Intrepid Girl Reporter

Wednesday, 5/28: and perhaps more importantly

1. Shin Jung Hyeon

2. Would You Rather lesson plan (note: this has been quite successful)

3. Would You Rather ppt

4. Would You Rather wksht

5. Scenes from a Restaurant lesson (also v. successful, but don’t bother giving your students food unless they are not ungrateful little hoodlums like mine)

6. Scenes from a Restaurant ppt

7. Scenes from a Restaurant video (feat. Grover as a waiter with a giant hamburger; hilarity ensues)

And since I’m mentioning the Restaurant lesson and the lessons in general, allow me to make a couple of points:

a) I used the menus from Ramsey’s, which is a fine establishment that you should make it a point to visit should you ever find yourself in Lexington, KY. I’ve only ever been to the one on High Street, but I can wholeheartedly recommend their Hot Brown and anything involving white gravy, as well as the pie, which is not on there but is worth making a trip for on its own. I prefer the mixed berry, but one of the Good Brown Daughters (with whom I usually go) says that there’s nothing but the brownie pie for her. Also, these menus are good for ESL classes, as they have a lot of food that students will imagine as stereotypically “American” while including some regional stuff. Also, fairly simple.

b) If you use these lessons and I don’t know you, please do leave me a comment telling me how you liked them. I’ve been bad about responding in the past, partly because I’m still foggy on a few of WordPress’s technicalities (for example, will you be notified if I respond?) but I really do like hearing from people who use these. I will start responding to comments. I promise.


Wednesday, 5/28: where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing
May 28, 2008, 2:41 pm
Filed under: life on Jeju, skool, students, teaching

Getting fat, being lazy.

This is not actually true. Well, the fat part might be, as, with my current schedule, I skip meals and then eat an entire baguette. The other day I made a baguette sandwich with fried eggs and Dijon mustard and it was totally amazing, but then I ate the rest of the loaf and that was not as good.

I don’t really have the energy for a solid post, but here’s a brief update on my life: MSYDP has taken over; I’m still applying for jobs; my school is taking me out to dinner because I agreed to teach the class that includes the delinquents that screamed in my face and/or grabbed my posterior. They told me I could choose where we went and I selected Japanese. Japanese food here is very expensive.

To be honest, I did think about bringing the Program in to deal with this, and I dropped a few hints for my school along the lines of the Program being really worried and concerned about whether or not the school could handle another foreign teacher. But truthfully, I felt like I was in one of those old ads for the Becker Law Firm where the old guy is like, “Let’s clean them out,” and his young nervous associate is like, “But they hired Gary Becker!” and the old man turns pale and is like, “Let’s settle this one.” In this metaphor, the Program would equal Gary Becker, and my school would equal the sleazy insurance exec. Also, and much more importantly, bringing the Program in to advocate for me could potentially have some pretty serious consequences for ACT, who might not have the seniority necessary to survive something like that, and while ACT is the only person at my school I’d take one for, the point is that I would.

Anyway the cherry blossoms have been replaced by blown roses that grow over the fences, and my students have taken to practicing their recorders (the instrument of choice for Korean middle school classes) outside, sounding like a chorus of demented little songbirds. Yesterday, coming back from Sicheong, I ran into one of my less participatory but more friendly students, and after she told me her favorite artist was MC Mong (not Big Bang?!?) we listened to some Kanye together and she actually bopped her head. I’ll be ready to go home, but I’ll miss this life.

Saturday, 5/24: a laundry list of my obsessions
May 24, 2008, 3:26 pm
Filed under: IGR Recommends, Jeju crew, media, music, reading, television, Uncategorized

In which we take a break from our regularly scheduled programming of constant complaining about all the stress in my life and examine a few things that I really, really love. It’s a special Super Size version of IGR Recommends.

