Archive for June, 2011

For My Father

Sunday, June 19th, 2011
My father is a long time collector of comic books. He has boxes upon boxes of comic books neatly filed and collated sitting in our basement, and even though some of them have been valued at a few thousand dollars, he cannot bring himself to part with the last remaining relics of his childhood. A Marvel man through and through he devoured dozens of these graphic novels as a child and has since come to emulate many of his comic book heros in his adult life wether he realizes it or not.
The Riddler
When speaking with my father no question is ever simple and no answer is ever clear. He enjoys the run-around of teasing an banter, often answering questions in song lyrics and  film quotes, and sometimes just avoiding questions all together. Trying to get a straight answer out of him is like trying to get into DC at 8am on a weekday, its a slow, tiring, and exhausting process. My father is a Riddler.

The Joker
My friends have been known to come over to my house not to hang out with me, but to sit in the kitchen and be entertained by my father. He is constantly making people laugh, sometimes even intentionally. The trouble usually comes when people have trouble telling when he is and isn’t joking. His jokes are brash and sometimes go to far, but he is quick on his feet and is always trying to get the last laugh.

Batman
Just like the Dark Knight my father likes to hide in the basement where no one can bother him. He keeps to himself in the dark and moves around the house at odd hours of the night while the rest of us try to sleep. When he doesn’t have to work the next day he is almost completely nocturnal, much to my mothers annoyance. Just like the famous caped crusader he likes to do all manner of odd things in the middle of the night like work out, ride his bike, order things off television, and sometimes he gets really wild and balances the checkbook. Perhaps he isn’t out saving all of Gotham City but he certainly enjoys his batcave and shuns the daylight.

Spiderman
He doesn’t swing from building to building, but he certainly swings back and forth between activities and conversation topics so quickly that no one can ever keep up with him. He weaves a complicated web of conversation and while he scurries across it with expert ease the rest of us are left to sort through a sticky mess. Just like Peter Parker he was the nerdy kid in high school who somehow ended up with a great girl who loves him despite his oddities and incredible A.D.D.

The Hulk
With all the miscellaneous exercise equipment that has come through our house and ended up at the church bazar over the years my father should look like the Hulk by now, but he is only the Hulk in his mind. He thinks he is capable of lifting just about anything and thinks that somehow his workout regime of ten minutes on the Total Gym every third week and a protein power shake in the morning has him on the way to the perfect Hulked out body. My father may not look like the Hulk, but you certainly won’t like him when he is angry. He has HULK SMASHED quite a few things over the years. If you ever find yourself in the kitchen in our home you will notice that we keep our fruit in a pile on the end of the counter. It used to be kept in a ceramic bowl…..HULK SMASH!
Superman
Every morning that my father has to work he showers and puts on his white shirt and dark pants and suddenly becomes a completely different person. Gone is the man who takes nothing seriously and can’t focus, and in his place is an efficient and productive adult.  His labcoat is the superman cape that transforms him into the serious Pharmacist who I barley recognize as my father. In this clever disguise as a serious adult he saves lives by ‘dispensing life saving medication’ and it is only until he returns home again that the labcoat comes off and he is back to his human alter ego.


Thor
Having been the only male in my immediate family for quite some time my father has been the butt of many jokes over the years, but he takes it in stride because in his mind he is a God, which God? Why Thor of course. His hammer has been many objects in our house, shovels, meat mallets, steak knives, and even occasionally a broom, but regardless of the device he can usually be found picking up random things and shouting to anyone who happens to be in the room “I AM THOR, GOD OF THUNDER!” No matter how much we may pick on him he will always be a Norse god in his own mind, and therefore he is unfazed by whatever joke he finds himself on the wrong end of.

While he grew up idolizing super heroes in real life he is just my dad. An unbelievably intelligent man whose heart is bigger than his mouth, even though it is hard to tell because his foot so often occupies that space. He adores my mother and despite his wild and unruly nature my sister tamed him at the ripe age of six. He is a man of simple pleasures, whose idea of a perfect day off is to balance the checkbook, listen to AM radio, eat a bagel and read the paper. To him I owe my sense of humor and my ability to laugh and talk my way out of just about anything. He may not save the world but he certainly saves our lives from ever being dull.
Happy Fathers Day, I love you Dad.

How Mary-Kate and Ashley Got it Wrong

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

The last two weeks exams have been in full swing. Since the exam period in Australia lasts for the better part of a month and most of us only have two or three classes this has lead to a lot of down time. In addition to this, it has been raining quite a bit and therefore we have spent most of our time confined to our apartments pretending to study, or just straight up procrastinating. After a few days of this we were beginning to feel the early symptoms of cabin fever, so late one sunday night Kaela and I decided to head to the local blockbuster to pick up some DVDs to watch. We grabbed 3 full seasons of Sex and the City, The Royal Tennanbaums, Ferris Bueler’s Day Off, Stardust, and this little gem:

More like: Our Lips are Full of bad stereotypes and cliches

It was Kaela’s idea.

Our Lips are Sealed is one of those classic straight-to-video releases that Mary-Kate and Ashley made in their prime before they started dating suicidal movie stars and developing eating disorders. The premise of the film is that the girls witness a crime and have to be placed in the witness protection program. They are relocated all over the United States but they keep blabbing that they are in the witness protection program so they are finally relocated to Sydney, where theoretically they cannot be found. It was one of my favorite Mary Cait and Ashley films when I was ten years old, and re-watching it eleven years later I am having serious doubts about my mental capacity as a ten year old.

