Archive for March, 2012

Olympic Park, 798, and life

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

We spent this weekend doing some touristy things around the city. The weather has been so beautiful (and clear!) so I’m trying to take advantage of that before it gets hot. I’ve been told that summer and winter are the longest seasons, and spring and fall last about two weeks each.

The Olympic Park is right next to my internship building, so we just took the same bus I take every week. The Water Cube is my favorite building… it looks like it’s made of bubbles. We didn’t go in, but apparently there’s a water park inside.

The Bird’s Nest, of course.

The torch:

On Sunday, we went to 798, which used to be an industrial district. In the late 1990s, some artists reclaimed the empty factory spaces as galleries and studios. It’s really really cool, guys. There are tons of shops, cafes, and innumerable galleries… way too many for one day. All of the art is very modern, very weird, and I didn’t really understand any of it. All in all a great place to wander around on a beautiful Sunday.

Click here to see my pictures!
(as well as more from the Olympic park) Be ready for some crazy art.

Next Monday through Wednesday is Qiming Jie Festival, which means we have no class. Because our language classes are only for exchange students, we don’t have to make up our classes on the weekend, as many Chinese students will have to do.  Kind of defeats the point of a break if you have to make up classes, if you ask me.

Qiming is “tomb sweeping day” where people travel to their ancestors’ places of burial and offer food or other tokens of respect. Many of the Chinese college students will not make the trip, but their families will. Read more about Qiming here or here.

This weekend, two of my friends and I will take a train to Qingdao (where they make the Tsingtao beer). It’s supposed to be very beautiful there, and you can tour the factory and try the beer straight from the production line. Then, we’ll take a train to Tai’an and hike Taishan at sunrise, which is a really beautiful mountain (pictured on the back of the 5 yuan bill… I have a goal to go to every place pictured on the back of the bills). Wish us luck! This will be my first hostel experience, not to mention first train experience. I’ve been told the trains get overbooked, so people stand in the aisles smoking, spitting, and generally being Chinese. I should have some nice pictures to post when I get back on Tuesday.

My Chinese gets better everyday. I think my listening has improved the most since being here. I think sometimes it’s mostly attitude that helps your listening. If you go into a situation thinking “I’m not going to understand what this person will say,” you will totally psych yourself out. But for example, I can order and customize my coffee really well, because I know all the questions the fuwuyuan will ask (what size, hot or cold, milk or sugar). It’s interesting how my communication skills in English (much better reader, writer and listener than speaker!) change when I switch languages… I’m terrible at writing and worse at reading in Chinese.

I love learning different idioms and weird nuances to the language. For example, the expression for flattering someone translates literally to “you touch the horse’s butt.” If you flatter someone, but they aren’t having it, then you say “you tried to touch the horse’s butt, but you accidentally touched his feet.” Too funny!

Another cool one is “521.” Many people sign texts with these three numbers. When said aloud, “five two one” is “wu er yi.” “Wu er yi” sounds like “Wo ai ni,” which means “I love you.” So 521 is shorthand for I love you. Cute.


It’s the end of days

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

…is what I thought when I left the main building this morning to go teach second grade and first smelled the air – instead of the relatively clear and fresh air I’ve grown accustomed to, it smelled like smoke. I looked up and saw little twisted black spirals floating down, as all the kids ran to class with their hands over their face.

So it turns out that someone decided to burn their trash on the field next to our school, but the wind picked up the ashes and flung them into the air, and they’ve decided to land on the grounds of Changpyeong High School and in the lungs of Changpyeong students. I felt really really bad for the first period PE class…


This is a picture I took a few days ago, before the Trash Dust Bowl of 2012. I took this standing just outside the main entrance looking out at the soccer field and second grade (boys? not sure) dormitory. On clear days you can clearly see all of the mountains that surround Changpyeong… it’s beautiful.

