Intrepid Girl Reporter

Tuesday, 11/3: at least there’s that
November 3, 2009, 3:17 pm
Filed under: Good Brown Daughters (GBDs), IGR Recommends, the future, weird metaphors

An unintended side effect of applying to graduate school is the affirmation that I am following, unquestionably, the right subject for me. Princeton requires a policy memorandum, which I’ve spent the afternoon researching (having stayed home from work, not feeling well), and it has reminded me of something I’d forgotten: I LOVE international relations. I love it. I’m having fun (!) reading about drug trafficking and the rise of HIV/AIDS in Central Asia. (Sorry, AIDS sufferers. I know it’s not fun for you.) I miss studying, and I miss learning about this stuff, and I’m realizing that I’m still much more interested in international affairs than in domestic ones and in development than in pure political science – as the former allows me to indulge all of my schizophrenic interests. This makes me feel a lot better – even excited – about the prospect of going back to school itself, as opposed to simply using school as a tool to make life progress.

To write, I’ve been using Evernote, which is a very fine program except that I can’t link from one note to another. Otherwise, it is a very nice note-taking application, and its use makes me feel extremely productive. To ameliorate that one flaw (ahem, Evernote), I downloaded a trial of Curio, a mind mapping software that costs more than I can afford. I always thought that mind mappers were sort of bullshit, but it turns out that once again, I was wrong: look! There is my mind! Here are the areas about which I have the most information! This is what I should write about! (Maybe.) I’m a big fan of feeling like I’m getting something done. It’s a good distraction.

As for the rest of it, I’m doing okay; the punched-in-the-stomach feeling subsides a little every day. It occurs to me that part of the reason I’m having a hard time dealing with this, aside from the obvious, can be found in a conversation I had with Rooms right at the beginning, in which I told her that I was reluctant to engage in a relationship for the same reason I don’t have any pets (at least not with me), which is that eventually both are probably going to die before I do. Darling Rooms, who has a master’s degree in counseling for a reason, reminded me that that is not a very good way to go about living your life, and that the value lies in the experience. She told me the same thing when we were seniors in college and I expressed a reluctance to study the cello, as I already knew that it was too late for me to become a prodigy, and she pointed out that people do things because They Are Fun, and not for the purpose of becoming the best in the world. Obviously she is not a Good Brown Daughter. Also obviously, she is right, even if I only know it intellectually.

In conclusion: IGR recommends: Evernote; Curio (but only the free version, unless you make more money than she does); the study of international relations; listening to your friends.


Tuesday, 9/9: the names are made up, but the problems are real
September 10, 2008, 3:41 am
Filed under: IGR Recommends, life progress, teaching, the future

It’s back to Square One for this reporter, at least in terms of job searching. (Square One? Get it? Get it? …Oh, never mind.) I received word today that neither of the positions for which I recently interviewed will have me. While I am the most fortunate of unemployed people (a steady position in my house, patchy health coverage, parents who are willing to feed me indefinitely), it’s difficult not to take such rejections to heart, even in periods of record unemployment. I know, I KNOW, no one has a job right now. This would all be a lot easier if a) I had some source of income and b) I knew people here my own age. In that case, I could live here for much longer.

In Korea, in fact, most of the people my own age that I met actually did live with their parents. It seems pretty common for kids to stay home until they’re married, allowing their parents to manage their paychecks, seeing their friends and coming home late. Here, of course, I’ve been conditioned to think that I won’t grow as a person unless I strike out on my own. Is either system totally right? Probably not. But I know I shouldn’t worry as much as I do.

And, being placed smack in the middle of where I was before, I’ve been forced to reassess a few things. Which is to say: I’m contemplating teaching again. Again, I KNOW, I said I wanted to do something different, this isn’t my long term goal, etc., etc. But a) I was going to teach with TFA anyway, and I wasn’t planning on doing that forever, either; b) I really LIKE teaching (duh); c) if I’m going to be studying development, it won’t hurt me to immerse myself in an organizational model designed to ameliorate some of the issues I’ll be studying. I feel like I’m jinxing my chances just talking about it here, so I’ll stop except to say that this is something I am seriously contemplating. I don’t see it affecting my future plans at all, not that I should be counting on any sort of plan anymore anyway, as obviously: plans do not like me and avoid me at all costs.

