Memoirs of a Geisha

During the semester, I did not have as much time to read as I would have liked. I reread one of my favorite stories, Memoirs of a Geisha, recently and was reminded of why I enjoy this book.

The story is told from first person point-of-view from an older geisha. She begins the story when is a just a young girl in Japan during the Depression. Chiyo Sakamoto is a poor girl from a fishing village, but captures the attention of a man for her unusual eyes, which are a blue-gray color. She and her sister are taken from their home and Chiyo is sold to an okiya (house where geisha live) in a prominent area of Kyoto. The story is based on background information provided by retired geisha, Mineko Iwasaki, but Chiyo’s character is fictional. Without giving too much away, she becomes a maid before she begins her journey to being a geisha. Chiyo is in awe of the beauty of the geishas and the respect they are given, but the path is very difficult.

I enjoyed the novel because it read at a leisurely pace without being slow. In the beginning of the story, Chiyo is just a child. The narrative highlights her curiosities at that age and her emotions as she is taken from her home. It also reflects her maturity as she gets older and encounters different experiences. Reading the story made me feel like I was following Chiyo through her life. A good book will pull in its readers until they feel every emotion and that was my experience with this one. When there were moments of heartbreak, it hurt me to read of her tears and devastation. The story was very detailed, but well-balanced with dialogue. Many different characters are introduced throughout the story, but it was not confusing because there was a clear distinction between them. Each character had a strong impact on Chiyo and I could feel that through their descriptions.

Prior to reading this book, I had heard of geishas and only knew what they looked like. I did not know what they did, but there was a negative association between geishas and prostitutes. Geishas are traditional Japanese entertainers. They entertain men through song, dance, conversation and serve tea as hostesses. Young girls spent years training and perfecting their skills that would make them successful geishas. They went to schools that taught dance, musical instruments, and other skills. It was important for them to be successful because they were expected to repay their okiyas back for the money spent on their food, lodging, kimono, and other tools needed.

There is a great deal of effort and time that is required for being a geisha and not every woman can do this successfully. It is also important to note that some people would confuse geishas with prostitutes. The difference is that geisha’s wear their sash tied in the back, but the prostitutes tied theirs in the front. There are still some geishas practicing in Japan, but they are mostly in the company of the higher social class.

This book is controversial because Iwasaki sued Arthur Golden after the book’s release. According to her, he was supposed to keep her identity a secret and revealed parts of her life that were supposed to remain personal. She felt that he did not accurately portray her life and shamed the geisha profession. Iwasaki published her own book in 2002 titled, Geisha: A Life, to tell her story in her own words.

Whether the story is completely true or not, it is still a very good story that I can always come back to when I want something to read. This is also an award-winning movie.

My Source of Positivity

I used to be a pessimistic person. I only focused on the negative aspects of my life and what I didn’t have to the point that I did not think about how fortunate I was. I had poor self-image and would constantly compare myself to others. I thought I was not beautiful and assumed others thought the same. I thought I was not intelligent, and assumed others thought I was stupid. I projected my own negative opinions about myself onto other people and felt like everyone thought the worst of me.

I was afraid to be myself. I did not want my peers to think I was weird or make fun of me and kept some of my interests and opinions to myself. Instead of speaking up for myself when people teased me, I would laugh and pretend my feelings had not been hurt because I did not want them to think I couldn’t take a joke. I did not want to stick out and wanted to blend in with everyone else. I was hiding parts of myself to fit the mold others had set out for me. My desire to fulfill their exceptions was stronger than my desire to fulfill my own. However, my expectations for myself were inaccurate because I based them on comparisons to other people. I thought if one person in class could get a perfect score on an incredibly difficult test, that I could, too. I would push myself to be better until I was completely exhausted. These expectations were not realistic because I was not taking my own individual abilities into account. I had imagined an identity for myself and was struggling to fit.