When I first came to school I found another letter from MW, along with a little present. I had talked to her during cleaning period yesterday and she had apologized for not being able to photocopy the letter. I said it was fine and she could give it to me the next day. She asked what time I’d leave school and I said I wasn’t feeling well so I’d probably leave soon.

 DSC03262                       DSC03263

She made a box out of post-it notes and stuck chocolate inside. She is so cute.

That’s all for today, folks! Stay classy. Don’t inhale trash.


OHMYGOODNESS while writing this blog entry I found out that the hot water dispenser isn’t working. IT IS THE END OF DAYS. Now I have to use a hot water kettle to make tea.

Leaping forward

Monday, March 26th, 2012
Hope everyone is starting this week on a great note :) We've changed our time for daylight savings here so now I am back to a six hour time difference between my loved ones in the states and I. And while I am missing an hour of sleep I am looking forward to enjoying this last week in March-almost four months down two more to go - I can't believe it!
Well what a week this has been!
This week started with a great opportunity that I've been looking forward to since last week: a chance to attend a discussion by Journalist Janine de Giovanni. The event took place took place Monday evening in the 6th arrondissement  in a spectacularly beautiful apartment. The discussion was entitled "Places at the End of the World." The attendees were other students on exchange from several universities in America. It was a packed apartment and while we waited we gladly sampled some of very french hors d'oeuvres and wine ;) 

When Mrs. Giovanni arrived she started by introducing herself and telling great anecdotes about her own experiences as a journalist in conflict areas. As an International Affairs major I was fully captivated by all the topics discussed-from the situation in Syria, memories from Rwanda, Joseph Kony and how she juggles her family life and her career. It was a great opportunity to have her share such personal experiences with us. She ended the discussion by encouraging us all to get involved in some form of activism before she went on to sign  copies of her book for some fans. It was a great evening!

The week got even better with Free Macaroon Day in Paris! On Tuesday certain patisseries were giving away "free" macaroons throughout the day. ( So during my two hour break in between classes I went to snag my free macaroon with friends at Pierre Hermé in the 6th.

We enjoyed our lovely macaroons in front of Saint Sulpice before we reluctantly headed back to class ;)

Wednesday evening was game day!!! I was so pumped to go experience my first football (soccer) match in Europe :) The match was between Paris Saint Germain and Lyon. I went with Michelle, Ayita, Gaby, and Clement and it was so exciting to see all the people on the metro wearing the blue, red, and white on their way to the game.

making our way through the crowds

The stadium was packed and you could feel how strong the energy and excitement was. Some pics from the game...

Sadly, while the game started off in Paris' favor Lyon ended up winning with a final score of 3-1. Paris played really well though, and while they were given four minutes of over time in the second half the fans were fed up with the team from Lyon and the ref that they started leaving the stadium before the game was officially declared over. See for yourself...

While the game was fun, the attempt to get back home was not! The metro was packed with all the fans trying to get home so we moved at a snails' pace through the metro until we finally got on the 9 and got home sweet home.
Friday I had an appointment with a first year student at ICP to help her practice her english. My litterature professor had asked me if I would be willing to help her and I was actually really looking forward to it. Before I arrived in Paris I was always more concerned about practicing my own french with other french students that it never occured to me that other french students would vice versa have the same need to practice with American students. Since, it was such a beautiful day we decided to practice carrying on normal conversation outside and in the end made plans to meet for more conversation hours. 
While I am on the subject of practicing English, I thought I would highlight a bit about what I have learned about the way the English language is taight in Paris. This is what I have concluded from what university students in Paris have told me about their experience learning English in school: today many young french students (whether English majors or not) can understand and read English well, because of all the American and British mass media that makes its way to Paris. (a.k.a. popular TV shows, films, etc) Thus, they have a pretty good understanding of English. I find it interesting that the same can not be said to be true of the presence of those influences of the French culture in the United States. In Paris the English students are taught  Brtitish English but among friends they typically speak American english, throwing in American sayings and slang here and there. In the classroom however, what seems to be lacking is enough practice in actually speaking English. Students have told me that they do not actually spend enough time in class speaking English and so this is why many students are far better at understanding English than speaking it. So I'm glad I could help, and I think she was much better at speaking English than she thinks she is ;)