When we were in Japan, I discovered a heretofore unknown fact about Soccer: given any iteration of the game “Would You Rather,” wherein one option is anything in the world and the other option involves Billy Crystal, she will always choose the one featuring Billy Crystal. This is a rule I like to think of as “Soccer’s Law.” At first I thought she was crazy. I’m not going to say that I suddenly had some sort of epiphany about my feelings towards Billy Crystal – they still remain in the indifferent-to-occasionally-annoying range – but I do, now, understand where she’s coming from.

I went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull* with some of the Jeju crew and Co-Teacher D, and I was trying to explain to CTD how adorable I find Shia LaBeouf and why. As it happens, I had also been discussing my love of the show “Cupid” with Oregon and Arkansas earlier, which is another relatively obscure thing about which I am passionate. I’ve also been listening to more Korean psychedelia lately. These three seemingly unrelated occurrences helped me to realize that I, too, have a lot of things I don’t necessarily think are the best in the world, but, given the option, will always choose for whatever reason. These strange little obsessions are itemized for the first time here.

Note: the following list doesn’t include obvious concepts like “favorite artist,” and it’s not comprehensive. Also, most of these do not reflect very well on me.

Note 2: if you have known me for longer than six months, you have probably heard me talk about at least one of these.

Note 3: My sister shares a lot of these. I’m not sure why.

1. “Sesame Street”

I love “Sesame Street.” I have always loved “Sesame Street,” and I probably always will. It still makes me laugh, and not in the “oh that’s so cute way,” more in the “Grover why did you bring out a grapefruit on a hot dog bun” kind of way. I love that it doesn’t talk down to kids, that it features characters who aren’t always sugary sweet to each other, that it takes on Hemingway and Hitchcock. If I create something with as wide an impact – if I even created something nearly as entertaining – I will be very, very proud.

Arrivederci, frog.

2. Shia LaBeouf

When I was in high school, I used to watch “Even Stevens” with my sister specifically for the purpose of seeing Shia LaBeouf. If “Even Stevens” was interrupted by “Lizzie McGuire,” I would complain loudly until that Hilary Duff monstrosity had ended and “Even Stevens” was back on again.

I totally want to hang out with him. I think he is absolutely adorable. I thought so when I thought he was like six years younger than me and he seemed to be the kind of kid I would have loved if he were my age, and I think so now that I realize that he is, in fact, my age. I like the fact that he broke into the movie business in an unconventional way and that he chooses a wide variety of movies. Also, he seems to have trouble with women, which if you know me at ALL you will realize that this, to me, makes him even more endearing. I would date him as well as hang out with him. Just saying.

3. Korean psychedelia/folk

I bought an album by Shin Jung Hyeon yesterday and it’s really good. I also want to listen to more Kim Jung Mi. I can’t believe I didn’t know about this stuff before. Don’t get me wrong, I still like Big Bang okay, but this is a total scene that apparently disappeared and was replaced by NOTHING.

4. My Co-Teacher, ACT

ACT is the most awesome woman on the planet. She hugs me and listens to me rant about things she can’t do anything about. Right now she is in Seoul protesting the Lee Myung Bak administration. I asked her what they were going to do in the demonstration and she said, “Shouting.”

5. KoreanAir

Consistently nice, always helpful, everyone speaks English.

6. Jeremy Piven

No one ever knows who Jeremy Piven is. Which is too bad, because I love Jeremy Piven. I have loved him ever since I watched “Ellen” with my mother when I was in elementary school. I loved him in “Cupid” (see below), and I love him in “Entourage.” (Note: this is a key distinction between the items on this list and actual normal things I find attractive. Adrian Grenier is much, much more attractive than Jeremy Piven. I realize this. I find Adrian Grenier incredibly beautiful. But I would not necessarily go see a terrible movie featuring Adrian Grenier. I would do this for Jeremy Piven.) I think that I associate him in part with this sort of nostalgia for the mid-90s, when I was first starting to imagine myself as something more than what I was then, and the media I consumed featured adults living these lives that were possibilities for me. Also, I watched these things with my parents, and that was fun.