Like a shoe that is too small, no amount of pushing or squeezing will make it fit. I had to wear the identity that was meant for me, but I had to find it first. My outlook on life was changed naturally with age. I’m no longer a 15-16 year-old girl, but a 21 year-old woman. After having to worry about more serious matters, I don’t have the time, energy, or patience to think about other’s opinions as much and try to make the best of each day. A change in surroundings also positively impacted my outlook. I moved to a warmer climate and met new people. I was able to have a fresh start.

When I first moved here, I did not know anyone other than my family and spent a lot of time alone. This didn’t bother me at first because I actually like to have time to myself. I had the chance to reflect and spend time exploring my own interests. While we were moving into our house, I unpacked a box of books and notebooks and found my old diaries. I sat down and read over the entries going as far back as the first grade when my mom gave me my first diary. I noticed the common entries where I expressed my difficulties repressing my desires and interests to fit in. After flipping through the pages, I realized that I had to make a conscious effort to step out of my shell and embrace myself.

People ask me how I can always look on the bright side in tough situations and I just shrug my shoulders. After spending years of my life trying to be perfect, I finally let go. I learned to laugh at my mistakes and speak up for myself when necessary. There is no doubt in my mind that my experiences up until this point have deeply impacted my outlook on life, but I have a difficulty finding the words to express this journey. With a smile, I say, “This is just who I am.”

A Bittersweet Holiday

During Thanksgiving break, I had to work. This is not new to me because I’ve been working in retail for 6 years and these jobs require you to be available during the holidays. However, this did not stop me from feeling a little sad at the thought of not being able to spend quality time with my family during this special time of year. For the first time in my life, we went to another family member’s house for Thanksgiving. I had always wanted to be around more family for Thanksgiving and usually did not get the chance to because they were too far away or because everyone was spending the holiday differently. It was nice to go to someone else’s house and enjoy being with my family. Unfortunately, I had to leave less than an hour later to go to work.

I am a sentimental person who loves to create memories and be around my loved ones. It is already difficult to spend quality time with family when everyone is on a different schedule and has different responsibilities or lives too far away for you to stop by for a quick visit. It was bitter-sweet to have to leave almost right after I arrived just to be at work until the early hours of the morning. I realized that I took this time of year for granted when I was younger. It was always a given that I would be able to stay at home and even when I did, I went to my room to take a nap after overeating. I would read a book by myself or watch TV.

As the guests poured into the store, holding their maps and picking out Christmas gifts, I watched them with envy. I thought of how nice it must be to not have to work on Thanksgiving and be able to spend time with friends and family on the holidays. It made me think of how I rushed to be an adult when I was a child and did not realize what came with adulthood. I did not fully enjoy those moments that I cherish now and assumed they would always be there. I did not really think about having to sacrifice time with my family to fulfill responsibilities like work and school. This was something I had thought about, but I didn’t really feel it. It is strange to think that I did not have this realization until that moment when the store doors opened and I watched people walk in with smiles on their faces and heard the laughter and cheers around me. It was not until that moment that I felt a pang of sadness.

Thanksgiving is not the only time when I’ve had to work and miss out on time with my family. I constantly miss events on weekends or in the summer when I find out at the last minute or need to work and save money. As much as it really irritated me then, I felt that there would always be other events. Thanksgiving really reminded me that I need to make the most of the moments I have with friends and family and continue working hard toward a future when I can take time off during the holidays.

 

Demon-Haunted PechaKuchas

 

Dr. Rebecca Martindale gave a PechaKucha presentation at the end to give her interpretation of the book.

On Friday December 1, Dr. Rebecca Martindale, Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology, had her students present their PechaKucha presentations over the book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan.

 

“When we first started these presentations, I kind of did it in the middle of the semester and Caleigh started at the beginning. She’s going to do her presentation of The Demon-Haunted World the way most students and faculty would present when they use PowerPoint Presentation,” said Dr. Martindale.

