Archive for November, 2010


Monday, November 29th, 2010

Taught a cultural lesson on Thanksgiving last week and part of this week. Here are  my favorite answers in response to questions (in terms of humor, not student retention):

“Okay class, 500 dollar jeopardy question. So what food do you put INSIDE the turkey?”
“*Frantic whispering* PIE!”

*point at the TV screen where I’m showing snippets of the Macy’s Day Parade* “You see the people riding on top of the turkey? Who are they?” (note: they were pilgrims)

“Okay class, what are you thankful for? I am thankful BECAUSE of my friends. What about you?”
“I am thankful because of me.”

“What is one of Korea’s MAIN EXPORTS” ($500 jeopardy question in the “random” column for my advanced students)

Yeonpyeong is a Sad Panda – North Korea Part II

Monday, November 29th, 2010

In an effort to give my students a more creative vocabulary so that they can answer the question “how are you?” without the dreaded “I’MFINETHANKYOUANDYOU?” I taught a lesson on feelings. In doing so I inadvertantly learned about my low level students’ reactions to the North Korean shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. Note: this is my crazy, difficult to handle all girls’ 1st grade class (remember, the American equivalent of a 1st grader is a sophmore, so 16 year old girls), definitely not indicative of the energy levels of most of my classes).

EMILY TEACHER: Okay class today we are going to talk about FEELING words.
*explanation of “feelings,” explanation of “words”*
 How are you today?


EMILY TEACHER: *Strained laughter* But how are you REALLY? That is what we will talk about!

*Slide 1: HAPPY. Picture of a smiling cat. Girls freak out (TEACHER! CUTEUH!!!!!)*

EXAMPLE: “I am HAPPY because I have English class!”
No one?



EMILY TEACHER: Oooookay, is anyone sad?
*Slide 1: SAD. Picture of sad panda. Girls freak out (TEACHER! CUTEUH!!!!!)*




EMILY TEACHER: You are sad because of school?



EMILY TEACHER: Okay, any other reasons why we are sad?

STUDENT3: North Korea! North Korea! *punching motions* pyewwwww pyewwwww pyewwwww *makes rocket noises* kapoooo! kapooow!

EMILY TEACHER: Yes, they attacked Yeonpyeong Island.

STUDENT4: YES! very saduh.

STUDENT3: War! WAR!! Emily Teacher leave Korea, North Korea war. Everyday we die. EVERYDAY WE DIE. EVERY.DAY.WE.DIE.

33 days…

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Until I leave for Ireland!! I can’t believe it’s so close.

Leigh and I are flying out on January 1st, from Newark Airport.  We are flying into Dublin, and still have to figure our how we are getting from Dublin to Cork.  Classes start January 4th, so we will have a few day to beat the jet lag and get settled in.  Have I told you about our crazy schedule yet? I don’t think I have. Here it is:

January 4- March 25 – Spring Semester Class

March 28- April 1 – Spring Break/ Reading Days

April 4- April 29 – Easter Break

May 2- May 27 – Finals

Yes you read that correctly, it is not a typo, I really do have a FIVE WEEK Spring/Easter Break.  Then the entire month of May is dedicated to taking your 4 or 5 finals.  Originally I thought that I would be able to talk to my teachers and hopefully come back around mid May to start my summer job. But then I got my acceptance letter and in bold letters at the end of it they say No final exams may be taken early. Plan on staying in Cork until the end of May.

So there went my hopes of coming home a little early.  I’m not complaining too much though, because I can use those five weeks off to travel around Europe!  Leigh’s extended family lives in Switzerland so they know their way around Europe pretty well which should be a huge help to us.

I went on an Ireland shopping spree (my Christmas present) on Tuesday and bought a lot of clothes! My mom and sister also bought a lot for me a couple of weeks ago.  Im planning to take pictures of my new wardrobe and post them on here, I just left my camera at school so I’ll have to do that when I get back.  I basically look like the model that I posted in my previous post about clothes in Ireland, so if you need a visual right away you can refer back to that. :)

I think that is all of the news I have about Ireland.  My living is all worked out, travel plans are made, I am going to bring A LOT of kraft mac-n-cheese, I have a new wardrobe…only thing that I still need is boots! I need some boots that are comfortable and look good with jeans and a sweater dress and tights.  If there are any fashionistas reading this and have any ideas for me I’d greatly appreciate it!


