Archive for June, 2012

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Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Continuing with the catch up!


Soccer, or ‘football,’ is a pretty big deal here. And by that I mean it’s outrageously popular and everyone is obsessed, haha. As such, when the Eurocup started a couple weeks ago, it was a big deal. Although I’m not a big soccer fan, I do enjoy experiencing the excitement and obsession the British here have for it! Last week England played the Ukraine and so I went with a few friends to a pub to watch the game. That’s apparently what everyone does because it was PACKED! Barely room to stand, everyone was completely enraptured. I spent the first half standing in the pub and the second outside talking to some friends we had made. Even though neither team scored, England eventually pulled out the win through penalty shots! A few days later they played Italy in the quarter final and did not win. I wasn’t able to go watch that game, but I did see Spain v Portugal this past week. I personally rooted for Portugal because they were definitely the underdogs, but Spain won in the penalty shoot out as well. Tomorrow night is Spain v Italy and I’m sure I’ll go see that one as a last shot to enjoy English football obsession. =]

Exploring London

In my time here, I’ve tried to explore the city as much as possible. I went to the Tate Modern last week, which is a huuuuge contemporary art museum near South Bank. It was free, which was awesome especially since Madeleine and I didn’t even make it through the whole thing before we were too tired to continue. We are going to go back later and finish looking around for sure. 

One evening Madeleine, Alli, and I got some sushi to go and went to eat it at Hyde Park. Hyde Park is the biggest park in the city and it was really cool to just have a little picnic in the biggest city I’ve ever been in. We decided to just walk around afterwards but didn’t want to stay in the park, so we wandered the streets as it started to get dark (which is SO late here! Dusk is like 9:45/10 o clock!). We ended up in the verrry swanky part of town, amid ferrari dealerships (which are inside buildings?) and gallery openings. It was fun to be so underdressed and see how the other side lives, basically, haha. A Marc Jacobs here, a porsche dealer there, it was nuts. We also passed the Royal Academy of the Arts and they had some exhibits going so we decided we’d definitely have to come back and see it when it was open. 


Yesterday morning Madeleine and I got up and headed over to Wimbledon! It is actually pretty far away - south of London. The tube does go there, but only just, and then it’s a fifteen minute walk. We had tried earlier in the week but when we got there were told it was a four hour wait, which put us at 5 o clock. We had a 7 o clock show (Billy Elliot!) and so had to turn around and come back. But we planned for yesterday! Wimbledon has tickets you can buy for specific seats in Centre Court and Courts 1, 2, and 3. Or, you can buy a Grounds ticket for 20 pounds and grab unreserved seats in courts 4-19 when you find them, but bigger names tend to not play there. However, they have a huuuuuuge TV screen on a hill that shows big games so you can watch them there as well. When we got there, the ‘queue’ as they call it was in full force - 4 hour wait.

That picture is right near the end of our wait, and it was indeed almost four hours. But, it was also TOTALLY worth it! Once we got through security, we were at Wimbledon!!! The first thing you see is the big chart below so you can decide where to go and watch a match. We spent some time at courts 14 and 16 - we didn’t get seats but you could stand on the backside of 15 because no one was playing and see over into the other courts. We saw the Bryan brothers kicking some butt and a couple other matches. 

After a bit, we checked the schedule again and saw that Petrova was schedule to play in court 3 soon. Most of court 3 is for ticket holders only, but they have one corner than is open to grounds tickets - you just have to wait until there is an open seat. We headed over, saw the line was 30-45 minutes, and decided to stick it out. A men’s singles match was going on and people filtered in and out pretty well until the end. When a steward walked out and said it was the fifth set and they would be done, I was pretty excited. We were first in line by then! The men finished (with another upset - yeah!) and people started filing out. A lot of people. They let us in and we got some great seats! Petrova and Giorgi came out right away and they were at it! I heard that Giorgi was pretty new and people were talking about how she had made it to the 3rd round. So pretty much instantly I wanted to root for her. 