In the film the girls spend all their time in Sydney, and all their time in Sydney around the Harbor. It’s as if American’s will only be able to recognize that they are in Australia if the Opera House is in the background of every shot. All the usual suspects were wheeled out for the film: kangaroos, vegemite, crocodile dundee hats, and all the boorish Aussie colloquialisms they could squeeze into an hour and a half.

While Jill, Kaela and I sat and watched the movie we mocked the bad acting and were elated when we could pinpoint every location they filmed at. During one scene they have a chase sequence that goes through the public restrooms in Darling Harbor that Kaela has used on many an occasion, she was quite excited that she could recognize them.

While we mostly just found ourselves laughing at the sheer idiocy of the film, we also found ourselves groaning at the grossly over perpetuated aussie stereotypes that the film rested upon. Here is a brief synopsis of what we found to be deplorable about this film. (Let me just say before I go into this that yes, I realize its a movie and a crappy low budget one starring Mary Cait and Ashley at that, so I don’t take anything too seriously nor delude myself to think that this film had much of an impact on anything, although one of Courtney’s friends from Bondi did once say that this film was her reason for becoming interested in Australia, which frightens me)

Aussie slang

1) Colloquialisms- Throughout the film they use words like “sheila” and “brekkie” over and over again, trying to illustrate the point that even though Australians speak English you can’t understand them half the time. This is highly inaccurate. While there is some use of colloquialisms here they are easy to figure out for the most part. For example, brekkie is short for breakfast, sunnies is short for sunglasses, bangers are sausages, barbie is short for barbeque, ect ect. While sometimes a thick Aussie accent can make someone a bit more difficult to understand someone, generally speaking it is really not a problem in Sydney where accents are not that thick. Also- the word “sheila” is only used now on tacky tourist t-shirts.

2) Vegemite- In the film the students at the girls new school make them eat vegemite to prove that they are ‘worthy’ of hanging with the Aussies. While vegemite can be found at most continental breakfast bars and has its own shelf section in the grocery store, it isn’t something people are big into forcing onto other people because even the Australians know its kinda weird. Vegemite is a gritty brown food paste that is made from a yeast extract and it is typically eaten over a piece of buttered bread. So basically you are putting bread on your bread. In the film one of the twins tries it but it is fairly obvious she is eating Nutella and not Vegemite as the substance she spoons into her mouth is creamy looking and smooth, whereas vegemite is thick and gritty. I even looked it up on IMDB and it was cited there as being nutella as well. Not that I put too much stock in Mary Cait and Ashley films but SERIOUSLY!? They couldn’t even be bothered to ACTUALLY try vegemite for one scene? So much for method acting.

Care for some bread and yeast?

3) Kangaroos as pets- In the film the girls have a kangaroo as a pet. This is not only ridiculous but its something that Australians often make fun of Americans for thinking. Keeping a kangaroo as a pet would be like the American equivalent of keeping a deer as a pet, you just wouldn’t do it. Yes its true kangaroos are everywhere, because, like deer, the population has gotten a bit out of control, but you are more likely to see them lying dead alongside a major highway in Sydney than anywhere else in the city. Just like you don’t see deer in New York City you aren’t going to see Kangaroos in Sydney unless you go to a zoo.

4) Climbing The Sydney Harbor Bridge- At the beginning of the film the girls and their parents live in a trailer and the twins share a room. When they move to Sydney they work at a hotel on the harbor but have almost no guests, suffice to say it isn’t a very profitable enterprise. Yet, one day they meet two boys who ask them what they are doing later, and they say nothing. The next scene cuts to the four of them climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge. I did this during orientation and it is a $200 excursion, certainly not something in the budget of most 14 year olds and definitely not something you can just do on a whim as you have to schedule it ahead of time and its an hour of processing to get onto the bridge.

5) Manly Beach- At the end of the film the girls attend a surf competition that is supposedly held at Manly Beach, which is in North Sydney. Had they actually been on the beach in Manly then the would have been surfing on the ocean and not the Harbor, and therefore would not have been able to see the Opera House or the Harbor Bridge in the background, and yet during this scene that is exactly what you see. Anyone with any sort of basic geographic knowledge of Sydney would know that if you can see these landmarks then you are not where waves could be caught because you would be in the harbor.

6) Boomerang usage- A boomerang is an Aboriginal flying tool that was used for hunting and for sport and has become an Australian icon, but you are far more likely to find one in a tourist trinket shop than anywhere else. Living in Sydney for four months I have never seen anyone tossing a boomerang around a park like a frisbee, or tossing a boomerang to an animal to catch and retrieve. It just doesn’t happen. In the film they make a big deal out of the Australian kids playing with boomerangs like frisbees and one of the Olsen twins even masters the art of using one so that it actually comes back to her after she throws it. Most boomerangs are not “returning boomerangs” which are a kind of boomerang that is specifically designed to return when you throw it, but you have to learn how to do it, it doesn’t just happen if you chuck it mindlessly into the wind.