The event began with Caleigh Bailon’s traditional presentation summarizing chapter 1 of the book. She discussed the key points of the chapter and her slides were text-heavy, which is common in many traditional presentations.

“After learning the new method of presentation, it’s kind of gruesome to go back and look at something like this,” Bailon said.

Next, Philip Dorouen explained what a PechaKucha was and how they worked. PechaKuchas are presentations that follow a specific format. 20 images are shown for 20 seconds each and they advance automatically.

“They are a great creative way for students to express themselves,” he said.

The benefit to this presentation style is that it can prevent the speaker from spending too much of their time talking about one part of the presentation. They have to keep speaking to keep up with the presentation and it can shorten a lengthy topic to highlight the main points. You can visit the PechaKucha website for more information and to watch other presentations. He also played the following video for the audience to give them a visual of how this presentation method worked.

“One of the things they do is have PechaKucha nights. It was originally designed by a couple of architects who basically had this philosophy where if you give an architect a microphone, they’ll talk for hours and hours. People all around the world get together in lots of different venues and have PechaKucha nights to talk about whatever they want with this particular format,” said Dr. Martindale.

Abram Garza presented his PechaKucha to summarize chapter 3 of the book.

Abram Garza presented the first PechaKucha of the event to summarize chapter 3: The Man in the Moon and the Face on Mars. This chapter was about pseudo-science and how people tend to believe tales without proof of their validity. He used note cards to aid his presentation because this format relies on images without text. Roslyn Swofford was the last student to present and she summarized chapter 21 of the book.

Dr. Martindale ended the event with her own PechaKucha presenting her interpretation of the book. This particular method made it easier to stay engaged during the presentations. The absence of text put more focus on the presenter and what they were saying, while also providing an interesting visual. Next time you have a presentation for class, try using this method to make your presentations more fun, engaging, and interesting.

How Do I Look?

I stood in front of the closet with my arms folded and let out a long sigh. I do not usually put extra time and effort into planning my outfits, but this was a special occasion. I was going to a communications conference that Saturday and had no idea what I was going to wear. When I asked my mom, she told me to dress business-casual. I looked on Pinterest for outfit ideas, confused when I saw outfits that I had always been advised against. I had always been told to stick to neutral colors, but the outfits I saw had a mix of colors and patterns. This was when I noticed that the rules had changed.

Business-casual is a new term in fashion, only dating back to around the 1980s. It was used in companies where the employees did not spend as much time in front of consumers and spent more time in the office. It became a way of expressing yourself and still maintaining a professional attitude without the formality. What is business-casual?

Robert Johnson, executive team leader of human resources at Target in Texarkana, said “Business casual for me would be a nice pair of jeans, a nice polo shirt. For ladies, there are several variations of blouses and shirts that are definitely appropriate for an interview. When I dress business casual, I wear a long-sleeved button-up and slacks or khakis.”

For men, this is a simple take on business casual that is always acceptable. The look is easy to replicate and there are many different variations to it to make it more unique. 

Business casual has changed over time and pieces considered unacceptable like jeans or sneakers can be dressed up to look more professional. Overall, business casual is a step above what you would wear on a typical day, but not fancy enough to be formal. Blazers and sports jackets can pair with chinos, khakis, or nice jeans. When choosing a pair of jeans, it is best to stay away from overly distressed jeans and wear a dark pair.

It is also important to remember that business casual depends on the workplace or the event. When going to an interview Johnson said you should present yourself at your best.

“I’ve been doing this for several years, and you can tell when a person is presenting themselves to the best of their ability or not. I say this because you could have someone from a scheduled interview come in whatever they were wearing that morning. Their tennis shoes are not laced up or tied and you can tell if they could have done better than that,” said Johnson.

The dress code at Target is more relaxed than other businesses and it is not a deal-breaker for you to come into an interview with jeans. However, there are times to keep jeans in the closet. If possible, it is best to overdress a little for an interview than underdress. The interviewer will be able to tell if you have spent time on your appearance and it will make a good impression on them.

