Monday, January 31, 2011

Learning Journal 9

On Friday night I went to a celebration of the Chinese New Year. A friend in my ward served her mission there and invited a group to go and enjoy the food and program. Hosted in the WILK ballroom, I was surprised to walk past the partitions at the entrance and immediately go from being part of the majority to a minority. The room was filled with a quiet rumble of Chinese conversations many of whom were joined by returned missionaries and Asian students. It was fun to be back in a situation where I didn't understand what was going on and someone had to translate for me so that I could follow the program and know why we were clapping.

The food was not the Chinese food I expected, but I realized how bad I am at eating rice with chopsticks. The aspect of the event that I found most interesting was the program. Unlike what I thought would be a stereotypical Chinese performance, the dancers weren't very good. I have an image that Asians excel at most everything they do and work hard at it. But these performers were uncoordinated and seemed like they were practicing rather than entertaining. A few guys danced with Chinese fans, which in my mind would normally be connected with women. But I soon realized that this wasn't my culture and my judgments were based on my expectations of what Chinese culture should be. It was a good reminder of the need to be aware of where stereotypes become the basis for judgment.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Learning Journal 8

In the section we read of Agar's book Culture Blends, I thought one comment which was also mentioned in class was particularly interesting. He wrote: "Culture has to do with who you are." What interests me about this is that this definition encompasses what and how you think as well as what you perceive. Perceptions of what is socially acceptable and normal vary greatly around the world on some aspects. Yet with time and exposure to a new culture even those drastic differences seem less unique because the perspective has changed.
As I thought about culture and the perspective that gives us in life, I wondered what possible unconscious decisions I was making about landscaping in Tonga. Most of my ideas and thoughts come from the western society I am a part of which values maintained landscapes. Although I have been fortunate to experience several other cultures in my life for long periods of time, I still carry my cultural American biases. It is interesting that most of my college education has expounded on those societal norms of the function and appeal of designed outdoor spaces. We have TV shows about yard makeovers and curb appeal, but for most nations around the world less importance is placed on luxury and appearance. In many cases its expected that neighbors will maintain their yard to keep in line with a community's standards. I don't know how important order is in a rural Tongan neighborhood. It appears the houses are pretty basic, but each home has arable space around it whether its just left to grow wild or some type of garden is implemented.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Learning Journal 7

The more I'm researching the more fascinating it is to see there is research concerning landscape development in third world countries going on. While it only seems to be a sliver, I've come across several great resources that explores the human relationship with a landscape. Looking at my project with that perspective makes it seem just a bit more feasible. In researching its been daunting to try and find some evidence of landscaping in Polynesia, but as I initially anticipated, there is next to nothing. While that may seem depressing, it helped me realize that my project can deal with coming to understand what the Tongan interaction is with landscapes. As the creative aspect of it, I can allocate some portion of my research to drawing simple designs either for public areas, homes, and whatever other interactions I may discover.
According to the article by Swanwick, few attitudes or perceptions on landscape and nature are applicable when applied across large areas. Culture, economics, population density and other factors all influence a particular group's opinion on landscape. I've realized that plants are used for many medicinal, food, and practical uses such as art and clothing. But understanding how Tongans interact with the rain forest, crops, and landscapes in general will lead to interesting observations. I feel like I'm expected to have my project better defined already with the bibliography assignments, but they've helped me further understand what I can actually study in a third world country.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Learning Journal 6

In looking for four additional sources this week for the annotated bibliography, I was excited to come across some applicable books and articles. The frustrating thing is finding an article, and then not being able to view it because I don't have authorization to view it. But after a few more hours of searching I was able to come up with several sources.
The Journal of Landscape Architects from the Philippines had several applicable articles from the issue I saw, but I need to go back to the website and find a few more. I haven't had time to really read through many of the articles because I've only been searching and reading abstracts. The journal is called Muhon and being in a third world country, with limited resources, and an emphasis on improving the quality of life, there is a potential for several other great resources in the journal.
Here are a few other leads for researching.
Discussion on Rural Landscape and Rural Landscape Planning in China
Use of tropical plants in Hawaii in landscape architecture

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Learning Journal 5

I was excited this weekend to begin searching through other library resources after the big group class on Friday. Since horticulture and landscape management aren't large programs at BYU, their representation is a reflection of that. However by looking through other libraries from the HBLL website, I got on to Utah State's library and found a few other journal publications and books. I couldn't access most of them, but I did find some of them through BYU once I had a specific title.
One of those sources is where I got my information for one of the literature reviews. I was amazed because after a few weeks of searching, I finally came across something that was actual research done in the Vava'u Island group. Although the results and scope of the project don't really correlate with mine, there are bits of it that I found helpful. The main benefit is that there is a table listing plants by type, genus, species, and Tongan name. That gives me at least some names of plants to look up and research. Other than that, the journal article dealt mostly with plant succession in ecology. The author cited dozens of sources that deal mostly with other research that's been done in other Pacific Island groups. I'm going to look through some more of those citations and see if I can find some more applicable articles.
Its kind of a challenge to find applicable sources since my project on practical landscape development is kind of usual for a nation in poverty. I think I need to brainstorm some different search words that might yield more pertinent sources.