7) SHAMELESS Qantas Product Placement- Qantas is the big airline in Australia, and clearly they thought it advantageous to use Mary Cait and Ashley as their marketing monkeys throughout this film. It went further than just showing the famous kangaroo logo every time the characters flew anywhere, they even went so far as to blatantly spell out where all the funding for the film was coming from during this little exchange.

Mary-Kate: You need to get yourself down to Australia

Ashley: I recommend Qantas, is a long flight.

Not that I thought the Olsen twins had standards or souls when it came to creating films, but COME ON.

The whole film was camp, kitsch, and embarrassing in its shameless promotion of Qantas and pushing of inaccurate Aussie stereotypes, but then again, it’s a Mary Cait and Ashley movie, so I can’t say I expected much more out of it.

Pretty Much Halfway Through!

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

It’s crazy to imagine that week two is over! The first week seemed to drag, but now as I’m approaching week three, I don’t really want it to end. I love all my classes, and I’ve made some really good friends here. I still have so many things to do before the semester is over.

I’ve never taken a summer school class at UMW, so I had no idea how crammed all the lessons are; it’s slightly overwhelming that my classes are everyday. I’m so set on having class every other day, so I have to do a bit of speed reading each night.

I’M STILL MAKING A TO-DO LIST! Having laundry last 3 hours instead of the regular hour and a half is somewhat annoying when you only have about 9ish outfits, but I’m getting used to everything. Just like regular school I still manage to catch up on (most) of my TV shows. I try not stay in my room all the time.

However this weekend is an exception. This weekend is considered a free weekend, since no official ASE trips were scheduled. A bunch of people in our program are currently in Dublin; the rest of us are hanging out in Bath. This weekend feels weird since we have Friday-Sunday with no classes. It feels like this should be Sunday but thank god it’s only Saturday (I have to keep reminding myself)!

The workload was a little crazy this week. We had presentations and a paper due this week.  But it wasn’t hard assignments, just a bit of good ole procrastination that made it crazy. On the positive side we got to have some fun on the side. Wednesday our J. Austen class went to the Fashion Museum in Bath. It showed all the regency style dresses, shoes, hats, corsets, and skirts. I even had an opportunity to try on a corset! I felt a little silly, not gonna lie. They also showed fashion from all the decades, ranging from 1800 to 2010. It was a cool trip. Also, on Wednesday we went to a cricket match. However, the rain was on-and-off so we alternated from sitting outside to inside a couple of times. The rules were still not very clear to me (even after an overview was given) but it’s similar to baseball. I decided to have a half (pint) of cider to amuse me instead.

On Thursday a bunch of us went on a walking tour with a kind man in ASE called Andrew, who showed us different spots in Bath, that weren’t the common tourist attractions. Some of the sights included a part of the old medieval wall and an original medieval gate. In the evening, all of UMW students got together and we had a really nice time watching (about half) the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, which is currently the novel we are discussing in our Austen class.  Last night some of us got together to watch American Beauty.

Today is laundry and homework today. Here’s to getting things done!

cheers! xxxx

Nore’s Legal Series – Sampling

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

I haven’t been blogging. However that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing or doing things. In fact I’ve been writing about various legal cases having to do with various legal ideas and issues pertaining to copyright. It’s hella fun and I thought some of you might enjoy it. I’ve only written about three topics, but they’re fairly lengthy, so that makes up for the sparsity. If you get confused by a term or want more details, there’s Wikipedia and dictionary.com. Enjoy!*
The practice of sampling within the rap and hip-hop music communities has been around since the late 1980s and since that point the issue of copyright and sampling has been something that has largely been avoided by the courts, at least when compared to the output of music created through the use of sampling. Since the advent of sampling those few cases that are either pursued by the original artist or manage to make it to court have been dealt with in a variety of ways by judges. Up until 2005 with the Bridgeport Music v. Dimension Films case judges could take one of the two different methods or combine those methods to reach a ruling. The first method would be to use the substantial similarity test where the song that was created with the use of sampling would be compared to the original song from which the samples were taken. In comparing the two songs the judge would use the criteria of whether or not the songs were similar in message, tone, and audience to find whether or not the songs are substantially similar. The other method in trying cases of infringement through sampling would be to use a de minimis analysis. This would involve the judge looking at the particular sample and determining whether the sampled used constituted a qualitative and quantitative part of the original song. If the sample did not, and would not be recognizable to an ordinary listener, then the case would be dismissed. Normally judges would use a combination of the two methods, as can be seen in the case Newton v. Diamond where the judge used a combination of the substantial similarity test and the de minimis analysis to determine that no infringement had occurred. However Bridgeport Music v. Dimension Films created a new bright-line rule which aimed to simplify the issue of whether or not sampling constituted copyright infringement.
In Bridgeport Music v. Dimension Films the judge ruled that in cases where the artists admit the sampling has occurred that “no substantial similarity or de minimis [inquiries] should be undertaken.” This rule would only apply to digital sampling, which makes up the majority of sampling done within the rap and hip-hop communities. The judge also stated that simply an artist should “get a license or do not sample.” In this case the judge was implying that any kind of sampling, no matter how small or even potentially unrecognizable, goes against copyright law and should be considered infringement (“even when a small part of a sound recording is sampled, the part taken is something of value. No further proof of that is necessary…”). Again, this rule would only apply to digital sampling.
In light of this case, as well as Newton v. Diamond which was decided in the same year as Bridgeport Music v. Dimension Films, a number of scholarly articles have been published discussing the merits of this bright-line rule and the way copyright law in general deals with digital sampling. While all scholars agree that the law needs to better incorporate the idea of digital sampling, the exact method of dealing with sampling is not as widely agreed upon. Some scholars support the Bridgeport Music v. Dimension Films others, including Nimmer, believe that the judges were wrong in many of their conclusions namely the dismissal of the use of de minimis analysis and substantial similarity. In another article written by John Schietinger in the Fall 2005 issue of the DePaul Law review, the author vehemently disagreed with the judges dismissal of de minimis and substantial similarity analysis instead stating that a de minimis analysis should be conducted for issues of sampling. In doing so the author stated that it should be found whether the sample constitutes a trivial portion of the original song, and whether the sample is quantitatively recognizable within the context of the alleged infringing song and whether the two songs are qualitatively similar. Ultimately though, as the judges noted in their decision for Bridgeport Music v. Dimension Films “where one stands [on this issue] depends on where one sits” and it is unlikely that the issue will be fully resolved any time soon.
Finally it should be noted that even with the 6th Circuit bright-line rule, most cases of sampling are settled out of court or “ignored” by artists within the community, particularly if the artist sampling isn’t well known or the song itself is not terribly popular.