They were pretty well matched. Giorgi won the first set 6-3 and then on to the second. Petrova, then Giorgi, then Petrova won 4 in a row. So it was Petrova 5, Giorgi 1. I wasn’t feeling to hopeful, but the next thing I know Giorgi is kicking butt (and Petrova lost it a little - not doing so hot) and it’s pulled back up to a tie!! They go back and fourth, make it 6-6, into the tie breaker, and are constantly getting the upper hand and losing it. Everyone was getting really pumped and excited - if Giorgi won this set she won the game and continued on. Eventually, that is exactly what happened! It was pretty awesome. I’m excited for her to continue, but she’s next playing the 3rd seed and so I’m not getting my hopes up too high. =/

From our seats we could see the scoreboard for Centre Court. Federer and Benneteau were playing  - Federer is apparently really good, but Benneteau stole the first two sets no problem. They were in the third when our game finished, so Madeleine and I headed over to the big screen to watch the end. What we saw was basically a repeat of exactly what we had just watched with the girls! Tied in the set, vying back and forth for the lead in the tie breaker. Federer ended up winning, so then they were tied 2-2 and had to go to the last set. At that point I was beyond freezing, so I decided to go find the Wimbledon shop and buy a sweatshirt. I really wanted one anyway and didn’t want it to be closed when the game finally finished. Madeleine stayed to watch the last set. However, at the shop they only had one sweatshirt - 135 pounds. No freaking way man!! That’s over $250 and I’m so not okay with that. So instead I got myself a little pizza for dinner and started back to the screen. The next thing I know a older man in a suit holds out a piece of paper to me and says, “I’m leaving, if you want to watch the end of the match, here’s my ticket." I was so taken aback, and 95% I had heard him wrong, I just stared and said, "… what?" “Federer," he responded, “if you want to watch the last set of this game you can have my ticket, I am leaving." WWWHHHAATTT?!?!? Those tickets are 71 pounds (still cheap compared to next week) and this is a pumped up game with a famous player! I couldn’t believe it, but I’m assuming he wanted to beat the huugge crowd that would be leaving soon. I called Madeleine and told her to meet me at gateway 206 asap. She wanted to leave and beat the crowd as well, but I told her I had a free ticket and she needed to use it. She used to play tennis and has been so excited all week to come to Wimbledon, said it’s been her dream since she was 8. I didn’t know it was even going on until I got here, so I knew she should definitely be the one to watch the end of the match. They only let you get up and move in between sets so she didn’t think she’d make it. We got to the right entrance and sure enough a rope was up in front of the stairs, but all the security was standing at the top watching the game! She climbed over the rope and watched over their shoulders - just catching the last winning point of the game. Federer won! It was all so crazy and unbelievable, but a really cool opportunity. Even without the last bit, watching the whole Petrova and Giorgi match was awesome, so that was just a great bonus. I want to go back later this week if we can, so hopefully I’ll have more stories then!

Tomorrow I’m going to an Evensong service at Westminster Abbey and then watching the Eurocup final. Friday is the HP Studio Tour! Stonehenge/Bath was today, but I can’t get the pictures off the camera except at school, so I’ll have to do that Monday. I’m sure I’ll have lots more to say this week, definitely updating more regularly!

It’s Almost Time

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Bonjour! Tomorrow is the big day when I fly to Paris!  I will be taking a historic preservation course for the next month there.  I am all packed and ready to go.  I am really excited about the upcoming month, but I still can’t fully believe that it’s finally happening.  I’m sure (or at least I hope that) once I have arrived in Paris it will feel more real.

Wish me luck! (Bonne chance!)

Catch Up – what? a week is gone?

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Clearly I haven’t updated here in over a week - yikes! I severely underestimated how busy I would be here in London, and that also means I have a lotttt to talk about. I’ve been to Wales, the Tate Modern, Wimbledon, and all over London! Haha.