Women have a variety of clothing options to choose from, which is part of what made my outfit decision for the event difficult. I did not know if I should wear a skirt, dress, blouse, heels, pants, or flats. In Vanessa Rodriguez’s article, “What is Business Casual Attire for Women? Outfit Tips, Advice & Ideas,” she writes a list of tips to help women pick the right outfits. One of the safest options is khakis or dark pants with a button-down shirt. Sweaters are also a very good choice.

An important tip for women to remember is to pay attention to the types of shirts and skirts or dresses they wear. It is considered inappropriate for cleavage to be visible. If a blouse is a little sheer, make sure to wear a camisole underneath. Skirts and dresses should stay at knee length or longer. Clothes that are too tight also can send the wrong message to a potential employer or business connection.

With many options out there, the most important idea to remember is that there is no simple answer for what to wear. Your outfit will depend on the environment and the nature of the event. No matter what, take your time to pick the outfit that makes the best impression.

The Demon Haunted World

The book club meeting held on November 8 began with the video above. The book discussed was The Demon Haunted World- Science as a Candle in the Dark written by Carl Sagan. Sagan was an astronomer born in 1934. He worked on NASA projects and wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Cosmos, that turned into a thirteen part television series that aired in 1980.

Science as a Candle in the Dark is a collection of Sagan’s articles and essays over a few decades. One of the points highlighted in the book is the effects of scientific illiteracy. Science and math are subjects most students are not excited to learn in school. Because of this, people take scientific assertions as facts when there is no proof of these assertions being true. A topic mentioned was UFO’s. Many people wrote to Sagan asking him to verify the existence of UFO’s. He could not say they existed, nor could he say they did not. However, he did think this was a hallucination.

One of the people who wrote to him said, “Your conclusion that large numbers of people in this country, perhaps as many as five million, are all victims of an identical mass hallucination is asinine.”

After the video, the moderator Dr. David Allard, Professor of Biology, opened the floor for discussion about the book and Sagan’s ideas.

In the book, Sagan discusses alien abductions and the people who claim to be victims.

“Carl Sagan talks about how he can hear his dad every once in a while in his head. He lived with his dad for so long and every once in a while he could hear ‘Carl’. Technically, that is a form of hallucination, auditory hallucination,” said Dr. Angela Sikorski, Associate Professor of Psychology.

After she said this, there was discussion about sleep paralysis, which Dr. Sikorski confirmed is real. Sleep paralysis has been a theory behind the stories of alien abduction for years. Sleep paralysis occurs when you are falling asleep or waking up. The mind is awake and fully aware of what is going on, but the body is asleep. You are unable to move or speak, but you are mentally aware of the sounds around you because you are awake. In this state, it is very possible to begin having visual hallucinations.

Dr. Dayna “Joy’ Goldstein, Assistant Professor of English, chose this book for discussion and said, “He touched my life as a scientist I could relate to and I watched the Cosmos series and he inspired me about the meter of the universe.”

A moment when Sagan inspired Dr. Goldstein was when she was at a point in her life when she was questioning religion and her beliefs. Sagan’s own religious beliefs were debated and he was not a religious man.

“As a person who never had a strong interest in math and science, I found the book very interesting and entertaining. Sagan was able to explain science in a way that made sense for the average person. The book was not full of confusing scientific jargon, but was written in a conversational tone.”

As someone who does not have an extensive background in science, the book was not difficult to follow. Sagan explained his thoughts in a tone that did not belittle the reader and was very interesting to read. He used examples and stories from real people to emphasize his points.

 

How to Keep Your Cash

I have had a love/hate relationship with my bank account for a very long time. I used to wonder where my money was going and why I could not save as much as I needed. There were times when I did not work as often and would receive smaller paychecks, but I still spent money the way I did when I was paid two or three times as much. After finally admitting to myself that I had a problem, I found some methods that helped keep my bank account from hitting $0. 