I was up bright and early Saturday to go to Normandy with some people from my program. To get from Paris to Normandy is about a three hour drive and on the itenerary were the following destinations: la pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach, and the American Cemetary at Normandy. It was a great trip.

at la pointe du Hoc
too hyper! (btw it was very dark in here! so thank goodness for the flash) 
so many holes still left over from bombings- they were so deep!
at Omaha beach 
had a picnic lunch at the beach :) 
our  very kind tour guide through the  America Cemetery-she's in the middle of sharing the story of this young soldier with us. 

the memorial wall 
the bronze statue "Spirit of American Youth"

Have a lovely Monday! And good luck to all my UMW friends with registration this week!
-Liz :) 


Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Good morning blog readers! Considering I have no control over what time you chose to read this (heck, maybe I’m pontificating into a void here) or what time it is on your side of the world, I’m going to pretend it’s morning and that you’re as miserable to be awake as I am.

I hate mornings.

I just was not able to create a new lesson for second grade today, so I’m doing scattergories with them, and continuing to do my pronunciation lesson with first grade… I’ve got a ton of half-formed ideas, but I’d rather wait until they’re good and I have them fully formed and thought out than teach something that has the potential to be good and mess it up. Darn my type-A personality… Also last week I taught what I thought was going to be a fun lesson, but as my kids seem to hate writing (or maybe just poetry – my Sapgyo kids hated when I made them do poetry as well) it ended up being less fun. I was going to attempt to do a full-blown out poetry unit but with the reaction to the last lesson, plus the fact that this and next week is full of interruptions (I’m going to a conference, next week Tuesday – Friday the students are going on a trip, etc) the unit is going to be split up anyway so why not stick something fun in between the poetry?

I’ve been trying so hard to teach in units rather than teaching random lessons that don’t build on each other – but if you look at my schedule from the last three semesters, it just doesn’t work out. Part of it is that there are so many random cancellations and holidays that anytime I do attempt to teach a unit it tends to gets interrupted for at least half of my classes, and part of it is just due to poor planning on my part. You know, the same reason why I ended up doing a Halloween lesson halfway through November.

Anyway, I’d love to do a whole series of lessons on social studies – geography (probably mostly vocabulary, Konglish, and map activities) a lesson on government, and perhaps a variation of the choose a country lesson I piloted with Sapgyo’s advanced class last year. I’ve been scrounging around on the internet for ideas and I stumbled upon this really cool site set up by the Australian government called Discovering Democracy. I really want my government lesson to be active and student-centered, so I like their Design a Tower simulation a lot. Anyway, we’ll see how this goes.

(ps last week I had another simile about written me – “Emily is as beautiful as a flower.” – This one was written by one of the male 2.5 students. He gestured me over and pointed at his paper. I saw it, just kind of shook my head and sighed, and told him to get back to writing about his partner. I wish I knew the word “cliche” in Korean).

Em in Asia! 2012-03-23 02:43:10

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

I got another letter from MW today. That girl is just too cute. We had a short conversation as she was sweeping all of our desks while her friends looked on and giggled (not in a bad way, but more like a “wow she’s so brave” sort of way). Right at the end she tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear (Teacher! Have a good day!)

I can technically leave school at 3:30/4 but I tend to stay until 5 or so studying Korean unless I have something specific to do after school, because I’m just not productive in my apartment. However, I still haven’t finished (…or started) planning my lesson for second grade next week, and I’m meeting the English teachers for dinner at 6:30, so I think I’ll camp out here and lesson plan and study. I opened the 2nd grade English textbook to get some ideas and happen upon this gem:


Have you ever been hungry?
(당신은 배고파본 전이 있습니까?)
In my job I always get to eat delicious foods.
(저의 직업상 저는 항상 맛있는 것을 먹습니다.)
It gives me great pleasure.
(그것은 저에게 큰 즐거움을 줍니다.)
What is this job?
(이 직업은 무엇일까요?)