7. “Cupid”

“Cupid” was canceled prematurely. “Cupid” is one of the cutest shows ever, and I mean that in the most positive possible way. Jeremy Piven played this guy who was convinced he was Cupid, and Paula Marshall played this psychiatrist who was convinced he wasn’t and that love was all about science, and they wrestled with it as he tried to hook up every single person in the city, and I was twelve and really wanted to fall in love. Theme song by the Pretenders, which added to the awesome, as I also wanted to be tough like Chrissie Hynde.

8. My father’s boss and his wife

They ply us with delicious baked goods and have really adorable Nova Scotian accents. They are older and, we are sure, make wonderful grandparents. Cute dogs round out the package.

9. GS25

10. The book Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Highly recommended. Totally different from the movie, as previously discussed.

11. Blessid Union of Souls

Again from the mid-90s. Lyrically terrible and incredibly catchy.

12. Men’s style magazines

Esquire and Details feature authors I actually like reading outside of magazines (ex. Chuck Klosterman, Nick Hornby). They also write as though they are speaking to an audience older than tenth grade. While I’m not a fan of the way the dating articles occasionally veer into misogyny, they are far more entertaining than their female counterparts. The only comparable women’s mag would probably be Jane, but Jane was a) a little full of itself, b) targeted towards women who wanted to make it known that they read Jane, and c) halted sometime last year, which means I can no longer subscribe.

13. Reusing and making stuff

My father is a pack rat. So am I. He and my mother are also both bargain hunters, a trait I have inherited. Also, I have always liked making things, as my mother can attest, when she used to take me to the craft store as a treat. As a result, my rooms wherever I live are always cluttered with projects in process.

14. Social marketing

I did my thesis on this. I love good marketing. I’d rather be convinced than preached at.

15. Thomas Haden Church

There was a summer when I was moving and everything I owned was in a box, which meant that the only thing I had available as entertainment was USAm, the USA network’s feeble attempt to recycle old programming for the unemployed. I got really into “Ned and Stacey.”

Look at those crazy antics!

I actually think that “Ned and Stacey” was a good show for what it was – the writing may not have been top-notch, but Debra Messing is kind of endearing. More importantly, Thomas Haden Church is both full of himself and completely unashamed of being crazy, which seems to be the role he fits in the best. (Also, I’m a fan of mid-90s sitcoms that weren’t very good. Don’t even ask me about Caroline in the City.)

My sister understands this, as she watched a lot of Nick at Nite during this time and went through a similar phase with “Wings.” We also both enjoyed “Sideways.” Thomas Haden Church seems to be crazy in the same way we are, which is to say that I suspect that if we played “Would You Rather” with him long enough, we would find his Billy Crystal, so to speak. And isn’t someone we can play such games with what we all want, in the end?

*SPOILER: I briefly entertained the notion that the UFO was there, and looked incredibly cliche, as a sort of tribute to these sci-fi movies of the time period when IJ is set, but Oregon disagrees with me here, and I think she might be right. It’s difficult for me to say, anyway, because I’ve never seen the rest of the movies (don’t start on me). Also, CTE is lots of fun.

Thursday, 5/22: in case you were wondering how Koreans feel about the FTA
May 22, 2008, 1:58 am
Filed under: actual transcripts, okay seriously Korea, skool, students, teaching

From a birthday lesson. As you will soon learn, a lot of Koreans seem to be convinced that the sole reason for this FTA is so that the US can unload some diseased beef.

Who do you want to invite to your party?

Lee Myung Bak, Bush, cow

What do you want to do at your party?

I want to blame Lee Myung Bak and Bush

What kind of cake do you want at your party?

I want Lee to eat Delicious Madcow Cake

What else do you want to eat at your party?

I want Lee Myung Bak to eat American cow BarBecue

What kind of gifts do you want at your party?

I want Myung Bak’s die or come out from President


The picture of a cake that followed was adorned by candles reading “Lee Myung Bak,” “US,” and “Bush,” as well as a small bovine creature with the label “MAD COW.”


