Author Archive
Folk medicine

Asian Pears with Honey Remedy

Background: Stella is a 55-year-old woman living in Cerritos, CA. She was born in Seoul and has lived in South Korea for the majority of her life until she moved here for college. She stays at home. Before that, she worked at a hair salon as a beautician. She is married and has two grown children.

 

Main piece:

So what do you usually do when you or your children are sick?

Stella: “I always always say eat some pears… Asian pears!.. with a little bit honey. It is cool… and feels good in mouth. It is soothing to throat and the best for when you have cold.”

Where did you learn this from?

Stella: “My mother, so your grandmother, tell me this all the time. It is old, old tradition.”

Does it work?

Stella: “Yeah! Always feels good. It has worked for generations and generations.”

Performance Context: I interviewed the informant over the phone, as she was in the Orange County area and I’m in Los Angeles. This folk remedy seems to originate from back when my mother was a child. She learned this from her mother and has passed it down to me.

My Thoughts: I love this home remedy – it reminds me of my childhood and maybe it’s also psychological, but this remedy always seems to work for me. I plan to pass this down to my children as well.

 

Earth cycle

Spa on New Year’s Eve

Background: Iris Zhang is an 18-year-old student living in Los Angeles, CA. She is a student at USC. She was born in Diamond Bar and raised in Arcadia, California.

Original script: “Ever since i was young, my family and I have had this tradition of going to a Korean sauna on New Year’s Eve. It’s weird because most people have New Year’s Eve parties with their friends but my family spends the entire day together at a spa. My parents told me it’s because they want to wash away all the dirt of the past year and literally start fresh into a new year. It’s some sort of cleansing ritual for them and makes them feel good about starting the New Year off all sparkly clean ”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: there are a couple of holidays that her family celebrates and insists on spending together: 4th of July, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Years. For each holiday, her family has an annual tradition to follow.

Thoughts about the piece: This superstition sounds like it’s a great way to bond with your family as well as start off the New Year clean. Aside from the symbolic sense, I feel like it must be nice to just go and bathe yourself one last time in the year with your family before the New Year starts. It seems to be a very important family tradition for Iris.

 

Folk Beliefs

Eating sticky food on days of exams

Background: Alan is a 19-year old student at Boston University. He grew up in Southern California but moved to Boston for school and is now in his second year of college.

Original script: “On the day of a really important test, I make sure to do a couple of things to get good luck while I’m taking the exam. First of all, I have a lucky pencil I’ve kept with me for two years now. Second, I eat lots of sticky foods like candy or sticky rice or anything that really sticks in your mouth. I heard from my mother that it helps information ‘stick’ in your brain. I don’t know if it’s true, but either way, I believe in it and try to eat some form of sticky food before I go take a test”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Apparently he had heard this superstition from his mother on the day of an exam. His mother cooked him sticky rice and gave him chocolate before he went to take his exam. Apparently, he did well and has continued believing in the superstition ever since then

Thoughts about the piece: This superstition sounds a great deal like what my parents would say to me. They would relate it to food to keep me nourished but also give me hope that I’ll have good luck when I take the test. It’s cool how every superstition has some sort of reasoning/symbolism behind it.

Signs

Dreaming of Pigs

Background: Simon is a 58-year-old man living in Cerritos, CA. He was born in Seoul and has lived in South Korea for the majority of her life until he moved here and went to the American military. He owns a car wash. Before that, he was a self-employed accountant. He is married and has two grown children.

Original script: “It is good luck to dream of pigs because it means you will gain great wealth in the future very soon. I don’t really know why pigs are symbols of wealth, but it may be because only rich people could eat meat back in the day so if you had the luxury of eating ham, you were very wealthy”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Apparently he had heard this from his school friends in middle school when he had a dream about pigs.

Thoughts about the piece: My parents are very superstitious when it comes to dreams, so I kind of associate them with fortune cookies; you don’t know what you’ll get but reading into them is fun and could maybe come true so why not take the chance?

 

Initiations

Haunted house

Background: Shivani Patel is a 19-year-old student living in Los Angeles, CA. She is a student at USC. She is currently studying Business Administration.

