Archive for September, 2012

September 30, 2012

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Poverty- the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions (Merriam-Webster dictionary).

This definition doesn’t even begin to describe the amount of poverty that is in Egoli. Egoli is an informal settlement about half an hour away from my apartment. Ironically enough “Egoli” means “place of gold” in Zulu, there is certainly no gold to be found in Egoli. Those living in the settlement have made houses of whatever materials they can find. The houses are jammed together. There is no plumbing or electricity, one or two of the houses have generators. The people living here don’t own the land so they are at the mercy of the landowners. Due to the fact that they don’t have ownership the landowners do whatever they can to cut the costs, which means that they do not arrange for the trash to be collected from the settlement. Trash heaps cover the streets of Egoli causing massive sanitation problems. I spent my morning in Egoli playing with the kids. I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with some people from my program and we handed them out to the kids. In spite of the abject poverty that these kids have to face every day they were full of smiles and laughs. They taught me the games that they like to play, most of them consisting of dancing.

Egoli is where I am doing my service learning project. Today we visited to do a basic needs assessment of the area and decide how best to go about serving the community. There is a small community center that we are going to work to refurbish and make it more inviting for the kids to spend their time there instead of getting involved with the wrong crowd. We are going to set up soccer and rugby camps and a daycare for the younger kids. These are just a few of the ideas that we have come up with so far. Our main focus is to help these families but doing it in a way that gets them involved, giving them a sense of pride and ownership.

Although these families live with basically nothing they have the sweetest dispositions. They welcomed us into their community with open arms and warm smiles. The kids had great manners, asking for things using “please “and “thank you.” The human spirit is amazing, that those that have so little can be so happy. I was fortunate enough to spend my morning with them and as I reflect on my time there I guess in a sense there is gold in Egoli. It certainly isn’t real gold but metaphorically those that I encountered today are golden. They have nothing yet they give so much, they have become determined to rise above their financial situations and keep a positive outlook on life. Golden.

Five Things I Learned in my Tower Tour of Bath Abbey

Saturday, September 29th, 2012
  1. The Bath Abbey originally held eight bells since the 1700s, but currently holds ten, two being added in 1774. Unique to only a few churches, the bells are hung counter-clockwise, in descending scale.
  2. It used to be someone’s job to keep a gas lantern lit 24 hours a day behind the clockface to keep it lit. Sounds like a lame job. It’s also one of the only Abbey clocks to face north. This is because it’s paid for by the citizens of the city, and north is where the town square is and most useful to the citizens of Bath.
  3. There are 212 stairs to get to the bell tower of the abbey — and we climbed all 212 of them! Not to mention that the stairs are steep, spiral, and dark. I can’t imagine having to climb them with a lantern in hand. But it was well worth it, because this is just one of the beautiful views we got of Bath!
  4. Here’s our tour guide! She was very lively and clearly enjoyed her job, but couldn’t help but give us sneezing/coughing/sniffling students dirty looks during her tour… whoops! This is in the bell tower itself where we got to hear them ring at half past noon. We learned that the bells all have inscriptions on them and one you can see in the back is the heaviest one of all and its says: ’All you of Bathe that hear me sound Thank Lady Hopton’s hundred pound.’ Well, after Lady Hopton died… it was discovered she’d actually only donated five pounds!
  5. There’s even a hole in the oldest part of the abbey where you can look down into the church itself!

 

And here’s some bonus pictures of me, Laura, and Eliza on top of the Abbey at the end of our tower tour. Hope you enjoyed reading my mini tower tour!

Sometimes I think sittin on trains…

Friday, September 28th, 2012

I’m currently on a train slowly meandering through the Korean countryside. Korea has three different train types of various speeds and prices and I’m on the slowest and cheapest.

As I’m coming from Jeollanamdo, it takes forever to get anywhere no matter which train I take, so as long as I’m not in too big of a hurry I might as well take the slow train. I rather like this train as unlike the KTX (Korea’s high speed rail system) it stops at almost all of the stops and so you get to see these tiny platforms next to shacks so small that it’d be misleading to call them train stations and you can try to imagine what it would be like to live there, surrounded by crops bisected by a single train line, just waiting for something to happen. Sometimes even the slow train doesn’t stop at certain stops, making me wonder if it’s a real stop or the remnants of a ghost town.

