Yann-Ru Ho	何彥如

Yann-Ru Ho 何彥如

Yann-Ru Ho is a Taiwanese graduate student majoring in education and is currently studying at the University of California, Los Angeles. She arrived in LA in September, and this is her seventh month in the United States. She is enjoying the warm LA weather while learning more about the neighboring communities by exploring the city. 


Tuesday, 17 May 2016 11:50

Afternoon at The Getty

Friday, 11 September 2015 14:17


     It was a sunny afternoon when I visited the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. I took a bus to the foot of the hill where it is situated, and then I lined up for the tram to take me up the hill. The Getty is a museum that was transformed into a public gallery; before, it was part of a private collection of Mr. J. Paul Getty.

     The tram that took me uphill was very interesting and environmentally friendly. It used no gas or any other external energy: it used physics that worked a pulley system that had two cars. As one car goes down the hill, its gravitational acceleration pulls the other one uphill. It was a very quiet tram ride except for the soft but clear words of welcome transmitted through the speaker. As the car ascended, LA became smaller and smaller.

     When the tram reached the top, I got off on one side, and passengers who were going downhill got on from the other side. It was a very efficient and non-crowded way of arranging the visitors. I felt like I was beginning to feel the effective management and friendly atmosphere of the Getty. What greeted guests after the tram ride was a very large and strange modern art sculpture. It looked like half a wind sail made from strips of metal; it did not look like any object that I had ever seen in real life.

     As I pondered over what that thing was exactly, I followed the crowd up a flight of stone stairs to the entrance of the museum. The entrance had a very unique modern style, and there were visitor-friendly resources. Admission was free, and there were free brochures of museum layout, maps of exhibitions and galleries, free audio tours, and free live tours. I took one map, which had many language choices, and I also checked out a pair of headphones so that I could listen to the audio tour in the galleries. There were many different galleries and various exhibitions; I was interested in the 19th century artworks, so I decided to first visit the gallery that had Impressionist artwork.

     I left where the reception building was and went into the courtyard, which was surrounded by the exhibition halls. The courtyard had trees, squares of grassland, tables and chairs, and one fountain that was unfortunately dry due to the observance of water saving initiatives in LA. Also, to the side of one exhibition hall, there was grassy land and a beautiful garden downhill.

     I walked towards the building where the Impressionist exhibition was located. I later found out that most pieces in the exhibition were part of the private collection of the previous owner and was later turned into a foundation for promoting arts that allowed public viewing of all these wonderful pieces. I pushed past the glass door and went into see the Impressionist artworks. The format of the exhibition truly surprised me. Usually in a museum, there are many security guards and glass panes that protect the art, or many red lines that hinder visitors from approaching too close. Yet, at the Getty, it was not done. At the Getty, the exhibition rooms reminded me of living rooms. There were sofas and comfortable chairs for visitors to relax in a comfortable position. There were no metal bars or red lines that blocked visitors from looking closely at the artwork. However, there were still several security guards, and whenever the visitors pressed too close, they would intervene, quietly reminding them to view the works at an appropriate distance.

     I was fortunate enough to see the works of Degas, Van Gogh, and Gauguin. After I enjoyed the works of the Impressionists, I went into the rooms for 17th and 18th century artwork, which were also very beautiful and wonderful. Also, I was happy to get a chance to see some Cubist works, which were more Modernist types. I even found out that the previous owner collected sketches of the artworks. Looking at the sketches allowed me to glimpse and probe into the painting and art-making process that I was not familiar with before.

     The museum had these free and friendly exhibition layouts; thus, I had a very enjoyable afternoon as I sat on the sofas listening to the introductions and looking at the various pieces. I then walked outside to catch a breath of fresh air. I found myself strolling towards the garden. It did not have clear pathways, but instead had winding and twisted walkways. As I walked along this pathway, it took me to places in the garden where I did not think to look. When I got to the middle of the garden, I saw a pond with decorative bushes planted right from the earthy floor of the pond and grew out of the water. Upon closer inspection, I discovered it was a maze. I spent quite a long time enjoying the creative horticulture and trying to figure out the maze. Next to the garden was a grassy hillside where people could sit and picnic. Many families took children here; this is indeed a child-friendly museum. I also noticed that there were many short term exhibitions of photography and other artwork in the different galleries.

