Archive for April, 2013

Em in Asia! 2013-04-29 02:15:30

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Today I walked into 1.6′s classroom, and they obviously weren’t expecting me. At least half the class jumped out of their seats, then after staring at me for a few seconds turned to each other asking “Potosky? Potosky?” Somehow the whole class nonverbally came to a consensus that yes, Potosky, because then they started chanting “POTOSKY. POTOSKY” while chucking their textbooks onto the ground.

Possiblement l’événement le plus français qui a jamais eu lieu dans ma vie

Sunday, April 28th, 2013
Ma mère d'accueil: Qui mangera de la salade verte?
Les invités: Non, merci, je n'en peux plus, etc.
Ma mère d'accueil: Qui veut du fromage?
Les invités: MOI!

UMW Admissions Visit

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Today some admissions representatives visited London in order to recuite international exchange students to our University back home. We got an email letting us know that we could join so Manda and I went together. They hosted it at Whole Foods in Kensington which is a beautiful Whole Foods but both Manda and I were wondering how they were going to host an event there. Well they rented out the wine hub high top table which was covered in cheeses, meat slices, fresh sliced bread, and your choice of red or white wine. Everyone there was very nice and we got to talk about our experiences here so far as well as opportunities for the future. What was really interesting was talking to the people that showed up interested in Mary Washington. I could to speak to one lady who was there on behalf of her daughter who is currently studying in Cambridge but is interested in studying in the US as an exchange student and specifically at Mary Washington. Manda and I answered many of her questions not only about the states and UMW but the exchange process in general since we are currently doing that. I also gave her my phone number to give to her daughter who I have recently been in contact with about Mary Washington to answer any questions she has or meet up with her when she gets into the states which would be awesome. 

UMW Admissions Visit

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Today some admissions representatives visited London in order to recuite international exchange students to our University back home. We got an email letting us know that we could join so Manda and I went together. They hosted it at Whole Foods in Kensington which is a beautiful Whole Foods but both Manda and I were wondering how they were going to host an event there. Well they rented out the wine hub high top table which was covered in cheeses, meat slices, fresh sliced bread, and your choice of red or white wine. Everyone there was very nice and we got to talk about our experiences here so far as well as opportunities for the future. What was really interesting was talking to the people that showed up interested in Mary Washington. I could to speak to one lady who was there on behalf of her daughter who is currently studying in Cambridge but is interested in studying in the US as an exchange student and specifically at Mary Washington. Manda and I answered many of her questions not only about the states and UMW but the exchange process in general since we are currently doing that. I also gave her my phone number to give to her daughter who I have recently been in contact with about Mary Washington to answer any questions she has or meet up with her when she gets into the states which would be awesome. 

20 Days in Europe

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

I could spend hours or days talking about my trip through Europe, or I could sum it up with a few pictures…

Rome:

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Hostel Life

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The Vatican

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The Colosseum

Florence:

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Statue of David

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Bella Firenze

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Chianti Wine Cellar

Zurich:

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Swiss Chocolate

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Streets of Zurich

Munich:

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A Night in Munich

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German Market

Prague:

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Bustling Prague Square

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Astronomical Clock

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Train to Berlin

Berlin:

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East Side Gallery, Berlin Wall

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Berlin Architecture

Brussels:

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Delirium: All Should Go

London:

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Big Ben

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Tower Bridge

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Tea Time in Bath

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Cadbury World

Back Home:

Studying-math

My life back in Edinburgh from now on…

This journey has fostered in me an incredible passion for learning and traveling, the likes of which I could never have imagined. Every city, street, building, restaurant, and market I went to, I found myself saying “I can’t wait to come back here.” I will return to these wonderful places one day, maybe a different person, but with the same precious memories of my first epic European excursion, and hopefully create new stories and experiences.

In the mean time, unfortunately,  I should start studying for my final exams. I have one month left of this semester, and it will be dedicated to studying, pr at least that is what I keep telling myself. I know a lot of my time will be spent enjoying the last weeks I’ll have in the wonderful city of Edinburgh and with the incredible friends I’ve made.


