Intrepid Girl Reporter

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.


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.

Tuesday, 3/11: BUSHEE
March 11, 2008, 12:02 pm
Filed under: actual transcripts, host fam, host mom, politics, skool, students, teaching, U S of A

A semester of teaching under my belt and I still don’t know how to respond when students tell me that their nickname is Doghead.

(I do, however, know how to respond when they write that their nickname is Duck: OMGTHATSSOCUTESQUEEE.)


Waiting on the World to Change

Lesson: Discuss the American election, write letters to “Bushee”

  • all kids pretty participatory
  • get more from some higher students
  • highlight: Good Twin citing “unemployment” as a concern
  • assigned letters as HW
  • why does no one know John McCain? (because the media likes the other two candidates better)
  • “Bushee love war”



  • modified lesson to have them practice “what’s your name,” etc.
  • SUPER quiet and well behaved
    • except for that girl with the boy haircut who kept imitating me


    Waiting on the World to Change

    • computer didn’t work so had to move to English room
    • kids were AWFUL
    • quasi-stimulating debate?
      • IGR: “What issues do you care about?”
      • Student: “Jjajangmyun is too expensive!”
    • letters assigned as HW

    11 March 2008

    Waiting on the World to Change

    • Famous American, not hangman
    • got moved to sixth pd so not v. good
    • what’s up with my advanced girls not participating?
    • mostly wanted to write to Lee Myung Bak instead
    • assigned letters for HW

    Sometimes I think that it’s rather self-indulgent to assign these lessons; what useful vocab are they really going to carry away from this? Am I just trying to elicit quasi-profound Konglish for my blog? And – since I don’t buy into any sort of ideology as simplistic as that which I present – what am I doing, really? But then I remember that a) almost all of my teaching, not just this, is geared towards my own entertainment, and b) we’re going back to numbers next week, and there’s absolutely nothing profound they can get out of that. Interestingly, much like the refugee lesson, my first class was stellar and also alone, and more interestingly still, it was once again Eun Jeong’s class – and EJ, by the way, is quite the participator now. I wouldn’t necessarily describe her as a model student, but she doesn’t whine as much and she listens a lot more. VICTORY IS MINE. For the time being, at least.

    This afternoon was another afternoon in which, despite my best intentions, I found myself bogged down in frustration with the fact that seemingly no one understood me. The hot water was still off at the apartment, so I called Host Mom to get her to give directions to the jjimjilbang to which we usually go. Upon arrival, however, there was some sort of sign blocking its driveway, and the taxi driver started babbling something about how I couldn’t go and making these sorts of “Ayyyyyy!” noises, so he took me instead to this resort in the middle of nowhere (and certainly not in my city) that supposedly had a jjimjilbang, but in fact only had a sauna, which was closed. This was roughly a $14 taxi ride, partially because the taxi driver took me out in the middle of boondock, and partially because for some of the time we were stuck behind this guy who appeared to be driving some sort of fertilizer machine. So finally Host Mom was like, “You know, Host Dad’s Gym has a jjimjilbang,” except by “jjimjilbang” she meant “a public shower and a sauna the size of a toll booth.” Then I came home and made chili from this spice mix I bought at the commissary, but it was a little bitter and no one liked it, as evidenced by the fact that, as discreetly as possible, Host Mom has set out a bunch of leftovers.

    Thursday, 3/6: I just want some trail mix
    March 6, 2008, 2:38 pm
    Filed under: host mom, host sister, life on Jeju, life progress, pipe dreams, the future, U S of A

    The first thing I should establish here is that I’m not going to grad school next year.

    To be fair, Columbia’s rejection letter was really nice – they think my academic credentials are stellar, they encourage less than 5% of their applicants to reapply but they really want to see me again, I just need to get some more work experience, blah blah blah. And as Miguk Oma says, they certainly didn’t have to write all of that.

    I found all this out yesterday morning, before I had my laptop back, i.e. sitting in the freezing living room squinting at the stupid host family computer. I was not initially fazed. I found out on Tuesday that I got an interview for the AIF fellowship, which is promising. And I’m reasonably sure that if I apply again, I not only have a good chance of getting in, but I might actually get some money to fund my poor educational dreams.