Thursday, November 25th, 2010

I am currently learning how to play the 단소 (danso), which is a Korean traditional end-blown flute. It seems like it would be easy because there are only six holes, however it’s really difficult to play because you have to perfectly control both the amount of air you exhale and also the placement, i.e. where the air is sent, and the “모음” (moeum) which is the compactness of the air. Even once you master the technical skills it is still difficult to play because it requires a specific kind of “vibration and expression,” as the Sapgyo music teacher likes to call it, called 시김사 (shigimsa). Shigimsa consists of vibrations on held notes and bending pitches, and when done correctly it is very moving and melancholy. This shigimsa, which is present in almost all Korean music, is supposed to evoke “한” (han).

Han is the Korean cultural trait of sadness. It is the feeling of inevitability. It is the feeling of intense sorrow and unresolved injustice. For almost all of Korea’s history it has been overshadowed or controlled by a greater Asian power (first China in a mostly hands-off but still ever present sense, and then totally controlled by Japan) and it has constantly been at war with itself (first during the Warring Kingdoms period and now with North Korea). Even today when Korea is recognized as one of the budding powers of the world it is still divided. Han is the feeling of always being controlled by another power and being isolated. Some argue that this colonial imperialism led to the development of Han. Others argue that it was the class distinction between the upper and the lower class. Whatever it may be, Han is one of the things that unites all Koreans, this feeling of intense sorrow, despair, and inevitability.

As a non-Korean it’s difficult for me to do shigimsa. I’ve known sorrow (haven’t we all) but I wouldn’t presume to understand or know Han. This has especially hit home with the most recent North Korean incident.

Basic facts:

I’m doing fine. The shooting was at Yeonpyeong Island, which is a small island in the Western Sea (i.e. the Yellow sea, which is the sea to the east of China) off the west coast of Korea. This island is in disputed waters, there have been arguments over whether the island belongs to North or South Korea with it tentatively resolved to South Korea (though North Korea doesn’t seem to recognize that). The island is relatively close to the DMZ and to Seoul. The island has about 1,000 South Korean marines about 1,600 civilians (mostly fishermen) who also live on the island, many of whom fled to Incheon on their fishing boats. Two marines were killed, more people were injured, and the shooting lasted for a little more than an hour, with South Korea returning fire.

People are trying to figure out why North Korea led a seemingly random attack on Yeonpyeong-do. The most convincing arguments that I’ve heard are that either Kim Jong Il’s son (Kim Jong Un) wants to show off his strength, or that this is North Korea’s responding to the world’s reaction to the news that they have a uranium enrichment facility (which could potentially lead to nuclear weapons in the next decade or so).

However as depressing as this is, attacks by North Korea are life as normal. I forget all the time that there is a hostile neighbor just north of me. People were worried on Tuesday but no one stopped what they were doing. I didn’t even find out about the attack until after it had happened because my students were participating in Yesan County’s English competition. I found out by having my student tell me “get out of the country as soon as you can” (the next day she apologized for being melodramatic and making me worry). I have not talked about it with a single teacher, and I briefly talked about it with my homestay family. Life has gone on pretty much like normal. The only major change I can see is that the won’s value has dropped, but it also dropped after the Cheonan incident (when North Korea sunk South Korea’s warship) and it rose back up after that. The only time I have talked about it at school was when one of my classes brought the attack up specifically so that they could tell me not to worry, because they didn’t want me to be scared. When I asked the students how they felt they all responded “sad” with the exception of one who said “angry.” However it wasn’t “sad” and “angry” in the sense that we’re used to, it was frustration, and feeling trapped. The students that I teach live in a generation that has never known a unified Korea. This broken Korea was a byproduct of Japanese imperialism and foreign powers trying to control another facet of the world. Most of the Koreans I talk to want a unified Korea, and see the North Koreans as their brothers and sisters, so this forced separation is incredibly painful Korea’s modern history is incredibly sad, and I can see why one of the defining characteristics of a Korean is Han.