Original script: “Back in my neighborhood, there was this really old, abandoned house that all the neighborhood kids swore was haunted. Like, really. It was creepy even in the day, because the fence was all broken, the grass was dead, the door was open all the time because the hinges were broken… it looked terrible. People would walk past it and there were rumors that there was a girl at the window sometimes. Ugh, I can’t even think about it without getting a little spooked again. Anyways, once I got into high school, there was this whole thing where groups of friends would go to this haunted house at night and camp out there for the entire night. After one group had done, more and more groups of friends were doing it and at this point, it was almost like a ritual because groups that had done it were deemed ‘cool’ and ‘independent’ like adults, basically. We were just in high school but I remember everybody just wanted to be seen as cool adults. So, the answer is yes, I did go to the haunted house with my group of friends. I didn’t personally stay the night and none of my friends did. To be honest, I’m not sure if any group of friends actually did stay the night or if they lied and said that they did. Either way, once we had said we had done it, upperclassmen were willing to talk to us and share about their experiences when they camped out at this haunted house.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: My informant went to a school in Georgia. She was born and raised in Atlanta with her parents and younger brother.

Thoughts about the piece: This ritual sounds absolutely terrible. I doubt that any of the kids actually stayed the night and if they did, major props to them. I don’t know how staying overnight in a haunted house makes you an adult, but I can definitely see how high school kids would see this as just another challenge/dare to prove themselves to their peers.

 

Initiations

Dance Team Initiation

Background: Anna Lim is a 21-year-old student living in Los Angeles, CA. She is a student at USC. She is currently studying electrical engineering.

Original script: “I had an initiation for my dance team in my sophomore year of college. It was probably one of the funniest and most ridiculous things I’ve had to do during my time here at USC. They basically gave us a huge laundry list of things to do around campus – tasks to complete, basically. It included dabbing in McCarthy quad, ordering a drink at Starbucks with a fake name, finding a DPS officer’s scooter and taking a picture on top of it, etc. So they told us we had to finish all the tasks by a certain time and meet at one of the dance team member’s apartments. When we got there, we were told to get into a single file line and close our eyes. They led us into the apartment room – which was pitch black by the way – and when I opened my eyes, I could see the team members holding candles and chanting something underneath their breaths. They gave us a piece of paper that held an oath to the team on it and we had to memorize three paragraphs of this oath in 10 minutes. It was incredible nerve wracking and so much pressure because the team members were literally in the room with us looking hella intimidating with their candles and deadpan faces. Then when we completed that task, we had to kneel before the captain and swear our allegiance to our captain’s dog, Maggie. It was honestly such an otherworldly experience, but absolutely hilarious at the same time.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: My informant was on Break Through Hip Hop at USC and this was her sophomore year of college

Thoughts about the piece: This initiation sounds hilarious and like a lot of fun. I like how they didn’t force you to drink or do things you didn’t want to; rather, the whole thing sounds pretty silly and just a great way to bond with your fellow new initiates. .

 

Game

OK Game

Background: Anna Lim is a 21-year-old student living in Los Angeles, CA. She is a student at USC. She is currently studying electrical engineering.

Original script: “I remember I used to play this game in elementary school. There was no name for it. Basically, you put your index finger and thumb into an ‘O’ shape — basically the OK sign  Then you have to make your friend see it in a sneaky way. So, for example, your friend could say that they dropped something and you would look down and see the hand sign. Then, you’d have to get a flick on the forehead or a pinch on the arm as punishment. I remember that me and my friends used to take this game so seriously, we would come up with the most creative ways to trick the other person into seeing this hand sign. From lying, to tripping your friends, to plotting with other people, my friends and I came up with, honestly, probably hundreds of ways to trick each other. And I would fall for it every single time. I wasn’t a very bright kid. But yeah, this game was so fun and I don’t see anybody playing it anymore. I wonder what happened to it and what kids these days are playing.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: My informant went to an elementary school in Cerritos, CA. It was a magnet school. She would always hang out with the girls during recess and since they didn’t want to get sweaty, she suspects that this is how the game came to be – because it is not athletic and can be done with anybody.

