Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Student Writing

On the importance of sports for teenagers: "First, kids have to grow. Sports is one of things that can help kids grow. For instance, basketball is a game that requires jumping and shooting the ball. Because of the need to jump, it cane make kids grow taller."

On identifying a problem and giving advice: "Mrs. Gripin you have many problems. First, you have trembling body. So I don't like that. You should become more patient. Second you have noisy snoring. I sleep near you and I couldn't sleep. You should get exercise before sleeping and should stop smoking! This is my advice and please listen to me. P.S. Haley teacher. Mrs. Gripin is my grandmother. She is 83 years old. Ha ha."

On teachers: "When I went to X academy, I was always bored, but then I met Ryan and Jim. My academy time became exciting. I don't know why I chose them, but maybe because we are man, so our mind is the same and we understand each other."

"If I were a teacher, I would not hit or kick students. Lee is very kind and peaceful, but sometimes when he was angry, so scared. He throws his pen and destroys his computer mouse often. He holds a long stick and hits three students at once (surprisingly it is true!). Although his hit skill is wonderful, I will never do that. I think hitting someone is not good for the student's spirit. There are other kinds of methods to fix student's problem. For example talking is good method to fix problem."

Monday, May 28, 2007

2007 World Ceramic Biennale: Reshaping Asia

Out of a need to be independent and to pursue my own interests here in Korea, I went to Icheon on Sunday to see the 2007 World Ceramic Biennale. There were a couple moments when I wished I knew more Korean and that the Korean schools were more successful in teaching English, but I managed just fine. The Biennale was located at the Icheon World Ceramic Center, which is a group of buildings set in a park at the base mountain next to a lake. It's a pleasant place, far from the noise and chaos of downtown, with lots of outdoor sculptures and quiet resting areas.

The Biennale was viewed as a family affair and there were kids and strollers everywhere. I am normally somewhat reluctant to address misbehaving children, but I actually tapped three kids on the shoulder to get them to stop touching the artwork. I was impressed that there were lots of hands on activities oriented towards the younger set outside. It's unfortunate that the kids weren't reminded that the touching stopped when they entered the exhibition space.

The international competition was divided into two categories: "Ceramics as Expression" and "Ceramics for Use". The top pieces from the "Ceramics for Use" category were on display in either Yeoju or Gwangju, the two other host cities. The main exhibit in Icheon displayed the results from the "Ceramics as Expression" category. Of the 2,444 works submitted by 1,436 artists from 66 countries, about 150 pieces were on display, including the 26 finalist pieces from this category. The secondary exhibit was called "Ceramics, Skin of Asia" and displayed the works of 26 artists from 14 countries. Unfortunately photography was not permitted in any of the inside galleries.

I've always enjoyed ceramics and this was the first collection I've seen dedicated to modern ceramics. I was impressed by a lot of what I saw and it gave me a lot to think about. I am happy I went primarily because I needed to affirm some of the reasons why I chose to come to Asia. I wanted to be exposed to a different aesthetic and have been disappointed so far. Beijing was temporarily restorative but I still have to reconcile myself to the fact that I'm living in a small city in Korea. I feel slightly more reassured after this weekend. Now at least I've seen some of the creativity that is flowing beneath the drab urban surface.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

One of my coworkers, Ryan, recently finished his contract and left to go back home. As a tribute to him, I'm going to post an essay one of our students wrote about him.

--To My Favorite Teacher, Ryan

Every student has their favorite teacher. They focused on him or her in class, trying to get interest on you. Actually, they don't seem to be a good student in their favorite teacher's class because they like him a lot. They can't concentrate on his lecture, just keep looking at him or avoid him because they're too shy. Here's one story about one girl named Chancey and her teacher Ryan.

Chancey is 15 years old girl, and goes to academy X. She met one man called 'Ryan', who is very handsome and has blond hair. Chancey really liked blond hair and handsome man. Ryan teached Chancey, and he became her favorite English teacher. But she tried to avoid him because she's too shy, so she kept screaming or laughing in front of him. She felt angry about him sometimes but forgot it very quickly because Ryan made her smile again. One day, Chancey heard that Ryan is moving. She regretted the behavior that she did to Ryan. For example, she acted like she really hates him. Finally, she decided to give him a present. She's now considering about what to buy for him.--

Bye Ryan!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Korean Rain

It started to pour while I was at the gym yesterday but luckily I had an umbrella. On the way out, noticing that I was only wearing sandals, my Canadian friend told me quite seriously that Korean rain is not like the rain in Canada or the USA. She said, "It might make your toes fall off. I'd wash my feet when I got home if I were you." This coming from a university professor with a PhD in linguistics.

When I first got here, I was encouraged to carry an umbrella at the slightest chance of rain. I was told that people would look at me funny if I was caught in the rain without one. Oh? My Berkeley educated boss said that people think your hair will fall out from the acid rain. Very funny, right? Nope. "Seriously, it will make your hair fall out. Buy an umbrella."

I washed my feet when I got back to my apartment.

Monday, May 14, 2007

After 2+ months of eating Korean food almost daily, I've got to admit that I'm just not that into it. I'm certainly more used to eating it, but I don't find myself looking forward to it (korean barbecue is the only exception). I definitely don't crave anything. It's actually quite disheartening not to like the food. I enjoy the social and cultural aspects of eating and feel I'm missing out on that here. As for trying new restaurants... they all pretty much look the same and serve the same food. There is thankfully one restaurant, Chopsticks, that does a modern take on Korean food and it's quite good. Too bad it's not closer to my neighborhood!

I won't be swearing off Korean food for good. I enjoy galbi (Korean barbecue) and will probably appreciate other dishes more when I'm not eating them all the time. Hopefully. In the meantime, I'm happy to report that I haven't eaten rice for a full week!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

China pictures part 2

Graffiti on the buildings, 798 Art District in Beijing:

Sculptures on display, 798 Art District:

Simatai section of the Great Wall:

I had a wonderful vacation in Beijing. The weather was perfect, sunny and in the 80s. The food was delicious, fresh and with plenty of vegetables. At one busy restaurant, I sat with an elderly couple from the northeast of China. After offering my own food to them, they encouraged me to try all of their food. We had a lovely lunch of smiling and pointing, occasionally asking the waitress to translate for us. The temples were colorful and smelled like incense. One Buddha was four stories tall. The Great Wall was awe-inspiring and the surrounding mountains stretched on and on until they disappeared into the blue haze. My afternoon spent wandering around the Beijing 798 contemporary art district was rejuvenating. Finally, interesting graffiti! The markets were hectic and the salespeople tended to be overzealous, but it was so tempting to keep on buying. Being able to shop while on vacation was such a welcome change!

After 6 days in China, I was not happy about going back to Cheongju. I knew I was making some sacrifices by coming to Korea and by going to a smaller city. Until this trip to Beijing, I hadn't had anything else to compare my experience to... *sigh*

Here is a small selection of pictures:

More on China and my back to Korea coping strategies later. I have to go teach!