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I wrote this in 2008 as a final essay for my Freshman Seminar Class.

chinese marriage

Devoting one’s life to another is the ultimate gift and sacrifice. Therefore, marriage is considered to be one of the most important and special rites of passage found all over the world. Beginning a new life with another spouse creates what is vital to carrying on the tradition of family and children. These unions in every culture have particular customs and beliefs that set them apart from others as unique individuals. Yet all have characteristics that are shared and celebrated across nations. China is blessed with a rich history that has withstood thousands of years. Over time, their concept of marriage has evolved. The Igbo people of Nigeria have many fascinating aspects pertaining to their traditional marital customs before the British colonized the land, incorporating modernization. Seeing through the eyes of each culture with the lens of marriage reveals that while both the Igbo and Chinese share a similar belief in descent and process of preparation, differences can be found in their social and family values.

The types of marriages existing in both are closely related. The Igbo believe in exogamy, which is the pursuit of a spouse outside the local group. A man would leave his village and travel to those that were near to seek out a wife. Village members were considered family; therefore a taboo was placed on sexual intercourse between a man and a woman born in the same village (Green 155). A group of people called the “osu,” brought to the land as slaves to the deities, were apart from the free-born people and were therefore forbidden to mix (158). In this way, they are also considered partially endogamous, remaining within their social groups. Descent was patrilineal and traced through the male line. Patrilocality was practiced as the wife would leave her family and move into her husband’s father’s household. Polygyny was acceptable and even preferable to monogamy as the more wives a man had, the more prosperous his household. In modern times though, married couples live neolocally and have their own household. Additionally, monogamy has become more acceptable. Chinese people saw fit to marry within their own social class, being a very important aspect of partner choice. They also believed in patrilineage; it was a male-dominated society, as seen in their authority, employment, place of residence, inheritance, preference of sons, and oppression of women (Xiaowei 295). In the case of polygyny, it was acceptable if a wife was incapable of bearing sons. Extended families were very popular in traditional times, and several generations lived together as did the Igbo. Current standards reveal that the new couple will live with their family only until able to find an apartment of their own.

Creating ties between families for economic reasons was one of the only similarities between each culture’s motivations for marriage, and even the economics involved were different. Trading between Igbo villages placed a large part on mate selection. A man would sometimes marry several wives of different villages along a trade route in order to prevent himself from traveling through hostile lands. In this way, war and disputes could be assuaged (Green 152). The continent of Africa placed a large importance of the household on agriculture; thus the Igbo valued a large family comprised of many wives and children as ideal to work the land and gain much productivity and prosperity (Ohadike xxxii). Love was not considered an important factor; husband and wife could always eventually grow to care for one another. This no longer holds true in modern Nigerian society where marriage for love is the most popular reason. Traditional China sought alliances between families in which both sets of parents would be financially supported in the transference of resources (Xiaowei 289). After 1949, however, the government allowed partners to be found based on love and companionship as well as their political and social environment (Xia 235-236). Material comfort and financial security still remained important (Gunde 172). In a social sense, women sought a man that was tall, wealthy, and had an advanced degree. The most desirable women were those that were young, beautiful, healthy, chaste, and gentle (Xia 237-238). It appears that the Chinese have more standards to take into consideration.

The process and preparations for matrimony in Igboland and China had some related aspects. During the traditional time period, arranged marriages were the norm with the Igbo and could take years to fully settle. The prospective husband would bring palm-wine to the bride’s family who in turn would feed him. Then the girl would visit his home, exchanging gifts (Green 151). Inquiries and investigations would take place between the families: consulting a diviner, asking about premature deaths or twin births, guaranteeing the rules of exogamy were followed. Afterwards, the girl would again travel to her potential husband’s home to have her character tested by the elders and adults of his family. She would be observed in her working habits, abilities with crafts, temperament, as well as form and figure (Uchendu 52). If finally deemed acceptable, the brideprice, or amount paid to the bride’s family in reimbursement for their daughter to be leaving the home, would be settled upon by the two families. Finally, the bride would permanently move into her husband’s village. Traditional China also placed high value on arranged marriages and usually did so through the work of a matchmaker. She was an elderly woman who knew the birthday, appearance, and temperament of every unmarried man and woman in the community (Xia 232). Following the tradition of “men dang hu dui,” the matchmaker joined families of the same economic and social status and was rewarded with gifts and money if successful, leaving possible room for exaggeration on her part (233). An astrologer was also consulted for zodiac compatibility. Today, the decision for marriage usually lies between the couple, meeting on their own through school, work, or a mutual friend (239). Originally considered to be a form of engagement and serious endeavor, dating now became more casual. Gift exchanges between the prospective in-laws were not uncommon. It is interesting to note the importance of going through a selection process and exchanging gifts in the two cultures.

