Author Archives: Michelle Wang

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.


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.

South Korean Plastic Surgery

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.

I was watching a Korean music show with my mother. I commented on how gorgeous the idols were and my mother interjected, “you know, they’re all fixed, right? Every idol, no matter how natural they look, has had plastic surgery on some part of their face. Look at them. They all look the same.”

I asked her if she really thought that was true and how she knows they’ve had plastic surgery.

She said, “Korea’s plastic surgery is the best in the world. There’s a reason for that. We have the best, and we want to look the best. You know, I think every Korean citizen probably has or will get their faces and bodies fixed because it’s just, um, part of the culture there, do you know what I mean? Even I’ve had my nose raised and eyes widened, so you see, I can tell if somebody else also had the, um, same procedure.”

I believe my informant is both proud and skeptical of the plastic surgery phenomenon in South Korea. It has caused her to become very jaded about “natural beauty” and very particular about what features are “beautiful” in her eyes. She constantly talks about how Korean people all look the same because they all go to the same plastic surgeon. As a result, she refuses to call anybody “pretty”. But at the same time, as someone who has undergone plastic surgery herself, she begrudgingly recognizes the power of plastic surgery as well.

Senior Retreat

Anshika is a sophomore at UC Santa Barbara. She went to Whitney High School in Cerritos, CA, which was a small public high school that was #1 in the nation.

Anshika told me about her senior retreat she went on in her senior year of high school.

“When I went on retreat with my senior class, I was excited because I had heard about retreats from past years. My upperclassmen friends all said it was the first time that teachers got real with us and that we would get sentimental about graduating high school. I was excited to just camp out with my friends in the woods. Our senior class cabinet I remember themed it around Harry Potter. So, like, cabins were paired together to make houses and we would play games as part of the Triwizard Tournament to win the Cup at the end… It was pretty cool. During the day, we had organized activities but also free time to spend with friends. Then, during the night, teachers would rotate throughout cabins – one man and one woman teacher – and talk about things like sex, drugs, college life, life lessons, etc. They were super real with us and to be honest that was the first time I saw my teachers as humans too. Like, they went through shit in their past when they were our age, and that was super encouraging to hear. They talked about the transition from high school to college and what being an adult meant when you’re out there making your own decisions. It was a safe space. And hearing about the mistakes my teachers had made and how their life wasn’t as perfect as it seemed to be was really… humbling. Seeing them outside of the classroom was.. Weird, but really… insightful. Then, on the last day, we got back the letters we had written to ourselves at the very beginning of the year. Seeing how far we’d come in the span of just one academic school year and how much everything had changed was cool to see… honestly it was probably my favorite part of senior year. I got to know my classmates and teachers a lot more outside of the classroom.


In celebration of students graduating high school and moving on to the next stage of their life, college, or in other words, adulthood, many high schools host some sort of retreat or day where students can ask questions about life in a safe space. I really like the way they organized the retreat from Anshika’s words because they incorporated entertainment and real-life lessons all into one retreat. I appreciated the fact that they thought about the genders of the teachers and how comfortable the students would be asking certain questions with female and male teachers. It was very purposeful and I’m glad that the students had the chance and the safe space to prepare for adulthood together.


Ginger Tea Mixture

Background: Ivana is a 19-year old student at USC, studying Public Policy and Diplomacy. She is from Ohio and moved to Los Angeles when she started USC as a freshman.


Main piece:

So what do you usually do when you’re sick?

Ivana: “My mom always makes me this herbal tea mixture drink… I don’t really know how to describe it. It’s made of ginger and then she adds like oranges and honey and honestly I don’t know how she does it but it tastes pretty good surprisingly and soothes my throat a lot. She also makes me handmade pho which is THE BEST I’m tellin’ ya, my mom makes a hearty bowl of pho and my sickness just goes away.”

Where did your mother learn this from?

Ivana: “I don’t really know, I’m assuming she learned it from her mother or something.”

Does it work?

Stella: “Always.”

Performance Context: I interviewed the informant here at USC because she is my roommate. We were talking about Pho and how every culture has some sort of “soul food” so she started talking about her mom’s homemade Pho.

My Thoughts: this definitely made me think of my own childhood and how my mom treats my sicknesses. There’s nothing quite like a mom’s homemade, piping hot bowl of soup or cup of tea.