Archive for April, 2012

Dissapointed

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

It is lovely outside, and lovely inside my second grade classrooms with my kids, but not so sunshiney inside the first grade classrooms. It doesn’t help that I decided to wear a low(er) cut sweater to work today (you can see about two inches below my collarbone, heavens to betsy) AND a scarf to mask the top, while not realizing that in the classrooms you get all the glorious sunshine of spring with none of the ventilation, and I end up suffocating in my own modesty. Also, my hair is now slightly-awkward mullet length, which means that I’ve taken to wearing headbands, which inevitably give me a headache by the end of the day.

My second graders either clap, or greet me when I walk in… now I don’t ask for that, or expect that from my first graders, but I expect recognition. I expect students to see me walk into the classroom and get ready for class. Today when I walked into my first grade girls class they acted like nothing had happened. They went on chatting, and studying while I began my intro, then I stopped and stared.  They kept on chatting. I then called their attention to the front, and the captain half-heartedly had the students stand up and insa me, in Korean, after which they got right back to talking.

If there is one thing I can’t stand, it’s chatting. While I dislike when students study for other classes or sleep, I understand why they do it. They’re at a demanding, academic high school, and don’t sleep nearly enough. Also, they’re tested constantly, and I don’t give grades. However, when students are chatting, OPENLY chatting, faces turned away from me and talking to their partners in Korean, about mundane unrelated subjects, I get really, really upset. Because obviously the students are awake enough to focus, but they don’t deem me important enough. Now, this is not the same as when students ask their peers for clarification on a point I’ve made – of course I’m okay with that, but this is chatting.

I stopped the class, put on my ice-glare, didn’t name names but stared at people as I explained that it was English class time, and we needed to be quiet. I then confiscated an advertisement for school uniforms that a student was holding up in front of her face reading while I was saying this.

The rest of class was fairly uneventful, with a few bursts of chatting here and there, and at the end of class I explained that since I only saw them for fifty minutes once every two weeks, I wanted to make the most of our time but I couldn’t today. I then explained that I was disappointed with their actions. I then wrote “DISSAPOINTED” on the board for further emphasis, and realized after the fact that I had spelled it wrong.

I really hope the students realize that the takeaway from all of this is my message of disappointment, not that their English teacher can’t spell.

Andrew Jackson was Actually an Olympian

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Today I showed a picture of the US twenty dollar bill and told my students that it had a portrait of Andrew Jackson on it. I then asked my students if they knew who Andrew Jackson was.

“Percy Jackson’s grandfather?”
“No.”

The Italy expert.

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

I’m taking a class here called EU Integration, I signed up for it because I’m an International Affairs major, I’m supposed to learn stuff like this eventually, right? The class meets twice a week and pretty much focuses on how the European Union came to be. Up until the midterm we studied the Maastricht Treaty, and vague terms like the “Enlargement”, “Deepening”, and “Expansion” of the EU. Class always has the same structure and my classmates have picked up the same routine. We were each assigned a country that is a member of the EU and at the beginning of every class period we must provide a brief summary of a news story that is relevant to the state of the EU. We are dubbed “experts” on our respective countries, and from the title of this post you may have gathered that I’m the expert on Italian affairs. What’s funny to me though is that when class starts you can see everybody frantically connecting to the school wifi on their phones or iPods and scrambling for a computer  in search of an EU relevant article about their respective country. This routine always amuses me for two reasons:

#1- You know that you have to do this ahead of time, twice a week!

#2- It takes at most 10 minutes out of your life.

I pride myself on keeping up with world events, so I usually don’t have to scramble for some information on my country 30 seconds before the professor walks in the door, but I must admit it has happened before. I think I even read a news headline straight from my phone when it was my turn to share on one occasion. If all else fails, every once in a while our professor let’s us get away with “there’s really nothing going on with [insert country] today” this is easier to do if say you’re the expert for Estonia or the ever neutral Switzerland. Sometimes one of my classmates who (obviously) didn’t read the news over the weekend will fib and say that there was nothing in the news, and the professor will spend 15 minutes talking about all the different news stories related to the country. I never mind because it takes away from the actual course content which is unbearable to listen too. After midterms the class turned to focus on the Lisbon Treaty, and of course the best way to go over the Lisbon Treaty is to talk about every article in the treaty which by the way is made up of  290+ articles. Let’s just say, I started running out of things to doodle in my notebook and started coming up with blog post ideas instead. Upon my return to the States I plan to regale strangers at parties with my extraneous knowledge on Silvio Burlesconi’s prostitution trial, Italian bonds, or the riveting content of the articles that make up the Lisbon Treaty. Do not be jealous if I suddenly become the most sought after figure for UMW social events, you have been forewarned.

The Italy expert.

