Author Archives: Sophia Park

Arabic Eyeliner Gives Good Vision

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Jordanian
Age: 35
Occupation: Project Manager
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 20 April 2019
Primary Language: Arabic
Other Language(s): English

Background Info/Context:

My boss and I were talking about cultural traditions she grew up participating in, and one example she gave was about wearing a special Jordanian eyeliner. This eyeliner was put on her as an infant, and she has applied it on babies as well to help ensure them to have good eyesight.

 

Piece:

Rehab – “They have this stuff called Arabic eyeliner. So for all the girls, and it’s like black like coal, eyeliner. It looks really nice, but I think they think that, um, it’s supposed to help the baby’s vision.”

 

Sophia – “Oh, they put the eyeliner on a BABY?”

 

R – “Yeah like a baby baby. I have pictures when I was younger, like FULL on eyeliner. Inside your eye.”

 

S – “And the baby didn’t cry? That’s hard to do.”

 

R – “Well it’s like a little thing that we have. It looks like a genie bottle. It’s so pretty. It’s like all brass and the eyeliner is powder, so you just pull it through and it gets on the top and bottom.”

 

Thoughts:

My boss wore this special coal eyeliner up until she was in high school. Although its initial use is to help the newborn baby’s vision, many people continue to use it as they get older. They may still believe it has potential powers to bless people with good vision. However, it is more likely that people keep applying the eyeliner because wearing darker eye makeup is common in Arab beauty standards.

I think it is interesting to learn about a culture that is heavily tied to Christianity, but still has its separate cultural beliefs. Many Christian dominated countries follow the miracles and stories written in the Bible, and I have not personally heard of many practices in American or Korean culture that are independent from the Christian text.

 

The Old Man and His Horse

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Chinese
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 2-17-19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Chinese

Background Info/Context:

My friend was reaching out to USC students to get them to fill out surveys for a company called Tik Tok. The company wanted to collect data and get feedback from first time users, and they went about this by setting up a competition– the people who are able to get the most, second most, and third most surveys filled out under their name win cash prizes. So after a week of nagging friends and classmates to download the new app, browse through it, and fill out a Google Form set up by the company, my friend later found out that she won third place, receiving $150 as her prize!

I was thrilled for her and insisted that we go out for dinner or a celebratory dessert, but she sternly said that she shouldn’t splurge her new found money, because of a story her dad told her years ago. The story made her feel more optimistic, because it helped her to see situations beyond the myopic level.

 

Piece:

“This old man lives in like, what do you call it… not suburbs… but like the outskirts of China. And then, he owned a horse, but then one day, it just ran away. So he lost it and it was like a big loss right? Cuz horses were so, um, important back then.

So then his neighbors came and said “Oh I’m so sorry to hear about that,” and “If you need any help” and blah blah blah, and then the old man was just like, “How do you know this is a bad thing? I just lost a horse, we don’t know if it’s good, we don’t know if its bad.”

And then, um, a few weeks later, the horse came back with a bunch of other wild horses that it made friends with. So basically, the old man gained like I don’t know, 15 other horses, after losing one. So then, the neighbor comes over again and then says like “Oh congratulations! You have like so many more horses! This whole thing got spun 180 degrees!” And then the old man again, was like “How do you know this is a good thing? Just cuz I got more horses.”

And then one day, he was riding one of the wild horses, and it sort of acted out, and he broke his leg. And so, the neighbor again said “Oh, um, so sorry to hear you broke your leg.” And the old man goes, “Oh! Why are you sorry? How do you know this is a bad thing?”

Time goes by, and the emperor is recruiting for more people in the military, and getting able bodied people to join the military. And guess what! The old man is not able bodied anymore, and he couldn’t go to war, and he just like stayed at home. And I guess that was seen as a good thing, since he doesn’t have to sacrifice himself for his country.”

The lesson my dad was trying to tell me through this story is that whatever happens, I shouldn’t be immediately affected or put down by something bad, and if something good happens, I should always be cautious about it. So I don’t want to get ahead of myself and spend the money I won.”

 

Thoughts:

The story structure is somewhat similar to those in America, in the fact that there is a 3-time repetition in the narrative, but then there is a plot twist that plays off of it. I think that the man’s skepticism to everything that happened in his life is somewhat pessimistic, because he isn’t able to live in the moment, or accept things the way they are.

Because the old man in this story has the same reluctant attitude throughout the story, it shows that this proverb can be used in multiple scenarios. It could be used as a way to console people who are going through a hard time, or be used to warn people to not get ahead of themselves. Either way, patience and prudence seem to be the overarching themes in this proverb.

 

When a Boat Reaches a Bridge (Chinese Proverb)

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Chinese
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 1-15-19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Chinese

Background Info/Context:

My friend was laying in bed while browsing through her phone, listening to me pace across my room after not hearing back from an internship I applied to multiple weeks ago. She told me that I did my part, and all I had to do now was wait, and trust that if the company finds me to be a good fit for their internship role, they would reach out. She tried calming me down with a proverb that her dad used to tell her to go with the flow and help her trust the system.

 

Piece:

“When a boat reaches a bridge near a river… it naturally, like, bends the… right way, so it doesn’t crash. Meaning that if the boats at a slight angle, and it’s about to crash, you just have to have faith that it will correct itself and like not crash into the bridge and just like keep going smoothly.”

 

Thoughts:

The proverb my friend shared definitely gave me perspective on what I should and shouldn’t stress about. After something been all said and done, the best thing you can do is trust that you worked hard enough to not “crash” or fail. Although this proverb was used in the context of career, it could easily be applied to many other situations. If someone is stressing out because of an argument they had with a friend, feeling anxious about being a first time parent, or even worried that their pet might not recover from a surgery, the proverb is focusing on fate, and that things that are meant to be, are going to be happen regardless of worrying or panicking. 

Clear Water Trickling Down A Mountain (Korean Proverb)

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Korean
Age: 48
Occupation: Co-business Owner
Residence: Texas
Date of Performance/Collection: 2016
Primary Language: Korean
Other Language(s): English

Background Info/Context:

Because my mom is the oldest sister, she always had to set the example for her 2 younger sisters. So whenever she would disobey her parents, my grandma told her this proverb to explain why she needed to be a good role model. This saying actually annoyed my mom a lot, because although she understood the message of it, she felt like everything she was doing as an adolescent was being analyzed, to make sure her younger sisters would be happy and good.

 

Piece:

Korean:

윗물이 맑아야 아랫물이 맑다

 

English Transcription:

Weet mool ee mal ga ya ah rae mool ee malg dah.

 

Transliteration:

High water clear so bottom water clear.

 

English Translation:

The water at the top of the mountain has to be clear for the water at the base of the mountain to also be clear.

 

 

Thoughts:

I think this type of “role model” sentiment is valid, but instills Asian family household stereotypes and expectations. There is almost a lack of freedom for the eldest child, because he/she is reprimanded for making mistakes, exploring less developed paths, or even just not listening to his/her parents. For example, I was not allowed to quit piano lessons or go to a PG-13 movies, because it could negatively affect my younger sister. 

Although this proverb was always used in the context of sibling relationships in my family, it could also apply in a wider scope. Because the basis of the proverb pertains to being a role model, it could be used in other hierarchical systems, such as a place of work, an organization, or a class setting. If the person at the top (CEO / President / Teacher) is kind and understanding, the people that work alongside or beneath that person will also be respectful of others. While in the case that the “water at the top of the mountain” is rude and disrespectful, people will feed off of that negative energy and perpetuate these bad actions.