It’s a FOOD TASTER. (그것은 맛 감정사입니다)

Required: Big Mouth (자격 조건: 큰입)
Strong stomach (튼튼한 위장)
Patience to keep eating (계속 먹기 위한 인내심)
Not throwing up any food (어떤 음식이라도 토하지 말 것)

Wow. I mean just… wow.

Things Chinese people have said to me when meeting for the first time:

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
  1. “Your Chinese is very good!”
    This is a lie.
  2. “You are very skinny!”
    This is probably prompted by the image of the fat American, but I’ll take it.
  3. “Where is your Romeo?!”
    This, I assume, is because my name sounds like Juliet.  The first time someone said it to me I thought it was just a fluke. Nope.
  4. “You remind me of an actress in my favorite movie!”
    What’s your favorite movie?
    “The Sound of Music!”
    Julie Andrews?!


But on a much more positive note…

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Yesterday my classes weren’t all that great, but a lot of great stuff happened outside of class. Here’s all that good stuff, in random order.

I met with the two girls who wanted to have lunchtime conversation practice, and it went much better than anticipated. I’m always a bit wary of small group conversations because many times students are pressured into doing it by their parents or other teachers and don’t actually want to be there, and thus aren’t motivated to speak, so you end up asking a lot of leading questions to fill the awkward silence which gets really tiresome. These girls came prepared with not only a topic that they had obviously thought about (Korean versus American schools) but also lemonade and so we chatted for twenty minutes about their and my high school experiences while sipping our beverages. I had so much fun talking to them that I was surprised when the bell rang. Later in the day they came and gave me a tomato, because one of the girls’ father is a tomato farmer in Damyang.

As I was leaving school I ran into multiple groups of three or four first grade boys who were carrying large paintings across school grounds and across the street. Immediately upon seeing me they start screaming “PODOSKYYYYYY PODOSKYYYY HELP ME THIS IS HEAVY” to which I of course reply “Sorry. Going home. Have fun. You are strong.” If the second grade boys like to call me “Emily Photo-ski” then I think my new nickname given to me from the first grade boys is “Podoski,” because they think that my name sounds like Podolski, who is a famous soccer player.

Boys are weird.

After school I went to a coffee shop called Te Amo and worked on Korean for about two hours. I’ve grown kind of disillusioned with textbooks because all textbooks have such varied curricula that I end up learning grammar forms that are considered beginner/intermediate by one book’s standard, but not learning grammar forms  that are considered super basic by another book but hasn’t been introduced in my book yet. Also I’m so sick of hearing about Linda Taylor, and Michael, and Natasha, and Tien, and all the stupid characters that they insist on introducing to you in the books. “Natasha is married to a Korean man and likes to cook Kimchijjigae-” GUESS WHAT EWHA KOREAN LANGUAGE PROGRAM –  NATASHA IS NOT REAL AND NO ONE CARES ABOUT HER COOKING PREFERENCES.


So instead I borrowed a book from Changpyeong’s library called 국경 없는 마을 (The village without borders) which is a book written in 1st person narrative from the perspective of South East Asian workers and their children who live in Korea. Not only is it much more interesting than a textbook, but I’m introduced to a lot of new vocabulary and grammar and I can actually see how it’s used in a real sentence, rather than in a “dumbed-down-for-foreigners-learning-Korean” sentence. This isn’t to say that all textbooks are bad, or that simplifying sentences for second-language learners is a bad way to go, it’s just that I feel that I’ve hit a rut with my Korean reading and writing skills so it might be time to try a different approach. This book is especially interesting because as I live in a rural area, there are quite a few immigrants in my town, and in Damyang-eup (about thirty minutes away) there’s an immigrant center just like the one I’m reading about. It’s doubly interesting when you consider that this book is written in Korean and there’s no English translation, so by translating this myself, I get to access a resource that would have been completely inaccessible to me a year and a half ago.

