Archive for December, 2012


Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Well, I have a teacher facebook now, which has helped me communicate with students in new ways, but has also helped me realize some things about my students. First, I’ve realized that my kids are terrible spellers. Seriously though, it’s so hard to figure out what they’re saying sometimes because I’ll stare at a word and try to figure out what it is only to realize that it’s a word I know spelled wrong – what’s worse is sometimes they do this on purpose to be cute, like writing 잇다 instead of 있다, (있다 is the verb “to be” so as you can probably guess, it’s used very frequently). There’s also the habit of adding ㅇ to the end of words (at the end of the word it makes an “ng” sound) – 감사합니다 (kamsahamnida: thank you) becomes 감사합니당 (kamsahamnidang). It’s supposed to be “cute” but it drives me insane. On a more serious note, it’s interesting to see how the gender divide isn’t as prevalent on facebook, and how sometimes the students will update their statuses or send me messages while they’re in class.

Accepting friend requests has been taking forever, because not all the students have pictures, and I want to make sure I know who every student is before accepting their requests. Following a friend’s advice, I took home my picture roster and have spent the last three days matching students’ pictures with their names, and then writing them messages. It’s taken awhile, but it’s been worth it.

A few days ago class 2.2, one of my sweetest all-girl’s classes, had one of their students pretend that her “yearbook” was ripped so that I would give her another one. Then many of the students in that class wrote me messages and presented me with the yearbook. All of the messages were sweet, but there was one that was particularly poignant from a student named SH. SH stated that she wanted to be a foreign teacher like me, and live abroad and teach Korean to foreigners. She said that I was like her mentor, and I inspired her to work hard to accomplish her dream. The day after giving me this yearbook, she friended me on facebook, and the following conversation took place:

The facebook is also an interesting way to start dialogues with students. Last night, South Korea elected it’s first female president, 박근혜 (Park Geun Hye – Park being her family name) from 새누리당 (Senuri Party), the main conservative party. As I’m not Korean, nor am I especially knowledgeable about Korean politics  I’m hesitant to state my own opinion about the election, however I will say that most of the people I’ve talked to are incredibly unhappy with the result. Nationwide, most young people (20′s, 30′s, and 40′s) voted for the main opposing candidate, Moon Jae-in, while Park Geun Hye was supported mainly by people in their 50′s and 60′s. On my teacher facebook, I asked my students what they thought of the election results, and this is what they said:

We’ll see if students continue to respond, and if they do what they say.

November 28, 2012

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Sorry that it has been so long since I have written. I am sure you are all curious as to what I have been up to. Between studying for exams, saying goodbye to friends, house hunting, moving, preparing for nationals and getting a job time has been a rare commodity.

Today was an unusual day. Our coach works at a school in an underprivileged area of Cape Town. He had the idea to hold a soccer camp for the girls at the school, to show them that there are alternatives to the lifestyle of gangs and violence that are so prevalent in their respective communities.  My soccer team went to the school at ten in the morning. We first visited the grade R’s in their classrooms, they were so excited to have people visiting them. As with any young kids their excitement manifested itself in showing off, they performed their end of year dances and songs for us. It was so adorable. After spending some time with them we went out to meet the girls in grades 3 through 6, they were the ones that we were doing the soccer camp with. They were full of excitement, mostly because they didn’t have to be in class for the rest of the afternoon but also because they had a passion for soccer. They greeted us with a cheerful “good morning ladies.” My coach then made me greet them in Afrikaans, which sent them into a fit of giggles.

The camp consisted of doing drills with them, focused on passing, headers, ball control and dribbling. We were each given a group of girls to work with, mine were quite shy but as the day progressed they became more animated and goofy. We then made five different teams for a miniature world cup, my team was Germany. The girls came up with a war cry that they screamed at the top of their lungs. Unfortunately we lost our first game so we were kicked out of the rest of the tournament.

It didn’t bother them too much. One of my girls told me, “it’s not about winning, it’s about having fun.” Wow what a great attitude for a little six year old to have. By now they had figured out that was from America so they peppered me with questions about America, they were really interested in if I had ever met Selena Gomez or Justin Beiber. They also wanted to know if I walked to South Africa from America. They then told me about their lives and the gangs, I asked them if any of them would ever join a gang and they all responded immediately with no.

After the tournament we talked to them about how sport is a great way to express oneself. They all listened eagerly. It was then time to wrap up and head home. They sent us off with chanting “UCT” and telling us how we could win nationals. I left with a tattoo on my arm “Akeela loves Esther.”

