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, 3/4: New York City, capital of the world

2D – Guess Who?

Lesson: Introduce students to each other through question-based guessing game

  • Teddy Bear Barrette has switched over to rhinestones
  • but she’s doing her work!
  • Eun Jeong actually competed for tickets today
  • Future Vet*, Good Twin*, Super Woman* all present
  • surprisingly well behaved
  • next time don’t have teams come forward, make questions more difficult

2B – Guess Who?

  • Help Woman*, Kind Mother*, Field Trip, that girl with the pink glasses
  • not too participatory but generally good
  • guessing game doesn’t work as teams, maybe have kids find matches

2C – Guess Who?

  • Bad Twin*…oh God
  • those girls in the front need to QUIT talking
  • one of the choir girls still wants to be “social poverty designer” (Catholic girl)
  • Canada, Lisa Loeb*
  • having kids practice easy questions with each other, answer hard questions, find random matches worked better
  • new co-teacher less effective

I moved gyomushil (teachers’ office) yesterday and it was TOTAL CHAOS. Apparently it had not occurred to anyone working at or affiliated with my school to, I don’t know, do this stuff sometime before the first day of school.

In this room I could practically see my breath and I couldn’t feel my fingers to type; the windows were open and no one would allow them to be closed, so we all stood there, huddled around an ancient freestanding gas heater with a teapot on the top. The teapot, in case you were wondering, serves as a humidifier. Those of us who were not gathered round the campfire were counting to eight repeatedly and shouting my name; evidently there was some discrepancy regarding the desk I was supposed to have versus the desk I actually had, and while I was supposed to receive the eighth desk, which desk became the eighth varied depending on where the person started counting. Meanwhile, the students, teacherless, roamed our dirty halls like packs of hyenas, waiting for the first of us to fall. Did I mention that the first graders weren’t even there? I kept asking people if I could help – I couldn’t figure out what to do on my own, as everyone simply seemed to be moving each other’s stuff around and back again – and no one would give me directions, so eventually I just sat at my desk. Meanwhile, the teacher with the broken arm had the papers and folders she was moving propped between her coat and her cast.

My absence from this blog would be inexcusable were it not for the fact that a) I’ve been working for Uncle Sam, who possesses powerful Internet monitoring superpowers, for the past month, b) the Internet at my house on base was more fickle than a Korean middle schooler’s chosen favorite singer, and c) I got a bead stuck in the optical drive of my MacBook and had to have it serviced. Oops.

But anyway, I’m back. And reasonably sure that I can never work for the federal government. To illustrate this point, I would like to offer a series of questions I received from children at the American Corner (like a mini-Embassy) in Busan, via teleconference, during a presentation on American Food: Diverse and Delicious, followed by both actual and given answers.

Q: Who were the first immigrants to America? How did they start American food?

AA: Well, in the seventeenth century, the white man came and pretended to be friends with the natives for a while, but then he killed them off, took their land, and shot the animals and grew the crops that would become the basis of American cuisine.

GA: Well, in the seventeenth century, many immigrants came from Europe. They made friends with the natives, and from the bounty of the land, they all cooked food together.

Q: Why is American food so sweet?

AA: Because Big Food is filling it with high-fructose corn syrup!

GA: Because we have many immigrants from Europe, where they make very sweet desserts.

Q: Can you tell me the story of how New York City came to be your country’s capital?

AA: No.

GA: No.

*These are obviously my actual class notes, with changed names. Hopefully soon I will make a glossary of pseudonyms. In the meantime:

Bad Twin/Good Twin: These girls are not actually twins, but they look like it. One is good. One is not.

Super Woman, Kind Mother, Help Woman: attended winter camp, created Super Woman, Kind Mother, and Help Woman, respectively

Lisa Loeb: v. smart, a little morbid, has dyed hair and Lisa Loeb glasses, as well as a general Loebian aesthetic; I wave at her in the hall and she looks at me and shakes her head

Future Vet: started emailing me because she has a cat (rare in Korea) and I have one too; originally wanted to be a vet, but because this may be too difficult, is currently planning on being a “pet beauty artist”

Sunday, 12/16: I’ll be that girl

Can we start with a few lists, please?


  • “Jingle Bells”: domestic violence
  • “Summer Nights”: dying soldier


  • “No speak” 
  • “Father, he is fat”
  • “Snowman. I don’t like face”
  • “I hate cat”
  • “Santa, Santa isn’t fun”

My students mostly earn brownie points for liking “The Snowman,” however – regardless of some of their opinions of it, they all – and I mean all – watched it quietly, which is not something I thought I could achieve with an elephant tranquilizer gun. SDY wrote that it reminded her of the days “when I was young.” The fact that SDY looks like a third grader notwithstanding. She’s an old soul, I guess you could say.

