Author Archives: Jennifer Min

“The Disobedient Frog”

“This story was a bedtime story that my grandma used to tell me sometimes when I was a child, probably around when I was in kindergarten. It was about a disobedient frog.

So, once upon a time, there was a tree frog who was very disobedient to his mother. He never did what he was told and always just did the opposite of whatever his mom wanted. For example, like if his mom said not to eat the bug, he would eat the bug and if his mom said to go west, he would go east. Because of his constant disobedience, the mommy frog ended up getting sick, and died. But before she died when she was very sick, she asked the disobedient son to bury her near the river, because, um, she thought he would do the opposite of what she asked, as always, and bury her in the land. However, because his mom became sick from his disobedience, the son frog repented from his ways and wanted to obey his mom at least for her final wish. So, he actually buried her by the river instead of on land. Each time it rained, he was so afraid that his mom’s body would wash away in the water so he would cry out. This is why you can hear a frog’s cries near rivers every time it rains.”

My informant told me this tale over lunch on a sunny day, as she stated that this story was the first one that popped up in her thoughts, as she was feeling homesick. She said that she remembered being so sad whenever her grandma would tell her this story, and that it would really make her feel love toward her mom. It helped her to at least try to be more obedient, because of fears that her mother would get sick if she disobeyed her. She would remember past instances of disobedience would remorse.

Hearing this story, I was also really struck with how sad and depressing the story is, especially for a tale that is often told to children. The way the mother and the son frog are never on the same page is really tragic, as it took his mothers death to make the son come to his senses and the mother was never able to see her changed son. She could have thought he never really loved her, as he was constantly disobedient, when he really did as evidence by his crying at each rainfall. This story could really scare children into obeying their parents, especially since children often take things literally. I think I personally can never hear the croaking of frogs the same way.

Shaking Your Leg

“If you shake your leg, your luck will fall away”

My informant shared this superstition as one that her mother’s friends would say to her. She had a habit of shaking her leg whenever she would be sitting, and the ladies of her church always reprimanded her on this habit, stating this superstition. For her personally, she dislikes this saying because it annoyed her when people quoted it to her to scold her for jiggling her leg. She speculated that it probably comes from the idea that ladies should sit still, and such leg jiggling could look unstable. Also, the actual motion of shaking could cause “luck to fall off.”

I have also heard this superstition before. I don’t particularly believe that is has much truth behind it, although I did hear from somewhere that there is a variation of it in which shaking your leg can cause your money to fall away, possibly because shaking your leg could cause your wallet to fall out of your pants. This makes more logical sense, and luck and money can be related concepts. The explanation of the action of shaking being unpleasant to look at also makes sense to me, as it can seem disrespectful, especially at a church in the presence of elders.

Candy to Stick Your Scores

“A certain candy called yeot (엿) is often eaten or gifted before big tests in South Korea. This traditional candy is very sticky, kind of like a harder caramel. Therefore, eating such a sticky candy should help the answers stick in your mind before the test.”

My informant, Grace, said that this is a more recent tradition that developed amongst students, as pressures to do well in studies grew and expectations for test scores became higher. For her, it’s kind of a sad tradition because it shows the desperation of the students in South Korea to which succeeding in school is extremely important and causes large amounts of stress.

This tradition seems cute, eating a sticky candy to make answer stick. However, I do agree that it shows the changes in Korean society, as schooling turns more and more rigorous. I assume that students gifted these candies are under much pressure to perform well, if their parents present things such as this, it could serve as encouragement but may also add pressure as it shows the expectations of the parents for good scores.

Turnbull Canyon

“Supposedly, at Turnbull Canyon between Whittier and Hacienda Heights, there’s a satanic cult that do rituals and sacrifice people and animals. I think there’s some history to the land going back from when the Spanish came and occupied the land from the indigenous people. There was also a plane crash that happened there in which every one died. Some church and religious groups are supposed to go up to the hill to pray and try to rid of the evil around the area. I think there were several reports of mysterious murders that happened around there. Supposedly some bodies were found, some mangled, some hanging by trees, all in very creepy situations. Also, I think authorities believe a lot of it is purely from the place being ideal to leave dead bodies of murder victims at or to cause mischief at rather than evil or cultist activity. Some ritualistic items or animal burnings have been found, or I’ve heard from some friends that their friends had accounts of seeing dead bodies or strange people show up on the side of the road while they were driving through. There’s also an area called the Gates of Hell in which there’s supposed to be an abandoned building or an abandoned asylum of sorts. Some say there’s other group activity like the KKK or some other groups.
I drove 4 friends through there not necessarily to go check out the myths of the land or get in trouble but just to see the city lights from the hill and road. We got out and explored around some. All of the myth stuff I hadn’t heard before until we began exploring and my friends began to talk more about it. Since it was dark we never really strayed too far from the road but not too close to the road either because crazy drivers are always speeding through. I think we went to an area where there was a gate, where I parked my car and we got out and walked along the road close to the ravine. Nothing major happened and we couldn’t see much into the canyon because most of the area was dark except for the homes on the side. The air and feeling was definitely pretty creepy and I probably wouldn’t go back there again. I’ve had some friends who walked through the area when it was daylight and said they never saw anything, no reported building, or remains of sacrifices. There are just a lot of contrasting accounts of what happens or what people see there that it’s hard to know what actually happened.”

