Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lanikai LU-21: Just lovely.

I was able to finally order a uke for myself. I got exactly the uke I wanted, the Lanikai LU-21, with a gig bag and a Fender tuner. It took three weeks to deliver, probably because it required international shipping. It came on June 19th, the day my grade had a photo shoot for the yearbook. I wanted to hold the ukulele for my photo but it arrived later than the shoot. Shame, it could have arrived just a few hours earlier.

I checked the package arrival list every half-hour. I was able to get it on my third trip to the dorm's main office. I was waddling the whole way to my room; the uke had protective double packaging and the box was very large.

The moment I tried to open it I was reminded of how important this was to me. I've been "mooning over" a ukulele for several years, and it took me the effort of making a cash card, finding a teacher who'll pay for my order with a Visa or MasterCard, and contacting the customs office to get this. So I decided to take some pictures, and here they are. (I also ordered a method book to learn how to play the uke and two books that are hard to find in Korea: "Freakonomics" and "That Book About Harvard.")

Books books books. I truly love nonfiction and memoirs.

This is the gig bag. I'm worried it wouldn't be enough to protect my uke...

I love how oblique this box looks xD

And yes. The uke. The Lanikai LU-21.

It looks so cute and perfect in my hand.

The uke lying in its gig bag. I'll have to get a hard case someday.

So in the few days after the uke's arrival I was able to learn how to play it. The "Ukulele Primer" book was a great help. The DVD that comes with it is very informative. The instructor in it (Bert Casey) a bit of the you-bother-me-and-you-die kind of look, but I think he is a good instructor. Now I can play and sing along to "He Has the Whole World in His Hands." It is very easy to learn. But I don't know a thing about musical theory, so if I want to play any song without searching ukulele tabs for it I'll have to learn music all over again. It will be hard work but I'm going to do it anyway. If I don't, having bought the ukulele will become all for naught.

As for the Lanikai LU-21 model, it's really cute(as you can see in the pictures). I especially like the color and the white binding. Its sound is very deep for a ukulele, which is one of the reasons I bought it. The sound is louder than what you’d expect from such a small instrument. For the first few days, it goes out of tune every few minutes but now it's completely fine. It actually holds tune quite well! I bought it for $85.92, and it turns out to have been a bargain.

I hope to post a video of myself playing it in the future, after I get better at it :)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Joseph Kim: The family I lost in North Korea. And the family I gained.

Both as a person and as a South Korean, this is very touching. I almost cried watching this. I can picture a little starved boy searching trash can after trash can, hoping that the next trash can had bread in it. There are also several things that I relate to him as a Korean. The best way to honor one's parents in Korea is to study. It is part of the driving force that makes Korean people study so hard. Studying is not an easy task; it requires concentration, discipline, and perseverance. He would have studied hour after hour, thinking of his father who was starved to death, every word of his teachings echoing in his ears. Another thing that made tears well up in my eyes was how he called out "누나" to his sister. This is where the Korean language shows its true value. The word "누나," which means older sister, has a warm connotation. It's the kind of word that makes one picture a teenage girl carrying her young brother on her back, showing genuine care for him, feeding him, being his second mother. "누나"s are people boys (and also many men) rely on during hard times. Korean 누나s have saved their little brothers during times of war and famine, feeding them soup they made on their own and lulling them to sleep. In some way, seeing a 누나 take care of her brother is more touching than seeing a mother. They're doing it even though it's not their natural responsibility. She might still be young, but acts mature just for her brother. And the sister-brother relationship is the most heartwarming, because 누나s are the only people for whom boys drop their masculinity and aggressiveness. 누나s are the symbol of maternal love found in young girls. It's one of my favorite words of the Korean language. The word brings tears to my eyes.

And this guy. He said 누나. He called out 누나. And now I'm weeping. For him. And for all the 누나s and their brothers who are separated.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Your body language shapes who you are - Amy Cuddy

Another fantastic TedTalk. This one is good because Amy Cuddy doesn't just tell you that you have to be confident; she chooses the exact words and the exact advice to help us feel confident. And she has a wonderful experience of overcoming her hardship, which she shares with us in this talk. Thank you, Amy Cuddy.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Little Free Library (and on neighbors)

I found this project while reading someone's blog. It's called "Little Free Library" and basically, people build little shelves like this by themselves and fill it with books that they want to share with the neighbors. Everyone can read from any "little free library" they want. 

I think this is a fantastic idea. The idea of sharing books is so beautiful. This will help people get closer to their neighbors too. People say that the books you read show who you are. As people peer into each other's shelves, see what kinds of books there are, and even pick out a few  to read for themselves, they will get to know each other better. Good books are invaluable, and everyone will be sharing books that have special places in their hearts. 

This will be really helpful for nations like Korea, where neighbor-neighbor relations are very feeble. Unless there's a fight over floor noises, we almost never see our neighbors around here. Something is going terribly wrong. Urbanization robbed the country of the sense of "neighborhood." Basically, Koreans are really nice people once you get to know them and they are willing to help at times of trouble, but before that, everyone keeps their distance. (We don't say hello to each other in the elevator. Well, I think that's a problem. Why all the awkwardness?)

Maybe I can do something to change this social atmosphere. I've always envied how Americans treat their neighbors like friends and family. I will try to find out more about little free libraries, and maybe try to set one up in the apartment. And I can try and make friendly conversation with the neighbors I meet in the elevator. Small things can change a lot. Wish me good luck!

Friday, June 07, 2013

Jeju Island in three days!

I was very busy these past few weeks, I couldn't post anything. My school schedule is overflowing with daily evaluations, sucking the life out of me. To relax I'd been watching videos from TEDTalks and TEDEducation, and I've shared two videos that I felt were really worth watching. You should all subscribe to those channels, they're very helpful.

At least I have something to look forward to. All the ninth graders are going on a trip to Jeju Island in three days. Just in case you don't know, which you probably don't, it's a big, beautiful island on the southern end of Korea. It's a big tourist attraction here. Check it out, the entire island is a UNESCO Natural Heritage!

So I'm going to this place with my friends just three days later, I'm really looking forward to it. I'll post a few pictures when I come back. We're also having a talent show there. I hate dancing, so I chose to sing something... But I'm not sure what. It'd be nicer if I could get my ukulele before I get there, but the estimated arrival date is exactly the day I leave, next Monday. I'll most probably sing a Taylor Swift or Katy Perry song. Do you have any suggestions?

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Rita Pierson: Every kid needs a champion

This is my favorite TedTalk so far. I wish I had a teacher like this, and I really hope that one day I would give a speech like this and move thousands of people. This talk just made my day. Thank you, Rita Pierson.