Intrepid Girl Reporter

Wednesday, 6/11: big fat MSYDP recap
June 11, 2008, 3:15 pm
Filed under: MSYDP, students, teaching | Tags: , , , , ,

Finally getting around to a rehash of what was surely two of the best days I have spent in my year here.


So we get to the airport and corral the students into one area, after which we hand out their shirts, designed by yours truly and featuring a lovely dove on the front and their names on the back.* We have students from all of the Program middle schools in Jeju. One of Quagmire’s students takes her shirt and, upon hearing that she needs to put it on, says, “Do I have to?” It will later be revealed that this student – Quagmire 1 – is a vegetarian (the second one I’ve met in a year in Korea, and the only one under thirty) and speaks perfect English. I resist kicking her in the shins.

We get them checked in and settled at the gate, at which point the students from My School immediately start grilling Scooter on profanities in English. After discovering that they’re already familiar with the word butt, he somehow manages to convince them that “ear” is one of the worst words in the English language. Immediately thereafter, the students start calling each other ears and Scooter receives a text reading “YOU ARE A EAR.” Also, one girl loses her purse.

Upon arrival in Seoul, Scooter and I abandon the other chaperones and make a Starbucks run in the airport.

The Embassy comes to pick us up and take us to the hostel. En route, we discover that one of Soccer’s kids, Soccer 1, can do a Rubik’s Cube in less than three minutes. We spend the entire ride trying to come up with combinations that he cannot solve. During our Two Truths and a Lie icebreaker, I am forced to confiscate both the cube and the cell phone on the grounds that he is not paying one bit of attention. One kid tells us that he has a son. Another one says that he has a car. Scooter’s host brother tells us that he is an only child, that he wants to have good relations with all of us, and that he likes PE, of course, because he is a man. Make of that what you will.

We make it to the Embassy, where two officials give talks to the kids. One of them goes fine, if perhaps a little bit over the kids’ heads. The second one features the following exchange.

KID: So what’s the most exciting part about being a diplomat?

DIPLOMAT (who is rather portly): Probably eating all sorts of new foods. Of course, being a diplomat, you have to be careful with that sort of thing. For example, I’ve eaten whale

(Students recoil in horror)

but, you know, when I was a diplomat I had to stop eating that.

IGR (trying desperately to steer the conversation in another direction): What’s the most delicious food you’ve ever eaten as a diplomat?

DIPLOMAT (blatantly ignoring IGR’s pleading eyes): Well, I don’t know about delicious, but I’ve certainly eaten a lot of interesting foods.

IGR: But –

DIPLOMAT: Like eyeballs.

OTHER CHAPERONE: You mean like when you get a whole fish?

DIPLOMAT: Well, that’s one kind.

SOMEBODY ELSE: Um, what other kinds have you eaten?

DIPLOMAT: Let’s see here…There was water buffalo.

SCOOTER: Isn’t that too big…

DIPLOMAT: It’s big enough that you can’t eat it in one bite, that’s for sure!

(Students recoil again)

DIPLOMAT: It’s kind of like eating the yellow part of an egg.

Well. After that we take the kids to a university, where they get a campus “tour” that involves us going up and down a staircase in the library, but the kids also get to meet real live graduate students. At this point one of my kids – we’ll call him IGR 1 – looks at my former boss at the Embassy and goes, “Your ears are scary.”

“What?” she says.

“They look like witch’s,” he adds.

At this point I have to call her aside and explain what havoc my worthless friend has wrought, while Scooter tries to explain why saying things like that is not an acceptable move for a diplomat. Or anyone else.

Then we take them to a “Chinese” place, where they eat jjajangmyun, which is about as Chinese as chop suey. After they’re greased up we all head to the Program headquarters, where the Program has graciously allowed us to use their facilities for a diplomacy simulation on global warming.

This is where things get good. My group, Russia, sports hats that I made out of pie plates and tissue paper, with the exception of the cube kid, whom I have taken to calling Rubiks. One of the girls wears a costume made by her mom. Germany wears suspenders (hot) and shorts (hotter). Japan affixes red circles to white t-shirts, except for their prime minister, who has mysteriously acquired a kimono reading “Nippon.” India has custom costumes for each role – businesswoman, prime minister, fruit seller – except for their scientist, who wears a turban made of toilet paper. He will later complain that he cannot hear or think due to his toilet paper hat. The Saudis have headdresses improvised from t-shirts and headbands, thanks largely to me, as a certain chaperone was forced to get crunk the night before with his teachers and called me not knowing where he was.

During the simulation we get such quality lines as, “Because Hiroshima was bombed, how can you even consider nuclear power?” and “If Japan gives Saudi Arabia public transportation, how can they not help India as well?” and “Would Japan just consider investing the money in Saudi Arabia instead?” (“No.”) Quagmire 1 is the star of Saudi Arabia, dropping words like “aspects” and showing off her New Zealand accent and just all around being vaguely reminiscent of some sort of Korean Christiane Amanpour. One of Scooter’s kids, Scooter 1 (not the host brother), argues passionately for Japan. The Indian prime minister speaks fluent English, which turns out to be the result of two years in America. And my kid, IGR 2, represents Germany like there is no tomorrow. I half expect him to start singing “Deutschland Uber Alles.”

