Archive for November, 2012

Copenhagen! (København)

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

I went with two of my friends in the program to Copenhagen for the weekend on Friday night and we flew back Sunday night.

Here’s what we did/where we went/scroll down for pics with captions (trying a new blogging set up…)

  • Tivoli Gardens is a really neat theme park… in the middle of the city! Literally right next to the town hall. It opened in 1843 and is famous for its lights — over 20,00o bulbs. It’s pretty expensive, (like everything else in Copenhagen) so we only did one ride ($12 bucks if you can believe it!) called the Star Flyer (Himmelskibet) but it was AWESOME! because I love theme parks. We had waffles and hotdogs and I had the Danish version of Sprite which was called Faxe Kondi.
  • Of course we went to the Little Mermaid statue, and it was busy and somewhat unremarkable… apparently it’s been beheaded by vandalism twice in the past few years. Eek!
  • We walked through Amalianborg Castle courtyard and luckily we arrive at 11:55am, just in time for the changing of the guard at noon! Pretty neat to watch, a little intimidating.
  • After a walking tour of the city, we decided to visit Christiania. On our walk there we visited Vor Frelsers Kirke which has a huge spiral spire that we climbed and got an awesome view of Copenhagen.
  • We then went to Freetown Christiania which was founded by squatters and is an autonomous neighborhood. They have three rules.
    1) Don’t run
    2) Don’t take pictures
    3) Have as much fun as you can!
    We got delicious hot coco there since it was freeezing, and chatted with a local who talked to us about Danish/Scandanavian politics which was really fascinating!
  • On Saturday, our last day, we made it to Rosenborg Castle where we saw the crown jewels and the beautifully ornate rooms of the castle. Nice to be inside since it was POURING rain all day!
  • Our last stop was the Carlsberg brewery. I tried Carlsberg and the Tuborg. Learned a lot about the history. Saw the world’s largest bottled collections! We also learned a lot about the history, including that before the 1940s their symbol used to be the swastika and it’s still on the building… kind of surprising until we got into the museum, haha. They also have a sculpture garden, randomly enough.
Town Hall -- with dragons! A danish in Denmark! These hearts were scattered all throughout the city Anchor! Me and Sara in front of a picturesque canal We arrived just in time to see the changing of the guard at Amalianborg In front of Amalianborg Castle! The beautiful Gefion fountain The super famous Little Mermaid statue And then we found a windmill Outside Rosenborg Castle Vor Frelsers Kirke -- so many stairs! At the top of the giant spiral spire of Vor Frelsers Kirke Photo just outside Christiania Welcome to TIVOLI! Lights everywhere! at Tivoli! Lights at Tivoli! Dinner at Tivoli Beautiful waffle at Tivoli mint chocolate sprinkles! Just a girl in love with a waffle "I felt you and I knew you loved me" art in Vor Frue Kirke Vor Frue Kirke Denmark Does No Shave November! Rosenborg Ceilings Ornate Rooms at Rosenborg Crown Jewels at Rosenborg Carlsberg Bridge Carlsberg Elephant! Enjoying a Carlsberg The World's Largest Bottle Collection at Carlsberg Brewery


An UnAmerican Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

So last week was Thanksgiving, my first without my family and my first not in America! It was strange to see all the facebook status of my peers talking about being home with their families for the holidays. Certainly only made me more homesick than I already am! ASE, my program, held a thanksgiving dinner prepared by the culinary students at Bath College. It wasn’t the best (not that ANYTHING could compare to my mother’s cooking anyway!), but it was as though it were a really delicious dining hall meal at school. It was nice to be surrounded by my program and my friends for this holiday. They’d even decorated! Although the banner said “HAPPY THNKSGIVING” and there was a Christmas tree…

And of course, a list of things I am thankful for, regardless of the time of the year:

  • My parents, for providing me with this wonderful opportunity to live and study and experience abroad! And of course not only their acceptance, but their support, of all my passions and eccentricities.
  • My mother, specifically, for encouraging me relentlessly to take the opportunity to study abroad, no matter how terrified I am. Also, my mother for showing me what it means to be strong, what it means to feel, and for being one of my best friends.
  • My father, for being my best friend, for teaching me to not be embarrassed (no matter where he does his Urkel impression), for always making me laugh, and for always listening (even if I’m melodramatic).
  • My brother, for always being willing to beat people up, even from hundreds of miles away, if they hurt his little sister! We don’t do the best job of keeping in touch, but I know how much we love each other. Can’t wait to see you for Christmas!
  • All the rest of my family — grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins — the works! My grandparents for always being there, especially you Grandma Jean for making the phenomenal effort to keep in touch from different coasts for every single year of my life. I can’t even express how grateful I am for the close relationship we have. To all my aunts and uncles for giving me great summer/spring breaks visiting, and never skipping a beat to make me feel like family, no matter how much time has passed since I’ve last visited. And my cousins! Never knew I liked kids until I met you little rascals — and I can’t wait to meet my latest cousin, baby Hunter.
  • My friends, who have made the effort to keep in touch (regardless of my terrible history of prompt responses — sorry LP and Jimi!) while I’m out of sight, but not out of mind! A special thanks to Joe who has been around this whole semester to help me work through the ups and downs of homesickness.
  • I’m incredibly thankful for the monetary privilege of my class that has allowed me to even be able to be abroad, to receive a higher education, and have limited debt.
  • I’m thankful for social justice activism and the way it has opened my eyes to the world I live in, and the world I want to shape as I live my life.
  • And I’m thankful for homes, and I can’t wait to come back to Virginia. Many of my dearest friends here! Brett, Ed, n me excited for turkey! Me and Laura!

Ode to Persimmons

Monday, November 26th, 2012

This blog post is for my family so they can understand what a persimmon is, and why I’m obsessed with them.

When it comes to food, I’m a texture person. Even if it has a delicious flavor, of the texture is in any way off-putting I can’t eat it. There are some exceptions to this rule. Over time I’ve come to accept fish and oatmeal, but this is because my idea of what a “gross” texture was has evolved along with my palate. I still don’t like dried fruit, though I’ll eat it, and I fear that certain foods, like raw crab, I’ll never be able to stomach.

It’s taken me two years to like persimmons. My first year during the fall my host mother would always prepare sliced persimmons, and I was so confused as to what they were. Sometimes we would get these gloopy gross slices of what looked like premasticated baby food, and sometimes we  would get these hard orange-colored slices, that looked like peaches but had the texture of apples, that had small brown flecks dotting their surface. Every time I would ask her what they were, she would just say 감 (gam – persimmon). I was always confused as to how two things with such a different texture and taste could be the same thing, and subsequently developed an irrational fear of persimmons.

Now, the reason for my confusion is that I didn’t realize that there are two main types of persimmons – fuyu and hachiya. The fuyu, my current obsession, looks like the illicit offspring of a pumpkin and a tomato. When ripe it’s a rich orange color, squat, sometimes ridged like a pumpkin, and hard. You can peel it or eat it with the skin on, cook it, steam it, or eat it raw. The hachiya is oblong, redder, and when it is ripe its skin becomes delicate and almost translucent. The insides liquify, and sometimes the skin begins to tear, and when you try to pick it up the skin cannot contain the fruit’s flesh any longer and it explodes all over your hands. The hachiya is sweeter than the fuyu when it’s ripe, but if you don’t wait long enough for it to ripen, it has an astringent taste. They’re delicious raw (according to my friends – I still can’t eat these, they’re too gloopy) and good for baking.

A few months ago around Chuseok, one of my co-teachers and neighbors, the Awesome Mr. Kim, gave me a bunch of Chuseok food, including six persimmons. I had no idea what to do with them, so I left them in my refrigerator. The issue with living in the same apartment complex as your really generous coworkers is that you share the same food trash can – if you don’t end up finishing your food and end up having to dispose of it, it goes in the communal food trash bin. I knew that I had to somehow get rid of these persimmons, and in a way that Mr. Kim wouldn’t be insulted, because the idea of eating them terrified me. I decided to make banana bread and grate the persimmons up and shove them in there, letting the banana mask the flavor. As I grated the persimmons, out of curiosity I took a bite of the piece I was grating and I realized something…

Persimmons were good.

