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Skipping Stones

Table of Contents
Volume 14, #1
(January -- February, 2002)

The People's Republic of China

Regular Departments

  • From the Editor
  • Editor's Mailbag
  • What's On Your Mind?
  • Dear Hanna
  • Skipping Stones Stew
  • Pen Pals
  • Tips for Linguistical Wanderers
  • Multicultural Book Shelf
  • A Guide for Parents and Teachers
  • Silkscreen art by Natsuko Tamakoshi

(c) 2002 by Skipping Stones. Opinions expressed in these pages reflect views of the contributors, and not necessarily those of Skipping Stones, Inc.

Conscientious Objection

Why not join the military? It's great! You get a higher education, travel to exotic places, and there's perpetual excitement. Furthermore, you win honors and recognition, and there's plenty of camaraderie and fun. These advertising "facts" draw many young people to join the military. Although the military, in all its glories, may seem an ideal way to serve one's country, I know that if the draft is reinstated while I am of age, I will register as a Conscientious Objector (CO). The things that influenced my decision the most were the life of Mahatma Gandhi, the experiences of my grandfather, and my religious and cultural upbringing.

Gandhi is remembered for his nonviolent stand during the Indian Revolution. He led marches, boycotts, and fasts, all nonviolently protesting the cruelty of the British.

"I object to violence," Gandhi said, "because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent." This statement is proven true by the devastation that all wars bring: 30 million people died in World War I; 46 million civilians were killed in World War II (six million, mostly Jews, in the concentration camps); and five million died in the Vietnam War, which also left millions traumatized, deformed, and orphaned. Due to Gandhi's persistent, peaceful campaigns, the British eventually left India. Through Gandhi's work I realized that peaceful solutions last, whereas violence only begets more violence.

Another person who influenced my decision to take a CO stand is my grandfather, Carroll King. He joined the army at a young age and served as a bomber pilot during World War II. Today he still regrets his participation in killing so many innocent people. In a gesture of goodwill, he went to Iraq to stand with the suffering people during U.S. imposed sanctions and bombing. Like so many others, my grandfather enlisted in the army with good intentions. However, once he realized that he was serving evil by killing civilians, he could not continue any longer. The fact that he could completely change impresses me and strengthens my CO stand.

Even before I knew my grandfather, I had been encouraged to find a peaceful way to solve problems. I have helped resolve many sibling conflicts without using violence. I participate in marches and rallies opposing the death penalty, sanctions on Iraq, the embargo on Cuba, and other events that harm or kill humans. I have written letters to protest these cruel acts. I have always opposed violence.

I am a pacifist, and I would register as a CO should a draft be reinstated. I hope you register as a CO or do alternative service. Fight a nonviolent war to stop oppression and injustice!

-- Marika King, 12
Elka Park, NY

Living Flowers

As the sun rose over the horizon, I went out to enjoy the beauty of the grassland scenery. On the way, I saw a pair of red flowers blooming. They had flat petals and were incredibly full of smiling beauty. Those independent flowers seemed very vibrant. Gazing at the flowers made me think of many things.

Dew like pearls shone on the grass brightly. Rays of sun offered happiness. I stood and stared at the beautiful flowers for a long time, enjoying the bright, pleasant sunshine. Butterflies and little bees were flying about. Then some naughty children with sticks came. One child swung his stick when he saw the flowers. Many petals fell to the earth, and with them, my heart fell too.

The next day, beside the road, the red flowers were brighter than the day before. The natural beauty made me gasp. It gave me an understanding of the energy of growing and youth and convinced me it couldn't be destroyed with a heartless stick. I wanted to be like the soul of a flower.

Then I saw an old woman and child coming along the road. When they reached the flowers the child quickly plucked one. I felt great horror and then heard the old woman say, "What beautiful flowers. Don't pick them." The next day, I couldn't see the flowers anymore. The grass and leaves on the ground were almost dried. I was in a world of great sorrow.

-- Chajup "Amy"
Tibetan Chinese

The Wind Horse Flag

In Tibetan areas we often see wind horse flags. They are long cloths on which horses, scriptures and the six syllables are printed. We often put them on top of houses, or people put them where a vehicle accident happened. They prevent evils from injuring people again.