It was a lot of fun. Our team hopes to do it again next season.

That evening we had our practice. Our coach told us that one of the girls has the opportunity to play in a soccer tournament in Durban this weekend and is shy 300 R. She needs to have all the money in order to be able to play. Each of us donated 30 R to give this girl the chance to play the sport that we all love. We are anxiously awaiting to hear back from her to see how she did. 59137_10151570655159778_1634482508_n 77006_10151570654819778_1722528518_n

Driving in Cambodia

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

I have never seen so many motorcycles in one place before. In America, there is the stereotype that Asian peoples are the worst drivers. I feel that most stereotypes have a ring of truth to them.  I see some of that truth here in Cambodia.  Driving here is simultaneously the most active and passive daily event.  There are no stop signs, no right of way, minimal traffic lights.  Honking is serves as a warning of a vehicles presence.  It is the most unorganized, yet efficient mess I’ve ever seen.

I think part of it has to do with the atmosphere here in regards to driving.  People swerve and cut in and out of every space possible.  Did I mention there is no observance of lane space?  Cause there isn’t.  Everyone moves together: big trucks, fancy Mercedes, tuk tuks, motorcycles, and bicycles.  When you want to go somewhere against the flow of traffic you just do it.  You are patient with those in front of you and you don’t cut any one off.  Those coming against you slow down to let you pass as others cut around you in different directions.  This style of driving doesn’t work well in places like the U.S., where drivers are impatient, rude, and unnecessarily aggressive.  It does work well here however.


Oh, and those motorcycles…they hold anywhere from one to five people (some adult some children, or infants) or hundreds of pounds of fresh fruit or brooms or ladders.  Whatever they can carry with them goes on the motorcycle.


First Grade Shenanigans

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

My first grade boys are making me laugh which is good, because my second graders are almost making me cry. We’ve had so many schedule changes recently which doesn’t bother me normally, but since these schedule changes could affect the date of my last class I’ve tried to stay on top of them. I found out on Friday during first period that next Friday most of the classes were cancelled, which meant that this week was going to be my last class with 2.5 and 2.10. I was really really sad.

It was a good class. I managed to wrap up a lot of loose ends within the class and talk to a fair number of the students one-on-one. Sam was there for that class as well as others, and she managed to meet most of the students I regularly blog about. She also got a fistbump from fistbump kid, and had A NICE LOUD CONVERSATION with THIS KID (who we’ve decided we’re now calling Caps Locks Kid because it just fits).

After class I chatted with one student about Model UN for most of the break period, then went outside to find a student I had seen walking normally just minutes earlier hobbling around with one crutch shoved under his armpit, his walking eerily reminiscent of my friend pretending to be an urchin in Oliver Twist at my sixth grade summer drama camp.

“OH NO WHAT HAPP– wait. You didn’t have a crutch five minutes ago.”
“Haha yes I got you teacher.”
“Which poor student did you steal that from? Can the student walk?”
“Yes” he said, shrugging nonchalantly “he’s fine. This is my secret tool.”
“How is it your secret tool?”
“Teachers see me and they say ‘Oh DG, are you okay? You should rest’ and I say ‘okay’ but really I am okay.” Then the bell rang and he hobbled off, yelling over his shoulder “Goooooodbye teacher!”

It’s hard losing my second graders. I’ve got a teacher facebook set up and I’ve given them all my email, but I’ll still miss them, probably more than they’ll miss me. One student last week started up in her seat and exclaimed that they wouldn’t ever have another foreign teacher. While this is not necessarily true, especially if they take English classes in University or go to a private academy, I am the last foreign teacher they’ll ever have in public school, and for some of them the last foreign teacher ever. I’m the end of a long line of foreign teachers they’ve had that have, hopefully, tried to instill in them a love of English, learning, and cross-cultural exchange. They’re growing up and moving on to bigger and better things, though they have to get through this next year first. At least I get to keep some of my students, though next semester I’ll be wary of students on crutches.


Friday, December 14th, 2012

Sam visited Thursday and Friday. So far she’s met most of the students that I’ve blogged about, and we ate some persimmons. It’s been fun.

It only took me three months to actually SEE the baths in Bath!

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
Lovely view of the baths More baths! The baths full of coins from all over the world! Nice picture with the baths. OVERFLOWING WITH EXCITEMENT. Finally made it to the baths. On the walk overlooking the east baths. It was so cold out and the baths are so warm that there was steam everywhere!