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

I’m taking a class here called EU Integration, I signed up for it because I’m an International Affairs major, I’m supposed to learn stuff like this eventually, right? The class meets twice a week and pretty much focuses on how the European Union came to be. Up until the midterm we studied the Maastricht Treaty, and vague terms like the “Enlargement”, “Deepening”, and “Expansion” of the EU. Class always has the same structure and my classmates have picked up the same routine. We were each assigned a country that is a member of the EU and at the beginning of every class period we must provide a brief summary of a news story that is relevant to the state of the EU. We are dubbed “experts” on our respective countries, and from the title of this post you may have gathered that I’m the expert on Italian affairs. What’s funny to me though is that when class starts you can see everybody frantically connecting to the school wifi on their phones or iPods and scrambling for a computer  in search of an EU relevant article about their respective country. This routine always amuses me for two reasons:

#1- You know that you have to do this ahead of time, twice a week!

#2- It takes at most 10 minutes out of your life.

I pride myself on keeping up with world events, so I usually don’t have to scramble for some information on my country 30 seconds before the professor walks in the door, but I must admit it has happened before. I think I even read a news headline straight from my phone when it was my turn to share on one occasion. If all else fails, every once in a while our professor let’s us get away with “there’s really nothing going on with [insert country] today” this is easier to do if say you’re the expert for Estonia or the ever neutral Switzerland. Sometimes one of my classmates who (obviously) didn’t read the news over the weekend will fib and say that there was nothing in the news, and the professor will spend 15 minutes talking about all the different news stories related to the country. I never mind because it takes away from the actual course content which is unbearable to listen too. After midterms the class turned to focus on the Lisbon Treaty, and of course the best way to go over the Lisbon Treaty is to talk about every article in the treaty which by the way is made up of  290+ articles. Let’s just say, I started running out of things to doodle in my notebook and started coming up with blog post ideas instead. Upon my return to the States I plan to regale strangers at parties with my extraneous knowledge on Silvio Burlesconi’s prostitution trial, Italian bonds, or the riveting content of the articles that make up the Lisbon Treaty. Do not be jealous if I suddenly become the most sought after figure for UMW social events, you have been forewarned.

A brief ode.

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Every time I ride a tram in Prague I look for the opportunity to get a window seat. Why? I suppose it’s because it still does not seem real to me how picturesque this city is! It’s gotten to the point where I don’t notice the ugly graffiti letters on the buildings anymore, I just look around and take in the views of the river, the castles in the distance, and the many spires atop churches and buildings across Prague. It certainly doesn’t feel like home but it also doesn’t feel foreign, it’s like I’ve discovered my own little haven away from Virginia, the state I’ve lived in my entire life. I definitely haven’t fallen in love with this place for the people. To start off, Czechs are overall serious and reserved, furthermore, the language barrier has prevented me from really getting to know any true Czechs. The food here, as I think I’ve said before, is not exactly to my liking. However, I’m a sucker for the cobblestone paths and winding roads (even though I’ve ruined my favorite pair of boots this way) and Prague’s history is interesting and impressive. I don’t think I could spend the rest of my life here, there are many things I miss constantly but for now I’m content and I don’t see myself anywhere else.

—-This could be YOU if you lived in Prague!—-

 

The place I call “home”.

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

This post is meant to serve two purposes. First, I hope that anyone who might be considering studying abroad in the future takes into consideration my advice and uses my experience as a cautionary tale for their own future endeavors. Secondly, I hope to vent a little steam in regards to my current housing situation.

So let’s begin, in Prague I live in a lovely flat near the center of town with four other girls from the program. I’m used to living with other people, I’ve grown up all my life living with extended family in cramped quarters where I’ve learned the value of sharing and keeping what I hold near and dear far away from any greedy hands. At UMW, I’ve lived in doubles, I’ve had a single, I’ve even stayed in Eagle Landing and shared a “full-blown” apartment. I would like to think that all this experience makes me an AMAZING roommate, ok maybe not, but at least I can stay out of people’s way.

As I researched study abroad programs a year ago, I was very focused on the type of living arrangements available, for the most part my options were living with a host family, apartments with program students, and some universities also had on-campus housing for students. I knew going into my search that I did not want to live with a host family. The idea of living with a family I didn’t know was something I didn’t feel comfortable with and I also realized that I would have to put a lot more effort into making friends, which can be frightening in a new country. A host family is a great way to live and “get local” but I didn’t want to be tied down by curfews or feel like a house guest who overstayed a visit. Call me crazy, but those are the things that came to mind when I pictured myself going home to a host family every night.

Dorms or apartments became a better option for me because I could come and go as I please and I would be surrounded by students who were going through the same trials and tribulations I was facing. Well as most things do, apartment life started out well, I have the freedom I want and the proximity to my peers but there is A LOT more responsibility. This responsibility manifests itself in the many chores that the five of us are required to do in order to keep our apartment livable. As the weeks have gone by I can certainly say that my quality of life has gone waaaaay down.