The wind horse flag has five clouds, they are red, white, blue, green and yellow. They symbolize the five elements that comprise the world: earth, water, fire, wind and sky. Another explanation is that the red is sun, green is grassland, yellow is earth, blue is sky and white is clouds.

The origin of the wind horse flag may be a monk who obtained a scripture from India. When he crossed a river, he dropped the scripture into the river carelessly. Then he quickly spread the scripture on a big rock and sat in meditation. Suddenly violent thunder sounded like drums. He felt liberation from all sadness, and when he opened his eyes he saw that all of the scripture had been blown into the sky by a strong wind. Finally, he went straight to heaven.

In order to commemorate the spirit of the monk and the scripture of Buddhism, people printed the scripture on the cloth and hung it up between the sky and the Earth as though the scripture was flying in the sky. We also know why people put the wind horse flag on the top of mountains and houses. Our ancestors had a very great idea about chanting scripture, they thought not only could people chant scripture, but so could the five elements. The wind horse flag is a good example of how they use the wind to blow the flag, which means that the wind also chants scripture.

-- Adalakanzhu "Ella," 21
Tibetan chinese

Tibetan Funerals

Tibetans practice four kinds of funerals: final departure, cremation, water burial and ground burial. Final departure and cremation are the most common.

Final Departure: There is a magnificent final departure site near Lhasa. An old monk works there and lives near the place of final departure. The family of the corpse only needs to pay the monk lamb, butter and cheese. There is a big, round stone on which two crossed vajras are drawn. Vajras are used to stop evil form coming near. There is a shelter on a hill with hundreds of skulls hung under it. Many prayer flags are also there. The old monk takes a small piece of bone from each corpse and makes a string of beads.

But most places of final departure are simple. There is just a big round stone that is covered with blood. The family of the dead person pays a monk to preside over the ceremony. The corpse must be tied in three places like a fetus. An even number number of people should take the corpse to the final departure, and they must be relatives. The body is cut into pieces and fed to vultures, and the bones are pounded. Most corpses can be taken to the place of final departure but not lamas, babies and people who died in an accident or were murdered.

Cremation: Cremation is used for people such as lamas, leaders, and people who died suddenly with their palms pressed together in an attitude of meditation. Seven days after great lamas die, their corpses are put into the fetal position and burned. Monks put the ashes of lama corpses in a stupa (a building for relics) or use them to make a figure of the lama. The leader's bone ashes are kept by the monastery. Some of the bone ashes of people who died suddenly with no illness are kept by the family or put into a monastery.

Water Burial: In Yushu water burial is used for babies because local people believe that babies like playing with water. But in Guolog babies are buried under stones because local people say if you bury your baby under stones at the foot of a mountain then your next baby will not die. In Huangnan water burial is used for old people who died naturally because water must be clean, and an old person's personality is similar to a baby's.

Earth Burial: This burial is for people who died in accidents or were murdered. If the corpse touched the ground, the soul will not leave, and it can not be taken to the place of final departure (The site of the final departure is a pure or holy place so the corpses must be clean). Earth burial is used in Yushu. In Guolog such corpses are taken to a simple place of final departure. Local people believe that since burial requires digging in the ground, you might kill many other beings at the same time. So they do not practice ground burial. Also, after a few years the corpse would be eaten by worms, so local people say earth burial is the worst sin.

-- Yikesumu "Tina," 21
Tibetan Chinese

Quake

It was the end of winter; the cold
Was melting into the earth; promises
Of spring harvests were sung to the tune
Of hoping...Perhaps it was the right time
For a change in mood; everybody
Knows that too much contentment
Is harmful.

Listen
To the shudders.

Proving its imperfection, the earth
Trembled with guilt of its shortcomings
And faults. Spread the waves
Of destruction in its nervous breast
And with greater cowardice
Trembled again.

And showed you the power of its heart,
While great rocks shook and died
In seconds, and the alley cats
Felt it under their dusty feet and ran
In terror into nowhere, screaming
With the voices of a thousand
Fears, proving
The ill omen.