Apologies for the lack of posts lately. I’ve been juggling things from all sides.

Sunday, 5/18: also
May 18, 2008, 3:09 pm
Filed under: music

I forgot to mention this: so my former boss at the Embassy, who was a PC volunteer here in the 1970s, was talking today about a woman named Yang Hee Eun. Apparently, according to her, Yang Hee Eun was the Joan Baez of Korea. A little Googling reveals this:

first flower power, then democracy.

A little more Googling reveals that apparently Korea had a burgeoning psychedelia/folk/rock scene in the 1970s, and the only people who seem to care enough about it to write about it in English for me are Belgian DJs. In the country of Big Bang, the possibility of this culture seems almost preposterous. I have a new quest.*

*Because I have time for that sort of thing.

And since we’re on the topic of Korea and democratization, here’s something I never heard about in history class.

Sunday, 5/18: here and there
May 18, 2008, 1:29 pm
Filed under: media, MSYDP, music, poetry, politics, skool

I spent less than twenty-four hours in Seoul this weekend, tracing the path of our future MSYDP superstars and ensuring that they will have enough speakers to keep them entertained and enough jjajangmyun (ew) to keep them fed. It’s exhilarating now that all of this is starting to coalesce, that we’ll be able to take these kids and let them dream about a better world together. A couple of our friends/allies at the Embassy were gracious enough to spend their Sunday out in the city in the rain with us, helping us make sure that everything was going according to plan, and they even talked a little bit about the possibilities for next year. I’m not even sure if I’m prepared to hope for that possibility yet.

On the subject of possibility, though, here’s an editorial from the NYT that offers some rather sober food for thought, if nothing terribly new:

The Hillary Lesson

I think she’s quite right in asserting that

…voting for Clinton does not make a person sexist – there are other reasons to reject her.

The subject of sexism and Ms. Clinton, of course, isn’t anything that hasn’t been covered before, and the statistics the author cites are hardly surprising. Still, the fact that this article needs to be written at all, that there are still statistics to cite, is indicative of the issues that the girls of MSYDP, at least, will someday face. In one of the few advantages that my school has to offer, they had a gender studies program last year for the students – one that I would ordinarily have dismissed as repetitive, old news, perhaps replacing material of actual substance. But now I’m not so sure. Aside from the fact that a few of the boys at my school have obviously not learned to respect women (or maybe people, for that matter), most of my students seem reasonably aware of the actual, as opposed to societal, limitations placed upon them. But Jeju, with something like 65% of its women involved in the workforce, still outpaces the other provinces here by a good deal. And those women are still cleaning and cooking in addition to teachering and lawyering. Sometimes the girl power message feels repetitive, but I suppose we’re the first real generation to have it hammered into our heads repeatedly, and whether or not it works to change those numbers – and to create candidates who aren’t hated for their gender, as opposed to their tactics – remains to be seen.




Aside from the article, there are a few other things I’m sharing here. The first is this poem, which I found in a rather roundabout way. I’ve only read one other William Logan poem, and it also used meter and rhyme in a manner that most of the modern poets I’ve read seem to eschew. Guess I should have taken that class on Poetic Forms in college.

For an Old Girlfriend, Long Dead

Lying on that blanket, nights on the seventh green—
in the dry air the faint scent of gasoline,

nothing above us but the ragged moon,
nothing between but a whispered soon…

Well, such was romance in the seventies.
Watergate and Cambodia, the public lies,

made our love seem, somehow, more true.
Of the few things I wanted then, I needed you.

I remember our last arguments, my angry calls,
then the long silence, those northern falls

we drifted toward our newly manufactured lives.
Does anything else of us survive?

That day in Paris, perhaps, when you swore
our crummy hotel was all you were looking for—

each cobbled Paris street, each dry baguette,
even the worthless sous nothing you’d forget.

Outside, a block away, the endless Seine
flowed roughly, then brightly, then…

Then nothing. Nothing later went quite that far.
I remember that Spring. Those breasts. That car.