*I feel I should point out that this is not legal advice, more a summary of how sampling and other ideas have been treated in court along with a little bit of analysis by yours truly. As with anything I write about the law, don’t take it as authoritative more the thoughts of a pre-law student. Basically: I don’t have a degree, so hire a real lawyer if you need real legal advice.

Em in Asia! 2011-06-15 21:59:46

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Apparently the new cool thing to do at Sapgyo High School is to go find a rock and craftily put it in your hand so that your friend can barely see it and so he thinks that it’s 떡 (rice cake). You give the 떡 to your friend who then tries to eat it, but then realizes it’s a rock when he nearly breaks his teeth.

Boys.

Pre-Departure

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

It has been a frantic past couple of weeks and my mounting excitement only made the days longer and the wait more unbearable. Today at 12:26pm, I will leave behind the cool and calm Virginia summer days for the beautiful (and HOT) kingdom of Thailand. I cannot honestly say I know what to expect but I am more than ready to get out there. Now, only a 20+ hour plane ride separates me from 7 weeks in Southeast Asia. Huzzah!

Where Friends Became Family

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Before coming to Australia I had been concerned about finding friends that I would really connect and want to travel around with. My friends from home are so important to me and I am usually slow to make meaningful connections that I was concerned about meeting people while abroad. I am so glad that this fear turned out to be completely unfounded. As the semester is ending and people are starting to return to the states I find myself excited to return home but sad to leave my glebe family.

The first people I really got to know were my roommates. Jill is a brassy bostonian with a razor sharp wit and an old soul who could be found most nights knitting and waiting for Law and Order to come on TV. For the first three months we shared a room together and would fall asleep talking about home and our lives there. We also spent a few evenings bailing out our balcony which would flood with a few inches of water every time it rained, but we always laughed and smiled as we did it.

Kaela is an adorably southern shutter bug who is kind to a fault with an infectious laugh and a tremendous weakness for chocolate. She is a hopeless romantic who would read us the poetry of Pablo Neruda at night and take dozens of pictures whenever we would go out. The Australians would always pick on her for saying “Ya’ll” but within the apartment we would just giggle and tell her that her Alabama was showing.

Courtney is the trendy street smart californian turned New Yorker who knows how to find a good time and is always ready for an adventure. She was always the one to initiate our take out nights, and per her suggestion we shared many meals of Thai and Mexican food ordered in.

Together the four of us shared meals, movies, drinks, and laughter. Together we are Samatha (Jill), Charlotte (Kaela), Carrie (Courtney) and Miranda (me) to a T.

Apt 18 ladies

The first night in my Glebe apartment Jill, Kaela and I decided to go out on the town (or at least up the street) to get a drink to commerate our new digs. Yaella, who lived down the hall, had agreed to come along. As per usual I made a memorable first impression. This is how Yaella described it (copy and pasted from her blog)

“What is the origin of your name” Valerie, a tall blonde haired girl asks me as we walk around Glebe, hunting for a bar where we can get a beer.

“Hebrew” I respond without hesitation.
“Oh I should have guessed, what with the hair and the nose” she causally replies. Like a boxer punched the stomach, I feel a whoosh of noise leave my mouth that sounds vaguely like “what!”
Valerie is not trying to hurt my feelings or make racial slurs. In fact she has many Jewish friends, has eaten Matzah, and attended  a Jewish funeral (which she swiftly endorses and tells me she wants one). Quite honestly, Valerie is just the most honest person I have ever met in my life.
We find a karaoke bar and it turns out Valerie not only has a penchant for the truth but is also a very good singer. As we sit around the bar, we (Valerie, Jill, Kaela, and myself) all belt out the lyrics to popular songs from the 90′s while Kaela deflects the advances of a 30 something man. However, before we can get up in front of the crowd to sing and make fools of ourselves, karaoke night is over.