You never had a chance to say
Goodbye; miles of dust-filled land
Had fallen between your hearts.
You heard the story growing
In horror, on television, and
The next day's papers, a story
To end all the stories you had told
Each other, childhood friendship filled
With tales of happily-ever-after.

Listen
To the shudders.

Death as a beginning, a reminder
Of futile memories, you know
That the bond was broken the day he left...
I remember you crying with the fear
Of the power of divine inconsistency
And knowing that you could have made it better.

The cats have fled the land, and now,
The dreams of a thousand lives
Lie hidden under dust. The memories
Are yours; an unfeeling God will not break
Their beauty. Don't cry,
Another day will come when your dreams
Are buried under rubble, debris
Of a lost future, and the cats
Will cry again
In self-pity.

-- Sravana Reddy, 16, Banglore, India,
wrote this poem after the
Jan 26th earthquake in India.

Untitled

Someone tell me why a man like Malcolm X
Went unheard for his true intentions
Why my American heroes
Are rarely mentioned.

Somebody explain to me why
I was lynched while you were just hung
How a whole nation of people can believe
They're supreme to another one.

We built this country with our bare hands and feet
Robbed of our history, raped of our liberty
But with the same thing in mind, we're advertised In prime-time as the
leading ones in crime.

Being called "colored" is offensive to me
Such a word is absurd in the year 2G
Some say separation is an everyday thing
That it comes as second nature
In the species of human beings.

        Maybe if we could stick together
     Whatever the cost
  All battles would be won, and little wars lost
But blacks and whites are both quick
 To raise a fist when there's
  No logical reason to be prejudiced.

-- Jennifer Trabi, African American,
high school senior, Iola, KS

Witnessing the Destruction

Witnessing the destruction we cause ourselves,
it is impossible not to look deeper,
into our souls
and see what could have been.

   No one knows how to look within oneself anymore.
Why take the time and energy,
  when we can simply push a button and watch TV?
  On TV, fire explodes from within a high-rise,
  and people's screams blare twice as loud.

This is just the beginning.
   Rescue crews invade the area desperately searching.
   Families await the arrival of loved ones,
   only to be let down, destroyed inside.

The ash-covered world
is broken by a red sweater and a china doll.
The only color left on the doll's ashy body
is her small green eyes.
   The owner of the sweater and doll is not to be found
She is gone along with the rest.

We feel safer because we imagine this horror
only on TV and not in our own souls.

        The bombings, the abuse, the killings --
        out on the street,
        not in our minds or hearts.

We must look into our souls, into our minds.
We may not be bombers or killers,
        but if we refuse to acknowledge our faults,
we are just as wrong as the
horrors we see on TV.

-- Emily Stein, 16
New City, NY

Proud to be an American, Not Afraid to be Sikh

September 11th upset me in many ways. I was horror-stricken over the tragic events. Some family friends who are no longer with us were trapped in the World Trade Center. I also realized that the blame would go to Arabs, all Arabs, and all people who look Middle Eastern. No one would ever forget the scenes of Osama bin Laden wearing a turban. I and all the males in my family also wear turbans, but wearing the same thing in no way means we feel the same way.

Turbans are worn for different purposes, and there are many different types of turbans. Hindus wear the turban to indicate social status. Sikhs, who come from Northwestern India, wear it for religious purposes. I wear the religious turban to represent my beliefs, which center on the Sikh faith. Even people who do not grow their hair, as I do, wear turbans for religious or even practical reasons, such as protecting your head in the desert heat.

My hair is very long -- down to my waist -- and the meaning behind it is strength. It is a symbol of my feelings toward my religion, and it represents my personal will power to grow my hair, preserve my culture, and not succumb to the pressures of a different culture. Many kids have urged me to cut my hair, but I don't because Sikhs believe God has created humans with hair from birth, so hair is a part of our natural creation. Sikhs consider cutting hair as a disgrace to one's family and religion. Many people convert to Sikhism because of its simplicity and values. Sikhism suggests that everyone can become a Sikh; this is one that way my religion opens its doors to anyone who is interested in our beliefs. Sikhs also advocate acceptance of all people.