One of the more prominent contrasts dividing the Igbo and Chinese was the actual wedding. With the traditional Igbo, a ceremony was not usually practiced. Most of the emphasis was placed upon the engagement and preparations leading up to when the bride would move into the husband’s family. Now, with acculturation, there are church weddings, civil court marriages, and another option called “marriage by photograph,” common with soldiers in which photographs would be exchanged between the two instead of personally meeting to decide whether or not to pursue a marriage (Uchendu 51). In contrast, China in both the past and present has elaborate ceremonies. The couple would officially register with the local government and proceed with a physical and health examination to ensure a healthy union between the two (Xia 242). Glamorous wedding photos in traditional garments were also taken well in advance. The groom and his family would be in charge of all the wedding expenses except in the case that the bride was not a virgin; in consequence of that occurring, the expenses would be shared (Xiaowei 300). On the day of the wedding, the bride would traditionally be transported to the groom’s home by way of a decorative sedan chair, but now, the groom comes to her house escorted by a fancy motorcade. At her doorstep, he would then be stopped by the bridesmaids who would test his love for his wife-to-be in mischievous tests by forcing him to sing loudly of the depth of his affection to the entire group of guests or to drink something horrible. All would go to a fancy restaurant in Western suits and gowns where there would be fireworks to scare off evil spirits. The couple would drink the marriage wine, called “jiaobeijiu” and would settle down with the guests for an elaborate feast (Xia 245). Igbo people seem to be simpler in their ceremonies.

Another clear dividing line between the two cultures was the matter of divorce. It was perfectly acceptable among the Igbo. A wife could leave her husband, returning to her parent’s house for a few days or even longer, if she was annoyed or felt neglected and mistreated (Green 164). In China, traditionally marriages were binding without the option of divorce; a widow wouldn’t even be able to remarry after the death of her husband (Xia 234). Now in the present, divorce is becoming more acceptable in the case of lack of emotional support, family violence, fading of love, or extramarital affairs. During the Cultural Revolution in particular, divorces were common if one member of the family was in political trouble, therefore protecting the children’s future, surviving socially, and avoiding persecution (Xiaowei 245). Although the standards began differently, the Chinese and Igbo are embracing the option of ending a relationship and no longer living together.

There is another definite contrast between China and Igboland when considering family and children. They were highly valued with the Igbo and believed to be the reincarnations of previous ancestors and spirits (Green 162). Everyone would fawn over them, petting and overindulging until the next child was born. Children spent most of their time in the village center where they would participate in wrestling, informal education, games, dancing, and archery, consequently being raised by the entire village (Uchendu 63). When grown, the children would still maintain close ties with their families. Daughters would travel back to their home village to care for their mothers if they were sick (Green 163). Despite the reverence of children, twin births were a taboo because of the Igbo belief that multiple births lowered humans to the level of beasts. When twins were born, the mother would be isolated and the children destroyed without severing the umbilical cords from their bodies (Uchendu 58). China had a very particular preference for sons to carry on the family name. It was not uncommon for a girl born to be abandoned or a victim of female infanticide. The One-Child Policy of today was introduced by the government in an effort to control the population and, with the introduction of ultrasound scans, led to abortions of fetuses that would have been born girls. Children were viewed in vastly different manners between the two cultures.

Vast distances and language barriers may exist throughout the world, but it is simply amazing how much cultures can share. China and Igboland in particular have very similar family and descent distinctions along with the marriage process. The world is filled with diversity, each culture bringing to the table aspects that set themselves apart from everyone else. This can be seen especially when considering how the two mentioned cultures view children and social values, such as divorce. All humanity is linked in some form with similar beliefs that help when opening eyes to a culture beyond one’s own yet in a way that there is much to learn from one another.

 

Works Cited

Green, M.M.Ibo Village Affairs. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., 1964.

Gunde, Richard. “Family and Gender.” Culture and Customs of China. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2002. 167-190.

