more time on my hands now, yay!

I want to know who you are who read my blog, leave me a comment, it would be fun to know more about you!

 

Love,

Izabella

 

 

 

 

Peer Review to Improve Language Proficiency

Dear readers,

Yesterday we had an interesting discussion in one of my classes, which I wanted to talk about today. The background to the discussion is that my teacher asked the students whether they preferred to have the teacher on a macro, or a micro lever when we turn in papers to the teacher.

To briefly explain what this entails, a macro perspective would be that I as a teacher will only look at the ideas and points of views the student is telling me in their paper. I’ll look at the overview so to speak. How are the paragraphs in relation to the content of them? Should they add something that is obviously lacking? Etc. Micro perspective in a paper would instead mean that the teacher goes beyond the main ideas and points made by a student, and will look at grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and the details within a paragraph, for example.

The teachers asked this because the English Majors at the university are apparently not only expected to be professionals when it comes to analyzing literary texts, but they should also improve their language proficiency in order to become workers within the English language field, which in practice means that someone needs to tell them when they are misusing certain words, or when their subject verb agreement is lacking.

Now, an important factor in this discussion is of course that the teacher tells the pros and cons of these decisions. How does it affect us and the teacher’s work load? Is it even realistic to talk about? I would argue yes, it is definitely a positive thing to consider having someone telling you how to improve and what it is you are in need of improving. Especially if one has a hard time figuring that out by themselves.

A brief discussion about this erupted in the classroom, and I suggested what I am used to from my home university; peer review. Oh my god, it is such a great invention! The idea is quite simple. Each student has between 3-4 texts to read and review. They look at the text both from a micro and macro level, annotating their comments in the text which the student can later see and decide if the comments are helpful in any way. This is not only great because you have between 6-8 different eyes looking at your text, but my strongest argument for this is of course that not all are the same. We have different strengths and weaknesses which we all work by. So, what one person sees in a text, someone else might have missed. This means that if I am really great at looking at grammar mistakes, student X might be great at sentence structure and student Y might be great at looking at paragraphs and how they can become better structured.

Judging from the reactions, they were not very keen on trying this idea out. One argument was that they were all “as bad at English” which would not help any of them, because they will not be able to see the mistakes of others. I disagree, with my whole soul and mind. You simply cannot judge a whole classroom and generalize the level of English. I think it boils down to not wanting to be wrong if you end up giving a peer review and you happen to say something that does not add up. I think it is really sad. In a country where English is widely used but still as a foreign language (as in Sweden) it is of great importance to have strategies of developing your language, and part of that is definitely not only by the teachers, but also by your peers. That is how you develop. Also, there are great benefits to looking at others’ texts and their writing style. In my experience, I have learned so much by just learning more of how others are presenting their ideas in their papers. Every little helps, is my opinion in this.

So, what were the results? There were none. We would look at the possibility of having a forum where texts could be posted and commented upon. But that is not the same thing as organized peer reviewing. Although I understand that there are different systems in different countries when it comes to learning cultures, my firm view is that learning a language is in its most general form approached in the same way.

Honestly, it is a sad outcome. I wonder if they know what they are missing out on by not using their own proficiency or learning of others’ and only relying on one person to teach them all they need to know. An unrealistic idea.

What do you think of peer review? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

 

Love,

Izabella

A mini Weekend in Hong Kong!

Dear readers,

Here is a massive post about Hong Kong, when it comes to both pictures and text! Also, at the end of the post, I am discussing a racist advertisement I saw, which is made by MTR, the international and very well established company.

At the end of our CNY break, five of the exchange students decided to go to Hong Kong for a mini weekend, two days and one night, that is. We went on Friday and came home late Saturday. It was an exciting thing to do because for me, I knew that there were several places I wanted to visit when going there (it did not pan out as I had imagined though, hehe) and that Hong Kong differs a lot from Macau, which would make anyone curious I would think.

Here is the HK-gang! From the left: Colombe, Lamine, Izabella, Alexander, and Isabela. What a good group of people!

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We had decided to live in an Airbnb apartment because we thought it would be nice to see the inside of one of these massive buildings. Also, the price would be slightly cheaper than a stay at an okay hotel. When we were trying to find our way to the apartment, I managed to snap some pictures of our surroundings. I like how the buildings are a mix between old and new, concrete and plants, streets full of stores and some which had none.

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Finally, we found the place and this is what it looked like on the street outside. There were several stores who sold dried products from the sea, including shrimps, squids and fish. The smell was sometimes revolting and I was trying really hard not to make faces. I really do not want to be considered this privileged Westerner who cannot stand the simple smell of their snacks, or whatever it is used for. At least I can try to stay neutral even though I just want to run away from the smells that hit me on the street.