– William Logan

I’m also going to plug the newest Beirut album, The Flying Cup Club, which isn’t actually new at all, but is if you’re me and just got around to listening to it:

The Flying Club Cup

These are all in .m4a format, but you should probably already have iTunes anyway, and if you don’t, well, not being able to listen to this album is your punishment.

I probably like it mostly because I was listening to it today when it was nasty and rainy out, just like part of the reason I like the Police’s “Spirits in the Material World” is because I first heard it when I had a tiny part in a perfectly awful play we did at My College called “The Beloved Community,” and while the play itself wasn’t worth much, I liked contemplating the ideas of community and how much it’s worth – how beloved it should be. If you will. It gave me this weird feeling of naivete and optimism that, for unknown reasons, I associate with the late 80s and early 90s, probably because that was when I was first contemplating these ideas. It was also the first time I had heard the Police, although certainly not the last time, as I was also listening to that song fairly recently. And so will you, because it’s right here.

The Police – Spirits in the Material World

Friday, 4/16: in which there’s no such thing as a free lunch
May 16, 2008, 5:54 pm
Filed under: okay seriously Korea, skool, students, teaching

Somehow, I brought all of this upon myself.

So I’m incredibly excited about the diplomacy program, MSYDP. We have a truly stellar group of students going, and without even having met most of them, I actually feel optimistic not only about the future of Korea, but about the world. They’re bright, articulate, engaged, passionate, and way more knowledgeable than anyone I knew during the years I spent at Martha B. King Middle School. (Incidentally, KMS was demolished a few years ago when it was revealed that it was built on top of a giant sinkhole. I’m just saying.)

Soccer and I are, however, taking copious notes for next year, the most significant one being: Get help in advance. I have to admit that I’m really, really proud of both of us not so much for what we’re doing, but for proving that we can do stuff I didn’t necessarily believe we were capable of. As such, we’ve been pulling more late nights than I care to count, including Wednesday night, when Soccer stayed up until 8AM (!!! – fortunately, we had no school on Thursday), and last night, when I was making diplomacy program packets until 5AM (unfortunately, school we did have). If my time management skills were better, of course, this might not be an issue; it would also not be an issue if I had a job, which, again, I feel like I should have gotten myself by now. But the facts remain: lots of work, etc.

This program is, in a lot of ways, reliant on the kindness of strangers. However, what we’re starting to learn is that other people’s tolerance and patience has its limits – which is reasonable, of course, if not a little frustrating. We had ninety-five applicants for twenty spots, which speaks well for the future of Korean diplomacy, but not so much for the time schedule of our judges, all of whom were volunteers and most of whom, I assume, had better things to do than score roughly twenty-two applications apiece. Soccer and I did not anticipate this. As a result, we have some unhappy volunteers. In a way, this feels like we’re hitting our heads against a wall; I mean, it’s not like we’re sleeping, or going to the beach, or doing anything fun, or talking about anything but this. But we did go to Japan last week. So I can see where some ire might arise. Nonetheless, we couldn’t score any applications ourselves; we had students involved, and there’s no possible way that it would have been fair, even if we were saints (and I’m not speaking for Soccer here, but I have a long way to go before the canonization process starts).

I guess what I’m starting to learn is that no matter what you do, it’s not going to go perfectly, and you still might step on some toes. Which one would think I would have learned a long time ago. It’s hard not to just say, you know, I do really wish I wasn’t inconveniencing anyone and maybe I shouldn’t have done this at all. But mostly what’s happening is that I’m realizing that a) I need to learn to take criticism without, like, absorbing it into my bloodstream, and b) next time we should plan things out better.

