#6 Coffee Addiction Advocate

Coffee and I go way back. I have a father who is a writer, a mother who is a professor of musicology. A normal day at our house (to be exact, an apartment. But pretty much everyone lives in apartments in Korea and “house” sounds more homey than calling it an “apartment”) requires at least 15 shots of espressos. The first shot goes to my dad. It’s absolutely unpredictable when he would be waking up. Let’s say 3 a.m. for this one. My dad would wake up at 3 a.m and turn on our so beloved espresso machine for his first cup of Americano before turning on his desktop. Our espresso machine would gurgle, crunch the beans, ooze down the hot and fresh brown liquid of goodness, and let its fragrance overflow all over our home. Yet my mom and I’ve been immuned to its sound of art for as long as I remember. We would never wake up till the sun comes up. The second shot goes to my mom’s morning coffee around 8 a.m. By this time my dad has something he has written over the night that he wants to share and discuss about with my mom. So he would make himself another cup of coffee and share the morning glory with my mom. That’s three shots so far. I would be half-awake on my bed as I hear the sound of the espresso machine and my parents’ voices start tickling my ears. But more than my ears, it’s my nose. When my nose get itchy by the smell of two rich cups of coffee, that’s when I wake up and get ready for the day. I would go straight to say hi to my mom, dad, and the espresso machine: shot number 5. Before it hits 10 a.m, my parents and I already consume at least 5 cups of coffee. The rest, I’m going to leave it up to you to imagine.

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A cup of Latté that i made for myself at home on a fine afternoon

So when I see people criticizing/warning the coffee addicts like this article, my heart kind of cringe a little. So here is the defense I found for all my fellow coffee lovers (click here to go to the direct website).

1. Two cups of coffee can cut post-workout muscle pain by up to 48%. From the Journal of Pain, March 2007

2. A cup of brewed coffee represents a contribution of up to 1.8 grams of fiber of the recommended intake of 20-38 grams. From the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry

3. Protection against cirrhosis of the liver. Of course you could just cut down on the alcohol intake. From the Archives of Internal Medicine

4. Those who consumed 6 or more cups per day had a 22% lower risk of diabetes. From the Archives of Internal Medicine

5. There is considerable evidence that caffeine may protect against Alzheimer’s disease. From the European Journal of Neurology

6. 10 year study of 86,000 female nurses show a reduced risk of suicide in the coffee drinkers. From the Archives of Internal Medicine

7. People with Parkinson’s disease are less likely to be smokers and coffee drinkers than their healthy siblings. Just make sure you don’t get lung cancer on the way. From the Archives of Neurology

More than anything, I appreciate coffee the most for giving us the space and time to talk with one another. There are so many conversations and friendships that bloomed simply because we had two cups of coffee on the table in front of us. I can’t give up on that, can I?

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#5 FIVE Q&As about “The Talk”

The first day I arrived at O’Hare to attend Wheaton College, my sweatshirt was stained by the grey smell of the 15 hour-long plane ride from S. Korea. My eyes were loose and my stomach felt empty but at the same time filled with the endless air of grogginess. My college life was about to begin as I pass through the customs.

“Hello,” I said to the customs worker with a weak and nervous smile as I handed him over my passport.

“Good morning!”

The worker looked down at me with a jolly smile. He flipped through to the first page of my passport.

“So, where are you coming from?”

“South Korea.”

“Oh! Ahn-nyeong-ha-sae-yo!”

I was unexpectedly amused to be welcomed in Korean language by a Caucasian man at O’Hare. He was excited to greet me in Korean.

“Yeah! Ahn-nyeong-ha-sae-yo.”

I slightly bowed my head as I greeted him back, just the way it should be done in Korea.

“Were you in Korea for the summer vacation?”

I wasn’t quite sure how to answer his question. Yes, I was in Korea for the summer vacation, but I was there for the past 20 years of my entire life as well. Yet I am also an American, like it says on my passport. Standing in front of his cubicle-looking-like station with numerous other tired travelers lined behind me, I knew that I had to answer him quickly and with honesty.