Speaking of smells, Hong Kong is a constant mix of sewage smell and nice smells. There was not many in between-s. When we were in the city the smell of garbage/sewage was hitting you in the face, and sometimes you would walk up a street which was more open, and the smell would almost smell like sweets.

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After we had left our bags at the apartment, we started walking around the city, trying to find stores we wanted to visit. These pictures are not in a certain order, because I cannot remember exactly when or were I took them. Just so you know!

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Look at this beautiful city! I loves how modern it was, but still had classic elements of the Chinese culture, baked within it all.

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In the right corner of this picture, you can see the city tram, which has two stories! I have never seen that before. We were such tourists when it passed us, and we all took pictures of it, haha. Then we see all the high buildings. This is how people live. In tiny apartments high up in the sky. It must be so difficult for people to cram up in these apartments, just to be able to live in the city. I am just speculating, but if you are not rich, than you have no choice?

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When we were walking down a road which was right next to the water that separates the island of Hong Kong, we took a lot of selfies (and locals were “secretly” taking pictures of us, but we saw them), here is one! Such a great company I was privileged to have. The man in the background who is sitting in the background was fishing with only a fishing line and some bait. He was a nice man to talk to!

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After that, we went to the statue of Bruce Lee! They had other statues of actors, but it seemed most people were interested in this gentleman’s statue than any others. What a privilege to see how Eastern culture is flourishing in the world, and not only what we in the West see as acceptable culture, or actors for that matter. Seeing that in this world, we have so many different places where people look up to different actors, characters and movies.

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I would like to dedicate this picture to my brothers. Hi!

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Being tourists in the metro, yep!

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We went to this place, i Square, which is in the right part of the picture. It was an enormous mall with several floors and a lot of stores. We were looking for stationery, haha.

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Here is a group selfie of us in the elevator inside of i Square. I love the facial expressions of everyone! Haha!

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We met these cute stone figures on our way to our next destination: Victoria Peak!

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This picture reminds me of my cat Max, haha. Sometimes he yawns when you take pictures of him and it looks a bit like this.

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When we were on our way up to the trams that would take us to the Peak, we caught this beautiful sunset!

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Such a beautiful place, I am so in love with Hong Kong.

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So, when we arrived to the tram which would bring us up to the peak, the line was hundreds of meters long. It would take us several hours before we would get a chance to get up there, and the sun was already on its way down. We were not so sure if this was something we wanted to do, although we had been really excited about it. The solution we took was a bit out of my comforts zone (in a good way) and led us to immediately be able to go up the mountain to the peak. We payed 300 HKD (in other words, an extremely overpaid taxi trip) that would take us up without any waiting. And so it did. We crammed up in the five-seat car (six people) and started praying that nothing bad would happen. Well, at least I did. After no more than ten minutes, we had reached our destination…. And this is what we saw. Basically nothing more than some nice sky but about everything had started becoming part of the great blackness provided by the mountain.

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After being extremely disappointed about this non-existing view and the great amount of money we spent, we were contemplating going down the mountain again. But then we decided to give it another shot and tried to see where we could walk around the Peak, in order to see if there is another overlook that we had missed. We walked around for a while and then found the golden doors which took us to this. There were so many people who were struggling to get closest to the wall for the best picture or selfie. We managed to fight people off and stand our grounds in order to take as many pictures as we could. Magnificent view and place. R, we are going here as well.

Here is a group selfie of three exchange students who pushed their way through to the wall in order to take this picture. It was almost impossible to get pictures without strangers in the background or next to you.

Our adventure continued the following day. After some lunch (with the most expensive water I have ever had…) we decided to go to the Ferris Wheel we had spotted the day before. It turned out to be a fun park and of course we felt that we had to explore it!

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When we had finally got on the Ferris Wheel, the view was pretty darn great. And the colors. Oh my. It reminded us a bit about “London Eye” because we sat in bean shaped bubbles which took us high up in the sky.

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Surrounding the fun park were these buildings. I love the mixture! To the left is the ocean, but I did not manage to include that view in the picture.

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Luckily, I was able to snap pictures the other way as well! This is the magnificent view that surrounded us. A quick ferry trip over the water, and you go to the other island (I am so bad with remembering what everything is called…) where we found great shopping malls and high end brands. A lot of them.

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Speaking of ferries, this is what it looks when we have gotten on one “to experience taking the ferry” instead of the MTR. It was great because the fun park and the ferry station were located right next to each other, which had us deciding on plans on the spot. I liked that.