Persimmons were SO good.

Persimmons were cinnamon and spice and everything nice made into fruit form.

If an apple pie was a fruit, it wouldn’t be an apple. It’d be a persimmon.

What have I been doing with my Korean autumns?

Since that time I’ve made persimmon bread twice, persimmon pancakes once, and consumed approximately twice my weight in persimmons. I’m currently attempting to stockpile enough persimmons to make persimmon butter, but every time I buy more I end up eating them. I also have a persimmon cake recipe saved on my computer.

Go buy a persimmon right now.

The Forum

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Every fall semester the ISA program at Moulay Ismail University coordinates and hosts an event called the Forum. The Forum was designed to bring together students from colleges all over the world to discuss issues in the world today. Schools from Spain, Australia, England, and China were in attendance along with the Moroccan and ISA students. The theme was how to integrate yourself into the global market, and how to market yourself during the current global financial crisis. It started Thursday, November 15th and lasted until Saturday, November 17th. Friday was kind of an “iffy” day since it was the Islamic New Year which meant classes were cancelled that day but also many people (at least for the morning session) stayed home to celebrate. Because there were no classes on Friday, the Forum couldn’t be held at the University (which was the original plan) but thankfully the Community Center where the opening ceremony was held was available for Friday. During the morning session on Friday I, along with five other ISA and Moroccan students, gave a panel discussion on Intercultural Communication and the Global Market. I spoke for five minutes about how various aspects of Globalization and tourism have played a significant role within the Global Market. Also, I explained how Intercultural Communication integrates itself within the Global Market, and for that I focused on the internet and businesses such as IBM and McDonalds who use Intercultural Communication to sell their products. Along with our panel discussion there were other panel discussions after us and on Saturday morning discussing the same issues on the international job market. During Friday and Saturday evening, there were performances of ISA, Moroccan, and Spanish students displaying their various artistic talents such as singing, dancing, and a short play. Probably my favorite of all the performances was the Spanish Flamenco dance. As I’ve mentioned before in my entry about Spain, the country is like a beautiful piece of art with every characteristic and aspect of Spain fitting together to create a intricate and colorful mosaic. The Flamenco dance is a great example of the artistic qualities of the Spanish people with the serenading guitar complementing the spectacular voice of the singer along with the beautiful dancing señorita. Overall, the Forum was a great success, with lots of fun, music, and dancing along with intellectual discussions discovering ways for the next generation to have a positive impact on the current global society in which we live in today.

Odds and Ends Around Meknes

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Here are some observations that I’ve made around Meknes both regarding the Coffee Shop and the Barber Shop. The Coffee Shop: This is only one observation of the many that have caught my eye recently and I feel that this is worth sharing if you want to get a good insight of the Moroccan lifestyle and economy compared to the American lifestyle and economy. Throughout Meknes, and in any city in Morocco, one will find numerous coffee shops. Now, these coffee shops are all small businesses (not many Starbucks or Caribou Coffee Shop’s in Morocco) with their customers, all of which are men (the occasional female customer but it’s not that common to see). What I found interesting going to these coffee shops is that the customers are just sitting around all day socializing, drinking coffee, or just staring into space. This might seem a wast eof time to some, I’ve asked myself why don’t these men get jobs, help Morocco’s economy grow. What actually happens is that most of the men who sit in these coffee shops are business men and the coffee shop serves as their unofficial office. For instance, let’s say that a Moroccan needs to sell their house and they need a realtor, many realtors are at the coffee shop down the road so the Moroccan goes to the coffee shop and talks to realtor and they start a dialogue. Many business transactions occur at these coffee shops, so it might not seem that anything is getting accomplished at these coffee shops, but in reality there is a whole economic system that is based on the coffee shop.