One of the perks of being unemployed, however, is the ability to spend hours at home doing things like learning the mandolin. I am currently working on “Dixie” (really) and Chris Thile’s “Song For A Young Queen” (sort of). The great thing about the mandolin, especially for impatient people like myself, is that beginner’s songs don’t necessarily sound like they’re beginner’s songs. If you play the piano, as I have on and off for the past fourteen years, you cannot finger-pick “The Chimes” and be impressive. The mandolin, however, is a simple instrument, one that allows its musician to sound pretty cool even from the beginning and thus provides more encouragement for the amateur. I like that.

Finally: It’s Not Crazy Being Green, a nice reminder that environmentalism, in spite of the fact that it’s altruistic, also benefits all of us. Via American Scene. (I like how they describe it as “sensical.”)

Tuesday, 6/24: for the widows in Paradise
June 24, 2008, 12:16 pm
Filed under: life progress, rants, skool, students, teaching, the future

Despite my obvious affection for the New York Times, it’s articles like this one that make me want to knee it in its elitist groin.

It must be difficult, of course, to choose between a lucrative job in the private sector and an honorable job that allows one to “give back” in the public sphere. I’m certainly glad I’m not faced with that decision. One of the many perks of not being able to obtain ANY JOB AT ALL.

I’m not going to lie: I want to go to an Ivy grad school or, if not, at least one of the best in my field. That is, however, for graduate school in a specialized discipline. I’m not going to pretend that I don’t resent the way major news outlets (such as the Times) only focus on these most prestigious colleges, the ones that cut out the middle class by refusing to offer merit-based aid, and assume that they must be home to the best and the brightest. I once sat across from a Harvard student who didn’t know where the state of Kansas was. Note to Harvard: I do. Believe it or not, there are a lot of other schools out there that are not Ivies that turn out perfectly functional individuals. i’m also more than a little turned off by the way the article makes it sound like these public sector jobs should just be totally honored that these fancy fancy students might deign to give their expertise.*

That having been said, I do want to throttle My Own School pretty often. We were recently featured by Consumers Digest as the #1 liberal-arts value in America. We were also featured in Delta Sky magazine. Both stories made the front page of our website. Note to My School: Until you stop acting like it’s a big honor to be featured in DELTA SKY, we’re never going to leave the 40s in the rankings.

Nonetheless, I think I might try to apply to some of these companies too. I’ve been trying to work in the public sector, and no one wants to give me a low-paying job doing difficult and emotionally draining work, so I might as well start looking at jobs that would actually allow me to pay my own rent.

Tried to teach a pop-song lesson today, three different ways, and none of them worked, because my students are ungrateful little hoodlums. This state of affairs wasn’t helped by the young co-teacher, who switched from her customary usage of “maybe it would be a better idea if” to “I want you to,” which semantically means pretty much the same thing but totally makes it sound like it’s my duty to bend to my co-teachers’ whims. I realize that this is probably just a translation issue, but it didn’t make me feel any better. I played different classes Kanye, Sufjan Stevens, Enrique Iglesias and Stevie Wonder, and I was so frustrated at my classes’ refusal to even engage – and these are students I like! – that by the end of the last one, which may actually have been the worst, I was barely speaking to anyone. They shouted “I love you” out the window, but it was too late. Tomorrow’s classes get a lesson on the future tense instead.

We did have our final goodbye party at the 공부방 (after-school program) today, though, and they gave us each a beautiful tea set. I don’t even know how to describe how badly I want these kids to succeed.


*I have a real problem with the low pay offered by most jobs in the public sector, including (and especially) those sponsored by the government. The wrong messages this sends are almost too numerous to mention: that these jobs lack the same prestige as better-paying ones in the private sphere, that working with and for others should be some kind of sacrifice, that there’s something inherently noble about working with others to better the world. Volunteering isn’t about “helping”; it’s about working to make a better life for all of us, and it comes with as many benefits (if not more) than private jobs. Everyone should be able to find something they like, in my view, that also happens to benefit someone besides themselves, but continuing to perpetuate this idea that working with others must require a little bit of unpleasantness that we have to suck up is totally detrimental to any efforts to get others involved. It also makes it way more difficult for people without independent means to take up jobs such as these. I realize that most public-sector jobs don’t have a lot of money, so I’m mostly referring to government-subsidized jobs (likte teaching and AmeriCorps) here, but it also seems to me that there is an inherent assumed correlation in American society with social-sector jobs and low pay.