Class - Photographing London

In the past week, we’ve talked about a lot of different things in class. We learned about flashes, bouncing flash, and a bunch of different flash settings and got to try it out on each other with our cameras. I’ve experimented a lot with the aperture and shutter speed settings and how they affect the amount of light you get in your shots. The sky in particular can make things difficult, but it’s been really fun to play with and take 17 shots of the same thing with different settings. My first photo project I focused on the array of hair colors we have here in London. It’s far more popular and accepted, even in the workplace, to have out-of-the-box hair colors and styles. I asked several different people if I could photograph them and most were really nice about it. I really liked this project because it got me more involved in London’s culture and I learned a lot about portrait shots. My final edits of all the people I photographed are here, but I didn’t use a few of them in the project.

For my next project I had a really difficult time picking a new subject. I loved photographing people but I couldn’t find some specific I wanted to focus on. But, I had taken this picture of some stairs in a skate park the week before and really liked it, so I explored that a little this past week at the V&A. The Victoria and Albert Museum is one of many museums in London and we went in class this past Wednesday. There was a gorgeous staircase there that I spent a looonngg time taking shots of. At some point soon I’m going to walk around the Thames and take pictures of steps going into the water, as well as any others I find around the city. I only have a few more days left of that class! Crazy! Then off to Psych of City Life!


WALES! Wales was so much more fun than I expected. Wales was a weekend trip sponsored by the Social Programme here at Westminster. Even though I had to be at the bus at 7:30 in the morning, it was worth it. It was about a 3 and a half hour drive and we stopped first at Caerleon Amphitheater, an old roman amphitheater near Caephilly. It was really pretty and green and gave us the first glimpse at what Wales was - lush valleys and hills with layers of houses and dampness everywhere. And lots of rain. =] 

After the amphitheater we went to Caephilly Castle nearby. It was from the late 13th century and was just GORGEOUS. I felt like I was in Hogwarts the whole time, basically, and it was so neat to see. There are a lot of castles around Wales, especially southern Wales, but it was really neat to see one up close and be able to explore it. Plus, there was a wedding reception! We saw it set up in the big entrance hall but the bride was arriving as we left. It was pretty awesome to think that someone was having their wedding reception in a freaking castle, hahah. 

After the castle we rode along to Swansea, where we stayed for the night. It was a quaint little seaside town with a delicious tapas restaurant. =] The next morning we were up early to do a tour of a mine. Mining apparently used to be a huge thing in Wales and Great Britain as a whole, but has since become not very popular. We went in groups down into the mine and our guide talked all about how they communicated, stayed as safe as possible, and shared a lot of stories from his time in the mines. 

Lastly on our trip was a stop at Tintern Abbey. Tintern Abbey was built around 1250 by Cisterian Monks and was clearly a beautiful place to live. It’s a ruin now, but was gorgeous and I so wish more of it was left to see what it was really like to live in such a beautiful area. 

Well, it’s almost 2am here and I have a trip to Stonehenge and Bath tomorrow! I’ll continue the catch-up then and include Eurocup festivities, Wimbledon, and various Londony things. =]

To be expected

Friday, June 29th, 2012
I enrolled in the study abroad program initially with one goal in mind: to finish the second tier of the vaunted liberal arts language curriculum. Later I realized that more could be gained from this unique opportunity, experiences and intangibles that could possibly affect my development as an individual. I knew what I could gain, what was at stake, and what my expectations were. 

I expected it to be difficult.

The lack of air-conditioning or clothes dryers in the dorms took me by surprise, but didn't discourage me too much. The former was a simple test of my ability to adapt, and the latter was a test of my resourcefulness. Life in a foreign country (and dominated by the use of a foreign language) wouldn't be easy, and I knew it. Academically, the challenge was not surprising. I entered the program knowing that my knowledge of the Spanish language would be tested and developed under pressure. The placement test was understandably challenging and I don't know if I successfully tested into the class that I signed up for initially. 

I expected to encounter prejudice.