     The Getty also boasted several trees that changed colors in the fall season; this is a rare scene in LA, where the flora is usually all green year round. From the museum buildings’ balconies, I looked down and saw the panoramic views of LA city. The rush and traffic jams seemed so far and so distant from the hill.

     I also noticed that the floor and tiles of the museum were very unique. There were smaller tiles and larger tiles. I could not figure out what kind of pattern they were making. As I looked around, trying to figure it out, I received an astonishing yet brilliant answer. A person told me to look at the tile size for the smaller and larger tiles and told me to observe where the smaller tile appeared and where the larger tiles appeared. I noticed that the smaller tiles were mostly near the doors and entrances to the tram and that the courtyard had larger tiles. It turns out that the designs were very deliberate and that they used the design to indicate where the crowds would be. Smaller tiles indicate a crowded feeling and to remind visitors that this was a place where more people would be walking around. The larger tiles were in places that were more empty and spacious. This was a brilliant design. There were no signs explaining it either. They used art and sizes and shapes to indicate meaning and communicate with visitors. This design indeed did manifest the spirit of this museum: a visitor-friendly, non-intrusive, and non-totalitarian art space where people could relax and truly equally enjoy art.

     As I took the tram downhill and ended this journey, I realized that this was indeed a museum that shared art and was based on artistic ideals of not only aesthetics but equality. This was not a museum of expensive, show-off artwork that was guarded jealously by guards and staff. It was a museum that truly appreciated the communicative effectiveness of the art and thus allowed the public to access all the artwork.


     When I first arrived here in the United States to pursue graduate studies, I not only noticed the language difference, but also the unfamiliar conversation conventions. I realized that many conversations here operate according to a different communication style than what I was used to back home. Here in LA, I have found that many people greet others warmly and openly, even strangers. Since my arrival here, I have been greeted by cashiers, sales clerks, and bus drivers; even pedestrians on the streets usually greet me with a smile. This happens less often back home.


     During the many opportunities I have had to chat with Americans in the United States, I have observed some interesting features of conversations. For instance, not only do people greet each other, many also cordially share their opinions and information about themselves in lengthy dialogues with strangers. This openness and frankness is helpful, since it gives me more opportunities to hear what Americans have to say. From such conversations, I have been able to learn about American culture in terms of interpersonal communication. To illustrate, I will recount below some interactions I have had here with new friends.


Name Introductions

Here, on the streets in LA and on campus, I am often greeted and asked: What is your name? Though I chose an English name back home and had prepared myself to use it, I still instinctively answer with my Mandarin name. Then, the question that follows is usually: How do you pronounce your name? I then engage in a process of sharing the meaning and the pronunciation of my name.


These exchanges of names are unique experiences for me. I am blessed to have a chance to really reflect upon and reexamine my own name, which I had long reduced in my mind to merely a set of sounds for people to identify me with. I explain to American friends that the “Yann” syllable in my name means “scholar,” which reflects my parents’ encouragement for me to strive to become a knowledgeable person. I am also fortunate to meet new friends who are genuinely interested in me and are concerned enough to want to get to know my name, its correct pronunciation, and its meaning. I also learned to respect others by paying attention to others’ names and pronouncing them correctly.


I also have fun memories of American friends asking me to pick a Mandarin name for them. Their preference for certain words in names helped me to get to know them better and also probed into some aspects of the naming culture here. For example, not all names here, I have learned, are English. Moreover, I have learned more about how names divide into male and female conventions not only in English but also in other languages. American names, like American society, consists of a variety of forms deriving from diverse cultures.


Furthermore, I learned that when choosing names in the United States, some parents name children after a relative or grandparent in the family. My friend’s middle name is the same as his great-great grandfather’s; he was named after a beloved relative. I explained to my friend how it is customary in Chinese to avoid naming children after people in the family in order to show love and deference. We marveled at the seeming opposing cultural naming norms but also contemplated how both customs seem to converge at the point of placing importance on names of loved ones. Again this is a chance for me to reflect upon customs which I took for granted, both shedding new light on cultural norms I follow at home while opening my eyes to cultural norms I am newly acquiring here.