Ohadike, Don C. “Igbo Culture and History.” Introduction. Things Fall Apart. By Chinua Achebe. Johannesburg, South Africa: Heinemann Publishers (Pty) Limited, 1996. xxx-xxxii.

Uchendu, Victor C. The Igbo of Southeast Nigeria.  New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1965.

Xia, Yan R., and Zhi G. Zhou. “The Transition of Courtship, Mate Selection, and Marriage in China.” Mate Selection Across Cultures. Ed. Raeann Hamon and Bron B. Ingoldsby. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc., 2003. 231-246.

Xiaowei, Zang. “Family, Kinship, Marriage, and Sexuality.” Understanding Contemporary China. Ed. Robert E. Gamer. Boulder: Lynn Rienner Publishers, Inc, 2003.

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Here are some goals that I’d like to accomplish during this year:

  1. Find a part-time job as a waitress. I want to focus primarily on building my own businesses of teaching French and also being a singer for weddings and special events, but I’ll need another job to help bring steady amounts of cash into my bank account.
  2. Don’t let negativity from naysayers bring down my happiness and positive outlook on life.
  3. Be brave to stand my ground in the face of adversity. I will be challenged, but I will have the courage and fortitude to refuse to back down.
  4. Take action against the injustices made against me, no matter how big my opponents may be.
  5. Act in at least one film. I’ve been cast as the older sister of the female lead in an independent film called Max and Chase. It’s my job to make the audience think a certain way, and I play a key role. I’m super thrilled for this! It will be my first ever film!
  6. Audition for plays in community theatre and hopefully get cast.
  7. Read at least 50 books.
  8. Start modeling and building a portfolio!
  9. Go to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras and finally meet friends I’ve known for 10 years.
  10. Spend Christmas in Germany and Austria, exploring and visiting with family.
  11. Continue to write as much poetry as I can and record videos of myself singing to post to my YouTube channel.
  12. Go to the midnight release of the final Hobbit film all dressed up as an Elf!
  13. Sing at as many open mic nights as possible, audition for more choirs, potentially record a demo CD.
  14. Do what I want because I want to do it. Not let anyone tell me that I can’t do something. Follow my dreams and passions into the future without regret. Let go of the past and move forward fearlessly.

62206790

 

❤ Me

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Happy New Year, everyone!

I usually write this before the next year begins, but I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t taken the time to sit down and come up with them. I’ll try to keep them succinct this time around.

  1. Be honest, and don’t sugarcoat your words and thoughts. Honesty may hurt someone, but in the end, people appreciate it when you’re up front about how you feel.
  2. People will dislike and hate you for no apparent reason other than the fact that they don’t like what you say, do, or how you look.
  3. If you never take risks, then you’ll never get rewarded. Your life begins the moment you step out of your comfort zone.
  4. Don’t be in a relationship only because you need to be validated by the appreciation of someone else to be happy with yourself.
  5. End a relationship when you both realize it’s not working and/or the moment you find out the other person is being unfaithful. Don’t give second and third chances to someone who breaks his/her promises again and again and doesn’t value you as the special person you are. Just because the sex is good doesn’t mean you should remain with that person. Respect yourself enough to let go of someone who manipulates and plays with your heart and emotions.
  6. Just because someone believes in something that you might not does not make them a bad person. People like and follow different things.
  7. When you dread going into work, that means it’s time to start planning to find another one. If your job makes you physically ill, mentally exhausted, and extremely stressed, then you don’t need to work there. Don’t be a slave to the system for crappy pay.
  8. Do what makes you burn with passion, brightness, and pride inside your soul. That’s what feeds your spirit.
  9. Holding onto grudges from the past does nothing except chain you to the ground and prevent you from moving forward to the future. As difficult as it may be, letting go is the only way that you will be free.
  10. For every ridiculous comment or action made by an ignorant person, there is an equal and opposite instance from someone good that will help restore your faith in humanity.
  11. Never stop doing what you love, and never give up on your goals and dreams. The harder you work with your goal in mind, the closer you come to actually accomplishing it. It does pay off in the end.
  12. As easy as it is to react to what people may say or do to you, take some time to evaluate if it’s worth it to explode. It usually isn’t worth it. People will say things that infuriate and hurt you, but the only one responsible for how you respond to them is you.
  13. The sky isn’t the limit. The infinity of the universe is. So keep going beyond your wildest fantasies. The possibilities are endless.