Odd Fears

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

I have a special place in my heart for classes that choose to keep playing the review game when I say that they can have the rest of the class for individual study. I also have a special place in my heart for classes that when playing team games (jokingly) heckle the other team.

2.8 fits both of these categories. When I asked one group what “technophobia” meant, the other teams started shouting “FEAR OF TECHNO MUSIC. FEAR OF TECHNO MUSIC.”

Marseille is the New Jersey of France…

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Something most of us discovered at the beginning of our semester, is that most French people who are not Marseillais, do not like Marseille.  It smells bad.  It’s full of immigrants.  There’s no class.  There’s dog sh*t EVERYWHERE (Ok, I have to agree, I hate that too. Is there really nothing we can do about that??).  Their accent is weird.  They love to exaggerate .  It may be the oldest and second-biggest city in the country, but who cares.  It doesn’t have the classical power and sophistication of Paris. It’s not as quiet and quaint as the rest of Provence.  It’s just, “ugh. Mar-say-yeuh." *eye roll*

Well, I am not ashamed to admit: I LOVE MARSEILLE.  It is MY city.  It is my home away from home away from home.  I know the streets, the neighborhoods, I know the restaurants and stores, I know the metro lines, I know the bars and clubs, I know the history, I know the languages, I know the Calanques.  I have lived this city, and I have grown quite fond of it. I may sound like a foreigner, but I no longer feel like one.  I belong here. I am proud to be here.

I love hearing the Marseille accent (like a southern twang), from my host dad to the cashier at Carrefour to random people in the street.  I love turning a corner in Noailles and feeling like I’m in North Africa.  I love being able to look down from my house on top of the hill and seeing all the red tile rooftops against the blue blue sky (there are never clouds in Marseille, the wind chases them away).  I love walking around Vieux Port, seeing the heart, the birthplace, of the city.  I love when I am able to give people directions, or when I successfully interact with a cashier or a waiter.  I love having established a routine, yet at the same time always experiencing something new.  I love the food, pastis, the tiny expressos  the fruit and vegetable markets, that random brass band that shows up around town and covers pop songs. I love the noise. I love the diversity. I love how you can walk for a few minutes and suddenly find yourself on the corniche on the cliffs around the sea.  

So, judge away. I won’t hear you because I’ll be busy speaking “Frarabic” and making cultural observations and swimming in the Mediterranean.  