I’ve also been writing in my Korean diary, and today I’m going to meet my language partner and she’ll hopefully check it. It’s always so humbling trying to write down your thoughts in another language. My most recent entry goes something like this:

“Usually I write with a pencil because I write many wrong things but today while going to Gwangju I forgot all of my pens at school so I must write with a red pen. I do not like writing with a red pen. When I write with a red pen, I feel like a bad student. Also now while I am studying at a coffee shop my cell phone battery ran out so I cannot use the dictionary. It is very difficult. In Korea if you write a person’s name in red it is bad, right? In America, any color is okay however I still don’t like red pens.”

I feel like I’m back in elementary school. Ah well, as long as you work a little everyday, right?

However I’ve saved the best for last – so to preface this story, I should explain that in Korean schools there are no janitors. All of the students are assigned a location and a job (for example, second grade building staircase – sweeper) and they have to clean that area during a designated cleaning time, which at our school is for twenty minutes after 6th period everyday. I don’t like to leave school until after cleaning time, so I’m normally awkwardly sitting at my desk alone (all the other teachers are supervising cleaning crews) when the teachers’ office cleaning crew comes by to sweep and mop under my desk. The current mopper is scared of me, perhaps, because she refuses to talk to me, but the sweeper is an adorably sprightly second grade girl who everyday skips over to my desk (she literally skips) and asks if I can move so she can sweep under it.

This girl, MW, asked for my email address last week so that she could practice her English, but then the next day told me that she’d have to wait until the weekend to email me because she lives in the school dormitory. I told her that if she wanted she could do that, or she could hand-write me notes and I would correct them and write them back. The next day she gave me TWO pieces of paper – the original note (with drawings and multiple colors) and a photocopied one that I could edit and give back to her. The entire note was just charming, but this one section just put it over the top:

“I like to talk with others, but this school makes me study hard.  so I have to study every time.
In meanwhile, I had a dream. It is math teacher in middle school :) . Although math is often hard it makes me happy.
Do you want to know reason?
Umm, math’s range is very wide. So I’m happy when I learn new things.
also, I like teaching my friends. So, I have a hope. I grow up like you, because teacher’s class is very fun! (thanks teacher)”

Thank you MW. I hope you don’t think my similes and metaphors lesson this week is too boring.

This morning I…

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Rushed to put files on my flashdrive, but due to my computer deciding to run a surprise virus scan without prompting, I had to restart my computer three times because it kept freezing and

After twenty minutes of trying managed to put what I thought was files for the 2nd grade pronunciation lesson on the flashdrive before

Heading to class 2.8 to find out that the computer was MISSING. I

Find this out by having students wait until I lean down to plug in my flashdrive, then look back up in shock as they yell out


Taught an emergency lesson of Bowls of Nouns instead before

Rushing back to the office to turn on my computer and write my teacher reflections before my office computer doesn’t work and it’s time to

Go to my 2nd period class (1.1) to teach my 1st grade pronunciation lesson and in the middle of class I

Get a nosebleed and have to run out and hang out in the faculty bathroom for a bit before coming back in and then

After class still don’t have time to reflect because the computer is being crappy and it’s time for

3rd period and 2nd grade boys again and this time the computer is there but

The files that I had put on my flashdrive weren’t, so I taught my lesson

Without powerpoint.

I get a two period break and then I teach one more class of first grade boys. If one more thing goes wrong today, I might just punch my office computer which has finally decided to work.