 “Han is passive. It yearns for vengeance, but does not seek it. Han is held close to the heart, hoping and patient but never aggressive. It becomes part of the blood and breath of a person. There is a sense of lamentation and even of reproach toward the destiny that led to such misery. (Ahn 1987).” (read the whole article on Korean interpersonal communication here )

This is why I’ll never be able to fully play the danso. No matter how much I study, or practice, Han is not one of my defining characteristics.

Below is a video with pictures of Korea/Koreans and a danso playing with shigimsa:

Here is the New York Philharmonic playing Arirang in North Korea. This song has been sung for more than 600 years, there are multiple versions of it, and each country claims it as their song.


Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Now I realize there has been a prolonged silence, but I promise I have not been idly sitting around campus ignoring my responsibilities. In Egypt, and in most Arab countries where Islam is the predominate religion, schools are released for vacation during the Eid al-Adha holiday. This gave me a span of about 9 days to travel and explore more of this region. I took full advantage of this opportunity and experienced so much that I might have to separate it into two separate posts.

But onto the Journey:
Late Thursday night Savannah and I were sitting in the bus station patiently (for Savannah not so patiently) waiting for our bus to arrive so we could board. Hours pass and we hear buses leaving for Hurghada, Sharm, and many other places in Egypt. I look at the time and realize that it is now 5 minutes before our bus is supposed to leave and decide to go ask about our transportation. Well, apparently the bus to Dahab is not worth announcing because the bus was about to leave without any word to the people waiting in the terminal. We quickly loaded our things and hopped on to find our seats.

Shortly after our bus left this bus terminal we arrived at yet another bus stop where they asked to see our tickets. I pulled mine out along with my passport (you never know with this country), but Savannah could not find hers…We had been on the bus for only 15 minutes at most and she had already lost her ticket. After delaying the bus for about 30 minutes, pulling her bag out and searching through it and paying another 20LE (as a bribe for the ticket guy) we were on our way to Dahab.

Once we arrived, we dropped our stuff off at Penguin Hotel (since I stayed there before I had connections which allowed for this) and went to wander the city. I introduced Savannah to the rug shop from last time where she bought two of her own rugs. The owner remembered me and to thank me for bringing him business he gave me a free small rug. Nothing big, but still generous. After that we headed to the painter which I loved on my last visit. I bought four more paintings as christmas gifts because really, where else are you going to find handmade art that was actually painted on the shores of land which it depicts?

Done with shopping, we catch a bus to Nuweiba where we will stay the night. During the bus ride we realize there is a guy that we saw at Penguin sitting very close to us. Naturally, we started a conversation with my soon to be “husband” – a frenchman named Olivier. It turns out he was headed exactly where we were. Now of course Nuweiba since our bus is indeed headed that way, but to Jordan as well. Making friends with him, he catches a taxi to the place where we have reservations and was able to get a room there. Side note about taxis in Egypt – almost every car that passes will claim to be a taxi, do NOT believe them. Olivier stopped a truck (which looked like it could be used to carry people to jail) and they offered to drive us. Thank god another truck came along (taxis in beach towns are often trucks btw) and we got a ride with him. Funny thing about rooming actually, Olivier did not have a reservation and got a room in about 5 minutes – we had a reservation yet it took at least 30 minutes to give us the key to our room.

We ate dinner then settled into our room. Savannah decided she wanted a shower, which she alter yelled at me for leaving her there alone since it was communal and was terrified of other people being there. I personally did not see the danger since everything was in the open, people would be able to see if anyone tried anything. But nonetheless, I was apparently in the wrong.
Word to the wise who sleep in little huts near the water in Egypt…BUG SPRAY. I was eaten alive. Literally 12 mosquito bites in one area. It was absolutely ridiculous and made it impossible to sleep.
But you do get to wake to this:

Anyway, the next day we wake and we prepare to leave for the port (we are taking a ferry to Aqaba, Jordan). We call our amazing driver from the night before he offers to pick us up and take us to the port for nearly half the price the hostel was trying to charge us. We arrive at the port and head for the boat. After a few hours of trying to figure out exactly what we needed to do in order to board the boat we were finally on the ship. They tried to get Savannah and I to leave our large luggage on the bottom, but I refuse to leave anything of mine where I cannot see it and where others are free to rifle through it. So we lugged our giant suitcases up three levels of stairs. We though since the bus was loading we would be leaving soon…oh have we learned nothing about Egypt at all? We sat in dock on the boat for hours before we finally set sail to Aqaba.