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The ferry provided us with what Hong Kong does best, sky scrapes and breathtaking views wherever you turn your head. Naturally, this was not an exception.

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Okay, so let us talk a bit about the not-so-nice things one might stumble upon in Hong Kong. I found two things that I want to share with you.

So, apparently this is an ad for Acro Yoga. I do not know about you guys, but I have not seen many people who practice this Yoga style, in bed while apparently in the mood to cuddle, and with an insanely photoshopped female body on top. Maybe it is my female Western eyes, but I just cannot get over how little responsibility advertising agencies take when it comes to representing the female body in advertisement. I refuse to believe that there would be some type of demand of these offensive pictures? Who knows. There were other examples of advertisement in Hong Kong which made me raise my eyebrows. But this just got me, the whole “oh let us practice some Acro moves while we are still in bed, and let us do it in such a way that you look like you have a non-human body because that really contributes to empower women”. Shame on these companies!

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But this just has to be the worst thing I have seen in a long time. Especially since it is a big, international company that is behind the advertisement.

Let us start with the counter arguments (those are always fun!):

Maybe there is a cultural difference in how we connote these types of pictures. That is, when we look beyond what we actually see in the picture, what do we reference certain things to? What do we draw connections to? What, in our own lives, do we come to think of when we look at a picture? Maybe Chinese people connote this in a completely different way than me as a Swedish person would. That is an important point to make, because I simply cannot judge the world and what I see thousands of miles away from home and expect that it should be seen without differences.

Also, some might look closely at this picture and say “but hey, they are just saying, don’t rush into the train, let others exit first, how is that a bad thing? Those guys are just worried that someone will run into them and maybe they are scared of getting hurt? We all know how it feels when stressed people lack the ability to wait for their turn before attacking a metro.”

Now, let us critically view this (disgusting) picture and see why these counter arguments are easily refuted.

First of all, the cultural difference may apply in situations where the focus is put upon just that, cultural differences that are clear cut and can be agreed upon by both parties, for example, a Western cultural trait vs. a Asian could be eating with a fork and knife or eating with chopsticks; this is a neutral, cultural difference that is agreed by both parts. However, by projecting a person with an afro with a certain act or behavior, this company is basing their commercial on a racist foundation, and let me tell you why that is. Typically, when a person is attributed with certain behaviors based on how they look, they are subjected to stereotypes created by others about themselves.

For example, one common idea that is flourishing in society as we speak is how white people claim that Muslims are dangerous and potentially terrorists. Who is Muslim? Brown people. Where do they come from? The Middle East. Ergo: white people fear people from the Middle East. Although it is easily proven that the largest groups of Muslims are actually from the area in which I am living at the moment, this would not matter to people who have this idea in their head. Because for them, they have already been convinced that their perception of their world is the truth, thus there is no interest in any other realities, since they have already gotten one they are pleased with, which generally would validate their racist behavior. They have generalized a large group of people who are part of different minorities within their countries, who differ in religious beliefs and how they view life on a general basis.

There is no room for an individual approach with this way of seeing the world, instead, by portraying someone who looks a certain way, in this case a company, they are generalizing people with afros (in majority black people (also shown by the color of the hair and texture), but again, this is my connotation) with not being able to follow the societal act of waiting for their turn to enter the MTR. Now, you might say that I am exaggerating but I certainly believe that they have done a poor choice when choosing how they would portray their idea.

Secondly, black people are often portrayed as loud, noisy, law breaking and with a bit of “what goes around comes around” attitude targeted against them. Just look at the “Black Lives Matter” movement and look at what (white) people have to say about it. It goes without saying that it is deeply troubling to have a world were non-whites are targeted as less adjustable to the norms in society.

So, in other words, when MTR, this internationally known company, chooses to create an ad as the one discussed, what are they adding to the debate? They are, from my perspective, adding to the socially accepted behavior toward black people which in other words are “look, the ad confirms my perception of them [black people], they can’t behave like they are supposed to, like we do”.

Let us be completely honest. Where I live right now, the vast majority are Asian people. I would guess that most of them are Chinese. Since there is an obvious advantage within one ethnic group, one would assume that the majority of them share the same cultural and societal values. Would it not have been more obvious for MTR to represent a Chinese, or even an Asian person, instead of a person with an afro which in this context is a minority group, because it would go hand in hand with most people who actually live here?

To me it seems as if they have targeted a minority by saying “you are not like us, you do not know how to act, therefore we will tell you how to do so”, especially as they have placed five almost identical >men< with disgusted facial expressions who are literally showing their disapproving body language towards the >female< running towards them.