The United States of America is not a beloved world power, and its image is much-maligned abroad. People have gone so far as to hate the USA for whatever reasons they see fit, and that contempt extends to the country's citizens. I approached the trip knowing that there would be at least one incident, at least one day when I would be targeted simply because of who I am and where I am from. That day was today. It ended an otherwise enjoyable afternoon of beach soccer with a sour note. I said nothing back; I just sat there and listened on that metro ride back to Bilbao as a peasant ranted and insulted me and my friends in his native Spanish. 

I expected this.  

And I expect to live well and succeed in spite of it. 

Shanghai and Nanjing

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

I’ve been traveling for about the last week! It’s amazing how coming back to my neighborhood feels like coming home. While traveling with just a backpack feels pretty incredible, it’s also great to be back in Beijing.

Annie, Phil and I took the fast train to Shanghai on Thursday. Phil had a friend he had met while traveling in Kashgar earlier in the semester, so we met up with him. Turns out, he owns a factory that makes “rapid prototypes” for companies like Ford and GE. Who knew… so he picks us up from our hostel, drives us to this bar that overlooks the Shanghai skyline, bought us drinks, and we all hung out on the rooftop. There was a hottub up there. The view was insane:

The next day, we drove to Xintiandi, which is an upscale outdoor shopping area. I was amazed how Western it felt. It kind of felt like walking around Old Town in Alexandria…. such a strange feeling. There were upscale Western restaurants and Starbucks. It was especially strange because this is the place where the first congress of the Communist Party of China was held. There’s a crazy little museum. Apparently the first meeting was busted by the police, so it was continued later on a boat. Interesting history, very intense museum. Here’s a picture that will prevent me from ever being elected as president of the United States:

Next, we headed to Tianzifang, which is an area with a lot of small shops and galleries. The area was built around the 1930s. The district was artsy and fun to walk around on a rainy afternoon.

After that, we headed to our friend’s factory. Now I feel like I have a much better idea of what it means when something is “made in China.” The factory was small, only about twenty employees. They can make almost anything though… from a car to a soymilk machine. Basically, the companies send a design, the programer codes instructions to the machines, the prototype is produced. If the parts are complex enough, they are assembled elsewhere. It was so interesting to hear Xiaoyi talk about how he grew his business. When he first bought it, it was failing.  He started procuring business through cold calls, cultivating relationships, and gradually built a network through positive relationships with different companies.

Here are my Shanghai pictures.

The next day we took a bus out to Hangzhou. IT WAS SO BEAUTIFUL! There were moments during the day that I was just in awe. We went to West Lake and then to Longjing tea fields. It made me really happy that green tea actually comes from such a gorgeous place. Earlier in the semester, I asked my Chinese friends where I should buy good tea, and they told me “Hangzhou.” I kind of meant more like which store in Beijing, and not a city five hours away, but now I get it! We got some dinner (and drank tea of course) and inadvertently ordered an entire chicken (head, feet, and all). Yum.

More Hangzhou pictures here.

The next day, we did Zhouzhuang, otherwise know as “the Venice of the East,” which at first made me a little skeptical…don’t get me wrong, it was gorgeous, but not particularly anything like Venice! (How insane is it that I’ve been to both places within 6 months?) We took a gondola ride and wandered around the alleys all day.

Then we got on another 高铁 (fast train) to Nanjing. After missing our first train by a few minutes (oops) and doing the classic running through the train station, we wandered until we found our hostel.

We went to the Presidential Palace that afternoon, which has a ton of history from Sun Yat-sen to Chiang Kai-shek. The next morning we went to the Nanjing Massacre Museum, which was incredibly sobering. 30,000 people were killed in about a two week period when Japan invaded in 1937. I felt like I have a little bit of a better sense of the complicated relationship between Japan and China, and the impact of the invasion on the city.

Next, we headed to Purple Mountain to hike up to Sun Yat-sen’s mausoleum (we had kind of a morbid day). Sun Yat-sen is considered to be the father of China, similar to how we view George Washington. The view was stunning.