    Subconsciously, however, this information started to stress me out. Basically, yesterday just sort of spun out into this sort of nunchi nightmare. Nunchi, for those of you who are not schooled in Korean culture, is the ability to sort of suss out a situation, to avoid making the sort of social miscues that Korean society abhors. I guess the news that my future is a lot less certain than I was hoping sort of dulled my nunchi, because I kept upsetting the kibun everywhere I went, including but not limited to: overextending myself at the inconvenience of other people, accidentally making Omma take me and some other teacher she knew to a really expensive eel restaurant near the Jeju Student Culture Center, accidentally sitting in the wrong seat on the bus, etc. I think the low point of my day was when I went to both E AND Lotte Marts to find some trail mix and I just couldn’t find any and I almost started crying in the store. I knew perfectly well that Korean stores do sell trail mix, but apparently none of those stores are in SinJeju, so I ended up having to buy separate trail mix components, which, for the record, are really expensive.

    Despite my own discomfort, however, I want to take note of a recent source of pride: Host Sister has refused to go to hagwon anymore. Not even joking. I can’t even come up with an analogy that will make the significance of this apparent to my American readers – all I can say is that Korean students go to hagwon. They just do. To give you an idea of why, here is the Korean life plan:

    1. To be happy, you need to have lived a good life.
    2. To live a good life, you must be successful.
    3. To be successful, you should probably have gone to a good university, preferably a SKY (Seoul, Korea, or Yonsei) school.
    4. To get into a good university, you have to have done well on the admissions tests.
    5. To do well on admissions tests, you should have gone to a good high school.
    6. To get into a good high school, you have to have done well on the high school admissions tests.
    7. To do well on the high school admissions tests, you need to study all the time.
    8. To study all the time, you need to go to hagwon.

    I partially credit this decision to her time in America and the fact that she saw that her life as a ninth grader does not have to be perpetually miserable. She told Host Mom that she can study just fine on her own, which is true, since she has been known to skip major family holidays in favor of studying. “Every day,” she told me, “I think about hagwon, do I go or not go. Every day.” Also in America: she got really good at SkipBo. But I played her yesterday and I still won.

    Anyway, moments like this sweet SkipBo victory remind me not to feel too sorry for myself, even though maybe I will spend another whole year abroad and if I don’t who knows if I’ll get a good enough job to get me into grad school? Maybe I should see if they have hagwons in America.

    Sunday, 2/9: in which the IGR gains a new appreciation
    February 10, 2008, 8:43 am
    Filed under: books, IGR Recommends, music, Seoul, U S of A


    1. Queen
    2. American breakfast foods
    3. Feist’s “The Reminder”
    4. dryers
    5. salad

    I live within Itaewon now, which is disgusting – full of foreigners and knockoffs and garbage. It smells of badly cooked eggs. I am, however, quickly learning to enjoy the rest of Seoul, although I still don’t know it well enough to feel truly oriented or settled. At least not yet.

    I have a tendency, anyway, to not appreciate things for their full value at first glance, which means that I’ll probably love Seoul more later, just as I love Queen now more than I ever did as a child, when my father used to play their albums (and air guitar along) for me. I went with a group of Program Kids over to the Seongnam Arts Center, on the far end of the Yellow Line, to see “We Will Rock You” last night – a musical I had specifically advised my family not to see during their time in London, due to poor reviews. The reviewers were wrong. I was wrong. My family is not happy. I never thought a hybrid of “Rent” and “Rocky Horror” set three hundred years in the future could be so very successful.

    Other highlights of the past few days: headed over to Butterfinger Pancakes in Apgujeong…twice. Didn’t realize how much I missed pancakes. Also, have clothes that are not stiff and cold. ALSO also, took advantage of the library on base, finished The Emperor of Scent, about Luca Turin, a scientist working to create a new theory on how we smell. Although Soccer points out that “you would think we would have figured it out by now,” the book is well written and a fascinating exploration of both the politics of science and the things we smell every day. It also had the effect, at least for me, of making me want to go to the perfume counter at the nearest department store.  IGR RECOMMENDS, for sure.