Despite my brassy beginning Yaella and I got to talking and  discovered that neither of us had class on Tuesdays  so we made a plan to walk a differnet suburb of Sydney every Tuesday. While wandering the side streets of Sydney we shared conversations and slurpees and found a fabulous pair of $15 leather pants. We weren’t fast friends, but we definitely became great friends.

As Yaella and I got to know eachother we also got to know eachothers roommates. Yaella lived with two Lyndsays, one of which was a tiny sorrority girl who is full of life, laugher, and is always ready to rage. One rainy weekend in March Lyndsay found herself sitting alone in her apartment for most of the weekend, and I wanted to go see the USyd production of Cabaret, and no one would go with me. Somehow Lyndsay and I found eachother that day and ended up going to the show together that weekend, and had such a great time trying to decipher the german accents done by Australians that we planned many other adventures. We went to see Spring Awakening, skipped school one day to go to the beach, and then spent a long weekend in Melbourne together. After one fateful night at the Flying Fajita Sisters where we agreed to split an amazing coconut bananna desert, one of the major tenets of our relationship became the splitting of deserts. We have split pies, cookies, puddings, a questionable chocolate pear parfait, the most amazing mango lime cake and countless wild nights. Suffice to say that life with Lyndsay is always sweet. She also taught me that you can never be too tired to go out and have fun. She would never let me skimp on an evening out, she taught me how to rally and rage!

Lindsay Yaella and I have spent just as many nights watching movies and eating baked goods as we have going out and painting the town red. We have danced till we dropped and color coordinated our outfits to get into clubs for free. We even spent an evening getting thrown around by shirtless Australian circus performers. I am so lucky that the two best friends I made in Australia both live in Maryland because this means our good times can be continued in the northern hemisphere.

The other Lindsay in Apt 29 was my roommate all through Thailand, and my fellow connoisseur of hotel breakfasts while we were there. We graduated cooking school, went snorkeling, made pad Thai, and rode elephants together. We even shared a lavish honeymoon suite in Krabi where we stayed up late watching HBO movies and chatting. She was always down to party and we had a crazy Thailand adventure together.

The lovely ladies of apartment 23, Alana, Amanda and Megan have always been the most welcoming hosts and some of the greatest party companians. Their apartment has been the location of many of our Glebian group evenings and they never show up anywhere without a bottle or a plate of something for everyone to enjoy. It’s hard to go over to their room and not end up sitting on their couch chatting for the next twenty minutes. They are always up for an adventure and excited to join any adventure already in progress. They party hard and the six of us always end up having a great time together reguardless of the activity.

The boys of apt 30, Andy, Seth and Jordan were always up for going out or staying in and watching a 1$ movie rental from blockbuster. They were also usually the first ones to show up when I announced that I had baked something. They even allowed us to borrow their apartment kitchen when Kaela and I needed to bake a cake for Courtney’s birthday without letting her know. For some reason the boys in this room decided early on in the semester that they would never pay for a haircut so every month in their room they would put a whole bunch of newspapers on the floor, get out the trimmer kit and have hair cut day. Jordan experimented with some odd hairstyles over the course of the semester. Andy and Seth are both from Iowa, but Andy is the only one I ever picked on about it. Andy is also the one who would insist that we stop in at McDonalds every time we passed one.

Yaella, Jordan, Andy, Lyndsay, and Me

Lyndsay, Seth, me, and Jordan on our weekend in Melbourne.

Seth was the father figure of the group when we went to Melbourne. He was the only one who ever knew where we were and could get us from point A to point B. I was the maternal one who was always suggesting activities and making sure we had eaten, but Seth could be counted on to make sure the logistics were taken care of.

If ever I was looking for little Jordan I knew not to even bother knocking on his door, for he would always be in someone elses room sitting on their couch and chatting. He fielded the most questions about Jersey Shore being from New Jersey but he always answered them with a laugh and a smile. I edited many a paper for him throughout the semester but we made sure to always celebrate with a gin and tonic once we had finished. He was like the stray puppy of Glebe, if he knocked on your door he was sure to be let in and stay for a while.

This group of people from all over the united states assembled in Australia and became friends and then a family.  I am so fortunate to have met and spent a semester with all these wonderful people, and I will miss all of them once I return home. Thanks for a great semester guys!

Glebians!

School Personalities – Staff

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Hands down, my favorite thing about being a teacher, even above teaching, is being able to interact with so many people. Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching, but the reason I love teaching is because it’s about taking information and conveying it in a way that it will be understood. To do this successfully, you must know your own personality and your presentation strengths and weaknesses, and you must know and be able to work with the personalities of your students and your co-teachers. This is what I’ll miss most next year. I’m changing school so I’ll still be teaching, and I’m sure I’ll meet some really amazing people, but I’ll miss the students and teachers here. 

So without further ado, I give you brief glimpses into some of the personalities that I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with at Sapgyo High School, given with nicknames or job titles so that I’m not breaching anyone’s privacy.

Staff:

First there’s Mr. M. I actually am not sure what he teaches, but he sits next to me in the teacher’s office. He does not speak very much English and knows that I can speak some conversational Korean, but everyday pulls up google translate and asks me a question in English about how my weekend was or how I am feeling today. During the winter when I kept getting sick he tried to make an appointment for me to get a flu shot. One day he got upset at my host father because I had to walk up the hill in the rain to go to school. Everyday without fail he stops what he’s doing to say goodbye to me as I leave the office.