I haven't always received acceptance from all people. Growing up in America has been difficult. I've faced racism ever since I started wearing my turban at age ten. Elementary and middle schools were the worst years of my life; I was beaten up for my turban all the time. In high school things changed; people had grown up and accepted me more. I did not face much racism anymore—that is until September 11th.

I am concerned that since that day, racism against Middle Eastern and Asian people has become more acceptable. Occasionally I will get comments about my turban. I have even been asked if I was a terrorist. Just because I wear a turban, does that mean I am a terrorist? Do I resemble Osama bin Laden? Members of the Taliban? What makes me even more upset is that even if I were Arab, does that mean I should be facing this racism? Not every Arab is a terrorist or part of the Taliban, and they should all be treated fairly. When Timothy McVeigh bombed the Oklahoma City building, no one insulted all men with blond crew cuts because one aspect of their appearance resembled him.

My family was deeply disturbed after hearing that a Sikh man in Arizona was shot dead for no other reason except that he was wearing a turban and looked Middle Eastern. Recently a relative of mine, who also wears a turban, was chased by a man in a car. According to police, the man was a lawyer and had a weapon. This is frightening. It's so close to home now, and it makes me wonder what strangers, and even friends, are thinking about me and my family.

Obviously being Sikh right now is more dangerous than ever. Despite all of this, the events of Sept. 11th have made me realize that it's more important than ever for me to remain true to my faith. It advocates acceptance of all good people, regardless of what they wear or believe. I only hope that yours, no matter what it is, does too.

-- Shawn Gulati, 10th grade,
Clarkstown North HS, New City, NY

Tips for Linguistical Wanderers

My first day as an exchange student to Bolivia was filled with many sights, smells and words that I didn't understand. I spoke very little Spanish upon arrival and could barely communicate with my excited new family. During an ebb in the commotion, I was left alone in the living room with my youngest host sister, Gabrielita. She was two at the time. At first she just eyed me shyly from halfway behind a curtain. Then she gradually came closer, held up her doll and said, "mu-eca." I tentatively repeated, "mu-eca?" (probably with a thick gringa accent). Her eyes grew big, and she fell into a fit of giggles. I could practically read her mind— What kind of a big person is this who doesn't even know how to talk? She began naming objects all around the room, with me repeating and she giggling. And so began the lessons with my all-time greatest Spanish teacher.

Gabrielita and I had a wonderfully balanced relationship. She gained a playmate, and I gained a tireless teacher who I was never embarrassed to speak in front of. With Gaby's lessons and much practice, I was speaking Spanish in no time. Six years later, I am attempting to learn yet another language, Hebrew, and it has me brainstorming for all the little learning tricks I picked up the first time around. So I would like to share my ideas with you. These concepts will work best, of course, if you are already living in the country that speaks the language you are learning, but many of them can apply to your studies at home as well.

  • Read children's books and sing children's songs in the language you are trying to learn. The books are written in the simplest possible language and usually include many illustrations which help you get the concepts without translation. Children's songs often have exaggerated intonations or hand motions, and they will help you learn some of the idioms of the culture.
  • Post labels around the house in the foreign language. Not only will you see "la puerta" or "la porte" every time you open the door, but it will no longer require translation in your mind.
  • Listen to mistakes that native speakers of the language make when speaking your language. For example, many of my South American friends say, "I have 20 years." instead of "I am 20 years old." That's because they are translating directly from the Spanish"Tengo 20 anos."
  • Cultivate a few key learning phrases. For example, some of my favorite Spanish phrases were: Como se dice ___? (How do you say ___?); Repite por favor, (Please repeat it); Habla mas despacio, (Speak slower); and the question words (how much, when, etc.)
  • Practice imitating the native accent as if you were just joking with your friends. At first it may sound funny to you, but eventually it will really help you get over the fear of making strange new sounds.
  • Write down new words you learn each day and review the list at night.
  • Watch movies and listen to songs in the language. They will help expand your vocabulary and teach you common phrases and slang. Also soap operas can be great learning tools. They may not have great acting, but they are easy to follow and exaggerated enough to be understood by non-native speakers.

-- Michelle Lieberman, assistant editor,
was a Rotary International exchange student
to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, in 1995-1996.

 

 

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