Commentaire sur le voile au Maroc

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013
Où vous aillez au Maroc, vous verrez des femmes voilées.  Qui sont-elles ? Pourquoi se voilent-elles ? En quoi croient-elles ? Qu’est-ce que cela dit de la culture marocaine ? Et, enfin, est-ce que cela représente vraiment la liberté de choix ?
Ce sont des questions posées dans un débat sur le porté du voile pendant notre voyage au Maroc.  Pour comprendre le pourquoi, il faut réfléchir sur la culture, l’histoire, et la religion de ce pays.  D’abord, dans la tradition marocaine, pour protéger et préserver la beauté, on la cache.  Ainsi, la beauté des femmes doit rester une chose privée.  Certaines femmes se voilent pour être modeste, pour représenter la pureté, et pour montrer qu’elles valorisent leurs esprits plus que leurs corps.  Historiquement, les femmes ne pouvaient même pas être vues par des étrangers hors de la famille.  Elles restaient dans la maison, leur domaine social, tout le temps.  Comme des riyads traditionnels, la beauté est à l’intérieur, préservée pour les membres de la famille est pour une certaine élite qui ont de la chance d’être invités à la voir. 
Les justifications religieuses sont aussi importantes dans ce débat.  Historiquement, le traitement, la lecture, et l’interprétation du Coran étaient strictement le domaine des hommes.  Les femmes, moins éduquées et souvent analphabètes, ne comprenaient pas les textes sacrés.  Au Maroc, le choix de se couvrir est habituellement lié à la croyance, pourtant  le voile n’est pas exigé dans le Coran. 
Au fond, les Marocains disent que le porté du voile au Maroc est un choix.  Le Maroc, c’est un pays musulman, mais c’est aussi un pays plus développé et modernisé dans certains aspects.  On voit une vraie gamme : des femmes pas voilées qui portent des jeans serrées et des jupes, des femmes habillées plus modestement avec un foulard sur la tête, et des femmes complètement couvertes dans une longue robe et pantalon rassemblant un niqab.  Le voile est devenu à la mode dans la société marocaine.  Il pourrait aussi représenter que la femme qui le porte est mariée, ou prête émotionnellement pour se marier, parce qu’il représente la modestie, l’intimité, et la maturité.  Il y a toujours des femmes qui sont forcées par leurs familles ou par leurs maris de porter le voile pour ces raisons.  Si une femme est mariée, elle doit garder sa beauté pour personne d’autre que son mari.
En revanche, le choix de se voiler pourrait aussi se servir pour protéger la femme.  La protéger de quoi ?  Du regard des hommes.  Si la beauté féminine est si irrésistible, pourquoi les hommes ne sont-ils pas obligés d’abaisser leurs regards et de contrôler leurs actions ?  Pourquoi les hommes ne sont-ils pas obligés de se couvrir, de se préserver, aussi ?  N’ont-ils pas aussi de la beauté et de la modestie ?  Dans la tradition des sociétés patriarcales, ce n’est pas aux hommes de se changer, mais aux femmes de réagir au comportement des hommes.
Après le débat, je comprends mieux l’histoire et la motivation derrière le voile, mais j’ai toujours trop de questions, qui n’ont peut-être pas de réponse.  Le porté du voile coïncide avec les montées du féminisme et de l’islamisme au Maroc.  Alors, quelle idéologie le voile renforce-t-il ?  Et puisque c’est un choix personnel, est-ce qu’une femme non-voilée vaut véritablement autant qu’une femme voilée dans les yeux de la société ?  Si le voile commande de respect, est-ce qu’il puisse aider les femmes dans leur lutte pour l’égalité ?  Ce sont les questions difficiles.  Il est possible que moi, une femme occidentale, je n’ai pas de voix dans la culture marocaine.  Le féminisme est le féminisme, mais il se manifeste différemment dans chaque culture.

Perks of Being a Wallflower

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

I saw Perks of Being a Wallflower yesterday at the Gwangju Theater. The Gwangju Theater is a really great indie movie theater that opened in 1934, making it one of the oldest movie theaters in Korea. They don’t normally show recent releases, rather they show a mix of older foreign and domestic movies. There is only one screen, and when you walk in it’s musty and dark with two floors and leveled seating, and it feels more like you’re going to see a live performance than a movie. When I went to see Gone with the Wind there last fall I felt like I had walked into a different time period – albeit one with great projector technology.

Perks of Being a Wallflower was painful to watch. I spent the entire movie with my coat up against my face wincing. It was so well done – a great mix of sadness, awkwardness, and laugh-out-loud hysteria. It was a return to the awkwardness and heartbreak of high school, and a reminder of how everything was exaggerated. Breakups were the end of the world, the embarrassment from trivial incidents never fully went away, days passed by in neon colors and our friends were the ones who made or broke our experiences. Without giving too much away, the movie is about Charlie, a wallflower who had trouble interacting with others, and the friends (mostly Sam and Patrick) that welcome him into their fold. It made me hurt for an interesting reason – I didn’t identify with Charlie as a wallflower in that during high school I wasn’t popular but I had friends, but because I am a teacher now, and I’m sure I have students like Charlie. The scenes that hit me the hardest were the ones where Charlie interacted with his high school English teacher. Charlie is a student that is naturally bright at English, but a shy introvert who refused to raise his hand in class… if the teacher had been less attentive he might have missed Charlie completely. During their interactions, you could see the pain on both of their faces. Charlie thinking that no one noticed him, and the teacher worrying about Charlie.