Before we left, we headed to Xuanwu lake to see even more beautiful scenery (if that’s possible).

Here are all my pictures from Nanjing.

Such a great trip.

Next up is Taipei! I’ll be leaving on Monday to see Debby.


Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

This week we’re playing a review game in class, so whenever I walk down the halls in the second grade building I get students yelling at me “TEACHER! Come into our class!” which is sweet and all, but I try not to let it get to my head, seeing as they’re doing it because they know it’s a game day. On a normal day, it’s nothing like that.

Today as I walked down the hall 2.2 students (girls, by the way. 16 year old girls) pressed their faces up to the window and started yelling at me.

Emily Teacher! Today you are most beautiful!

Ah! Your dress! It is very blue!

Your face is so white and shiney!


Your stockings are so schexy!

… my hair is like baby. I can’t even…

Arrival in Bilbao

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
We left Madrid and took a long bus ride up to Bilbao today. Spain is a beautiful country from an air-conditioned perch in a travel bus, and I look forward to exploring my surroundings in Bilbao. 

I managed to fry my alarm clock when I plugged it in, forgetting the voltage differences in Europe. My laptop charger cable seems to be holding up, although the power converter on the cord is getting hot. I'll make a point not to use it for extended periods of time. The last thing I need is to be without my laptop in a foreign country. Another note: I need a new alarm clock. 

I'm getting better at Spanish just by hearing it. I'm not sure where I'll end up on the placement test in about 10 hours, but either way I'm committed to enjoying myself here in Spain. 

The final countdown!

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Hey there!!! Hope you're all getting ready for the weekend :) I know that I am looking forward to my last weekend in Paris. <3
I got back into Paris from Zaragoza last night at around 7 pm and while I enjoyed my trip I was so exhausted that I practically face planted onto my bed and called it a night. Re-energized, I got up early to start the process of packing up my Paris life. As I took down my two empty yet, hefty suitcases from the top of my wardrobe, flashbacks of me first packing in the days leading to my departure for Paris set in. I honestly can't believe it will be exactly half a year that I have been abroad.
So what do I have planned for my last days in Paris besides of course packing and cleaning? Well I will be joining my good friends Michelle and Gaby in enjoying the last delights of Paris, joining in on all the festivities of the Pride Parade in Paris this Saturday, and hopefully meeting up with some of UMW students that will have just arrived in Paris the day before I leave. It's weird to think that just as my adventure ends theirs will just be beginning. They will be here for just 1 month and I wish them the best of luck! :)
Since it has been a while I will back track to the week before I left for Zaragoza.
The goodbyes are in full swing in Paris and it seems like every other day I'm going to a get together to say goodbye to another Paris friend and wish them a bon voyage. 
On my way to an evening picnic by the Tour Eiffel last week I caught sight of this...

Not a bad place to watch the Euro Cup games ;)
That weekend I made sure to visit le Musée des Arts décoratifs to check out this Louis Vuitton & Marc Jacobs exhibit that was nearing its final days. I'm glad I finally got myself there because it was amazing!! Below are some of the pics I snapped when the museum officials were not looking...

I wish I would have snapped more pics because these pictures do not do the exhibit justice. Definitely worth seeing for those of you in Paris. 
I also visited Musée d'Orsay for the last time...

and checked out some of the art work at le Musée d''Art Moderne de la ville de Paris...

The next days were spent strolling the city with Michelle. Paris is the perfect city for taking long strolls because it is such a scenic city. 