The First of the Last (Classes)

Monday, December 10th, 2012

This time of year’s always difficult, and it makes me glad that though I’m disorganized in every other aspect of my life, I’m intensely organized when it comes to my class schedule. If I hadn’t been, as there’s two weeks left in the semester, I wouldn’t have realized that this is my last week with most of my second grade classes and I wouldn’t have planned accordingly.

While I will be at CPHS for another 6 months, I won’t teach the second graders anymore. The Korean semester starts in March and ends in December, which means that the F*bright foreign teachers always start and leave halfway through the academic year. While I’m grateful my schedule is the way it is as it allowed me to go straight from university to Korea without a multi-month delay, it can be annoying. The students will graduate and move up a grade, which means that while I have a new incoming batch of first graders to teach, I lose my second graders because they become third graders, high school seniors, and focus on the college entrance exam. It’s sad all around.

For the second graders I did a lesson on yearbooks. Thanks to my lovely parents (<3) I was able to get scanned photos from my high school yearbook and bring in a CPHS yearbook and compare and contrast them.

Senior year picture. The students say that I look younger now. Can you find me? Hint – top left.

We then went over yearbook signing traditions (in Korea there’s a similar thing called “rolling paper,” but that’s separate from yearbooks. The yearbooks are only for graduating seniors) and I taught them some common acronyms like “TTYL,” “LYLAS,” etc. I then had them come up with their own acronyms that they could use to describe their own CP experience. I had made “yearbooks” with their class pictures on B4 paper and printed out one for each student. They then used their own acronyms and the ones that I taught them to sign each other’s “yearbooks.” Here are my favorite acronyms thus far (4/10 classes done):

IS – In Seoul (i.e. after CPHS they’ll all meet in Seoul, where the best universities are)

CID – Chicken in Dormitory

HACKLOT – Have Chicken A Lot

ROC – Rob of Convenience Store (i.e. they buy everything)

WITM – What is Today’s Menu?

DWWU – Don’t Wanna Wake Up

LT – Lunch Terrible

FCTSKY – From CP To SKY (SKY are the three top universities – Seoul, Korea, and Yonsei)

ILSSM – I love 순대 (sunde), 순대 (sunde) loves me (Sunde is a food that CP is famous for… it’s… well, you can look it up.)

TOTE – Turn on the Egg (i.e. the Olleh wifi egg)

LLT – Love Lunch Time

LS3 – Let’s Study/Sing/Sleep

YSC – YS is Coming (YS is Awesome Mr. Kim’s first name, this class’s homeroom teacher)

COW – Chicken Over Wall (The students aren’t allowed to have food delivered, and there’s a fence around school property, so students get chicken delivered to them “over the wall.” Apparently this is a pretty popular phenomenon at most schools, as evidenced by my friend Sam’s more extreme example of rope chicken)

EIS – Everyone in Seoul (similar to IS)

BUIC – Break Up in Christmas

NB – No Boys (remember, this is a super conservative co-ed but gender segregated school)

SOS – Sick of Studying

RTC – Run to Cafeteria

CPH – Chicken Pizza Heungbu (the CP trifecta: Heungbu is the name of our bakery).

These are all from my girls’ classes… I’m excited to see what the boys come up with, but I’m not excited to teach more last classes.

The Sahara Desert

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Our last excursion as a program was to be a three day trip to the town of Merzouga, in the South East corner of the country on the very outskirts of the Sahara Desert. We left on a Friday morning and a nine hour bus ride through the Moroccan country side and Atlas Mountains. Night had fallen by the time we arrived in Merzouga where we met a local Berber businessman in his hotel who had a small group of workers take our bags to the campsite around half a mile to a mile away. With the moonlight and starlight guiding us we walked to the campsite set up for us in the desert. It was set up in a traditional Berber manner. On one side was where the beds were located. There was a line of tents connected together to make a square leaving the middle of the square barren with sand. On the other side was the dining tent; all of these tents were decorated and floored with extravagant Berber rugs. There was also a generator to give us temporary light, during the cold, dark Sahara nights.


We were welcomed as if we were royalty, with a four course meal and stories, song, and dance around a warm bonfire. Before our dinner many of us explored the sand dunes, some of us pinching ourselves to just make sure we are actually in the Sahara Desert. Later on, the generator was turned off and there was pure silence. I remember learning about the Sahara Desert in elementary school and seeing pictures of endless sand dunes and Berber nomads leading caravans of camels to their next destination. I could have never imagined that I would have ever witness firsthand the Sahara Desert, the largest desert in the world (let alone Africa for that matter). After the generators went off one of our hosts led us to a nearby sand dune to watch to stars. The night was illuminated with numerous stars. I could see constellations, stars that I’ve never seen before, and even from time to time I could see shooting stars. It was a very humbling moment for me and many others in the group. I was already amazed by the Saharan night, and I was looking forward to what other experiences lay in store.