The students who have the most brownie points in my book, however, are my PopSong kids, with whom I am celebrating Christmas right now in the most Korean way possible – at a nasty smoky PC방. Today is the boys’ party. Yesterday was the girls’ party, and with the three girls who showed up, I went to Baskin Robbins and the aforementioned Nix&Nox (for Jeju residents, I cannot recommend this karaoke venue highly enough). One of my students, it turns out, is a fan of both Eric Clapton and Jack Johnson, which means that someday she will be able to successfully rush a fraternity at My College. The boys, however, wanted to party by staring at a computer screen and killing things, so here we are. One of them tried to show me how to play StarCraft and, in perhaps my most badass moment ever, I got nauseous from the screen, so I had to quit. My handle was T3ACH3R.

Sitting at someone else’s computer gives me as much time to think as anywhere else, and I think a lot about transience now that I’m so close to coming home, even for a little bit. Oregon said that at the Christmas party last night she was about to say something about the party we could have next year, before she realized that next year we will be in an Ivy law school (Arkansas) or an Ivy med school (The Singer) or bumming around on people’s couches (yours truly). 

It’s all going to end. Just like the time when I listened to Barenaked Ladies ended around the time I started tenth grade. Someday I’ll hear the song again, just like I did yesterday at Hollys (in the first recorded instance of good music being played at Hollys ever), and remember that part of me, but I won’t be there anymore, and I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

At least these kids playing StarCraft are so much more adorable than I ever thought nerds could be.

walking in the air

So I downloaded The Snowman, which is only THE BEST CHRISTMAS MOVIE OF ALL TIME*, for use in my classroom, during these last two useless weeks after exams. Playing it, I noticed that this version featured a live action introduction with a narrator who looked oddly familiar. Google reveals that this mysterious fellow is, in fact, DAVID FUCKING BOWIE. Perhaps more importantly, his presence does not improve the movie at all, aside from the fact that you get to see David Bowie.

Moral of the story: The Snowman > David Bowie > the rest of us

I’ve had the past three days off, effectively creating a five-day weekend, which was nice to say the least. “Nice” might not even be the best word for Saturday, where Aewol’s co-teacher’s boyfriend proceeded, at noraebang, to rap along with popular artist G-Dragon, as well as 2Pac. Also, his name was Steve Son. As in, “My name is Steve, son.”

Of course, five free days without drama is an impossibility for the Jeju Crew and for my host family too, I think. We can’t help it, really; being thrown into this immediate closeness, spending so much time together, it’s almost inevitable that we’re going to make mistakes sometimes. When you finally start to know people, it’s so much easier for you to hurt each other. I got in a massive fight with HB; I got into another fight, not as large but just as difficult, with Scooter. I didn’t want either of them to happen. But these things, they feel like fires: you can avoid them, yes, but the brush collects and blazes later. And I’d much rather burn them out now.

But later HB told me that he likes me, although he doesn’t love me, which someone told me means that he does, really. And Scooter and I went suit shopping on Tuesday and had just a good friend day – we ate pizza, and Christmas shopped, and made fun of the guy at Zini’s (who is now – if you are interested – featured on the poster outside the cafe. He is reading earnestly), and split a chestnut 빙수 (sundae). Then today I had lunch with Oregon and Transy, and went to the five day market with HM, and she told me to sleep in the car as the Weepies played in the background. Then we went out for 갈비 and 냉면 to celebrate HS’s finish with finals, and I know it’s such a tired theme, how lucky I am. What should I compare this to, my favorite pair of shoes?

Speaking of shoes: I went into Athlete’s Foot this morning to try to get a pair – I currently have NO shoes that protect me from the rain – and I asked the guy if he had my size in these shoes, and he was like, “Yes.” Silence. After an uncomfortable pause, one that went on far too long, I was like, “…Can I try them on?” Then he seemed to take it as a personal affront when they were too big. As it turns out, they’re for men. Who knew? (Not Korea. Take that, gender stereotypes!)

Now I have a personal statement to finish – I have, rather suddenly, decided to apply to what the Koreans call 대학윈 now that TFANY is out of the picture. I’m applying to Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), which is quite a long shot, but it’s also the only program I’m pretty sure I’d attend sight unseen. I don’t know if I’ll get in this year or not – if I don’t, I’ll just apply next year, although getting in this year would be pretty much unbelievable. It’s so terrifying to think that This Is What You’re Going To Do With Your Life, but as Miguk Oma (in her infinite wisdom) pointed out, one has to make some sort of choice at some point. And as the life of Miguk Apa has proven, you don’t have to stick with it.

In two weeks I’ll be home. But the days here feel so bright sometimes.

Finally, someone found my blog by searching for “burnt toast poem,” and I feel obliged to provide.

Eating burnt toast or kimchi –

The decision seems easy to me.

Beautiful it is not,

But toast don’t smell like rot.

I sure hope that this breakfast is free.

I’ll be here all week, kids.

Today IGR Recommends: The Snowman, and concurrently, bittorrenting. I cannot actually share a copy due to filesize, but I can direct you to Azureus, and from there recommend that you Google “the snowman” + torrent. And realize just what has been missing in your life all these years.

*I do not make such statements lightly.