Thoughts about the piece: It’s crazy how games can be so simple and easy to play – no intricate rules or props or cards, just your hands and crazy schemes. It reminds me of how simple elementary school was and how easily amused we are.

Game

Spiderweb Game

Background: Kayla Saikaly is a 21-year-old student living in Los Angeles, CA. She is a student at UCSD. She was born and raised in Southern California.

Original script: “So there was a game that I used to play all the time when I was kid. So, I was kind of a bully in elementary school. No, seriously. I would always boss all the boys around and I was like the ringleader of the girls, because back then it was always boys versus girls. So, I invented this game – or I thought I did, honestly I probably read or watched it somewhere and forgot about it – called the Spider web game. In the playground, we had this huge spider web playground structure that we called the jail. We would put all the boys in there through physical force – kicking, scratching, punching, slapping was all fair game. They would try to get out and we would give them 10 seconds to run and then we would chase after them to put them back in the cage. There was no real ‘victory’ honestly it was just a bunch of kids fighting each other… but playfully!! I swear, I didn’t make anybody cry or anything. But I did punch a bunch of guys and I kicked a guy in the balls for the first and hopefully only time of my life ”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: My informant went to an elementary school in Cerritos, CA. It was a magnet school. She said she looks back on elementary school fondly and even though she was a bully, everybody did respect her and she keeps in contact with some of her friends back then

Thoughts about the piece: This game honestly sounds so violent to me, but I’m sure that as kids, it isn’t bad at all. I look back at elementary school and am in constant awe of how much energy I had, so I can see how this game would be entertaining to children – running, kicking, screaming.  

 

Tales /märchen

Bear in the Cave

Background: D. Sabela Grimes is a 59-year-old man living in Los Angeles, CA. He is a dance professor at USC. Originally, he intended on going to law school, but decided to change his career path to become a dance teacher.

Original script: “so, um, there are two best friends in the woods… and one of them was like ‘yo – because that’s how people talk in the wood – do you hear that sound?” They turn around and see a, um, bear behind them. And instantly, one friend turns to the other and goes “yo, I’ll distract the bear while you book it to that cave near us. GO.” So they, um, split off and one friend, um, climbs up a tree and is waving his hands and like doing these crazy thangs to get the bear’s attention. Um, so the friend looks up and sees his friend running in and out of the cave. So he’s like “yo, what are you doing?? I said I’d distract the bear while you get to a safe place!! Why the flip are you out of the safe place?” His friend keeps running in then out then in then out and the bear’s sitting there like “What the flip?”. He just couldn’t understand what his friend was doing so he goes “yo, why aren’t you listening to what I’m saying? Get in the cave and be safe!” His friend yells back and goes, “I’m doing this because there’s a bear inside the cave!”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: His mother used this story to teach Professor Grimes about how people always have unseen situations and you must be empathetic at all times.

Thoughts about the piece: I actually really love this piece because Professor Grimes related it to one of the students in our class who hadn’t been showing up to class. The student shared that he decided to drop pre-med over spring break as a senior and pursue a job straight out of college. So, he had been missing class to go to job interviews and job fairs. Professor Grimes told the class that this was a lesson for everybody – that every person is going through something in their lives and as a professor, he doesn’t just want to be an authority figure. He wants to create real, human relationships. This really touched me because he, as a professor, truly cared for his students. I felt loved and respected in his class.

Protection

Cutting Nails at Night

Background: Stella is a 55-year-old woman living in Cerritos, CA. She was born in Seoul and has lived in South Korea for the majority of her life until she moved here for college. She stays at home. Before that, she worked at a hair salon as a beautician. She is married and has two grown children.

Original script: “You must never cut your nails at night because if you do, spirits will come after you and your life will be shorter.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Her mother told her about this old Japanese superstition when she was younger. Apparently people thought nails contained a part of your soul, so by cutting it at night you were releasing parts of your soul into the darkness where spirits rest.

Thoughts about the piece: I found this superstition to be very scary when I was younger. Surprisingly, I still do not cut my nails at night because this superstition scared me so thoroughly. It has stuck with me through the years and now I avoid cutting my nails in darkness.

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