The entire trip took nearly 9 hours. That is 9 hours of sitting on a boat, reading, talking, barely eating, and refraining from using the restroom. Let me explain that a bit more. There were restaurants on the ship, but there was no one in them that looked to be serving food. The little snack stand did not have change for the majority of the trip so that option was out until near the end. And the bathroom? Well…it was overflowing with disgusting water and excrements.

Finally in Aqaba, we catch a cab to our hostel. Now the cab driver seemed really cool – he was dressed very nice, played 50 cent on the radio, and actually stayed in the lines on the road. During the ride, I think he was trying to hit on Savannah and I. He asked if Olivier and I were together which is where Savannah told him that we were married – I never expected to be married so young. Anyway, when we arrived at our hostel he tried to charge us 30JD, then 20JD…the real amount should be no more than 5JD. After lots of argument and hostel employee interference, he left with 5 JD in his pocket. Then we find out that our hostel had given away our room since we were two hours late to our reservation (I had planned two extra hours of travel time, but that was not enough for the boat) and now were out of rooms. Luckily, after explaining that we are students in Egypt etc, they decided they did in fact have another room available.

They told us to unpack, shower, do whatever we need then to return and we can have dinner. So we bid farewell to Olivier and planned to see him the next morning. Now I expected to order food since it is also a restaurant, but when we returned and sat down, they placed our dishes in front of us…BIG problem. It was fish. I do NOT eat fish. Yet to return the food is seen as disrespectful in this culture; so I sat there for awhile gathering my courage. Finally I took a bite of what I thought to be a disgusting and foul smelling creature…and I was right. It was disgusting and slimy and I hated it. But I tried it and therefore was not rude. Savannah however, loved the dinner.

During dinner, the owner came to talk to us. He asked us what we planned on doing and we told him that Petra was our goal. He then informed us of how early we would need to leave, how much it actually costs (way more than one would expect), and all the small details. After seeing my disappointment in possibly not being able to afford it, he made us an offer. He had a friend who lives in Petra and actually owns a cave in the mountains.
He proposed this: He takes us snorkeling in the morning then we go back to the hostel, shower and load our luggage into his car. After that he would head to little Petra which is free then we would be on our way to his friend’s cave where we would have a bar-b-q and spend the night. In the morning, we would wake early and visit the real Petra.

Now this definitely sounded WAY too good to be true. Not to mention we had already made plans to meet with Olivier the next morning and our hotel arrangements in Amman the next night. To our hotel predicament he claims to actually be friends with the owner of the hotel and could get us out of that obligation. So we then ask if Olivier could come with us – if the offer is legit then having our friend join should not be a problem. He refused to allow him to come because “he did not know him.”

Obviously we chose not to go with him. Instead we went snorkeling then boarded our bus and headed to Amman. Whose stories will be saved until next time.


Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

I went to the Citadel of Salah al-Dina few weekends ago with two friends. This citadel was used to defend against the Crusaders. Inside the imposing wall’s surrounding the Citadel’s complex are the Mohammad Ali Mosque, museums, and other buildings. The Mohammad Ali Mosque and the view of Cairo from the area around the mosque were both amazing.

The most memorable part of the trip there was the group of school girls that were enthralled by us. They descended enthusiastically upon me first when I was in the courtyard near the entrance to the interior of the mosque, asking me where I was from, what my name was, how did I like Egypt. Then they wanted to take pictures with me, and would pose with me as their friend would use their cell phone to take a picture.

This is the first time that this had happened to me in Egypt and it reminded me a lot of my trip to China. In China whenever I traveled to a tourist destination, at least four people at some point would ask me for a photo, sometimes insisting that I make peace/victory sign with my fingers.

After my photo shoot, they entered the mosque, while I took some time to admire the courtyard some more. When I decided to go inside the mosque, I saw that they had already encircled my friend, bombarding her with questions, smiles, and cameras.

I went went around them to explore the mosque.