Lady Liberty's finger 

love this little find!
will miss this bridge -- always love seeing the brides getting their pics snapped here 

le petit palais 
le grand palais
return to le cimetière du Père-Lachaise to see Edith Piaf's grave 

at Pont des arts 

The morning of the day I left for Zaragoza I stoppped at Societe General to close my bank account, handed over my card, and walked away 60 euros richer! haha! Ok, it's not a fortune but it's a nice gift from the french government. ;p 
I arrived in Zaragoza the evening of the 21st and met my friend Terrence at the Zaragoza airport. I had been looking forward to this trip because 1) I would get to see an old friend again and 2) I was looking forward to just relaxing and not feeling any sort of pressure to sightsee. Don't get me wrong, I love sightseeing, but I just wanted to spend the next five days relaxing, hanging out, and seeing whatever sights there are to see in Zaragoza at my leisure – and Zaragoza was the perfect city for that. It was not too big and not too small.
From the airport Terrence and I took the bus to the city center. Zaragoza is a small enough city that you can get around the city just fine on foot, by tram, or by bus. There is no metro as it’s not big enough. As we walked through the city sometimes Terrence would come across people he knew and this was surprising to me since, in Paris you almost never run into someone you know since, the city is just so big. It’s kind of nice seeing people be so familiar with each other. 
Most of our time in Zaragoza was spent catching up, hanging out, sun bathing, and going for lots of walks around the city. I was invited to a family reunion Terrrence's family was having and it was quite the multi-cultural affair. There were Spaniards, French, and Americans all attendance to wish Terrence's grandfather a happy birthday. It was very sweet and the family was so nice and welcoming! Before I left we also made time for a hike through Juslibol to take in the view of the city and just relax. It was so nice. There was absolutely no one around and it just felt great to be outdoors. Below are some pictures for you...

some Roman ruins 


and my favorite picture...

Terrence in a heart
Haha! We actually found those rocks that way! 
Well I've got to go meet a friend but I hope to get in one more post from Paris before I head home. 
All the best wishes for a spectacular weekend!!! :) 

Em in Asia! 2012-06-26 22:45:38

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Today as I was demonstrating to my first grade girls how we play “Rock, Paper, Scissors” in America, I punched myself in the face.

You can’t keep them all… but at least you can keep some of them

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

The hardest part of my job, harder than classroom management, lesson planning, or editing, is saying goodbye. I only teach first and second grade, so that means that when students become third years, I lose them. Not only do I not teach them anymore, but I don’t haev many chance to talk to them, because they’re so busy and they rarely leave their homerooms.

One of my favorite students last year was a third grade boy. Other than during the D-county English Competition I rarely talked to him one-on-one, but he has a thousand kilowatt smile. I know that the usual saying is a thousand watt smile but you’ve never seen this kid. When he smiles, his mouth become wide and his eyes light up, and you can’t help but grin too.

When I started this semester, as I was halfway through my introduction lesson I was surprised to see almost the same exact smile peering out from one of my new first grade classes. I think I actually stopped talking mid-sentence and stared, before catching myself and continuing. It turns out, thousand kilowatts has a younger brother, who looks nothing like him except for when he smiles. In fact, when I asked this first grader if he had a brother at CPHS, he was surprised that I recognized that they were related. The similarities end with the smile.

My third grade student is sweet, super sweet. Even when he was doing other work in my class and not paying attention (which was rare), when I caught him he’d look up with a big old apologetic smile, close his book, and continue to beam in my general direction. He recently came up to me, shoved a note at me which stated “I cannot speak English well, but I want to become better. Maybe we can practice after the 수능 (entrance exam)?” I told him of course, and asked him when. “Is everyday okay?” Of course, kid, everyday.

His brother, on the other hand, is snarky, cocky, speaks English really well and knows it. He’s the kind of kid that doesn’t walk, he saunters. Instead of bowing when he sees me in the halls, he does a half wave with his hand and an upwards head nod. He’s always talking to people during my class. Self-confidence just exudes from his pores.

Maybe his brother was like that, as a first year. I’ve only taught him as a second-semester second grade student, and any high school teacher who works at a Korean school will tell you that there’s a huge change in students’ attitudes between first and second grade (it’s part of the reason why I like second grade better, as a general rule). I somehow doubt it. This first grader is just saucy, and though his smile is a bit dimmer, (probably a result of being a thousand kilowatt 동생) and has a bit of a bite to it, I can’t help but love him.