Then there’s Mr.K. He’s one of my co-teachers, and by far my favorite one. He rarely skips class and in class he only ever translates things into Korean after receiving my permission, preferring to just repeat the question in simplified English, or with a different grammar form. About two months ago he gave me a box of instant coffee, telling me that I looked tired, and then without fail every two weeks after that he’s given me a new box of coffee, telling me that he thought of me when he was at the grocery store with his wife. Recently he’s also been throwing in random ginseng energy drinks, and vitamin C drinks as well.

There’s the short, Korean language teacher. She’s probably the oldest teacher at our school and also by far the shortest, but dresses like she’s in her thirties and wears pencil skirts and dresses, and her teaching slippers are five-inch platforms. She’s still shorter than me, though I wear flats. She always explains Korean grammar points to me in slow and clear Korean when we’re brushing our teeth in the bathroom after lunch. The students love her.

There’s the photography PE teacher. Oh man, what can I say about the PE teacher? We haven’t talked recently, but at the beginning of the year he took me, my host sister, his daughter, and my host dad on a trip to a traditional pottery village in Hongseong, where he basically recreated a photo studio (he had a light and everything!), made me sit in front of a pot and pretend to make it, and took numerous pictures of me. The next day he came to school with a giant framed photograph of me leaning over a pot and told me that it had to stay on my desk all day. All the other teachers came to a consensus and told me I looked like the Mona Lisa. During our faculty volleyball game every time he served the ball he would look directly at me and say “Emily” and then spike the ball as hard as he could at me. Gotta love the man.

There’s my host father. Words cannot describe how amazing my host father is. The first time I met him he was wearing a pink tank top and hadn’t cut his hair recently, so it looked like a curly afro. He has a good English vocabulary but not a whole lot of grammar, so every time he wants to say that he is good at something he says “good driver.” Example – when he wants to say that he is good at drinking alcohol (which he says everytime he drinks) he says ”I, alcohol drinking. Good driver.”

There’s the office worker who no matter what time of day it is yells “GOOD MORNING, EMILY” everytime he sees me.

There’s the Home EC teacher who makes homemade deok for the whole office, and last semester invited me to come to her class and learn how to embroider a pillowcase with other Sapgyo students. She wasn’t lying when she said her class was one of the students’ favorites – she’s a good, steady teacher and it was hilarious watching my rough-and-tumble male students who are quick to tackle each other in the halls silently threading their needles with pink thread. It was also hilarious seeing their panic as I asked them for help, or what I should do next.

There’s the music teacher who is giving me danso lessons. She always talks to me in English, but it sometimes comes out a little strange. For example, the first time I wore a particular dress she exclaimed “oh Emily! SHORT SLEEVE!” but then proceeded to tell me in Korean that it looked very nice, and why hadn’t I worn it sooner? Every single morning she makes sure I’m adequately caffeinated by asking if I would like some coffee.

There’s the woman who works in the office, who smiles whenever I come in to do my laminating, and always tells me I should come in more often and we should chat.

There’s my non-English co-teacher. I am supposed to have an English co-teacher for each class, but for two of my classes I have a computer science teacher who can speak some English. She knows that she has minimal English but she’s not afraid to admit it, so she always sits at a desk and does all of the activities and plays all of the games with the class.

There’s the male Korean language teacher who has the most beautiful speaking voice. We have a teacher’s meeting every Monday and Thursday which I generally tune out because the Korean is too high level for me to understand, but when he starts to speak I listen, because his pacing, intonation, and tone of voice is just lovely. The first day I came to Sapgyo High School he had my co-teacher tell me that he couldn’t speak English but another teacher told him I liked to bake, and he does too, and so he made me muffins, and then he gave me a basket full of muffins. Ever since then, some mornings I find muffins on my desk.

There’s the singing PE teacher who likes to randomly burst into song as he walks around school. He has a good voice. In the winter it started to snow and he sang a Korean song about snow, then coerced me into standing up and singing “Let it Snow” in front of the entire teacher’s office.

There’s the Vice Principal who loves photography who will randomly call me over to his desk, so that he can show me a picture of a flower that he took, or a picture of his new grandchild.

 …

There’s so many more that I can’t even begin to detail, or I haven’t gotten to know well enough. Everyday I find out something new about these wonderful people I work with. One teacher’s daughter speaks fluent English and volunteered in England for a year. One teacher volunteers to translate letters of thanks from English into Korean for families who have given to charity. One was in the military for six years before coming here. I was worried because I was the youngest teacher at my school, the first foreign teacher, and one of the only female teachers, but they really have welcomed me with open arms and tried to make me feel comfortable.

<3 Sapgyo.

Linchpin

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

This has been a solid, tiring, wonderful week, and I realize that I haven’t even talked the best parts yet! ASE has truly got their summer program down to a science. A run-down of major events:

- Monday was our first day of classes:

– In the morning I have Jane Austen in Bath with our tutor, David Fallon, who teaches at Oxford! Jonathan (director of ASE) described him to us as a Mr. Darcy type, which of course had a few of us on this trip fanning ourselves in order to ward off a fainting spell. In reality he is a Liverpudlian with endearing sideburns and a great deal of Austen-related knowledge! He took us on a tour of Austen’s Bath and has led a few class discussions, which, to me, do not seem too terribly different from our literature discussions at UMW. In terms of the discussion level, some of the students could care more, and I think Fallon is a little bit unsure as to how intelligent we are and whether or not we understand him or his humor. Overall, though, I feel good about how it’s going.

