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.


Sunday, 6/1: teach them well, let them lead the way

Would you believe me if I told you that I’m so excited about the prospect of MSYDP that I actually can’t sleep? How on Earth could it be possible to love something that has apparently sucked all of the life force out of my limp, exhausted body? Would you buy that I’m almost delirious thinking about it?

Well, BELIEVE IT, suckers.

I’m not even joking about this. This program – which at times I have believed to actually be sucking the blood out of my body – is coming up in two days and we are on a roll. Except for Scooter, who is convinced that his kids have no idea what’s going on. The rest of us have seen the future, and its name is MSYDP. Hallim met with her team today and apparently they solved Japan’s energy problems. I love this.*

Other noteworthy things that have happened this week:

  1. Started emailing with three of my favorite girls, all of whom are friends and in the same class. They’re wildly enthusiastic about everything and super funny. I almost feel this sense of relief, too, because I’ve been wanting to have contact with my kids all year, but most of them haven’t seemed comfortable talking to me outside of class until now. Which makes me sad, obviously, because The Other Kids In The Program get lots of outside time, and I’m not sure why my kids are only comfortable with me now, but I’ll take what I can get.
  2. One of those girls actually likes Jeff Buckley. She also actively blogs and likes Korean punk music. I think she might be the only one in this school of 1500 that falls under these categories. I feel like I did when I was teaching at Summerbridge and I met Amara, the only camper who wasn’t a Rihanna fan. (This is also “Besame Mucho”/sloth girl.)
  3. I wish I could write in more detail about my students, for writing purposes, but this blog is supposed to be anonymous and I’m still trying to figure out how to balance detail and anonymity.
  4. Went to a festival with Soccer and two Book Club girls. (Note: Also found out that one of my favorite boy students is widely perceived to be arrogant and unkind. Whatever. I still like him. Also, he has never behaved that way towards me, which is more than I can say for a lot of my other students.)
  5. Saw some B-Boys and like ten more of my students at aforementioned festival.
  6. Saw “Iron Man” again with HB and HBBFF and another HB Friend.
  7. Someone told me the desks had been changed in one of my classrooms and Monkey started singing “Changes” by David Bowie.
  8. Rediscovered the Pretenders and “Back on the Chain Gang.”
  9. During “Would You Rather” lesson, offered Korea winning World Cup vs. Japan giving up Dokdo. CTF was like, “But that’s not a valid question, because Dokdo belongs to Korea.” I responded that I agreed, but that Japan continued to claim Dokdo. To which he told me, “Well, that’s kind of like China and Tibet. Maybe soon an earthquake will hit Japan, just like it hit China.” Open Response Question of the Day: readers, how would you have responded?

*So when I was at this festival on Saturday, as I mentioned, I was with one of my girls from Book Club who goes to My School and who is incredibly smart and pretty and sweet and also really shy and doesn’t have that many friends. The girls I ran into are good students for me – participatory, skilled at English – but also widely perceived to be running with The Wrong Crowd, i.e. the crowd that wears too much eyeliner and dates older boys. That crowd. At the time, I was torn between hanging out with my book club student, whom I wanted to know was respected and valued despite her lack of social success in the middle school arena, and these other girls, whom I wanted to sort of watch over and encourage to at least keep studying. Which is sort of the dilemma I face with my intense joy re: the MSYDP kids. They’re brilliant. I love working with them. I see them doing incredible things. But then I’m like, these kids don’t need me. And my elation at working with these kids is definitely equaled by the excitement I get when I actually engage some kid’s attention who doesn’t usually care. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wish I had more time in the day to hang out with all of my kids.

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

Sunday, 4/27: choose your own adventure
April 27, 2008, 4:00 pm
Filed under: life on Jeju, MSYDP, the future, travel



  • call travel agent to reserve KoreanAir tickets
  • write cover letter for Museum Fellows program
  • plan out Green Eggs and Ham lesson
  • ASP lesson
  • work on diplomacy sim: official problem
  • mail package (if in Sicheong)
  • send off questions for article for [publication]


  • for sure mail package
  • cover letter for Janaagraha
  • work on diplomacy sim: country profile
  • Japan ideal itinerary
  • finish 1 article for [publication]


  • cover letter: Sonoma
  • work on DS: country profile
  • Japan hostels
  • at least start article 2 for [publication]
  • t-shirt design?

On the bus back from Seogwipo today I listened to We Are Scientists, thinking that I had not, until I realized that a) I did know these songs and b) it really just made me want to listen to Bloc Party, instead.

For the Ultimate tournament party on Saturday I was Hillary Clinton, Arkansas and Scooter were Secret Service agents, Oregon was Chelsea, and Transy was a Bosnian sniper. I took lots of pictures which I cannot share here, obviously. We danced a lot and ate some not-very-good food – I’m still not sold on Gecko’s, and La Vie makes a far better burger for much cheaper – and drank free Cass all night, and then we had a sleepover at a motel near EMart. Then today Oregon and Transy and I went to see Soccer play Frisbee. She’s quite pan-athletic. We left before Hallim’s game because it was starting to rain and, more importantly, we wanted some sujebi. Sorry, Hallim.