The next day our itinerary consisted of 4 x 4ing through the desert and riding camels, can’t get any better than that. While we were eating a delicious breakfast around six 4 x 4s drove up to our campsite and soon after we piled in and drove off. We drove through some small villages and eventually stopped at one village to visit a Berber band. The band played traditional Berber music which consisted of primarily drums, a ginbri (like a guitar), and a qaraqib which is a type of metal clacker. Eventually everyone was dancing (including me, of course) to the rhythm of the music. After we were finished dancing we went back to our vehicles and drove off deeper into the Sahara Desert. It was quite the experience driving over sand dunes and seeing the occasional camel and Berber hut. We eventually made it back to the hotel of the Berber businessman and had couscous and relaxed for a while. Now it was the part that I was looking forward to for this entire trip. After a couple hours we went outside of the entrance of the hotel to see a line of camels pass by us going up the road to a little open space off to the side of some buildings. We followed the line of camels and one by one each one of us was given a camel to ride. To be honest I was a bit nervous getting on the camel, primarily because that most of these camels were possessed with some demon as most camels having some sort of foam coming out of their mouths. It was kind of creepy to say the least. Also, probably for the first ten minutes of the camel ride I thought I was going to fall off but thankfully the ride became smoother and my camel didn’t trip over anything. We trekked through the Saharan dunes and it was yet another humbling moment on this excursion. This was a once in a life time opportunity which was like a dream made into reality.

We eventually made it to a dune that was the size of a very large hill and we stopped at the base of the dune. We dismounted our camels and climbed the hill, just in time for the sunset. There, on time of the sand dune, I witnessed probably one of the most beautiful sunsets in my life with shades of yellow and orange and red engulfing the twilight sky. We then descended down the dune, back to our camels and returned to our camp.

The next day we left for Meknes. No one wanted to leave, but all good things have to come to an end I guess. During this excursion have realized what really matters in life and there is more to this world than my home town of Woodbridge, Virginia, or even the United States. The world is like a mosaic, if you stay in one place all of your life you will not be able to appreciate or witness the full pattern of the mosaic. The Sahara Desert was an experience in which I shall never forget and I will make sure to use the inspiration that I received from the desert throughout my life.

ASE Does Stratford-Upon-Avon

Sunday, December 9th, 2012
After the Orphan of Zhao, a bunch of us went down to the Dirty Duck to meet some of the actors and have a few drinks! Apparently it's a thing here to get ice cream during intermission. who knew!? Me and Laura before the show Sculpture garden at Anne Hathaway's cottage Anne Hathaway's cottage Shakespeare's grave Standing outside the church where Shakespeare rests There are always actor's at Shakespeare's birthplace ready to perform for you! Shakespeare's birth place Royal Shakespeare Company

Snow and Fuzzy Feelings

Friday, December 7th, 2012

There is an Emily Teacher-shaped imprint in the snow right outside my school where I fell this morning. Luckily it was right at the side of the building, so I doubt anyone saw me. In any case, nothing’s hurt except for my pride.

It’s finals week so I don’t have to be at school, but I had an appointment with some third grade students. They’re graduating in February, and the student government is asking ten teachers if they can film them saying “congratulations” and imparting wisdom to the graduating class. The third graders all received a list of teachers and had to choose the ten that they wanted. Somehow, I was chosen.

This means the world to me. I only taught the current third graders for one semester, when I first started at the school. Because we start in August, and the academic year ends in December, our contract starts and ends halfway through the academic year. I had a very rocky first semester, as I was really intimidated by the previous teacher. She had been there for two years and was an extremely competent teacher with teaching experience prior to F*lbright, and I was still (and am still) figuring out how to teach. It was better than my first semester at SG HS, but I’m not sure how much the current third graders got out of my classes.

Though I only taught them for one semester over a year ago, though at that time I only taught them once a week, though I was not at my best and I was still adjusting to the school, they chose me as one of ten teachers to videotape. I am so, so thrilled. Full of warm fuzzy feelings, even as the snow melts into a disgusting slush outside.

Speaking of snow, I wandered around the village at 5 pm yesterday after the snow had settled and the sun was low in the sky, and took pictures of the outskirts of town. Enjoy!


The houses behind my apartment are covered in snow.

The dogs play in the fields on the outskirts of town.

The road out of town.

Our school.