My informant stated that he visited this area his junior year of high school, and that he really felt strange during his whole visit. Just being there in person made him believe in the possibility of satanic cults practicing rituals there. Even if he never really saw anything in person, he believes these kinds of things happen in other places in the US other than Turnball Canyon. The experience just made him realize that there really are some things and people out there that are evil or being influenced by something evil, so people should always be constantly watchful. He is not suggesting that people necessarily live in total fear of these areas or possible groups, but to take caution and not do foolish things.

I am not quite sue if I would wholly believe all the rumors surrounding this Turnbull Canyon, as it seems like something you would hear from a friend of a friend of a friend. The legends of human sacrifices and murders seem a bit far-fetched, but I can see how you would come to believe in these rumors if you visited the actual site, especially at night. The setting of the area itself could and the atmosphere of telling scary stories of the place. Also, in this world, I believe that there are people with strange beliefs or even possible mental illnesses that can be committing frightening deeds, as there are always horrific stories popping up in the news. However, if there was a real danger of the area, I think law enforcement would have investigated the area, so this legend may come from the eerie atmosphere surrounding the area.




Mexican Joke

“Why don’t Mexicans do well in the Olympics? Because all the ones who know how to swim, run, and jump crossed the border.”

She elaborated on the joke when I did not quite understand it, that it means, the people who know how to be athletic, used these abilities to cross into the United States. My informant stated that her friends all seem to have differing opinions of the people that crossed the border. Some wished to also cross and believed that living in the States would help them solve their problems and open up more opportunities, while others had a more cynical view and looked down upon those who crossed into the States. They almost viewed these people as disloyal, and projected thoughts that their life would not be much better in the States.

I found it interesting that Mexicans told jokes about fellow Mexicans. I had not known that such a genre even existed. I imagine that people would have mixed feelings about border crossing and living as illegal immigrants, but also needing to earn more money to support themselves and their families, and feeling the lure of dreams of opportunity in the States. I guess it is similar to how Koreans living in South Korea have jokes about Korean-Americans, and vice versa. They are still technically similar, but being in different surroundings and experiencing different lifestyles may cause them to feel unrelated.


Dia de Los Tres Reyes Magos

“Día de Los Tres Reyes Magos is a huge holiday in Mexico celebrating the day the three kings visited Jesus with their gifts. It’s celebrated on January 6th and is basically the peak of the Christmas season. Because, in Mexico, the celebration extends to days like the Día de Los Tres Reyes Magos, Christmas season goes on forever. Children get gifts on this day, because the Three Kings came to Jesus bearing gifts for Him. This is also the day when people eat Rosca de Reyes. Rosca de Reyes is a dessert bread in the shape of a big oval and has bits of fruit on it. The people that make it hide a little statue of baby Jesus inside the bread somewhere. I think that this is to symbolize having to hide Jesus in a barn so King Herod couldn’t find him. Anyway, so the statue is hidden and the cake is cut up so everyone gets a piece. The person who finds the figurine in their piece is blessed, but they also have to throw a party for Día de la Candelaria, on February 2nd. So some people like finding the statue because it is a good sign, but others don’t because they don’t want to throw a party.”

Unlike the United States in which Christmas is the main holiday and the day that everyone looks forward to, my informant told me the the Día de Los Tres Reyes Magos if often the bigger holiday in Mexio. She remembered thinking that being a Mexican kid is awesome since they celebrate Christmas and receive gifts then, and about a week later they celebrate Reyes Magos so they get gifts again. Her family did not celebrate this second holiday as much, but kept with the tradition of Christmas as the one big holiday during the winter season, so she would often feel jealous of her friends on this day. She said she usually tried to go over to one of her friends’ houses to take part in the festivities that way.

I did not know that the day when the three wise kings arrived bringing gifts, was celebrated. To me it does make sense that this day would often be used for gift exchanges rather than Christmas, since if Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, it should be celebrating the beginning of his life, and not be about presents. I suppose it is part of showing gratitude and giving to others, as Jesus did, but since the wise kings actually gave gifts to the baby Jesus, it seems logical that part of the tradition for this holiday is gift giving. I find it interesting how different countries celebrate the same holiday, but put a twist on the holiday that is uniquely theirs. I think I would have enjoyed celebrating this holiday as well, as I look forward to the Christmas season, and this extends that season.