And, I mean, if I were poor and learned that these AmeriCorps volunteers were being put on food stamps so they could “empathize” with me, I would be incensed. No one WANTS to be on food stamps, and I find it a little bit insulting to people who actually have to be on them that, should I join AmeriCorps, I’ll be expected to do it too, like poverty is some sort of game.

Sunday, 6/8: on clothes
June 8, 2008, 1:52 pm
Filed under: life progress, the future, travel, U S of A

When I first saw New York I was twenty, and it was summertime, and I got off a DC-7 at the old Idlewild temporary terminal in a new dress which had seemed very smart in Sacramento but seemed less smart already,…and some instinct, programmed by all the movies I had ever seen and all the songs I had ever read about New York, informed me that it would never be quite the same again. In fact it never was.

– Joan Didion, “Goodbye to All That”

I have this feeling that when I open my suitcase in Johnson City, all the things that I bought in Korea will turn into dust. Never mind that I did this once before. This time I’m coming home for good, at least for a little while, and I can’t imagine that the colors will stay, that I’ll be able to pick up my clothes without watching them disintegrate in my hands.

I have a little less than a month left here, depending on when I finally decide to leave. I’ve been putting it off. I can leave as early as July 5th, after which I’ll take classes at the state university in my town, and…then what? I know I can’t stay here, but I haven’t heard back from a single job (except for the one that told me that they would interview me if I were only in the States). I know that if it weren’t for my friends and my family here, my time in Korea would seem like a dream, so far removed is it from the region its promoters so optimistically name The Mountain South. I’m pretty distant from the Eastman Kodak plant here.

I have no problem going home as long as I have something new to which I can move on. I’m not ready for this to be the pinnacle of my life. I’m a little scared of how fast I’m afraid this experience is going to disappear from my life, but I might be more worried that once those shirts and dresses that were so beautiful here disappear, I’ll have nothing to hold in their place.

Monday, 4/28: as for you, Phil Donahue
April 28, 2008, 4:43 pm
Filed under: IGR Recommends, skool, students, teaching, the future
I don’t have any class notes to post today because I was too aggravated to write any down, which is unfortunate. I wanted to poke my students in the eye today. I am not going to lie. My school has just now separated the first graders into high/low levels, which means that the kids are in classes that are approximately half composed of new people, which means that they’re loud and obnoxious and refuse to listen to me even when I hold Co-Teacher B’s microphone to the portable speaker and make really unacceptable feedback noises. CTB was like, “Well, I dock their grades.” This does not work for me for obvious reasons. Then after school one of them was supposed to be cleaning and was actually twirling his mop handle like some sort of baton and whacked me in the shin. That was fun.

While I generally prefer a mic-free class, though, CTC’s microphone does make me feel rather enjoyably like a talk-show host, striding out into the audience and having students answer. What they probably don’t realize is that in my head, all the other students function as the studio audience.*

On that note, I’d like to recommend a particularly good story from a recent episode of This American Life that I recently discussed with one of my Program friends in Jeonju. I believe the episode itself is a rerun. The first story involves the rise and fall (and rise, and fall) of one Jerry Springer. You have to stream it from the website if you don’t want to pay. Highly recommended listening.


  • one more CL draft completed
  • potentially awesome Green Eggs/Ham lesson planned
  • emailed travel agent re: KoreanAir
  • uh.

Here is a poem by Audre Lorde. I’m not sure that I totally understand all of it yet, but I like it.


Audre Lorde

is the total black, being spoken
from the earth’s inside.
There are many kinds of open
how a diamond comes into a knot of flame
how sound comes into a words, coloured
by who pays what for speaking.
Some words are open like a diamond
on glass windows
singing out within the crash of sun
Then there are words like stapled wagers
in a perforated book – buy and sign and tear apart –
and come whatever will all chances
the stub remains
an ill-pulled tooth with a ragged edge.
Some words live in my throat
breeding like adders. Other know sun
seeking like gypsies over my tongue
to explode through my lips
like young sparrows bursting from shell.
Some words
bedevil me
Love is a word, another kind of open.
As the diamond comes into a knot of flame
I am Black because I come from the earth’s inside
Now take my word for jewel in the open light.

*This reminds me of this Christopher Walken SNL skit that no one else seems to remember called “Jenny Jones,” or, alternately, “You Called Me A Geek, Now I’m Super Chic!” Our friend Christopher plays an extremely vocal audience guest, and I seem to remember thinking that it was just incredibly funny. But it was cut from syndication of the episode and there are very few mentions of it online, so evidently I was the only one.

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.