Monday, March 19th, 2012

This week 2nd grade’s lesson is on similes and compliments. It’s a very heavily edited version of a former ETA’s lesson, but I’m rather proud of it because I managed to do something that students have been clamoring for but I personally don’t like doing in class – include a music video. Now I love music, but the thought of having to listen to the same song at least 20 times (more, if I play it for 1st grade) in one week is enough to make me steer away from including it in my classroom routine. I also just don’t really know how to incorporate songs – I don’t like just showing them as a hook without having the students somehow interact with the video, and my students are high enough of a level that I don’t want to do a random lyric-fill in (blank out some of the words and have the students listen and write them in), and I don’t have enough confidence in myself to teach my students how to sing a song. Couple all of that with choosing a song that has an appropriate message, appropriate video content (both appropriate for school, and also for their age – I don’t want to show anything too juvenile), AND understandable, and it becomes a nightmare. However, when you ask students what they want to learn in class and they say they want to hear and study pop songs, you should probably make the effort to teach at least one song.

I realized that the song “Firework” by Katy Perry was absolutely perfect for my similes and metaphors lesson. Not only did it have a great message (you’re unique, original, and you should “own the night like the Fourth of July”), but in every single stanza there’s at least one simile (ex: “do you ever feel like a plastic bag/drifting through the wind/wanting to start again?”) and the titular line of the chorus is a metaphor (“Baby, you’re a firework”). The video also shows many different types of people coping with difficult situations – there’s a kid who has cancer, a brother who wants to protect his younger sister from hearing his parents argue, a larger girl at a pool party who won’t get in the water because she’s self-conscious about the way she looks, a gay guy at a party who feels like he can’t be himself, a young kid with cancer, and a magician getting robbed (yeah don’t really get that one…). I was concerned about a few things with this video, but surprisingly enough my students made more of a big deal out of the fireworks shooting out of people’s chests (the first time you see it it’s a little strange) than the larger girl or the kiss sequence. To be fair, I haven’t taught this to any of my guys yet, so we’ll see how freaked out they get.

Watch here, it’s catchy:

Click here to view the embedded video.

I did a lyrics fill in but I took out all of the nouns in the simile and metaphor constructions and had students listen to the song and fill in the lyrics. We then went over the difference between a metaphor and a simile using examples from this song, went over how to construct similes, and then I had them construct similes about their partners. We then went over cultural differences in accepting compliments (in America you don’t refuse the compliment, you say “thank you” and try to use it to keep the conversation going), and then I called on some students and had them present their simile compliments and had their partners practice accepting the compliments.

During the guided practice some of them, completely unprompted, constructed similes about me. Here they are:

“Emily is as smart as a smart phone (Galaxy Note).”
“Emily is as friendly as my middle school friends.”
“Emily is as funny as a toy box.”


Sunday, March 18th, 2012

These past couple of weeks have been pretty hectic! The weather has FINALLY gotten warmer which is the best gift I could have ever gotten. I’ve been able to explore Parco Sempione, the Castle, and a few other parts of Milan which are just beautiful. I’ve also had the chance to go to Genova, Torino, and Verona, all very beautiful cities, especially Verona! Each city has something different to offer. Genova reminded me a lot of California beaches, which was kind of comforting, and also had the most incredible pizza I’ve had (so far)!! Torino brought to me the greatest festival a girl could ever ask for: chocolate!!! Almost everything had some sort of hazelnut product in it, but I am certainly not complaining because it was all so delicious! (I may or may not have bought large amounts of chocolate at said festival). Verona was just the quaintest town I’ve been to! It was full of the Italian architecture and atmosphere that I’ve been craving. And since my friend from UMW was here to visit for spring break it was extra exciting because she was happy to see another city! Even the train ride there was beautiful (unlike some of the other times I traveled by train to northern cities). We managed to see the arena, some cute little piazzas, and Juliet’s “tomb.” It was all very beautiful and now I can see why Shakespeare chose that city for the setting of his most famous play! This upcoming weekend I’m heading to France (Aix-en-Provence) to visit my best friend and then it’s off to spring break!

So happy the weather has gotten warmer!