Once we’ve realized that there’s no way we’re going to solve the global climate crisis in three hours, we head back to the hostel, where the chaperones want nothing more than to go to bed. This is prevented, however, by the fact that one of those chaperones (yours truly) has to go break up a boy-girl party. There are seven boys on this trip – three first graders and four second and third graders – and they’ve divided pretty neatly along age lines, so I assume that the older boys are the ones hanging out with the girls. What I discover is that the ones most active in co-ed interaction are Rubiks, whom I later discover that the other kids have named Cubeman and who looks like a nine-year-old, and Scooter 1, who is the smallest of the older boys and the most partial to things like art and France. I force them out, but I really just want to give them a high five.


Chaperones, being sensible, head to bed around 12:30. I am woken up by Soccer around 6:40, who tells me that IGR 1 is sick. I go downstairs, give him an Advil, and discover that maybe sixteen out of our twenty students did not go to sleep at all, much to the chagrin of the other hostel guests. Secretly relieved that at least they’re making friends, I tell them that it’s their own fault and hustle them out, after which I stay back at the hostel with IGR 1 for another couple of hours, which allows me to sleep in. I am actually sort of grateful to IGR 1 for this opportunity.

We get an Embassy vehicle to the Embassy building, where the kids are listening to a Korean FSN discuss his job. He seems reasonably interesting. Then we take our heavy-lidded charges to lunch, which is an American buffet that thrills them to no end and just leaves me missing home. Also, my boss mistakes Rubiks for IGR 1 and asks him about his ears, which just confuses him, and requires me to explain Scooter’s stupidity further. We go back to the Embassy, where another speaker is scheduled to come. I stop listening and go make a contact list and check Facebook instead.

Finally at the end we have an awards ceremony. We hand out prizes for best costume (RUSSIA REPRESENT) as well as for diplomatic excellence and “patriotism” during the simulation. They are elated. So am I.

Here are a few excerpts from their program evaluations.

What activity did you like the best during the program? Who was your favorite speaker, and why? What part of the program did you learn the most from?

I liked the simulation the best. My favorite speaker is ******. Because he explained about the diplomacy with the easy words and he’s humorous. So it wasn’t boring. I learned the most of the simulation. I felt like I was a real diplomat.

The diplomacy simulation. I liked [IGR] the best. And I really liked [the hostel]. All the other girls did, too.

Negotiation simulation! Ms. [Quagmire 1] spoke with lots of data, so she was making us embarrassed. Also, Ms. [Singer 1] created some creative ideas whenever Team Japan was attacked. I learned it’s very interesting to negotiate, discuss, or debate.

I think [Quagmire 1] was the best speaker, because I felt that she thinks a lot and more extendly compare to me. And also, she speaks very fast Unbelievable!

Talking with a university student was a best activity to me. However, I wanted to to take a campus tour. We couldn’t. [Ed. note: Actually, you did.]

I like the best about when I went to the restaurant.

What was your least favorite part of the program? Why?

Well, I couldn’t understand a word he was saying, so I think [one of the speaker]’s lecture was my least favorite. Also, it was too long, so I got bored. *But [speaker] seemed like a nice person.

[One of the speakers]. Because his story is too long. And I thought he spoke to himself.

Going to [university], I couldn’t learn lessons while I was walking up the stairs, and going through the library.

What would you change for the program next year? Why?

This program was short. I want more longer.

I would lengthen the time. I loved lots of things about this program, and I want to stay for few more days.

Add more related lectures like real diplomats’ lifes, or more showing way to be a diplomat. (It was kind of out-focus.) And it’s very, very short. (Most people are disappointed about it.) Let’s longer it.

I was very interesting, but it was so short. We met many good friends, however we have to separate with each other as soon as we become friends.

I think this program terms was very short. How about three days?

It should be maintained for a long time. Just 2 days were not enough to have fun. It just gives me a miss about new friends, brothers and sisters.

No, I think children or teenagers are accustommed at ‘global warming’

Do you still want to be a diplomat after this program? Why or why not?

I still want to be a diplomat because I think the things that diplomats do are very meaningful and cool.

A diplomat is more attractive to me. Before this program, I seriously considered to be a diplomat, and this program made my dream more solid. I want to be a diplomat, but should think about more. (People around me keep making me confused.) ㅠㅠ

I really ‘do’ want to be a diplomat. It’s such an interesting job.

I didn’t decide.


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

This is so great.

Comment by xorph

just read,thanks

Comment by almoogaz

omg… water buffalo eyes?? that exchange MUST find its way to a script. any script. i’d overpay to watch it!!

Comment by kim

Rubik’s cube in under three minutes? Pfft. Your brother’s record is 1:37.

And you’re life is way more exciting than mine.

Comment by ty

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