– In the afternoon we have Oscar Wilde with Dr. Foss! The best thing about this trip, other than the fact that we are currently ON it, has definitely been the extremely solid group of people we have on this program from UMW. I can say with complete honesty that I love and value all of them. Even though we’ve only had three days of class, every day we’ve had good discussions of which I’m pleased to be a part. We gel very nicely as a group, so it’s been really easy to come into class every day and get work done. A good feeling.

- On Wednesday we were at Stonehenge and Glastonbury, which was extremely fun. The group of people that most of the UMW people seem to fit in best with are very kind and, more importantly when we’re out in public, very respectful. One of the horrible girls from another school actually CLIMBED part of Glastonbury Abbey, which is an absolutely ancient and hallowed place. It’s just despicable, truly, that people would be so self-centered and uncaring, that they would, at twenty-something, act like children who haven’t been toilet trained. I feel extra…angst, I suppose, because they reflect so poorly on the rest of us in the program.

- On Friday all of ASE left on a big bus together for Cornwall! Our first stop was King Arthur’s old house, Tintagel. Okay, really Tintagel is an ancient ruin set on the Cornish coast. It was extremely beautiful there–I have never seen water so turquoise–but it was also VERY wet there. We ate our sandwiches and crisps in pouring rain before walking up and down rough-hewn stone stairs on the lookout for photogenic vistas, of which there were many. While we were there we also saw the entrance to what was apparently Merlin’s Cave, though the tide was too high to explore unless you wanted to go swimming as well, and we did not.

- Following our severe drenching, Andy the Driver took us further down the Cornish coast to a fishing village called Coverack, which was a truly exquisite place. When we got there it was cold but sunny and scenic. There was a stretch of beach, a small shop, a pub, and a rather alarming number of hills that made for an extreme workout over the course of the weekend. The hostel in which most of us stayed was high atop a hill and was also very, very nice. I’ve only ever stayed in two hostels, both on this trip, but this one was clean, the staff were lovely, and the beds, above all, were extremely easy to sleep in. Our breakfast, both mornings, was English in the best sense: rashers of bacon, eggs, toast, croissants, roasted tomatoes, baked beans, sausages, tiny little mushrooms, and large commodities of yoghurt, jam, honey, and coffee. After all of our long walks, the breakfast was the highlight of my stay.

- The following day, Saturday, dawned bright and beautiful as we made an early start to The Lizard, the southernmost point of Engla–sorry, I mean Cornwall. Cornwall likes to think of itself as a separate country from England, though its secessionist tendencies are far less notorious than, say, Ireland or Scotland. We had a marvelously knowledgeable pair of guides on our hike along the coast. The weather was better than it had been at Tintagel by miles and the views were utterly spectacular. We learned about a bird called the Chough (pronounced “chuff”) which was made extinct in Britain a number of years ago until a pair of Choughs came to nest on the Lizard, presumably originating in Boulogne or somewhere in Ireland. The day was glorious, the company predominantly very affable, and to top the experience off, we saw several shaggy Shetland ponies and large brown cows on our walk.  This part of the trip we like to refer to as “pre-seagull.” What follows is post-seagull.

- Our lunch was spent in St. Ives, a resort town which you might know better as the home of most of your soaps and hand lotions. It’s nice (for a resort town), but the seagulls and other birds have gotten so aggressive over years of being spoilt by wealthy, crumb-laden tourists that, while on the beach, Tricia was hit in the back of the head by a gull. Her pasty leapt from her hands and a swarm of birds was on it in an instant. We were so terrified that we left the beach. We had seen the signs warning us of the gulls and had tried to be careful, but to no avail. A few of our friends stayed: two of them were bitten by gulls, and one of them had her sandwich stolen. St. Ives was not a hit. Thankfully, we ended our evening with a large barbecue and a pint of cider at Roskilly’s, a large farm and dairy which had exceedingly charming cows and very delicious ice cream.

- Our final test on our journey was the long bus ride from Coverack to Knightshayes, a large stately home with an overpriced cafe, then from Knightshayes back to Bath. At this point we were all very exhausted and ready to get back, so it was hard on everybody. Once we got off the bus, I accused Jonathan of planning a long trip away on our first full weekend in Bath so that when we came back, we were tricked into calling it “home.” He agreed that this was certainly the outcome, if not the original goal.

- A few interesting cultural notes: while in Coverack, I never heard a bad word about Americans. Even when we went to dinner as a group of about sixty, the pubgoers were mostly very friendly and those who weren’t understood that we were not there to upset them, but merely wanted to eat. When we got to St. Ives, however, a man on the beach called us “prats” (think “idiots”) and laughed at us when we left the beach. At Roskilly’s, I thanked a woman for handing me my pint of cider in my English accent. Tricia came up to get hers, also thanked the woman, and the woman responded, “Goodness! They have manners!” Finally, one of the volunteer guides at Knightshayes, the stately home, whispered to another guide while I was in the room: “Why would a bunch of Americans want to come here? They aren’t really welcome.” It was pretty embarrassing, overall, to be seen as a bunch of ignorant Americans, and even more embarrassing to understand why people thought that of us. Otherwise, though, it was a beautiful weekend, even if it was so rainy that most of us smelled like wet dog for the majority of the trip.

