Intrepid Girl Reporter

Sunday, 11/15: Ms. IGR eats the GRE
November 15, 2009, 6:14 pm
Filed under: books, Catholicism, life progress

In my ever-expanding quest to make myself the Best Graduate School Applicant I Can Be, I decided (Wednesday) to retake the GRE, as most grad schools take the best scores you get and don’t average them. When you decide to take the GRE and you only have two weeks in which to do it, your options end up being somewhat limited, which is why I ended up taking it today (Sunday). That’s three days of prep, in case you were counting.

Evidently the powers that be had decided that I could use a break from the less than ideal things happening in my life right now, because during the quant part, I lost track of time, guessed on five or six questions, and still managed to a) defeat my old score and b) meet Princeton’s average entry score. HOLLER. I also had a mimosa at noon. Maybe it was the champagne?

I don’t know that this reflects my actual abilities in the arena of math, for the reasons stated above, but I certainly could use this ego boost. Thanks, ETS.

I’m in a Starbucks near Howard U now, but I’m going to a rescheduled JustFaith meeting in a few. Our reading for the past week has come from a really terrific book, Jonathan Kozol’s Amazing Grace, which is not as good as Random Family – probably the ne plus ultra of the genre – but still pretty good. I’m finding JF surprisingly rewarding, and it’s a good way to cap off a day that has gone better than most as of late.


Saturday, 3/22: WE ARE NOT HUNGRY
March 22, 2008, 3:19 pm
Filed under: Catholicism, English Book Club, host fam, students

In case you were wondering exactly why this country sometimes makes me want to stick my finger directly into my eye sockets and twist it around, I give you the following conversation from today.

(Host Brother jumps out and scares me, twice, which is, as Host Brother knows, a particular dislike of mine.)

(Host Mom wants Host Brother to be in the English Book Club. There is no room in the English Book Club, and the book is probably too hard. Also, I need a Host Brother-free space.)

(Host Mom and Host Dad want Host Brother to go to America. Host Brother is not mature enough for this. I remind him that if he goes, he has to be nice, to which he agrees and then, thirty seconds later, says, “You think I am bad boy. Yes? Okay. Ommaaaa!” Then he holds his arm in front of my face for no reason.)

(Host Mom offers to drive me to English Book Club. While I appreciate this, I am not in a particularly friendly mood after these incidences.)

HM [something in Korean]

HB Do you have a mind to stay in Korea?

IGR No, I don’t think so. I will be leaving in July.

HB [something in Korean]

HM [something in Korean]

HB So you don’t like Korea.

IGR That’s not what I said.

HB So you don’t like Korea.

IGR Of course I love Korea. You know that. It’s just that, you know, I have to have other jobs too before I can get into grad school.

HB I see. [something in Korean]

HM [something in Korean]

HB So when will you get married?

One thing I’ve noticed about living here is that if you say no to something, people will just keep asking you until you cave under the pressure. Soccer and I were discussing this yesterday, attempting to discern when it is acceptable to say no and when it is not, and I was reminded again today as I sat in the car and found myself thinking: They might take it as a personal affront if I don’t want to stay in Korea for another year. Should I stay longer? I could stick it out, right? before I realized that that is a terrible rationalization for doing anything, especially things you don’t want to do.

The Catholic Church teaches that there are certain kinds of mysteries in the life of Jesus – joyful, sorrowful, glorious, and (apparently) luminous (that one is new, I guess, and I just learned about it thanks to Google – obviously I follow this sort of thing pretty closely). While I would like to point out that I am not trying to be heretical here, and I am not trying to say that I have ever, for example, been visited by an angel, the concept of mysteries and their presence and importance in our own lives seems like a useful thing to contemplate, especially when living abroad, regardless of your belief system.

It is a mystery to me, for example, how I can go from wanting to hitch a ride on the nearest plane home to being present at the first meeting of the EBC, where I can be surrounded by excited (if rain-dampened) faces who wanted to spend their Saturday afternoon talking about books in English. We’re reading Holes, which is by one of my favorite YA authors, Louis Sachar; it’s funny and poignant and, rather conveniently for us, was made into a movie. I love Sachar because his books are funny, he allows his characters to take themselves seriously, and he isn’t afraid to give them serious things to think about. And he’s got a lovely absurdist streak. (Although I do get him mixed up sometimes with Jerry Spinelli. Maniac Magee is a lot heavier, though.) The kids seem like they’ll love him too. I swear, my heart grew three sizes that day.