    Thursday, 1/10: where are you when we need you, Mina Kim?
    January 10, 2008, 5:38 am
    Filed under: actual transcripts, travel, U S of A

    By day, he’s Mike Kim, unassuming Hawaiian middle schooler. By night, he’s SuperBoy, whose powers include but are not limited to jumping high and biting with his wolf teeth. This character (reminiscent of Superbad as he may be) was the one crafted by my camp class after a briefing re: superhero mythology (you need a villain, a costume, etc.). Then they went on to create their own. I’ll let you fill in the snarky commentary.

    • NAME Cat Girl
    • AGE 23
    • BOY OR GIRL? girl
    • ALIAS: Judy
    • LOCATION: She lives in forest. It have long river and many trees.
    • DAY JOB: math teacher
    • SUPERPOWERS: She can fly to the sky. She have wonderful guns, cape, belt and glasses. She have mask
    • WORST ENEMY: dogboy is Alien.
    • BIOGRAPHY: She changes cat girl when she looks cat. After change, she help poor people and save Earth from Alien.
    •  NAME: Super Girl
    • AGE: seventeen
    • BOY OR GIRL? girl
    • ALIAS: Sujan
    • LOCATION: She is very poor, so she lives 초가집(ed. note: thatched-roof house)
    • DAY JOB: She is a student
    • SUPERPOWERS: She has a strong power and strong electricshock
    • WORST ENEMY: Worst enemy’s name is gangsters
    • BIOGRAPHY: If she saw gangsters then she changes ‘super girl’ Super girl can fly with cape and give to gangsters electroshock with sharp nails

    (ed. note: accompanying head shot featured hand with long nails, electricshock emanating from talons, with a speech balloon reading, “Are you scared?”)

    • NAME: Help Woman
    • AGE: 22 years old
    • BOY OR GIRL? girl
    • ALIAS: Mina Kim
    • LOCATION: In the space
    • DAY JOB: Programmer
    • SUPERPOWERS: Jump, fly, catch the bad people, ring, boots
    • WORST ENEMY: Fire man
    • BIOGRAPHY: She goes to everywhere then fight bad people. She makes a new program. She usually wear a cape. She helps poor people.

    More tomorrow. The boys wanted to keep theirs to finish their drawings, which means you’re going to have to wait for the vital stats of Jupiter and Crysis.

    Settling myself back in Jeju reminds me that the gift living abroad has given me is a certain discomfort with my original home. I plan on settling in America (unless someone happens to offer me a nice apartment in London, let me know if you’re giving one away). But having been somewhere else, having absorbed someone else’s customs, having visited home and having actually missed certain things about the other place, means that there’s this undefinable small qualm – a change in fit. The size of me has changed, and even though I can’t put my finger on how, something about America doesn’t fit as well as it used to. And I can’t help but think that it would take a superhero-sized effort to change that.

    December 2, 2007, 2:35 pm
    Filed under: host fam, television, U S of A

    Oma just revealed the present she bought for Apa in Seoul: a sweater with leather trim. Yes, leather.

    Poor Apa, for his part, mostly likes to wander around in soccer shorts, or, if it’s a special occasion, dress pants and a soccer shirt.

    Watching “Project Runway” with Oma, this explains a lot.

    Speaking of “PR”: I agree with some blog I read – I thought it was GoldDigger but evidently I was wrong – that menswear is kind of a stupid challenge in that it’s nowhere near as hard as, say, making a dress out of groceries. I understand that suit making is hard and that I could never do it and blah blah blah, but when you’re living in or in close proximity to Asian countries where people make suits in, like, an hour, it’s hard to sympathize.  Also, Carmen, really? Aside from the total absence of a shirt, your relentless attempts to be loud and funny were getting kind of annoying anyway. I’ll miss your hair though.