After a few minutes, I noticed that the girls had settled down near one of the walls. They waved me over, so I went to them. They invited me to sit and then offered me some chips and soda, which I accepted. As I went to return the soda to the girl after a quick sip she insisted that I keep it despite my resistance, and looked on shyly at me after I took it. They asked me more questions and then the boldest one asked my to find my friends and have them join us. At first my friends were reluctant to join, but finally gave in. One thing we talked about was hobbies. Most of the girls had the same three hobbies; reading, writing, and computer games. Computer games? I found this one the most intriguing and unexpected. They all expect to go to university. Some do not know what they want to do in the future, but there were some potential doctors and engineers in the group.

They all go to an English speaking school in either Ma’adi or Mohandiseen, I don’t recall exactly. Foreign language schools are very common in Cairo, at least for those that can afford it. English, French, and German are the three most popular language schools. There are at least 64 of English language schools in Cairo. My friend’s mother went to an English school as a child in Zamalek, close to where I live. She was saying that the quality of her school decreased a lot in the past few years, and that the quality of the other language schools have decreased  as well. These schools are turning more into business than schools. They care more about the profit than then actual quality of the students’ education and the quality of the teachers. These schools will hire teachers that are native speakers in the given language, but perhaps ones that are not trained to be teachers or do not have sufficient knowledge in the topic that they are teaching.

After ten or so minutes of talking with the school girls, their school teacher called out to them to leave. We said our good-byes and continued on our separate ways.

After leaving the Citadel, we went to Khan al-Khalili, the souq or market. I tried bargaining for a bag, but that day I was terrible at bargaining and so I did not get it since the seller would not reduce the price enough. The problem with me and bargaining is that sometimes I am just too cheerful when I begin the bargaining process. When I try to lower the price they think I am joking or am not serious about the price I’m suggesting. Also, I let my desire for the bag show too much, which was a mistake since he knew I wanted it and assumed I would pay more for it. His mistake.  I just left, knowing that there were many other people selling the exact same thing and I could come back to the market some other time.

North Korea

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

I’m freaked out but alive and fine. Will update later when I have internet at the homestay again.

EDIT: Just finished typing most of a blog post but it’s time to leave work. I do not currently have internet at the homestay but I will try to post something tonight (remember, I’m 14 hours ahead of you) or maybe tomorrow.  For now I leave you with this, to make you feel better about me being in Korea.

Yeonpyeong Island (where the shooting was): (small island in the Yellow sea)

Where I am: (tiny little rural town in Cheongcheong-nam province, about 1 cm west of “cheonan” on this map. My town is small so when I google search “yesan map” nothing comes up.

I really appreciate everyone’s concern. I’ll do my best to keep you updated.

Homage to Gilmore Girls (Specifically Luke and Lorelai’s journey)

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Luke lovingly gazing at Lorelai.

Luke giving Lorelai a piece of jewelry his sister made.

Luke FINALLY asks Lorelai on a date, to his sisters wedding.

The moment leading up to their first kiss…

THE first kiss

Luke and Lorelai after their first date ;)

Luke builds Lorelai an ice-skating rink because he loves her.

Just them being in love.

Luke breaks up with Lorelai after Christopher says him and Lorelai are supposed to be together.

Lorelai is devastated, convinced she lost the love of her life.

Emily, Lorelais mom, goes to Luke and tells him it was her fault Christopher said what he did, not Lorelais.

Luke and Lorelai are back together!

Luke and Lorelai get engaged!

Luke finds out he has a daughter and pushes Lorelai away.

Lorelai gives Luke and ultimatum, get married right now or break up. They break up :(

Running into each other on the street, they miss each other.

Lorelai sings "I Will Always Love You" directed at Luke.

Luke does an amazing thing for Lorelai and Rory and this is Lorelai saying thank you and I love you with her eyes.

Luke kissing Lorelai in the last episode. Perfect ending.

Lorelai and Lukes relationship is arguably my favorite part of Gilmore Girls.  This is, believe it or not, my BREIF timeline of their relationship. There are many other pictures I would have liked to add but I didn’t want to go too overboard.

I am still not completely sure what a homage is, or if this counts as one but I think it pays a tribute to Gilmore Girls, which is my understanding of a homage.  I was trying to tell the story of Lorelai and Lukes relationship through pictures in a semi comic strip style.  I thought telling their story through pictures with captions was a different way to see it, and I had a lot of fun collecting the pictures I wanted to use.  I hope this does pay tribute to my favorite TV couple, Lorelai Gilmore and Luke Danes.