 

May 2014 bring you plenty of new blessings!

Much love to you!

62206796❤ Me

 

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Hi everyone!

I’m sorry that I’ve disappeared for a while. Life has taken a very busy turn with a lot of different emotions rushing through me. I had to say goodbye to my dog Daisy last month. It was one of the hardest times for me. She was really suffering, but now she’s in a better place. Sixteen years is a good long life for a dog, and she was definitely a welcome member of our family. I still need to write a poem about her… In better news, I now have a job! I work the front desk of a hotel. It definitely keeps me busy! Tonight I’m going in for an overnight shift. And best of all, there is finally someone special in my life that’s here to stay. He is a wonderful support that I’m blessed to have in my life! You’ll hear more about him soon too.

Last night I was missing Daisy and feeling down on life. It was getting the best of me, so at 2:15am I decided to call my special someone. He answered! We talked for a while, and I was so grateful for his upbeat and positive attitude. I’ve never felt such love and care from any relationship in the past. To help dispel the negative thought processes in my head, he gave me an assignment to write down 100 things that make me feel happy and thankful in life. I thought I would share it with all of you.

  1. Sharing kisses with my special someone
  2. A full-body massage
  3. Playing with and petting Duke
  4. Being around cute, playful animals
  5. Bunnies
  6. Reading a book that I can’t put down
  7. Roses
  8. Chocolate (all kinds!)
  9. Experiencing the Lord of the Rings (through books, extended edition films, and music)
  10. Enya
  11. Remembering Daisy memories
  12. Collecting a paycheck
  13. Listening to The Fountain soundtrack
  14. The smell of the air after a rainstorm
  15. Cuddling in my special someone’s embrace
  16. Playing the flute
  17. Singing and improvising what just comes out of me
  18. Reading journal entries that I wrote when I was younger
  19. Getting positive feedback on my work (things I share)
  20. Dressing up and looking especially impressive and beautiful
  21. My boobs
  22. Holding a baby
  23. Harry Potter
  24. All of my supportive and wonderful online, Facebook, and long-distance friends
  25. Writing a poem, essay, or story
  26. Newly fallen snow
  27. Cheesecake
  28. Speaking, reading, and writing French
  29. Exploring and interacting with people from different cultures
  30. Performing onstage (acting and singing)
  31. Watching my friends go through pregnancy and children
  32. The sight, smell, and sound of autumn leaves
  33. General Tso’s Chicken from China Star
  34. Learning about horoscopes
  35. Reading tarot and runes
  36. Guilty Pleasure TV Shows (Bachelor/Bachelorette, America’s Next Top Model, The Voice)
  37. Knee-high boots with 5-inch stiletto heels
  38. An endless supply of books to read
  39. Sleeping and cuddling with stuffed animals
  40. Cookies and brownies freshly baked and cooling
  41. Lounging around in my bathrobe
  42. Cantoring at Mass
  43. Being in a library or bookstore
  44. Going out for a girls’ night
  45. Dancing and clubbing
  46. Getting flirty and tipsy
  47. Watching a hummingbird fly
  48. Giving and receiving hugs
  49. Marching band
  50. Exploring and walking (downtown, nature trails)
  51. Learning languages
  52. Wearing pretty dresses
  53. Dreaming up my wedding
  54. Making a picnic to enjoy outside
  55. Having a poem/song written for me
  56. Attending midnight movie releases
  57. Going to performances at Webster University
  58. Eating all types of berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries)
  59. My Grandma and Grandpa Thomas
  60. Family reunions
  61. Christmas
  62. Birthdays
  63. Strawberry Daiquiris
  64. Long Island Iced Tea
  65. Doctor Who
  66. Movie soundtracks
  67. Reading a book aloud as a script
  68. Sleeping deeply
  69. Piano
  70. Taking a nap bundled in a blanket
  71. Making videos
  72. Sharing poetry I’ve dedicated to someone
  73. Wearing sexy lingerie
  74. Listening to the thoughts and ideas of a child
  75. My mom
  76. Going on family vacations
  77. Traveling the world
  78. Dinner and Movie Dates
  79. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting
  80. Free days with no commitments
  81. Helping someone smile and be happy
  82. Trivia Nights
  83. Playing “Challenge” with Dad and my brother
  84. Going to the lake
  85. TV Show/Netflix marathons
  86. Falling asleep and waking up in the arms of my special someone
  87. Bagels with peanut butter or butter
  88. Movie nights with my mom
  89. The smell of chlorine at a pool
  90. Learning about my genealogy
  91. Monarch butterflies
  92. Singing in a prestigious choir
  93. Meditating and praying with the Holy Trinity and Mary
  94. Having meaningful tattoos
  95. Good times with my dad
  96. Ice Cream
  97. Making love with my special someone
  98. Someone telling me that they love me
  99. The idea that life will grow inside me
  100. Being alive

There’s my list for you! I encourage all of you to take some time out to write up a list too. It can really help you focus on the positive gifts in your life.