It’s 추석 (Chuseok) and I’m sitting on the train to Seoul. Gwangju, the stop where I got on, is the first stop, and Yongsan station in Seoul is the final station, so I am riding this train as far as I possibly could. It’s always interesting seeing who’s on the train. Chuseok is one of two major family holidays, so we have soldiers and students, couples and the elderly, and the occasional foreigner. So far I’ve already had three seat partners, and I still have two hours left. The girl next to me just offered me candy, and I’m now going to sit back and enjoy the rest of this train ride.

(Rainy) Skyline Walk

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

ASE took us on an hour walk of the Bath Skyline Walk. It was only part of the whole trail, which is six miles, and it involved a beautiful overlook of Bath, as well as some lovely forests, farms (we met a horse!), and we stopped by a lovely old church — nice this time to see a small one instead of a huge cathedral.

 

In Meknes and Moulay Ismail University

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

We finally arrived in Meknes and got the keys to our apartments. My apartment is known as “Azhar” who I believe used to be a king…. but regardless, the apartment was definitely an upgrade from the dorms back home. The apartment consisted of three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and two showers. There was no a/c but the breeze throughout the day helped make the place nice and cool; the apartment also had a kitchen with a fridge stocked with food. On top of all of the excellent accommodations was that we had A MAID!!! The maid comes to our apartment everyday (except Sunday) to cook and clean. I was really shocked when I first heard that we had a maid and it’s a really nice to have.

Classes started on that Thursday with Arabic at eleven. I realized that the scheduling would be a bit of a problem considering each class goes for about three hours and having a three hour session right after another really drains the brain. But, overall the classes I’m taking are very enjoyable and educational. I have Arabic four times a week, which I think will help me a lot with my overall Arabic skills, two political science classes in the Geostrategic Importance of Morocco and Islamic Society and Politics, and French. I decided to take French due to the amount of French that is used in Morocco. I knew that Morocco was influenced by France, but I didn’t know the amount of French that is used on a daily basis and since I’m white everyone assumes I know French, which I don’t blame them. Islamic Society and Politics is also a very interesting class. The professor is very educated and knows his stuff (although quite opinionated on some topics). During our second session in that class, the professor took us to the medina and explained why the medina is constructed the way it is and how the medina plays a role in a Moroccan society, both socially and religiously. My Arabic professor is very excitable; when he wants to get a point across he lifts up his voice and does some sort of interpretive dance. Fun enough though, it works and I have to say that after a few classes I’ve learned so much from my Arabic professor.

Overall Meknes is a small (not village small but in the comparison of NY city and Miami, Meknes is Miami) relatively conservative city. However it’s not so conservative that people can’t go out and experience the city’s night life. There are plenty of cafés, bars, and lounges where the Moroccan youth and westerners can go. To really know the city you have to do a little bit of exploring, get lost a couple of times, and make a fool out of yourself, not in a bad way but just don’t worry about making mistakes out in public, after all I am a foreigner. You learn to do what the Moroccans do and try to be as polite as possible when encountering a local. It really amazes me how skewed the American perception of the Islamic world is and how entities like the media and education fuel that ignorance. If America is ever going to better its image in the Islamic world, it has to understand the religion and understand the culture.

Anyways, I think I’m going to enjoy my stay here in Morocco and am proud to say that Morocco is my second home.

Nametags

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

It’s easy to feel lonely. I won’t even qualify that with a “when you live abroad” or a “when you live in a rural town.” At the risk of sounding pretentious, I think our inclination towards loneliness is an essential part of the human condition. Everyone has been lonely at some point in their lives – it’s something that ties us all together. It also helps us appreciate our connections with other people.

Today we had our GO GO QUIZ KING show. It was absolutely ridiculous. Do you know how many cameras it takes to film a game-show featuring students? Six. There were also three different emcees, six people working the cameras, six people sitting behind screens behind the cameras adjusting goodness knows what, three personal assistants, two really mean directors, at least ten people whose job was to set up and take down the equipment, and a whole slew of other people who ran around telling people where to go, to clap louder, to wave their hands in the air, etc. In addition, we had the entire first and second grade in the auditorium, as well as a fair amount of teachers. We spent the entire day (9 am to 4 pm) filming.

Our students had to wear their school uniforms and their nametags. As every homeroom was able to send three students, in order for the lucky chosen few to share their experience with their friends and classmates, they pinned a few of their friends’ nametags on their vests. Over that span of time, as students were slowly eliminated, the number of nametags pinned to the vests of the remaining students grew. The nametags were redistributed in that manner to the point where at the end, when it came down to the final five students, the remaining students’ entire vests were covered with their friends’ names.