I’ve always semi-mocked the roommate agreements that we have to fill out when living on campus every year, but I completely regret not having at least a discussion about chores and responsibilities around the apartment at the beginning of the semester. Trust me, communication with your roommates is key! Had we opted to sit and talk about who’s turn it would be to buy toilet paper or dish soap, or set up a cleaning schedule it would have made the experience of living in an apartment a lot more comfortable. I mean, I like surprises just as much as anyone else, I just ask that we keep dish soap around, people!

At this point there is less than a month before we all leave and I don’t think I will be having a roommate discussion, so if you’re non-confrontational or lazy like me, I’ve found an alternative to a roommate intervention. Keep a secret stash of the essentials and eat out as much as possible!

 

Mazel tov!

 

Don’t smuggle cheese into the EU

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

I love to open up my e-mail and have a notification from the program director that there is mail waiting for me in the office. Usually, it means that my friend Zach has sent me a postcard with updates on his life and the on-goings at UMW; on one particular occasion though, I was certain that the “mail” being referred to in my inbox was a long-awaited package from home. During a weak moment of homesickness I had called home and whined to my mom about how Prague and it’s cuisine was not satisfying my dietary needs she agreed to send me some staples of my favorite home foods. She put together a package filled with latin spices, refried beans, dry pasta sauce, authentic Salvadoran cheese, and corn masa, among other things. When I went to the office at school I was bewildered to find a letter from the Czech post office in place of my long-awaited items from home. After a rather lengthy translation of my letter courtesy of the program director, I foound that my package was being held in Customs and my cheese, of all things, had been confiscated. Was I still allowed to pick up my package? Yes, but I had to pay a fee of 900 czk for it’s disposal that’s about $45 USD, needless to say I was incredulous but I paid it. Moral of the story, when it comes to cheese, the EU doesn’t play games my friend.

I’m Glad

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

I just told the Vice Principal that I had applied to stay at CPHS for one more year.

Or, rather, my co-teacher told the Vice Principal. I could understand everything that she said, however I had asked her to talk to him because I’m still not comfortable speaking in formal Korean.

I nervously watched. As my co-teacher explained the situation, and as a conclusion stated my decision, a smile started to bloom on the Vice Principal’s face.

He turned towards me, put a hand on his heart, and said in Korean “Ah. I’m glad.”

Member and Conversation

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

I had two new students join my club class today, because they didn’t make the cut for the soccer club. They introduced themselves as Conversation and Member, because that’s the literal meaning of their names 대화 (Daehwa) and 회원 (Hweiwon) when translated into English.

We then played an introductions game where students have to say their names and one fact about them. I died a little everytime I heard “Hello. I’m Conversation Lee.” or “Hello. My name is Member Koo.”

School Essays

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

I’ve been complaining a lot recently, because of the second grade school trip. Not that they took the trip, mind you, that’s great, but because one of the English teachers has assigned to three of his classes a diary-style essay about the trip and then told them to talk to me if they wanted someone to check it. Well. All of a sudden I became a hotter commodity than Northface jackets. I am no longer sad that I didn’t go on this trip – through the twenty or so essays that I read (talking about the same trip), I was able to experience every minute detail several times over. This is a really uncommon occurrence, by the way, the only checking I do is for English teachers and for students on an individual basis, and the teacher hastened to tell me (after the fact) that this was a one-time assignment.

Now it may sound like I’m being unnecessarily harsh, especially coming from an English teacher, but there’s only so many times a girl can read about the wonders of Everland (an amusement park) or how cold and dark Gosu cave was before snapping. I’m not criticizing the English ability – for the most part my students write really well in English – it’s that lack of diversity in the content. That being said, I am glad that I was able to read these essays because of a few essays that had parts like the one below (emphasis mine):

“So despite the cold weather, we dressed in civilian clothes with utmost and entered the Country of fantasy, Ever Land [Teacher's note: Everland is an amusement park]. A little later, the rain has stopped but the wind blew like a knife. In a spirit of rivalry, We decided that as much as possible we enjoy this wonderful country, put this unkind Weather behind. the country of fantastic was under the curtain of darkness, but The light did not disappear. Because the colorful elves showed splendid parade as recompense to our visit. I’ve been Ever Land several times but watching parade was the first time to me. The reason that the light did not disappear in the country of fantastic is not only this. may be because, The light of infinite joy was leaking all over the place In the heart of our. I’m amply satisfied this trip that uncommon experience, and could do a lot of thought. Too many other memories, like multiple photos in an album of my youth remains. Through the years, One day when I open and saw this album, a smile will blossom around my mouth like my face that day.

Wow.