So, after my 5AM night, after which I mentally cursed myself for putting off writing this diplomacy simulation for so long, I went to class. And the first class went really well. This lesson (one on birthdays, I’ll post it later) isn’t originally mine, and unlike most borrowed lessons, I didn’t bother to restructure it according to the template I usually use, so I’m having a hard time getting a feel for the flow of it. But the first class was fine. In the second class, however, I found myself in a screaming fight with The Smartass, who was a) much bigger than me, and b) incredibly rude and disrespectful. Let me establish here that this is a student with whom I’ve had prior issues, as loyal readers may know. But unlike most of my problem babies, he hasn’t responded to personal attention at ALL, and he also doesn’t seem to have any major outside issues (mother in hospital, orphanage, etc.) that would contribute to his in-class behavior. Rather, he seems to be a smart kid who enjoys manipulating people and seeing what he can get away with. Usually, he gets other kids to do stuff, which is a whole other kind of discipline issue, but today it was him, and I sent him to the back of the room. And he wouldn’t even go. When I finally got him there, he was STILL being disruptive, pretending he didn’t understand me when other kids with far more limited ability knew perfectly well what I was saying (I could hear them discussing), refusing to do what I asked and yelling at me.

So here we get to the more shameful part of the story. A few days ago, I was listening to an old TAL episode where Dan Savage was telling a story about how he swore at a kid one time and lied about it, and how he realized that he’d been worse behaved than the kid himself, and how he actually yelled at his son now because he felt that his son needed to know that however bad kids can be, adults can be much, much worse. And while I certainly didn’t agree with everything he said in the story (it mostly had to deal with threats and yelling as a disciplinary tool, which my family rarely used or needed), that struck me as a good point: there comes a point where children may think they are being as bad as possible, but of course they’re not, which puts them in a risky position. In other words, Savage is right: I do believe that adults can be worse. Because today I was. And that story didn’t make me feel any better about what I did, which was lean in and tell him, “You know, I will not hit you, but the other teachers will.”

I got my comeuppance, however, because it DIDN’T EVEN WORK. He didn’t budge. He kept yelling at me and refusing to do what I said. I had to get another teacher, which made me feel as though I was losing authority over my class – and I don’t exactly run this classroom as a dictatorship. My authority is already pretty loose. But I felt like I was losing control.

After that, things actually went pretty smoothly for a while. One of the kids apologized to me for the Smartass’s behavior. We got through the lesson, I held the raffle, and then some kid groped me.

Aside from the classroom break-ins and vandalism, the time I saw one kid hold a knife to another’s throat, and the frequent profanity I hear, this is the second time I have been sexually harassed by a middle schooler in the past year. REALLY? IS THIS NECESSARY? I do feel to blame on this issue, because if I had asserted my authority better (which, to be honest, is just not my style) maybe some of my boys would see me as an adult and not, I don’t know, some sort of sex object for conquest. But at the same time I also recognize that one aspect of this culture into which I’ve moved is that I don’t know that I’m ever going to command the same respect as a Korean teacher. Because I’m not Korean. I never will be. And part of Korean society – and I’m not saying that this is good or bad – is that you either have that in or you don’t.

I’m still pretty torn up about it. I told ACT that I don’t want to teach that class anymore, because I don’t feel safe. I feel like I’m giving up and that these kids have driven me out, and I never, ever wanted to be that teacher – I wanted to stick around longer. But, under the circumstances, I’m not sure if I have the capacity to command that authority. And it’s a shame, because there are a lot of kids in the class that I love. But I also don’t think I should have to keep a ten foot radius between myself and my students at all times.

My school has been my biggest ally in so many ways – they’ve encouraged me to pursue other avenues after this, they’ve let me out for outside commitments (i.e. Program) and travel, they relentlessly offer me gross rice cakes that I don’t want. So I don’t blame them at all. But I guess there has to be a flaw somewhere. My school’s flaw is that it has some kids I want to punch in the face. All things considered, it doesn’t reflect that badly on the school itself, but I do hope we can work something out where I don’t feel like I have to be so constantly vigilant.
To end this on a somewhat lighter note, one of the teams in the first class today was the Handsome Animals. And, to borrow a line from one Dave Barry, that would make a great name for a band.