My Life in Bullet Points

Friday, November 19th, 2010

A LOT has happened so I’ll update you in bullet form and expand in blog entries later.

Recent wins:

  • Woke up at 5 am yesterday to go with underclassmen to cheer for the 3rd graders (high school seniors) taking the 수능 (Suneung), which is a test that students start preparing for in elementary school. If you don’t do well on this test you can’t go to the college you want (or even college at all in some cases). Most of my students in the academic track stay at school until 10 pm or later every day doing self-study… pretty much just for the Suneung, and even the kids that are not in the academic track stay late and study. I was there before any of the teachers (got there at 6, most teachers got there at 7:30/8) and got to hang out with my students in the freezing cold. Apparently foreign teachers never go and cheer for the suneung so my school was really shocked (and very happy) that I went, and since I went with my host sister and not a teacher apparently they didn’t even know I was coming.
  • Almost finished with book 2 of piano, going on to book 3 in a few days.
  • FINALLY figured out how to do a dora chaugi kick in hapkido (watch the video, he does one at 0:24).
  • Went to the hapkido night class one day instead of my usual afternoon class and saw one of my trouble maker students. This kid is about 6’4″ and has to weigh at least 250 pounds, he’s massive. We had to practice blocking practice and I was paired with him and I completely took him out. I can now say I beat up one of my students.
  • I’ve been practicing with a core group of 7 students for the English competition (we have to sing a pop song) that’s coming up and today we finally nailed the difficult harmonies in the chorus. My students were so happy!
  • I taught a lesson on Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog to my advanced kids.
  • I bought some sweaters so I won’t die!
  • Discovered a duck pond in my “downtown”
  • Went to Daegu/Busan with friends last weekend and built a sand-castle.
  • Tomorrow I’m going to the United States ambassador to Korea’s house for a Thanksgiving dinner with most of the first-year F*bright English Teaching Assistants.


  • I’ve been sick.
  • I lost my VOICE which is absolutely awful if you’re an English conversation teacher.
  • Korean vocabulary has recently been stagnating and grammar is definitely getting worse.
  • I STILL don’t know what I’m doing for Winter Break.
  • I feel like I’ve hit a wall in my relationship with teachers at school due to the language barrier and I really want to build deeper relationships but I don’t know how/I’m too tired to keep trying.
  • I have had 5 times as many spam comments as actual comments on my blog. Hint hint.

More later, I promise. As well as actual pictures eventually.

Irish Cuisine

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

My biggest concern recently about going abroad has been food. I have a few staples here in the US, such as Outback and Kraft Mac and Cheese, that I will not have available to me in Ireland. I just skyped with my friend that is studying abroad in London right now and she informed me that most Irish grocery stores do not carry American brands, but there are some stores that only carry American brands. Only problem with that is that those stores are extremely overpriced because it is your only option to get American brands. She advised that I bring any food I consider essential (Kraft Mac and Cheese) over with me, or have my mom ship it to me. So I will probably be bringing a good amount of mac and cheese with me over to Ireland. I will need some comfort food when I first get there!

Now onto some information about traditional Irish cuisine.
In the 17th and 18th centuries the Irish were known for having a boring cuisine, mainly consisting of cabbage and potatoes. Potatoes sustained the poor in Ireland until 1845 when a fungus spread throughout the potato crop killing millions of people and forcing over a million people to emigrate to escape starvation. Today Ireland is known for their fish and chips (french fries). Corned beef and Irish stew are also dishes that Ireland is known for.

I’m not too worried about the food there because I know they are huge on potatoes and I LOVE potatoes. I know that potatoes will always be available to me and that gives me comfort. Something interesting that I learned while reading about Irish cuisine is that food experts say that a diet of potatoes and milk will give you all of the nutrients the human body needs. Everyone is always on my case because I eat so many forms of potatoes and they are “all carbohydrates” and now I know that that is false. Potatoes have protein, calcium, and niacin, as well as a good amount of carbohydrates.

Here is an Irish food pyramid I found that I thought was funny:

I am also not crushed that alcohol is on their food pyramid….