Entering Week Two

Monday, June 13th, 2011

So much has happened since my last blog post! I’m sorry for being so behind!

My first week of classes was a whirlwind! My Jane Austen class, taught by a wonderful Oxford professor, is probably my favorite so far. It’s also a very nice location because it’s located in my house, so all I have to do is trudge downstairs casually without bringing a bag with me. The classroom makes the class feel very intimate. It mostly consists of girls, with the exception of 3 guys. Luckily there are about 4 UMW students in this class (there’s two sections) so it’s not terribly awkward. So far we have discussed the biography of Jane Austen, gone on a walking tour around Bath to places where Jane Austen stayed and places in Bath that are mentioned in her novels, and discussed Northanger Abbey. The only downside of this class is that the protocol for getting into our house for class has not been truly organized so I’ve had the misfortune of opening the door for the earlier class to let them in, while wearing my pajamas. Dr. Fallon, was running up the stairs to let them in and saw me in my polka-dotted pajama pants. Awkward.

The Oscar Wilde class, taught by Dr. Foss, is a nice class too. It’s truly intimate because it’s just UMW students and by now we are used to each other. This week we’ve had an introduction to Wilde’s biography, his poems, and some of his lectures. The class is located in Nelson’s Cabin, which is in the Nelson House right across the street from where I live, so it’s a quick walk to class. Luckily I have an hour and a half break between my two classes to grab lunch and watch some TV. During class, it’s personal enough that we can get easily distracted between making fun of Tricia and Foss’ nautical jokes in reference to the strange noises we hear in our class.

Wednesday we had no class because we took a day trip to Stonehenge and Glastonbury. This was an amazing trip, even with the rain that was scattered throughout the day. Stonehenge was a classic sight and our group took many photos. We next went to Glastonbury and went to the Abbey to see the ruins. It was again, really pretty! We had lunch at a restaurant that specialized in fish and chips. The group all had some, and it was soooo good, and so filling. The next adventure was to Glastonbury Tor, which consisted of a steep hike up a big hill, with a beautiful view of Glastonbury, to the top of the hill where there was a huge tower. It was a breathtaking experience; I felt like I could write a poem about it.

Our next big excursion was our weekend trip to Cornwall. On Friday we went on a bus to Tintagel, the legendary birthplace of King Arthur. I had a major geeky moment explaining to a friend about the movie “The Mists of Avalon” which tells the story of King Arthur, etc. Tintagel and the castle ruins were beautiful, as well as the amazing cliffs, caves, and coastline. The only problem was the awful rain. This wasn’t the standard English rain which starts and ends in 5 minutes. It continued throughout the entire visit. Everyone was soaked while they were trying to eat their packed lunch while also trying to take pictures and hike up the slippery staircases. The steps reminded me of the stairs that Frodo and Sam climbed up, led by Gollum, to the inside of Mordor. By the time we were leaving Tintagel, it stopped raining. Typical.

After Tintagel we went to the coastal town of Coverack, where we were staying for the weekend. Most people stayed in a very nice youth hostel. The town was tiny and intimate. For dinner the whole group went to dinner at a pub (which we barely fit into) and had traditional Cornish pasties and I had cider and finished someone’s Guinness. YUM. Saturday we left Coverack and went to the peninsula and the most southern point of England called The Lizard. We had a very nice tour guide, who knew all about the area, including the geology and seemed to be a naturalist. He led the hike around the peninsula, stopping every now and then to tell us about the birds, flowers, geography and interesting random facts about The Lizard. One interesting fact was the connection he made to King Arthur: the local birds, called the choughs, supposedly earned their red feet and beaks from pecking at the corpse of King Arthur on the battlefields. The coastline was gorgeous and the hike wasn’t too treacherous because we went at a nice pace.

Departing from the Lizard, our group went to St. Ives,  the town with a beach and cute shops. While trying to enjoy our pasties on the beach (cautiously) we were interrupted by the gulls; one flew at Tricia, hit her in the back of her head and stole her pasty. The gulls are that aggressive! We left the beach, hastily finished our lunch and bought some fudge/ice cream and explored the shops. We almost got lost on our way back to the bus, but with luck we caught the right bus back to the parking lot. After St. Ives we went to Roskilly’s Farm (dairy and meat I believe) and had a nice BBQ dinner, cider, and some yummy ice cream! Sunday we went to Knightshayes Court, a great Victorian style house with beautiful gardens and sheep.  After that we headed back to Bath. It was really a long and tiring week, and we soon found that we were referring to our houses in Bath as home!

Today, in between classes, a few friends and I went to the famous Sally Lunn’s restaurant, and had buns with chocolate butter (recommended by Foss’ daughter) and tea! It was great! Also, Thursday night, I had my first try of Pimm’s: it’s a really yummy alcoholic drink with gin, lemonade and fruit…kinda like sangria.

The food is good here; people should stop hating on English food!

That’s all for now, din din time!