The applications for MSYDP will be on their way to Seoul by tomorrow, after which point we merely have to: find a way to get students there, arrange for their transportation, create programming that will appeal to them, make up some sort of diplomacy simulation, and ensure that they are fed. And design some t-shirts. Also, I got in a minor scuffle with Host Fam today because Host Parents wanted HB to apply for the program, even though, you know, he doesn’t want to go, because HE DOESN’T WANT TO BE A DIPLOMAT. He wants to be a judge. The deadline had passed, anyway, so he couldn’t apply without accusations of nepotism, but Host Parents are less than happy.

Friday, 4/25: the days of miracle and wonder
April 25, 2008, 6:05 pm
Filed under: Cheki, lists, MSYDP, photography, the future, travel

Post-travel recovery plans:


  • get out of bed by 9 AM
  • call KoreanAir to reserve MSYDP tickets
  • mail package home
  • write another stupid cover letter for another stupid job
  • things I can spend money on: paying Arkansas back, book club, maybe one coffee wherever I go to work (which rules out Hollys, as is far too expensive), splitting hotel room with Oregon for the night


  • start reviewing diplomacy simulation stuff for conference
  • plan lesson-ish
  • make list of stuff to do in Japan
  • no spending of money allowed

That list just took me about ten minutes to type. I sort of hate WordPress’s formatting a good deal of the time.

Anyway, on my travels, I bought this:

I AM EXTREMELY EXCITED. This is an excellent toy.

I realize that the whole Polaroid thing might be a little done already, and to be totally honest this was a complete impulse purchase – I was with my roommate from the Embassy internship, Wallenda, who had come to meet me in Daegu, and we were on the first floor of the Kyobo Bookshop and they had this beautiful display of cameras right by the entrance for people with no willpower, like me. To my credit, I managed to wait until I had bought a bunch of other stuff before going back and investigating.

The Cheki, at any rate, is unavailable in America, or so it appears from a cursory Google search. And Korea’s obsession with “name cards” (i.e. business cards) means that a million albums exist for them, which is convenient, as name cards are the exact size of the pictures my new camera takes. I bought the simplest one, which was also the cheapest; it wasn’t exactly cheap at ₩57000 (roughly $60 USD), but the only place I can find to get them in the US is eBay or, which, not being exactly a discount site, sells a “special edition” for $200. Still, it was not money I needed to spend, and instant film is notoriously expensive, but it’s pretty beautiful anyway.

Anyway that makes three cameras I have here in Korea – my good one, my old digital point-and-shoot (which is what I took to the mainland this week) and the Cheki. I wish I could have my lovely Holga here with me, but I can’t use it until I live somewhere where they can process my 120 film. Hopefully that day will come sooner rather than later. I’m rather embarrassed that I’m not a better photographer, to be honest – I haven’t studied photography in any way since high school, and I’m always afraid that my photos are too dependent on trite emotional manipulation and rely on the same old tricks. Nonetheless, I’m excited to play with a new way of taking pictures (well, for me at least). There’s a big expat party tomorrow in Jungmoon in honor of the Ultimate Frisbee tournament, and we’re all going to celebrate Arkansas’ birthday and cheer on Soccer and Hallim. Oregon has urged me to have my camera make its debut.

The mainland was surprisingly wonderful. I ate candied strawberries and Italian food and had my feet eaten by fish in Daegu, I saw The Host in Yeongcheon with Grayshifter, I went to a sports day at Jeonju Girls’ High School, and I met my summer roommate and her friend in Andong. I got a lot of one-on-one time in, a lot of surprising bonding, and I managed to get myself around the mainland without getting lost, which is more than I can say about my home here on Jeju.

One final note: Interest in the MSYDP is almost unbelievable. We’ve gotten a truly staggering number of applications, and I’m really excited. From my own school, however, I’ve only received six, and the truth is that my students’ English is just not that good. I mean, I know I shouldn’t be surprised; I teach at one of the lowest-level middle schools in Jeju-si. At least one applicant from my school will go, and I guess the rest is up to the judges.

Tuesday, 4/15: I can’t go to sleep at 9 PM
April 15, 2008, 2:21 pm
Filed under: MSYDP, skool, students, teaching

2B – no class (BoE visit)

1E – How Nice of You

  • did really well with dialogues
  • next time prep internet first

2B – Seventeen Syllable

  • did NOT give worksheet (mistake)
  • writing haiku together worked well
  • WotD: season
  • Co-Teacher D just forgot about class I guess

2C – Seventeen Syllable

  • got into haiku
  • stretch lesson a little more
  • can’t stop counting beats

The good news is that Soccer and I officially had our funding approved, which means that the First Annual Middle School Youth Diplomacy Program, in partnership with the Program and the US Embassy, is now a go. The bad news is that I am too tired to do anything about it. I have to find an appropriate diplomacy simulation for the kids, which may mean writing one (…?!?).