Hello from Hong Kong!
There’s plenty of fun to be had over here—trying new foods, learning new customs, seeing new sights, watching my kids grow with new experiences. But the study abroad experience, and more specifically my Fulbright work as cultural ambassador, comes with some struggles, too.
Some of those struggles are superficial, mostly having to do with the comforts of home. For instance, the coffee here tends to be roasted darker than I prefer, though it’s passable. The beer here is much lighter than I like (and I’d wager, preferences aside, that most of it here is objectively not-good). And the cheese dip? That Arkie staple? Virtually nonexistent. There are good reasons for each. Historically the Chinese lean toward tea instead of coffee, and they have little interest in alcohol and still less in Tex-Mex textures. I can survive without these comforts, of course, and reflecting on cultural differences is an important part of experiencing other cultures.
Other struggles run deeper, raising unsettling questions about my own identity.
I continue to struggle with Asian values of orderliness and personal space. Our whole family does. It’s not only that it’s often crowded here, though that’s a practical concern, too. The issue is twofold, concerning right-of-way and how much space a person grants another when one can.
For instance, people here don’t conceive of the line—the queue—in the same way that people do in the States. If I give the next person in line a couple feet of personal space, almost certainly a third person will glide in front of me. And the same could be said of a map at the metro station: no point in standing back a bit so others could look along with you, because someone will likely step in between you and the map, impeding the view for anyone else.
Of course cultures have unique rules governing social behaviors such as personal space, and I have to remind myself that people aren’t being rude here. They aren’t breaking any rule; there simply isn’t one to break. But this is one cultural difference that still nags at me each time it happens. “I was here first!,” I find myself wanting to shout. And then after a moment of cooling off, I wonder why being there first matters so much to me, and I wonder how this response signals core assumptions of Americans—perhaps even pathologies of whiteness. I still don’t have good answers to those questions, even though I confront them regularly. And not understanding myself is still more of a struggle than managing social spaces here.
Remind me sometime to tell you about another Hong Kong issue my wife and I struggle with: “helpers.” Largely Filipinas and Indonesian, these women act as live-in maids for the families who can afford them. It’s a complex issue, and another one in which I feel it difficult to understand my own assumptions about the practice.
Struggles, yes, but instructive experiences that we couldn’t have without leaving home.
Anyway. Here’s a picture of me and my daughter at the Man Mo Temple nestled in the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong’s Central district. It’s a Taoist temple dedicated to one of the gods of literature, Man, and one of the gods of war, Mo. Inside, the room is thick with incense burning for different favors and blessings, and the surfaces are painted in deep red, gold, and dark browns. After a few minutes inside the temple, it’s easy to forget that it’s situated in one of the world’s major financial hubs, with gleaming high rises and high end shopping malls nearby.
Until next time.
Wesley Beal is an associate professor of English at Lyon College. This fall he is serving as a Fulbright U.S. Scholar at the University of Hong Kong, where he teaches two courses in American literature and continues a study of the campus novel genre. Please reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have Hong Kong- or Fulbright-related questions for him to investigate. He’ll do his best to oblige in subsequent blog posts.
On Friday, November 16, Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Alexander Beeser at Lyon College, presented his recent research in a talk entitled “The Central Dogma's Second Step: Translational Control of Gene Expression” for the faculty colloquium series.
He effectively explained to the audience his incredibly complex research on ribosome makeup and replication by using a comprehendible example: the alternator of a car. Beeser simplified certain concepts in his talk so that the information would be more easily accessible to non-majors in the room.
To explain his concept, Beeser took an alternator in one hand and a hammer in the other and tapped lightly on the metal body. The audience concluded that such force would not alter the function of the part. Even if he were to severely dent the body of the part, if put into the car, the car would run. If a screwdriver were shoved into the rotating blades on top of the part and then replaced into a car, however, the car would not run.
Through this example, the audience could understand that some things can be done to the alternator that would have no effect, little effect, or major effect. Similar changes can be made within the coding of proteins within ribosomes.
“How do we understand how it is that a ribosome can take information…and convert that into the proteins that the cell needs?” Beeser asked. The ribosome question, Beeser claims, is the “fundamentally unanswered question in cell biology.”
Beeser explained that every cell in the human body contains the same coding of DNA, and yet we have countless specialized cells that differ drastically from one another. The organelle called the ribosome is responsible for deciding what proteins to create based on what that specific cell needs.
Beeser and his students alter various sections of ribosomes and observe the growth rate of cells containing them. Rather than trying to find out what makes a ribosome work, Beeser is more interested in isolating the mutations that cause the proteins to not work. The cells whose growth rate is altered are the main focus: these hold the key to understanding the functioning parts of the ribosomes.
“Faculty colloquiums encourage interaction with multiple interdisciplinary fields,” says sophomore research student Hannah Zang. “The people that attended Dr. Beeser's talk were very diverse in their fields, but still got to learn more about his research and experiences. I highly encourage students to take that opportunity to see other professors talk, even if it isn't something necessarily in their major.”
Lyon College hosted former student engagement specialist Jonathan Davey last Thursday as he spoke candidly to the Lyon community about his experiences with gay conversion therapy in his talk “Religion and Rainbows.”
Following his talk, three Lyon students and a faculty member participated in a panel discussion and fielded questions regarding Christianity and the LGBTQ+ community.