Lucky Feet

“Rabbit and goat feet are lucky and have protective powers.”

In Mexico, rabbit and goat feet are common talisman to have, and my informant often saw them being sold in stores and hanging from taxis. Although she personally never really believed that owning one of these talismans would give protection or bring good luck, she knew many people around her that would buy them, even if they stated that they did not actually believe in supernatural powers. Growing up, she had always thought Mexicans to be very Catholic and religious, but she found it ironic that they so firmly seemed to believe in these superstitions.

I have heard of people buying rabbit’s feet because it brings good luck before my informant told me this, although I did not know that the belief was true for goat’s feet too. I do find it interesting that often people who are very religious will keep tokens like these for luck or protection that do not go along with their religious faith. Perhaps because having faith in a deity that is not directly tangible may be difficult, such material items such as a rabbit or goat foot or even lucky coins can bring comfort and reassurance of being under protection.

The Nazis of La Crescenta

“In La Crescenta there is a legend that goes around students about the area. Many decades ago, La Crescenta used to be a Nazi area, so there are still remnants of that time present throughout La Crescenta. For example, they still have cannons in certain places, like near the elementary school. It’s said that on some days at night, small groups of people will still come out to these areas with Nazi remnants to remember their friends and family who were Nazi.”

This legend, to my informant, was something he experienced himself. He attended the elementary school where the cannon was at, and he and his friends would whisper about possible Nazi gathering. Although something like this is not very exciting or frightening to him now, back when he was a child, rumors like these made his life exciting.

Although I cannot directly relate to this legend, I do understand how it could have been something to make the boring local area a bit more thrilling. I had similar legends about my hometown area that could very well have just been randomly made up by one of my friends that spread. For example, there was a gated, rural area right next to my neighborhood with a lot of sheds and trees, and random farming tools that never seemed to be used or moved. My friends and I used to whisper that this area was used by a cult with strange traditions.

“Fight Heat with Heat”

“Fighting heat with heat. During the hot and humid summers, Koreans have the belief that eating hot or spicy things can cool you down, as well being in hotter places.”

Grace explained this seemingly paradoxical statement, that after being in an even hotter place or eating a hot thing, the original hot temperature of the summer will seem cool. She said that hot soups and spicy dishes are popular to eat in the summer, as well as are Korean spas. These spas are called jjimjilbangs, which have hot rooms of varying temperatures, in which people basically go inside to sweat. Supposedly after being in these rooms, people feel refreshed and cool, and sweating is even suppose to improve the skin, working also as a beauty treatment. She herself partakes of this tradition, as for some reason when the weather starts to turn hotter, she’ll find herself attracted to steaming soups and enjoys visiting the jjimjilbangs with her friends.

At first I found this tradition to be a bit puzzling, but after Grace’s explanation, I came to understand it. I’m not sure if I can personally relate to it, as when summer comes, I find myself craving ice cream and smoothies, not hot soups, but it does make sense that after being in a hotter condition, the original condition does not seem as bad.

Red Packets

“During the Chinese New Year, I’m no sure about elsewhere in Asia, but in Singapore, the Red Packets are given from married people to single people. Red Packets are envelopes filled with money. Single in this case usually means younger folk. So the tradition is that the younger folk have to kneel in front of the older, married people, and say, “gong xi fa cai,” which is basically a congratulations. As they do this, they’re supposed to hand two oranges in outstretched palms facing upwards. You have to hand the orange to the elder respectfully. Then the elder will take the oranges and give you the Red Packed filled with money. It’s basically a favorite time of the year for all kids. You pretty much go family or house hopping during the two days we celebrate the Chinese New Years. Two days for us, and Hong Kong has like two weeks or something. And you collect money.”


My informant recollected this tradition with a lot of laughs and good memories. She remembers it as a time when she felt rich as a child with all the envelopes she received from her elders. Now it has a different meaning for her, since it is suppose to be a time for well wishes and respect. I understand this, as I grew up with a similar tradition. I also bowed to my elders and received money. When I was a child, I would be excited to receive the money and spend it on various things. Now, it is different in that I am more hesitant to take the money since I know the hard work that is required o earn the money. Instead, I look forward more to the advice they give. As they hand me envelopes, they usually also give me advice for the new upcoming year, as well as expectations. It is funny to compare what the elders said to me as a child and what they said to me now. Before they would tell me to behave and obey my parents. Now they speak about future spouses and jobs. I’m not sure where the tradition of receiving money for new years came about, but it is a time to show respect to elders through the bowing. You can see the joy on the faces of the elders as they watch their children and grandchildren bow to them, and how they happily give away the packets of money.