Monday, January 31, 2011

Minimalist Writing

There’s something (as my student Grace would say) genius about what you can say in just a few short words. Take for example haikus.

For those of you unfamiliar with my favorite genre of poetry, haikus are a Japanese poetry form where you write just three lines, the first line consisting of five syllables, the second line seven, and the third line five. In a lot of cases, the last line can be almost a punch line.

Here’s the classic example…

Haikus are easy
But sometimes they don’t make sense

And a few other less-than-classic examples…

Is it still stalking
If I type your home address
into Google Earth?

I can’t stop thinking
about you, and how you are
blocking the TV

Like Tom and Katie
our love is overexposed
and not ultra-sound

Even better, there’s a website where grad students can summarize their dissertations in a haiku…

Hungarian Slavs
Tried Czechoslovakia
It didn’t work out.

“Suburb,” “Slum,” “Village”:
Labels matter in planning
Good places to live.

Brachiopods and
Sponges – paraphyletic?
Still they just sit there.

And as an avid haiku-writer myself, here a few of my own creations …

Skinny skinny boy
sitting right in front of me
Matthew Jay Forrest.

Same exact lesson
seventeen times in two days…
God I love my job!

Mushrooms, diesel, eggs?
Moldy, asparagus, tar?
Wine does not smell good.

Clearly my future calling…

So some of my students, without my having ever taught a lesson on minimalist writing, did so on their term tests last week. On the one hand, these papers were genius, saying so much about superhero stories (their topic) in just fourteen and twenty-three words respectively. On the other hand, these papers were pure laziness, seeing as they had 75 minutes to write me more than fourteen and twenty-three words respectively, earning them just two and three points respectively. Regardless of how you look at it, I wanted to share them...

Villain is very bad guy.
Guy bother people.
And Super hero is
save people.

One day the woman is hurt.
So the man is fight somebody.
Fight - - fight - - and the man is win.
So they are marry.

I think they’re fantastic, even though they both kinda failed the assignment. Minimalist writing is awesome.

- Christine -

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Social Media

Now that I’ve completely suffocated you with cuteness to the point that you’re afraid to ever read this blog again, let’s rant about a more typically-Christine topic, shall we?

In short, my school curriculum is bizarre. This semester alone I’ve taught about such diverse topics as the Amish, ancient Egyptian cosmetics, the value of paper money, peacocks (did you know the babies are called peachicks?), totem poles, tarot cards, zonkeys, and the Berlin Wall (which should have been a relevant topic for Korean children had it not included an illustration of a man climbing over the wall with a dog biting his pants exposing a Galileo tattoo on his ass while another man stands in the background peeing on a lamppost). Combine these with my lessons on dolphin hunting and the aforementioned victimless crime from last semester and oh gosh, it’s shocking the number of useless facts I’ve picked up in the past six months! Yet, what strikes me in all of this randomness is the number of lessons I’ve taught on cell phones, social media, and technology.

Try just for a minute to remember your curriculum from elementary school. I distinctly recall watching Bill Nye the Science Guy, getting excited for long division contests on the board, and something vague about a show called The something something Mimi, where all I can remember is that the captain of the boat fell off and got hypothermia? The closest thing we had to a lesson on technology was playing Oregon Trail on Wednesdays and giggling stupidly at, the viral video of the 90’s I suppose.

Returning to 2011, I swear every book I teach has at least one article on technology of some kind. My JA’s learned about social media, my GB’s about cell phone addiction, and today, Mark Zuckerburg. Technology has become one of those go-to topics lumped in with the likes of food, animals, and sports that everyone can communicate about on some level. It's not that I think technology in and of itself is a bad thing, quite the opposite. I just worry about the inclusion of certain aspects of technology and social media in my elementary school textbooks, printed words my students take to be completely unbiased and true. Furthermore, it makes sense for my kids to learn how to talk about technology in this ever technologically advancing world in which we live, but I still feel dissonant encouraging them to fully embrace this technologically driven culture I have yet to fully embrace myself.

My GB book cites three warning signs that you may be addicted to your cell phone: Spending excessive amounts of time on your phone while, say studying; Getting angry when someone doesn’t message/call you back quickly, and; refusing to turn it off in inappropriate places. Check, check, and check. And I’m only a mild case! When I first moved to Korea, I lived without a cell phone in my life for about 50 days. I’m skeptical that my kids could do the same. Who would have thought I’d need a cell phone policy in my classroom of ten to thirteen year olds, but I can’t tell you the number of cell phones that have rung in class and the number I’ve kept in my designated cell phone mug on my desk for up to a week for such outbursts.