Davey began by encouraging his audience to keep an open mind, saying, “I think that this is a space where we’re here to learn and listen. We’re here to educate ourselves and come in with an open mind and hear different perspectives. I’m going to share with you my story and then the panel, when they come up, could have a totally opposite experience than I have or belief than I have.”
At a young age, Davey began to understand that his sexual orientation was deemed “sinful” by God and his church.
Davey said, “I started to hear that being gay is a sin. That lying with another man is a sin, an abomination. So it was something I continued to hide.”
When he was age 18, Davey came out as gay to his mother. Her reaction came from a place of confusion. She said “I just don’t want you to have a tough life,” and feared the pain he would go through as an openly gay man.
Davey expressed that he was already struggling, and getting it off his chest and saying “this is who I am” made him feel better.
Though he found great relief in sharing that part of him with his mother and the world, the deeply ingrained shame still followed him. At the prompting of his roommate, Davey attended a gay conversion therapy conference that claimed to help participants become “cured” of their homosexual nature.
According to a study done by the American Psychological Association, these programs have been proven to have very little success while being very damaging to the participants.
After the conference, Davey renounced his gay lifestyle and redoubled his efforts to avoid “falling” from grace with God. He moved and began attending conversion therapy and surrounded himself completely with individuals who would help him on his “walk” to becoming straight. This therapy did not change him, though. Even after three long years, it left him only feeling “disgusted with [him]self.” Davey spoke about the trauma inflicted by this type of therapy and countless nights praying in a vain attempt to “change who [he is].”
In his senior year of college, Davey began to question the therapy. Upon coming back out as a gay man, Davey was told by many of his friends that he had not tried hard enough to change, and they stopped being his friends.
His mom, however, was extremely happy that he had found happiness within himself at last.
“It took me a really long time to come back out, and it took me even longer to come out and say that I was a proud gay man,” says Davey.
Davey’s Lyon family felt overwhelming pride for his bravery in living and telling such an emotional story. Sophomore Zoe Dye thinks that sharing stories like Davey’s are important. She says, “It follows a narrative we've come to expect from being LGBTQA in the south, but that's just the point: This keeps happening, and changing that starts with us.”
“I was happy that Davey was open about who he was and glad he was able to become a proud gay man,” shared Lyon’s chaplain Rev. Margaret Alsup. “I was sad at how the church played a role in hurting him and trying to stifle who he is and was meant to be. My hope is that through conversations and events like tonight people can learn the impact of their words and actions and treat others who might differ from them with love and respect.”
David Hutchison has been announced as the new vice president for advancement at Lyon College. He will start January 10, 2019.
In his new role, Hutchison will be responsible for increasing advancement efforts, assessing the need for program and organizational adjustments, and implementing projects of improvement. This is an exciting time for the College as it institutes its goals of the four year strategic plan, which Hutchison will partner with President Joey King to accomplish.
“We are delighted to have David joining the leadership team,” said King. “We had a strong pool of advancement professionals, but David impressed us with his variety of experience, energy, and dedication to our liberal arts mission.”
As the executive director of advancement and alumni programs at Central Methodist University in Fayette, Missouri, he successfully executed a $20 million capital campaign, added $4 million to the university’s endowment, oversaw the major gifts program, and managed several alumni engagement initiatives.
Hutchison also served on the executive board for the Fayette Main Street Association, where he fundraised for economic and community development projects.
“I am extremely excited to be joining Lyon College at a time of great transformation,” said Hutchison. “I look forward to working with President King, as well as the board, faculty, and staff, and most importantly with alumni and friends of Lyon College to move forward with the College's strategic vision.”
Before his time in advancement, Hutchison was a pastor for the Central Methodist University campus. Besides leading a congregation, he oversaw collaborative programs between the church and the campus community. His time in church leadership prepared him for his roles in engagement.
“I learned that leading people to support a mission begins with developing committed, authentic relationships,” said Hutchison. “The work of college advancement is no different, and I am eager to begin developing relationships, connecting the passions of our community and alumni and friends with the mission and vision of Lyon College.”
Hutchison expects to receive his Doctor of Education in higher education leadership and policy from the Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt University this May. He also has a Master of Divinity from Saint Paul School of Theology and a Bachelor of Arts in history and religion from Central Methodist University.
“As a product of a liberal arts education at a small, private Christian college myself, I know well and am deeply invested in the kind of personalized, life-changing education that Lyon College provides,” said Hutchison. “What a gift to be a part of helping make that happen at what is both the most exciting and most important time in young people's lives.”
Earlier this month, eight students from Lyon’s Model United Nations (UN) group attended the eighth annual Arkansas Collegiate Model United Nations (ACMUN) conference at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.
Serving on four different committees, the students represented the United States, the Republic of Korea, and Cuba. They finished the day with David Lewis, '20, winning the outstanding delegate award.
Model UN conferences allow students to role play as delegates to the United Nations and simulate UN committees. Students learn about real politics for the countries they represent and practice cooperating with other nations to resolve international conflicts.
This was the group’s first time to attend the conference, and Model UN faculty advisor Dr. Jaeyun Sung was pleased with the results.
“Our students played their roles firmly even though it was their first experience,” said Sung. “They didn't hesitate to explore different perspectives and were actively engaged in negotiations. I see that they are ready to take the next step.”
According to Sung, the next step will mean more conference opportunities in the future. The team will now commit to attend the ACMUN every year and plan new tactics for the competition.
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