Mingling at Social Functions

In the United States, often on the university campuses, there are many social gatherings and events. Such events, I find, are a great opportunity to meet new friends. Many of these social activities are not arranged formal seated dinners, but are informal gatherings that allow ample room for people to walk around and chat with others. I have also found out that people usually do not stay within their little circle of old friends at these social functions; instead, they attempt to reach out and approach new people. This activity, I learned, is known as “mingling.”


Sometimes people directly approach others, introduce themselves, and start engaging in conversations. Other times, asking friends to introduce other friends becomes a great way to get to know more people. I notice that the settings of these events facilitate the initiations of conversations: there is usually a large space with refreshments and drinks on the side so that people have room to move around and mingle with others.


It is also customary to invite others to join in conversations. I remember the first time I was at an orientation event and felt shy, clutching my beverage and snacks to cover my uneasiness. I remember standing within eyesight of a group of people chatting, wanting to join the conversation but not knowing how to begin. At the height of my awkwardness, the group of people turned to me and smiled, inviting me to join them in conversation. It turned out to be a great conversation and I made new friends on that day. Now, at social functions, I also invite others to join me in conversation because I remember how this gesture made a difference for me at the first party.


There are also activities at these functions, especially in less formal events, that are aimed at getting people to make new friends. For example, the Halloween party included a costume voting contest. During the voting process, party participants could give stickers to people whom they believe wore the best costumes. This was an opportunity to meet new friends, because chatting about costumes could be a conversation opener. These events have been very helpful for me in making new friends and learning a bit more about American communication culture. 


Importance of Discussion

Conversations and communications are not only important at social functions, they are also a crucial part of American classroom culture. The courses I attended usually employ a discussion format and involve direct communication between all the participants. In the classrooms, silence is not common. Hands frequently shoot up and diverse questions follow. During the group discussion time, there is never a lull in the conversation. People will grasp at chances to share their opinions and they also expect to hear others’ opinions. People come into the classroom without a predetermined assumption that there is only one right answer or only one set of opinions; they want to hear diverse viewpoints.


For me, it was difficult at first to keep up with the tempo of the discussion and interactions in the classroom. Initially I relied on teachers and classmates to ask for my opinion and allot time for me to speak up. I have since gradually learned to speak and find time for sharing my opinions. I realized that here, people probably do not know when precisely I have something to share and will not put me on the spot unless I actively speak out. I now know that it is better to join in conversations or discussions instead of waiting many rounds. Otherwise, it will be difficult to refer back to a previous topic when the conversation has already moved on. Most importantly, I learned that it is acceptable to share feelings and giving genuine feedback to what others have shared.


Furthermore, I am impressed at the openness and genuine communications of my teachers and classmates who honestly share how they evaluate others’ opinions and work. Through this I also learned that it is essential to give appropriate credit and acknowledgement to work and opinions that others have shared. I feel that this supportive atmosphere encourages discussions. I have heard more than once that it is essential for people here to create a safe environment for all the participants to share their opinions and standpoints. I am grateful for this friendly environment that encourages me to speak up and learn to express myself more in English.


The three themes and related stories are manifestations of some aspects of American culture that I have been able to experience. I acknowledge that there are variations within in American culture and I understand that these three aspects of American culture are far from encompassing everything of which American culture consists. They are one part of the wide spectrum of the diverse cultures the United States has come to embrace. This diversity comes perhaps partly from the communications and sharing of opinions and cultures that enrich society. Listening to how others understand and interpret the materials and topics helped me learn more about their diverse backgrounds. It is a great opportunity for me, as a recently-arrived international student, to meet new people and to learn about other people’s ideas and opinions. Most importantly, I learned that I should not only listen and get to know others, but could also speak up and let others get to know me to better achieve the goal of cultural exchange. 



This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. is a Taiwanese graduate student majoring in education and is currently studying at UCLA. She arrived in LA in September and this is her fourth month here. She is enjoying the warm LA weather here while learning more about the neighboring communities by exploring the city.  


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