The Barber Shop and Language Barriers: I believe that going anywhere in Meknes alone allows you to experience to culture in its unedited, purest form. When I say unedited, I mean that although the Moroccans know you are a foreigner and might still treat you differently than another Moroccan, the intimidation factor that comes with a large group of Americans is almost eliminated. People are much more willing to try to talk to you and want to show how Moroccans really live. That being said, going anywhere alone also forces you to use the vernacular so you have to put your Arabic skills to the test. A good example of this is my two visits to the local barber shop. During my two visits I’ve had to use a mixture of Derija and French to let the barber know what type of haircut I want. Along with some charades I usually get my point across. Communicating like this can be fun but also can be frustrating for some people. I try to take advantage of these situations to use and practice the Arabic that I know and I also use it as a learning experience to learn more words to improve my proficiency in Arabic. I also have this experience almost every time I go to the medina to buy something. When the person I talk to knows Classical Arabic, I usually can get my point across pretty easily. But often, I usually end up using what little French and Derija I know along with some charades to get what I need.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

Saturday, November 24th, 2012
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

- St. Augustine

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

Saturday, November 24th, 2012
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

- St. Augustine

Closing Statement – 2.10

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

“And today, I think about all the student’s seen throughout our the year in school – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that South Korean creed: Yes we can. Please vote us.”

I told students that they had to make a short “closing statement” at the end of their debate. I left it very vague, and just told them that it should be something that would make students want to vote for them. After telling them that, I gave them five minutes to decide their speaking order, finish their posters, and write their closing statements. The above is what a group came up with independently, without asking for any help from me.

Em in Asia! 2012-11-19 23:21:44

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Remember how Solomon gave me a literary collection that contained three of his pieces? I’m still only halfway through the first one. He’s a good writer, but goodness this is difficult.

This is his essay about Typhoon Bolaven.

You see the three post-it notes full of vocabulary? I’m only 3 1/2 paragraphs into translating his essay.

Student Profile: Member Koo

Monday, November 19th, 2012

His name isn’t actually Member, that’s just how Conversation Lee refers to him. Or rather, his name IS in fact Member, in Korean, just like how Conversation Lee’s name actually is the word for “conversation,” but Member didn’t quite own the name like Conversation did up until recently. Every time I ask Conversation Lee to present something, he starts by standing up and proclaiming ”I am Conversation Lee!” Member Koo’s acceptance of his moniker has been much more gradual.

Member Koo confuses me. He has, by far, the lowest level English out of all of my club class students, and possibly out of the whole school. I’ve never seen his English scores so I can’t confirm this, but I’ve never seen him write more than a sentence in English at any time, and he’s never voluntarily spoken in class. His behavior in my normal class is almost identical to his behavior in my club class – he’s apathetic and tends to fall asleep. I’m pretty sure his original reason for joining my club class was that he got cut from the soccer club along with Conversation Lee, and Conversation dragged him along.

While everyone else writes a paragraph or two in their journals, he writes one sentence. This is a vast improvement from the first few times we did the journal, when he would just copy half of the prompt and then stop. The thing is, though he’s only writing one sentence, that sentence is getting better every week. These days he’ll ask his friends for help. He’ll ask them to translate the prompt, how to spell a word, or how to spell something. When I go help him, he’ll actually look at me, and though he may not answer my questions verbally, he’ll start writing when I leave. He smiles and waves at me in the halls, and nods when Conversation Lee yells “See you in club class!” After six weeks of giving him scrap paper to use during journal time, and hounding him about not having a notebook, he finally brought one. Granted, it has another student’s crossed-out name on it, but instead of writing his name in hangeul, or writing it in Romanized Korean, he chose to write “Member Koo.”

I don’t know what his academic background is. I don’t know how he does in his other classes. I don’t know if he’ll choose to take my club class again, in fact I’d be very surprised if he did, but I’m glad to know that my class made some sort of impact. I hope he continues to try harder and improve, not because his English level is important (though, unfortunately in Korea there is a lot – some would say too much – emphasis on English language ability), but because I like the direction he’s going in as a student. I don’t mind that his English level is relatively low, as long as he puts in some sort of effort, even if that effort consists of borrowing another student’s notebook, and writing “Member Koo” on it.