In all honesty, seeing how people act around my friends who are black here, makes me furious. Not only are they exoticising them by wanting to take pictures with them all the time (even trying to secretly take pictures sometimes) and approaching them in ways I would never have accepted if it were me who had been the target group, they also have a tendency of glaring at them when they think no one can see them, in such a disrespectful way. I swear I wish I could speak Chinese so I could tell them what they need to hear.

There are examples of racist commercials who have been aired on Chinese television which is exactly what this advertisement has done. It has targeted black people as less wanted and bad, in comparison to the Chinese people. When a society acts like this towards a certain group of people, it is nourishing racism to the younger generations who will think this is acceptable behavior and pass it on to others. That is not a society I want to be part of, which is why my reaction is not a delicate and finespun one.

Anyway, I would love to hear anyone who would like to enlighten me if there is a cultural idea about black people here that I seem to have missed. Either way, racism is never okay in any shape or form, no matter how refined it is. Especially when companies are responsible of it.

Love,

Izabella

One Month in Macau

Dear readers,

I have successfully survived one month in a new country with new customs and cultural norms. Yay! Although this post is a bit delayed because I have been feeling under the weather, I am happy that my energy is coming back to me, at least enough to be able to create a nice blog post for you.

Recently, we have had a two week(!) break because of the Chinese New Year (CNY) and yesterday was finally the first day of classes again. I say finally because I started to get a bit bored. Everything is closed because of the CNY which means that, if you lack relatives to go visit, not many things are provided to entertain you. Unless you have good people around who bring you on adventures. Thank you K and C!

I thought I would share some pictures of different things I have done during these weeks, as a sort of recap.

First, we went on a nice walk around a hill (at least I think it was around it) in Macau, and it was so nice! I thought I would have to go to other places in order to enjoy nature, but luckily, it was very close and easy to access.

Now, some things that are not typical for me as a Swede, coming from the Scandinavian country of FOREST, they had asphalted the whole trail. Also, in order for the soil not to come down when the rain period starts, they had put concrete on the edges of the trail. Right in nature.  For me it was chocking to see. Although I understand that they want to do everything to avoid soil that plummets down on the trails, it still seemed a bit radical to use concrete. I never ended up taking a picture. Not sure why, honestly, because I would have wanted to show you. I will be back there so I will make sure to snap one then.

The CNY provided us with fun activities such as a parade! Oh dear! We were so excited. We made sure to be there on time in order to get a good view of the parade (let us remember that I had a good idea of how a Western one usually looks like), but about 45 minutes before the parade actually started, it started raining. And raining. And… raining. About half of the people who had gathered around us rushed away with their upset children. We did not have anything which could cover us from the rain, but still we stayed where we were.

When the parade finally did start, we were cold and wet and not in a very good mood (just look at us in the picture, haha). After an hour or so with watching a pretty uninteresting parade, it was not what at least I expected, we went away to try to find shelter and something warm to eat. For my Swedish friends, it was similar to a cold day in November where the rain and humidity passes through all of your clothes, and the weather laughs you in the face.

Fast forward to another (non-rainy) day! K and C took me on another hike where we first visited a friend and his family, where we ate cookies and sweets along with some really nice tea. I have learned some nice Chinese manners when being served tea (how to thank someone for pouring you tea) and also how to make really good tea, Chinese-style. Naturally, I will buy a tea set and tea before I leave so that I can indulge in the Chinese tea tradition in Sweden as well. Anyone up for a Chinese Tea Party?

After we were done with the tea and sweets, we made our way to another mountain (hill?) where you could hike. It was mind blowing, so so beautiful. R, we are coming here, just so you know.

We did not have much time before the sun would go down, so we decided that we would choose a pretty short trail which would still provide us with some beautiful views over hills, a golf course, and prison towers. What a mix, huh? These stairs were an accomplishment and it was not the most fun thing to do when the weather is hot and humid, however, it did give us some spectacular views and introduced us to other trails that took us further on to our little journey.

I took this picture at the end of our hike. Such a beautiful place to visit and be part of for a moment. Fun fact: I was standing on a really narrow bridge when I took this picture. I am scared of heights, but from the time I came here, that has been challenged in different ways. So I am slowly overcoming the fear because I end up visiting places where heights are part of the experience.

After we finished from this little hike of ours, we went down to the beach which was not far from this place, and ate a good dinner with the sound of the waves coming in. This was one of the best days (if not the best) that I have had during my stay here. I am hoping for many more!

Love,

Izabella