Later a student who had competed complained that he was tired. I jokingly told him that it was because of all the nametags he had worn were very heavy. No teacher, he seriously replied, those were my friends. I am tired because I was nervous.

I think I’ll remember this as my favorite part of the day. Not the musical performance, or the rock band, or the dance competition, and especially not the part where I had to get up on stage in front of six hundred of my students and introduce a question in Korean, but the simple image of the final five students covered in plastic nametags, standing apart on stage but sharing their experience and in turn being supported by their friends and classmates.

Whenever I get lonely, if I can, I leave my apartment and I go to Sloth’s Coffee. From here I can see my school, and no matter how down I am I’m reminded that though I don’t have students’ and teachers’ nametags decorating my self, I have their support. Today when I got up on stage, hands shaking, and leaned into the microphone and said “여러분 안녕하세요” the applause was overwhelming. I have my community here, and sometimes it takes being lonely to make that fact so much more sweet.

Em in Asia! 2012-09-24 19:44:03

Monday, September 24th, 2012

It’s starting. My network debut. Oh sweet syntax, let me get through today…

Almost One Month of Being Abroad!

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Top Eight Things About this Study Abroad Experience that Make Me All Warm and Fuzzy and Happy!

  1. The friends I have met here. It is such luck to have met some genuine friends here, rather than friends of convenience. I am very excited about the people I’ve chosen to travel with, and we’ve all had a blast exploring together and making dinners when we have nights in. We’re still trying to figure out what to call our friend-based sitcom that this photo will be the poster for! LAURA GET OUT OF MY HEAD. It’s gross when we finish each other’s sentences.
  2. ABC (Another Beautiful Church/Cathedral/Castle)
    The following picture is of Salisbury Cathedral. While sometimes it can seem exhausting to look at all these cathedrals, they really are all unique and beautiful landmarks of this country.
  3. Travelling at my finger tips! I am so grateful for the trips ASE has planned for us (Oxford, Stonehenge, Lacock, Salisbury), the ASE trips to come (Wales, Cotswalds, Statford-upon-Avon), the trips I’ve taken (Bristol), and the trips I’ve planned! I have a Dublin weekend coming up, a London weekend in November, plus I just booked for fall break today! Laura, Eliza, and I will be spending two days in Amsterdam, two days in Berlin, and one day in Prague for me and Laura before we fly back to England.
  4. Balancing my life back at home. I’ve been sending postcards and relatively regular emails to friends and family, plus I would say I’ve done a pretty stellar job keeping this here blog updated. In addition, my life once I return has not escaped my thoughts (READ: FEARS) because I have one last semester before I graduate! Eek. I am worried but trying to channel that more into excitement. I am in the process of applying for an internship with a feminist organization when I return and have been looking into post-grad opportunities. I miss you all so much but I am also so pleased that many of you have taken an interest in my abroad experience and inquired or kept up with my adventures.
  5. The partying. Let’s be real, Fredericksburg is not top-notch for anything other than tiny house parties. Bath is great to go out in and pub or club or get to know my ASE peers better. Plus, I’ve acquired a special liking for Jaeger Bombs!
     
  6. Not having a meal plan and being able to cook for myself, and my friends! I mentioned that delicious chicken salad I made the other day. Plus in the last few days I’ve helped make chicken curry, vegetable risotto, and potato korma to feed 4-5 of us. I’ve also discovered I’m pretty stellar at doing dishes — without a dishwasher or a garbage disposal! Parents/former roommates may not believe it, but I have become a dishes-doing master.
  7. The accents. Seriously, still a novelty. We were out the other night and a group of British men with an American with them stopped us and asked “Do you think American accents are sexy?” They were quite disappointed to discover we were, in fact, American, but it was still a blast to chat with locals!
  8. Living IN Bath. That may seem obvious, but I love wandering by myself to Sainsbury (the local grocery store) or to Boots (the drug store) to run errands and walking by the Abbey or the Masonic Temple and other gorgeous architecture. Running the canal path is still a favorite past time. It’s so great to be in this big bustling city and yet be so near the countryside (sheep everywhere!). I truly love this city.

So, tomorrow I’m going to be on TV…

Monday, September 24th, 2012

My school is being featured on GO GO QUIZ SHOW KING (intense sounding, isn’t it? I added the capital letters – the Korean name is 고고 퀴즈왕), a golden bell-style competition where the top students from our school will go on to do a regional competition. As the native speaker in residence, they want me to read the English-language questions. I’m not sure what time I’m supposed to go, which questions I’m supposed to read, or even if I have to introduce myself, but I guess we’ll find that out tomorrow.