Mr. Anderson: You know, they say if you make one friend on your first day, you’re doing okay.
Charlie: If my English teacher is the only friend I make today, that would be sorta depressing.

Charlie spends the first three quarters of the movie recounting his friends’ issues, and hanging around in the background helping them. By the end of the movie you finally realize all of the things that have happened to Charlie to make him the way he is, and how as a wallflower you would never realize this about him.

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

How many students do I have that fade into background? Inside every mind is a complete other world, shaped by experiences that are foreign to me. I teach my students once a week if I’m lucky, for fifty minutes. How many of my students are struggling wallflowers, getting by from day-to-day and like Charlie counting the days left until graduation. Am I giving up on my students, and students I haven’t met yet, by deciding to pursue another career path at the end of this year?

Vignette # 8: City Happenings

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

There have also been a few things happening around the city of Bologna that are worth mentioning, if only to give you a better idea of my home.
            Sometime in February, there was a massiveconcert celebrating a recently-deceased Italian singer Lucio Dalla at which many other semi-famous Italian singers came and sang the artist’s original songs in order to honor his memory. I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was until Viola, Sami and I made our way to the city center and we discovered that the entire city of Bologna was crammed into Piazza Maggiore and the surrounding streets. The concert itself was just in front of the Neptune statue in the piazza, but people were milling about the streets as far back as the two towers. The music was being projected on speakers everywhere and there were multiple screens showing what was happening on the main stage. It was, essentially, one big city-wide party. There is no open-container law in Italy, so everyone was drinking and toasting one another in the streets. People had climbed on top of dumpsters and newspaper stands (which are fairly tall) and were sitting on them, swaying back and forth while singing, their arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders. It was an odd combination of students and the elderly and middle-aged adults and families with small children. The closer we got to the stage, the more people there were, but Viola seemed determined to drag us right to the front. We ended up stepping on a lot of people’s toes (literally and figuratively) and only managed not to lose each other by holding hands and forming a human chain the entire way. There was one particularly amusing moment in the throngs of the crowd in which a grungy old homeless man got his daily thrill when pinching me from behind, but he was not prepared for the furious glare and violent “HEY!” that came his way afterwards and he quickly pushed his way through the people to get away from me. The concert overall was really fun, but we couldn’t find Marta anywhere (we had originally said that we would meet her there) and eventually we gave up trying to push to the front of the crowd and snagged some gelato before heading back to Forni.


Incredibly squished!


Climbing for a better view

            Something interesting that has been occurring in Piazza Maggiore on a regular basis: every week or so, a man wearing that infamous mask from the movie V for Vendettacomes into the piazza with two short step-stools. He then sets them opposite of each other with a good amount of space in between the two and encourages random passersby to join him in discussion. A circle forms around the stools and citizens of Bologna take turns standing up on the stools to express their opinions on politics, religion, social issues, etc. The masked man serves as a sort of mediator of discussion, often jumping up on the stool himself and telling everyone what he thinks. This is just one of the many examples of Bologna’s revolutionary leanings…although this is mild in comparison to what the city looked like in the 70’s (the Italian government had to send in army tanks to stop a student revolution) I still find it so interesting. Just like the concert, this crowd also has a mixed combination of the elderly, businessmen, grungy students, and respectable ladies in high heels and Prada purses. I love that Italians are so interested in discussing issues that we, as Americans, sometimes shy away from. It is well-known that bringing up politics at family reunions is taboo back in the States, whereas here, your personal political leanings are discussed every day in the bars, the classrooms, the gelateria’s, the city piazza’s. Although Italy’s current political situation is not the strongest, its citizens at least seem somewhat more educated on the issues than the general American population is. And if they’re not actually as educated as I think they are…well, at least they’re talkingabout the issues openly.  