“Umm… Well, my parents live in Korea, so…”

He nodded as he swiped my passport against the machine. Then he said in an affirming voice, “summer vacation.” He grabbed his purple stamp and hit it down on my passport. I saw it and I heard it. He then folded the passport and handed it back to me.

“Welcome back home!”

I said “Thank you” and made my way out to the gate, to Wheaton College, the “home”. This brief meeting marked the very first dialogue that awakened my racial, ethnic, and cultural identity, followed by countless of other conversations I had so far here. These are some of the main questions that often times came about when I had the chance to talk about race, ethnicity, culture, and diversity with my fellow Wheaton students. Here are some of my personal opinions and answers I gathered. Brothers and sisters, I hope you find them helpful.

 1.    Why are we making a big deal out of this?

Perhaps you don’t see this as a big issue and you feel tired of only some people mentioning about it all the time. This might be because we have not made intentional choices to mingle with different people and listen. How many times this week did you have a meal with someone different from your race, culture, or ethnicity? How many times have you been to an OMD event? Or sometimes we just don’t talk about it even when we are with people who are different from us because nothing is going wrong and we feel like we are already treating each other equally. Does something really need to go wrong in order for the conversation to begin? “You are just like me” attitude, in other words, “color-blindness,” is not right when we all are different inside and out. We will be missing out on getting to know each other and to love one another well if we don’t talk about it now. Plus, after all, you are reading my blog post. Meaning, you do care about this issue, right? Then, let’s not ignore it. Let’s talk more about it.

 2.    Why do I have to feel guilty about this issue when I didn’t do anything wrong?

There is a difference between feeling guilty and feeling uncomfortable. We live in a broken world, a broken system where injustice is inevitable. Conversations about race are hard and should make us feel uncomfortable because they bring us closer to observing the brokenness that relate so deep into our identity. They open our eyes to see some painful things about ourselves and/or others that we just didn’t notice before. Guilt doesn’t make us go anywhere, but responsibility to act righteous does. God is opening our eyes to see the beauty in how he has designed each and every one of us. Take heart.

 3.    Don’t minority groups on campus segregate our community more than they bring unity?

Shouldn’t we look beyond race since we are one in Christ? Is race-specific ministry biblical? Well, did you know that Christ led a group of 12 Jewish men? Confession: I did not want to join Koinonia the first time I came to Wheaton. I thought, “I had it all”. However, I realized that I was letting a part of myself be lost in the midst when I was ignoring my fellow Asian students. My ethnic/cultural identity was found when I had the space to identify my similarities with others in community and be able to share that with people outside of Koinonia. The minority groups are needed on our campus because they provide foundational cultural contexts to allow our diversity to be lived out. They are pleasing to God’s eyes: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelations 7:9).

4.    How do I engage in the conversation when I feel like I have nothing to attribute?

Some people told me that it should be easier for me to be involved in the conversation because I come from a unique background. When I was back in Korea and was considered one of the majorities, my background was everyone else’s background. In such setting, I did not recognize that I was exchanging my culture with one another in my interactions because we all shared the same culture. Yet, this does not mean that my Korean culture is any less in Korea than it is in the states. Likewise, my culture is not any more in the states than it is in Korea. Saying that one background is more interesting than another in itself reflects our tendency to “box people”. All and every culture is present, not absent. So no, you do have something to attribute. Use the conversations to allow yourself to see and articulate who you are better. You are made in His image – don’t forget that.

5.    How do I go about asking the right questions when I don’t want to offend people?

Before you ask away, ask yourself why you want to ask the question. If your reasoning behind asking the question is simply because you are curious or you want your expectations and prior-knowledge to be justified, your question is more likely to offend the other person. However, if you want to ask the question because you deeply care to know more about the other person, ask away. Asking genuine questions can be hard because it puts us into the posture of humility. We can ask the “right questions” only when we know that we don’t know. As long as your intentions are straight, the other person should understand. The worst it can get, the other person will misunderstand you. But if you really were putting the other person before you, his or her misunderstanding shouldn’t come before judging how good of a question you asked. Saying sorry is an option too – I mean an honest apology. But you can always open up by saying “This might be a dumb question…” – it’s okay. You won’t regret it.