The school’s been awash with activity. We’ve had random students missing from classes, set-up happening in the auditorium, random meetings and what seems to be a never-ending stream of notices sent out through the inter-school messaging system. (NOTICE: Here are slogans for our banners. Please choose which you like better – Go Go CPHS! or CPHS Hard-Working Style. Please take care of yourselves.) A surprising number of students are playing flute tomorrow on the show, so they’ve been gone as well, and at any given moment if you crane your ears toward the door you might hear someone frantically practicing.

During lunchtime I had a conversation with German Teacher who tried to be helpful, I think, but… was not very helpful.

“You will be on the quiz show tomorrow, right? I think you should wear some makeup.”
“… Well I’m currently wearing eye makeup, and actually since I never wear face makeup I don’t own any.”
“Oh! Well if you need makeup, I can lend you some.”
“I think that if I wear makeup tomorrow for the first time, I will feel more self-conscious than if I don’t wear makeup. It should be fine.”
“Okay, so you don’t need me to lend you makeup?”
“No I think I should be fine. Thanks though.”

I may or may not have agreed to do an interview on this show in Korean as well. The producer had wanted to meet me, but I wasn’t around after lunch (lunchtime conversation) and then I had class for the next two hours, so my co-teacher and I decided to go visit her afterwards. As I was teaching my classes outside today near the auditorium, she managed to find me and another teacher called me over in the middle of class to talk to her. She introduced herself, and I myself, and we talked for a bit in Korean while my students awkwardly gawked at us.

“Wow, your Korean is so good? How long have you been here for?”
“Oh it’s not good, I still have a long way to go. I’ve been here for about two years.”
“You’ve been studying Korean here or did you study before you came?”
At this point, a Korean teacher jumps in “Our foreign teacher is good at Korean!”
“Yes I’ve been studying in Korea.”
“Oh. Well then. WORDSIDON’TUNDERSTANDWORDSIDON’TUNDERSTAND Korean WORDSIDON’TUNDERSTAND interview. How about it?”
“… Um. My Korean is really bad.”
“Okay well I WORDSIDON’TUNDERSTANDWORDSIDON’TUNDERSTAND during lunchtime it was between 12 and 2 WORDSIDONT’UNDERSTAND introduce myself and see your face.”
“Ah yes, it was nice to meet you. Should I come meet you after this class?”
“Oh no it’s fine. See you tomorrow at the show.”
“Yes. Nice to meet you!”

After I finished teaching my classes I went and talked to Awesome Mr. Kim, who told me it was going to be very exciting, and I should get a copy of the show so I can show all of my friends back at home.

It’s been a strange day. Tomorrow will probably be stranger.

Because the weather is so beautiful, and because I wanted to have class outside, I used the GO GO QUIZ KING show hype to pitch a lesson about English words of encouragement. I took my girls outside, we learned vocabulary, we did body alphabet races (the teams have to spell the word with their bodies – it can be really fun or really awkward depending on the students. Today it was fun, thank goodness), and then students used the words of encouragement they were taught to make signs cheering on their classmates.

One of the students drew a dinosaur, because her friend’s nickname was “dinosaur.”

“Ah!” I said “Some people call me a dinosaur too. Why do they call you a dinosaur?”
“I dunno. Because I am tall and look like a dinosaur? Why are you a dinosaur?”
“Well… in my teaching program there are first year teachers, second, and third year teachers. I am a third year teacher, so I am one of the oldest. So they call me a dinosaur. Like a dinosaur, I will die soon.”
“What?! Teacher if you are a dinosaur you will die soon?”
“Hahaha no no no just, I have to leave Korea, so my time in Korea is almost over. I am older than everyone, and going extinct, like a dinosaur.”
“Teacher when will you leave?”
“July 2013.”
“Oh, so when we are third years?”
“Yeah.”
“Teacher, I thought you were going to stay forever. Will you come back to Korea?”
” … I don’t know. I hope so, some day?”
“Now I am sad.”
“Me too. But at least you have a great dinosaur picture!”

 

Last Minute Mondays

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

This morning I:

  • realized that I left my flashdrive at home so borrowed one from another teacher
  • ran to the English supply room to get five white boards and markers for my first grade class
  • printed off and cut out vocab words for second grade, as well as made, printed, and cut out worksheets
  • and scrounged up colored pencils for the above lesson

I swear I’m normally more on top of things… today’s just gonna be one of those days.