Link to the Journal article:

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Learning Journal 4

According to the 2006 Tongan census, 72% of the population owned their dwelling, 4% rented, and 23% resided in their dwelling rent free. I'm not entirely sure how 23% don't pay rent for their dwelling or own it. It might have something to do with the close knit familial relations that exist, where owners weren't charging rent to family. I'll have to look further into that one because that could be an interesting hindrance to landscape development. I was surprised to see that 72% owned their dwelling. It came as a surprise mostly because I had heard that few people actually owned the land they lived on. I don't know whether the fact that they own their dwelling implies they own the land as well, but it would make sense that they would. I still need to dig further and see how land is distributed and who is in charge of its development. I've heard different ideas about the nobles sectioning off the land for the people but I haven't found a concrete source about that yet. It also could be different with a new government underway although it doesn't seem like change occurs quickly in Tonga.
In Vava'u there is a total of 2,871 households, with a population density of 128/km2. Vava'u covers 121 km2. The population of Vava'u is about 15,000. An interesting fact on the census is that 2148 people work in agriculture or fisheries. While they deal primarily with crops, that means there are people aware of plant care to some degree.
I spent a long time just trying to find any kind of document on Tonga and this is the one I found but haven't had a chance to read all of it yet. The topic covered in the document is an urban development in Nuku'alofa. One notable quote that gave me hope was: "The Government acknowledges that for sustained growth, health, education, water and sanitation, physical infrastructure, and the environment have to be improved." Landscape development is an integral part of infrastructure and environment. Especially in the capital city with the destructive riots a few years ago, several Tongans have told me there is quite a lot of development going on. Also another line from this group's analysis was: "The settlements in low-lying locations unsuited for housing result from the urban drift from outer islands." The urban drift referred to is the move many people are making to the city for better living and money. An effort to improve settlements in outer islands could dramatically help, which is exciting because I finally feel like my potential project might be of use to more than just me.

Learning Journal 3

In my research I've solidified the initial conclusion I made that little is done in the way of landscaping in Tonga. Yet I vegetation is plentiful and in pictures, many Tongan homes maintain some amount of plant life whether it be for food, aesthetics or just because it was there. I've been thinking that it would be interesting to explore what are the contributing factors that limit landscaping around homes, and even in more public places. This kind of topic would explore more of an urban planning approach. But I think that identifying obstacles a developing country faces in creating some type of infrastructure. In terms of homes, it seems that most people are hindered in developing their own plots of land because 1) many people don't own they land 2) 24% of the people are below the poverty line and 3) people are closer to the natural landscape. Also plants are used for a variety of reasons, but it seems that their potential as ornamentals is often overlooked. These are just a few of the initial things I thought about and found online.
According to the CIA world fact book 25% of the population lives in an urban setting, with a 1.6% annual change. With increased urbanization, there is often an increase in public areas used as parks and plazas. This often comes as a result because a population becomes more removed from nature, and such areas attempt to fill in the gap. In Vava'u I have found a few potential resources to better understand the landscape there. The botanical gardens are owned by the minister of agriculture and food. There is contact information for the gardens and I'll send an email to them pretty soon.

Learning Journal 2

I've been thinking about the reading and what it means to be either an observer or participant in field research. It is an interesting distinction because the effect you could have on your research may come, in large part, as a result of how you approach the information gathering stage. Reflecting on which method is better, it seems a combination of the two would yield the greatest results in most situations. Observation would allow me to view things as they appear with little to no interference on my part. I could observe what landscapes do exist, what areas around a home are used for, and further develop a plan from that point. With direct participation, I think that would include interviews with those who have landscapes, those who don't, and how public areas might be maintained. By participating it is strange to see, as the author pointed out, that some sense of objectivity should be maintained. A field study means interacting with the people of a new culture, but developing the emic or etic perspective also has its benefits. In terms of analyzing Tongan use of edible and ornamental plantings, there is little to deal with in terms of ethics. But I can see that it is good to be aware of cultural understandings so as to enhance my own understanding.

Learning Journal 1

My mind keeps running into a roadblock for this first journal entry because there are so many questions to answer and its difficult to focus on just one. But even though my thoughts are scattered, they're related because they are attempting to answer the same topic: what direction to take my research and the project. I realize landscape architecture is limited, and maybe nonexistent, in most developing countries. That means there is likely little to go off of in Tonga, leaving a blank canvas my creative little mind can try to fill. I know that I want to study plants (both ornamental and edible), design (likely based off traditional art), and Tongan culture (what is considered aesthetic and how do plants fit into that). Somehow those three vague interests might make a viable project.
Here are a few brainstorming ideas.
  • How traditional artwork is reflected in landscape design
  • How plants are viewed in Tongan culture and to what extent are they appreciated
  • Use of public spaces and efforts to landscape
  • Develop of sense of what a Tongan garden would entail (like a Japanese, French, or English garden)
  • Gardening practices
  • Tongan relationship with plants

Friday, January 7, 2011

I'm not a tourist...I live here.

So as a kid I inherited an awesome t-shirt from my dad. It was yellow and had red writing with the words "I'm not a tourist, I live here." It seemed fitting because my family moved around a lot and even though I was obviously a foreigner, the shirt helped me point out that I would be around for a lot longer than a tourist's vacation. That's where the inspiration for the blog title came from; and the was way better than the ones I found of actual t-shirts with the same words.