Today I also learned that Kind Mother, who is a member of the book club and who has always struck me as something of an odd duck anyway, owns twelve (!!!) hamsters. This is a mystery to me as well.

Anyway, these are not exactly the Sacred Mysteries. But when you leave your sphere (or your country, for that matter), you discover that there are certain matters that it’s helpful to accept while acknowledging your own basic inability to understand fully, and that the very nature of the mystery itself might be rewarding, even if the matter at hand is aggravating enough that you want to get out of your host mom’s car and run straight into traffic. I’m still leaving in July, but I imagine that it will take me at least until then to contemplate these matters, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Friday, 3/21: one big holiday
March 21, 2008, 12:33 pm
Filed under: actual transcripts, Catholicism, IGR Recommends, skool, students, teaching

2L – The Price is Right

  • got a few letters (a really good one from the balding kid)
  • liked game (had to do it without powerpoint…again)

2I – The Price is Right

  • Tried having them write words in English, but it took too long
  • talked to Monkey and Dwight Shrute about doing more advanced work
    • I feel bad about this because I know they’re not the only ones who can do it, they’re just the most noticeable – keep watching for others
    • Monkey looked a little embarrassed, so don’t make a big deal out of it

2E – The Price is Right

  • Cutest Student Ever was the ONLY one who wrote a letter…and then I lost it
    • something about how GW is killing Korean farmers
  • liked game pretty well

My lack of willpower is well documented, as is my inability to be a pioneer of any sort, but I did try to fast today. I did. I almost made it to dinner, but then I ate a piece of Cadbury Soft English Toffee Chocolate. Just one. I didn’t do anything today because of the aforementioned lack of willpower, as well as the fact that my pangs of hunger convinced me (pretty persuasively) that I just couldn’t work because I was, you know, starving. I am an embarrassment.

I had planned on skipping out of the first grade teachers’ dinner, even though it was (raw) fish, but then I decided that while I wasn’t supposed to have fun on Good Friday, teachers’ dinners that don’t involve English teachers exclusively actually aren’t that much fun, because I have no idea what’s going on and people try to force me to eat things I don’t want. I sat next to Co-Teacher B, who came this semester from Seoul and who (bless her heart) hates seafood, so I didn’t have a bad time, but I don’t think it qualified as entertainment.

It’s been a strange enough experience having to explain this day to everyone, especially as a person not particularly given to proselytizing, and breaking it down into three-word Korean sentences makes me realize exactly how surreal it must sound. Today: Cathedral Holiday. I don’t eat meat. I don’t eat. Later, eating okay. I eat fish. Go out no. It all sounds as arbitrary as, I don’t know, making your bridegroom do pushups.

But not having anyone to talk to at dinner gave me time to reflect on this season and my favorite telling of it: Sufjan Stevens’ “The Transfiguration.” My love for Stevens (and especially his album Seven Swans) is old news, but I think this song strikes me most simply because all it is is a retelling of a very old story – there are no fancy lyrical metaphors, and as a person who is constantly trying to dress everything up, I am impressed by his ability to tell a story in a straightforward manner and make it so universally appealing. In other words, Seven Swans is a quiet, intimate work, wholly concerned with Stevens’ relationship with God. We’re all lucky he didn’t fall into the standard Christian Musician trap of emotional over-wroughtness. He relies on the story (and some sweet banjos) to carry us.

When he took the three disciples to the mountainside to pray
His countenance was modified, his clothing was aflame
Two men appeared; Moses and Elijah came
They were at his side
The prophecy, the legislation spoke of whenever he would die

Then there came a word
Of what he should accomplish on the day
Then Peter spoke, to make of them a tabernacle place
A cloud appeared in glory as an accolade
They fell on the ground
A voice arrived, the voice of God
The face of God, covered in a cloud

What he said to them
The voice of God: the most beloved son
Consider what he says to you, consider what’s to come
The prophecy was put to death
Was put to death, and so will the Son
And keep your word, disguise the vision till the time has come

Lost in the cloud, a voice: Have no fear! We draw near!
Lost in the cloud, a sign: Son of man! Turn your ear!
Lost in the cloud, a voice: Lamb of God! We draw near!
Lost in the cloud, a sign: Son of man! Son of God!