1.       Track your spending habits

Use apps like Clarity and Mint to track your spending.

I began keeping receipts at the beginning of the year. I put the receipts in a small file folder and organized them by month. I keep receipts for all purchases no matter how small because too many little purchases can add up to a large amount. When I went back and looked at the receipts, I paid attention to where I was going and how much I was spending. I also looked at what I was buying and realized that I was buying multiples of items I already had and spending too much money on meals and snacks. I was also buying small and unnecessary items that I would only use a few times just because I had the money.

A great way to also track you spending if you don’t want to keep receipts is to write them down. I bought a small book at Michael’s for $4-$5 with monthly budget sheets and sheets to document the date, item, and amount spent per purchase. I put these sheets in my planner and write down what I spend for the week. This gives me a visual reminder of how much I am spending because it is easy to forget when you are constantly swiping a card.

2.       Look at your income and expenditures

Next, I looked at my monthly income and calculated how much of that income was going into certain categories. I looked at how much of my money was automatically being taken out for bills each month and how much was spent on gas and food. When I went through my bank statements, I saw that I was paying almost $40 a month for services I did not even use. There were multiple video streaming subscriptions, Kindle Unlimited, Audible, and Apple Music. I was not even aware that I was paying for some of these services because I did not get any emails about the monthly payments. I made a list of my monthly payments and subtracted them from my expected income each month to decide on a budget. 

3.       Prioritize

It is never wise to overspend to the point where you are unsure of how you are going to pay for the things you really need. I had to prioritize my spending to make sure I had money to save and spend on the things I could not go without. This meant that I needed to cut back on the areas that were taking too much of my money like snacks and cosmetics.

4.       Find alternatives where needed

To cut back on snacks, I decided to drink more water because I was spending almost $20 a week on drinks alone. I would buy sodas or juice every day when it really wasn’t necessary. Now, I take a refillable water bottle to school and work to cut back on buying drinks. I also stopped buying fast food as often and began cooking more of my own meals and setting budgets for food each week. When I give myself a food budget, it forces me to be less impulsive. 

I have a habit of buying multiple bottles of soap and lotion. I run out of a bottle and purchase another without realizing I have 3 bottles at home that were barely used. This might be okay if you like to have different scents, but I always gravitate toward lightly scented or unscented soaps and end up with multiple bottle of the same brand and scent. This also happens with my hair products. I buy replacements without finishing a container and have two or three jars of conditioner that can be combined o make a full jar.

Sometimes, the alternative to spending too much money is to get organized and use what you have before buying something else. I have wasted money on replacing items because I was not organized enough to keep track of what I already had. 

5.       Coupons and discounts

When I was younger, I used to look at the PennySaver and try to find coupons for products I saw in the house. I was much younger and did not actually need to use these coupons because I was only an elementary school student. However, I did not realize how helpful coupons could be. Each coupon may only save you a dollar off on an item, but they can save you even more on a basket full. Students also get discounts at multiple restaurants and can get them online. A UniDays subscription is free and has coupons for apparel, technology, and more. You can also get a $5 per month Apple Music subscription by verifying that you are a student. An Amazon Prime subscription is $49.99 a year for students and can be helpful when you are buying textbooks or other items you might need for school because you get free 2-day shipping. There are also student discount cards at the front desk. 

6.       Set a Goal

Set a goal for how much you are trying to save for a certain amount of time. Goals work better when they start off small or have multiple steps. If you are trying to save an extra $200 a month, divide it into a certain amount per week. Figure out what your budget can be for that week and try to stick with it. It can be difficult at first, but it will become easier with time.

One of the most common financial mistakes people make is not having a budget. I learned the hard way that there is a difference between having the money to buy something and being able to afford it. It may be tedious to track your spending and give yourself only a portion of your money to spend, but being disciplined now can save you financial trouble in the future.