            Piazza Verdi is also an essential component of the heart and soul of Bologna mainly because it is the center of activity for students. This piazza is cut through by Via Zamboni, the street with the most UNIBO buildings, and it is just a one-minute walk from ECCO’s office. At UMW we have Ball Circle or Seaco…UNIBO students have Piazza Verdi. At any time during the day, you can find university students there, talking or drinking or eating or all of the above. It is a central location for graduation celebrations (la laurea) in which students wear this Greek/Roman laurel of leaves (I should probably just say Roman, but I always think of the Greeks first) about their heads as opposed to the voluminous folds of our own American cap and gown. The outfits that accompany these laurels vary from nice, classy dresses to out-of-control inflatable pig suits. People gather around the recent graduate, holding them up on their shoulders, singing songs that I still don’t understand or occasionally throwing eggs at the graduates or running through the streets playing music and yelling. Italian universities don’t seem to have any specific, set graduation days like we do. They have many of them that happen throughout each semester, which are entirely dependent on when the students themselves finish with all of their courses. I don’t understand it completely, but it’s always fun to watch.
            Piazza Verdi has also become even more popular in the warmer months. On the weekends, the piazza was always popular late at night, but the biting, cold winter nights did not encourage people to stay out there that long, no matter how warm that wine made you. But recently, the weather in Bologna has—miraculously—taken a turn for the better. As a result, Piazza Verdi has become one of the most social spots of the city at night. Even on weeknights, you can find hundreds of students sitting out on the ground in the piazza, talking and drinking the night away. It is so much fun. I am loving Bologna’s new spring weather; it’s as if the entire city has come alive.
            And finally, my own little claim to fame: in March, Bologna celebrated la Festa della Donne…International Women’s Day. Apparently this is a worldwide phenomenon, but of course America barely celebrates it. Italy, however, is very eager to sell little, puffy mimosa flowers to everyone for you to give to other women on every street corner at long tables filled with pollen and yellow buds. The money goes towards helping women shelters and abuse prevention centers. Rebecca, Lydia and I knew little about the celebration, but we decided to buy each other flowers anyways while in Piazza Maggiore. Just our luck: this was the moment in which a news crew came up to the table and asked us rapidly in Italian if we had a few moments to talk about our opinions on la Festa delle Donne. Flustered more by the huge camera and microphone in our faces than the prospect of speaking Italian, we stuttered nervously long enough for the men to realize that we were not, in fact, Italian and I heard the interviewer mutter rather critically under his breath: stranieri. Foreigners.
            I tend to get a little offended when Italians think I’m stupid just because I am not a native speaker, so I then informed the man that regardless of being stranieri, we could still understand him. I suppose he thought this snippy response was an invitation for an interview, because he promptly swung the microphone back into my face and began asking me questions on the festa: what did the celebration mean to us? What did we think it meant? As foreigners, what were our opinions of the celebration so far? And most importantly, why did you buy yourselves flowers? Shouldn’t a man buy them for you?
            “I do not have a need of a man to have flowers,” Lydia jumped in suddenly in Italian at this point of the interview, her justified women’s-power ideals surpassing any nerves she had about speaking in an Italian television interview. “When I can buy flowers for me. And for friends.” Our Italian didn’t flow perfectly, but we got the idea across: America may not celebrate International Women’s Day very extensively, but we certainly didn’t need to celebrate it with men by our side, as is often an Italian cultural understanding (please don’t get me started on gender inequality here. Because it’s everywhere).
            I honestly forgot about the interview. I don’t have a tv in my apartment and I didn’t think to look for the interview on the internet. Then, a few weeks ago, I was walking with my elementary class down the stairs as the final bell rang and we were heading towards the door to the outer courtyard where anxious parents wait for their children to emerge, with the same level of reaction upon seeing them that you typically see at an airport arrivals gate. One of the little girls (her name is Karina) tugged on my sleeve and informed me that she had seen me on the news, on tv. At first, I was really confused, as the memory of the interview had completely slipped my mind. Karina reminded me with, “You had flowers for the Festa delle Donneand I saw you on the tv! I showed you to my mom!”
            Breaking news folks: I am a celebrity on Bologna’s local news channel. I’ll be sending you all autographs as soon as I can get my agent to organize everything.