#4 JT is back

While my last post mentioned about the aftermath of the popularity of the song “Gangnam Style”, this third post is dedicated to looking at the most recent progression of the U.S pop industry: Justin Timberlake. JT’s new album The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 is coming out by the end of this month. This album is a continuation of a The 20/20 Experience that was released last March. Somehow we know that the word “sequel” almost all the time brings disappointments. Perhaps this is why JT has been emphesizing that the second album is rather the other half, a completion to the first album since his promotion of “Suit & Tie” and “Mirrors” (Click here for his interview with Ellen Degenerrous). The way in which JT went about writing these songs brings new perspectives about how creativity can be approached. All songs included in these two albums were produced by JT and his friends within a 20 days span in the studio. JT says that he didn’t have a specific number of songs or a goal in mind during these 20 days. He wanted his hyper-energy to be transferred into his songs as he kept his creativity to overflow. In my opinion, this resembles  similar characteristics of the beat movement from the 1950s. Now with a faster pace of technology surrounding all 21st century artists, it will be an interesting perspective to see how JT’s creative process can shed a new light to represent the pop movement of the 2010s.

#3 Do You Know Gangnam?

Two weeks a go, my adrenaline was pumping as I was listening to Psy’s “Gangnam Style” with 20,000 other runners at the starting line of Chicago’s Half Marathon. “It’s been over a year since the song came out… Give me a break,” I thought to myself as I was stretching my legs. It hit me then that the viral sensation of the song had impacted so many of us to the point where it was just another pump-up song that 20,000 Chicagoians were all listening to without any notion of confusion. How many of the 20,000 runners that morning knew what Gangnam is?

The Han river runs through the middle of Seoul and divides the city into north and south. River in Korean is gang (강) and south in Korean is nam (남). Hence, Gangnam refers to the general area of the north of the Han river in Seoul. There is also a specific area that is referred to as Gangnam-gu (there are 25 “gu”s that form Seoul) , along with its Gangnam subway station next to a shopping district. There is a general notion, a stereotype per-se, in Korea that the people in Gangnam are rich and well-off. The lyrics of the song portrays a man from Gangnam who is trying to seduce ladies by showing off his wealth by stating that he is “Gangnam style”. The song is a satire that criticizes the gap between the rich and the poor in Seoul.

When Psy was invited to speak at Harvard University (click here to watch the video), he explained that his intentions for writing the song and making a comical music video were to give the Korean audience laughters during the financial crisis that was happening in Korea at the time. He did not see the viral sensation coming at all. Yet, soon he was contacted by an agent in U.S (Scooter, Justin Bieber’s agent) to perform in U.S. as the song quickly caught people’s attention from all over the world. After their conversations about how the song should be approached to the U.S audience, they decided to maintain the Korean lyrics and to not bother translating it into English. The agent believed that the Korean lyrics of the song brought uniqueness and freshness to the U.S audience’s ears. That is how the 20,000 runners that morning listened to “Gangnam Style” without really knowing what Gangnam is.

I finished running 13.1 miles in 2 hr 28 min that day. They say that 14 million people viewed the “Gangnam Style” music video a day in average during July, 2012. That means that during the amount of time it took me to run a half marathon, 1.45 million people could have been listening to a song about where I am from. The number of viewers overwhelms me. It is a hard concept for me to grasp that people from all over the world have heard the word “Gangnam,” without having any clue about what it is. How many times a day do we let media consume us like that? How many times a day do we not ask questions about what we are encountering?

#2 Interview with Nick Pulgine

Some people call it a myth, but “sophomore-slump” was real for me.

Many students experience” sophomore-slump” differently or not experience it at all, depending on what kind of student he or she is. I had a chance to talk with Nick Pulgine, a sophomore swimmer in Wheaton College, and hear his opinions about how “sophomore-slump” is like for the student athletes.