Have a great day!

❤ Me

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(Here are more dreams from young Jenna!)

February 3, 2000:

I dreamt that I was at school, and we did our normal things that we usually do every morning. Then it was time for our bee on the Southeast States and Capitals. I got sick in the middle of it.

 

February 13, 2000:

(I made a note that I was 19 in this dream. I dreamt this at age 9.)

I dreamt that we had a family reunion at my house. We also invited good friends of ours. When we were waiting outside a car drove up. A woman came outside and a 20 year-old boy that looked a lot like Lance. I just stared there at the boy and then I fainted. The boy and his mom rushed to my side (so did my mom). My mom could not carry me inside so the boy did. He carried me all the way to my bed. Everyone then went downstairs except the boy. He knew a way to wake me up. He kissed me. I did wake up. I asked him why he kissed me, and he said he kissed me because he loved me the moment he saw me. I said that I did too. When we went downstairs we walked close to each other. When it was bedtime the boy had nowhere to sleep, so I let him sleep in my bed with me. He was delighted to. While we were in bed, he told me that he was really Lance from NSYNC, and he was madly in love with me. I said I was too. The next day Lance asked my parents if he could take me horseback riding. They said yes. We went horseback riding. At the end he kissed me. We had many adventures together. In the end, we married.

 

November 6, 2000:

My class was doing a class trip to this one museum. It was pretty boring. Then we came across a sign. “The chute and chair flight that was under construction is now open!” My friends and I went up the stairs. My brother was ahead of me. We came to the front then. We went up this little ramp, but there wasn’t any air power to shoot you out. My brother went and did it. When he landed on the chair, I heard a voice call to him. “Where’s your sister? I have to talk to her.” I called down, “I’m coming!” So I flew down and landed gracefully on the chair. I saw a cute boy looking at me in a surprised look. “That was so cool! I wouldn’t be able to do that!” As I was coming down, he caught me. “That was beautiful! You’re beautiful!” He kissed me.

 

(I sure was a romantic, even back 13 years ago!)

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(Hello everyone! It’s been a while I know! My life has been more busy lately, and just last weekend I had a birthday extravaganza! My birthday was last Saturday, April 13th. I had quite a fantastic time, and already this new year of life for me is off to a pretty great start! There are daunting aspects as well, but c’est la vie.

I wanted to share a few dreams that I recorded in my dream journal when I was a lot younger, in case you were interested in delving into the fascinating subconscious mind of a younger me.)

 

August 2, 1999:

I was near a castle when the guards found me. They put me in a peanut butter jar. Then they put me in the kitchen. The Prince came in the kitchen because he was hungry. He almost ate me. Other people came in and almost ate me.

 

August 3, 1999:

I was in college. After a while, I could choose my career. I could be a singer, writer, or a actress. I couldn’t decide. Then I asked if I could do all of them. They said I could do one at a time.

 

August 4, 1999:

I was an ice skater and so was Tara from my school. We had to find out who was better. The winner got to spend a vacation with Tara Lipinski. When Tara was up, she scored 7.9’s only. When I was up, I scored all 9.9’s. I was the winner.

 

August 26, 1999:

I dreamt that I went to Aunt Cindy’s house. My mom was there too. We had lots of fun. Uncle Gary was not there. One day we went to a concert. We saw NSYNC. We were up front. Lance was always standing and looking at me. Then we went home and went to bed. The next day, it was time to go. So I packed. When I was in the car I checked my things. When suddenly, “I forgot my bra!!!!!!”

 

October 10, 1999:

I dreamt that we got a cd order form in the mail. We did not know but JT ordered some. Then they came in the mail. We were surprised. He ordered a Britney Spears for me!

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Skylark

I recorded a video of me singing one of my favorite jazz standards yesterday! Enjoy!

 

❤ Me

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