(I’m starting to sound awfully old fashioned, aren’t I?)

Though my kids haven’t yet started using Facebook and Twitter, my books seem to be doing everything they can to make sure that they eventually do. In my GB class, we spent two articles today talking about Mark Zuckerburg and the role of Facebook in the social networking world. Because the article itself was written in language and terminology way above their heads, I had them design their profile pages for their own imaginary social networking site (many of which contained battles between Kimchi and Tony, Harry’s alligator shaped pencil case) instead. Overall, they got really into deciding what information about themselves they wanted to share and finding ways to make their profiles unique and “funny.”

I’m torn about Facebook (although obviously not torn enough to give it up). I joined the site during my freshman year of college because “everyone else was doing it,” and now that the site boasts over 550 million users (or appx. one in every 12 people in the entire world), it really does seem that way. I think Facebook is great for keeping in touch with people you would otherwise rarely see, but it can also encourage exhibitionist tendencies in trying to prove your worth by having the most friends, the best pictures, and biggest collections of “likes,” not to mention that it’s completely addicting and easy to get lost stalking profiles of people you haven’t thought about in years. It’s concerning enough for people my age, I really worry about the impact such social-networking pressures will have on my eleven-year old kids…

And finally, leaving me even more dissonant than Facebook is blogging. The word blogging still instills in me images of nerdy people spilling their guts over the internet, keeping a diary that everyone else can read (As Bo Burnham would say, "And I want you like Anne Frank wanted nobody to read her @$%#ing diary, 'Cause a diary is a collection of secret things that no one's supposed to read, that's the whole point of a diary. Millions of people have breached this little girls privacy after she was chased by Nazis... kick her while she's down"). My JA listening book spent a chapter talking about the benefits of blogging and that keeping a traditional private diary is simply old fashioned. If you are eleven years old, however, I think there’s definitely something to be said for keeping your secrets, well, secret and not posting them all over the internet for everyone to see… Actually let me scratch that and extend that advice to everyone…

Obviously my blogging dissonance comes from the fact that I keep a blog (shocking, I know) and that I get surprisingly into it when I really take the time to write. In addition to feeling relieved at having written a really solid post (pretend I’ve written a couple such posts), I can access stats that tell me how many readers I have, what browsers and types of computers you use, what country you’re in (Shout-out to my readers in India and the Ukraine!), and what my most popular posts are. Basically everything short of your social security number. I like the fact that I have this outlet to share my experiences living in Korea and occasionally rant about, say, social media’s impact on Korean elementary children and the like, but I really don’t advertise myself publicly as a blogger, nor do I plan on continuing to blog once I’m back to living in the States…

Who knows, maybe I’m being old and fussy, but I really do think it’s fascinating how social media and technology have not only permeated my students’ lives through pop culture, but also through their textbooks. Textbooks which they take for truth, which tell them to rely on technology in ways I‘m hesitant to do myself. To think that so much has changed in just the past ten years!

For the record, I think technology is amazing, I really do! The fact that I live thousands of miles away from everyone and can still keep in touch with my friends and family in the States (and almasicr in France… of whom I am still jealous!) is just awesome!


- Christine –

Also, today is my 6 month anniversary of arriving in Korea! Can you believe I survived this long!?!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pet blogging

When I started this blog seven-ish months ago, I vowed I would try to never be one of those annoying bloggers who updates you on the little mundanities of life that would be interesting to literally no one. In particular, I promised myself that I would never be a pet blogger, polluting the internet to update you (aka. my readers who stumbled upon this little blog of mine accidentally by googling “Is Yeonpyeong south of the parallel?”) daily all about the darling little things my pet (along with every other pet in the world) does every day...

And then I got a ridiculously cute little puppy. Please forgive me this one time.

For starters, Kimchi is getting huge. I understand huge is a relative term here, seeing as she’s never going to weigh more than, say, five pounds (ever). But I promise you, she’s so much bigger than she was when I first got her almost two months ago. Don’t believe me?

See? Massive. I told you so.

Kimchi has become almost infamous in my classes. (I guess it makes sense, I did name my puppy after the national food of Korea… How many American puppies do you know named “Cheeseburger”?) And as such, my kids love to taunt me to no end, “Teacher, I like to eat Kimchi with kimchi,” every class thinking they’re more original than the last. Some have drawn me pictures of themselves eating my dog, used her as an essay topic (“If I were the most powerful person in the world, I would destroy Kim Jong Il, make there be no more school, and eat Christine Teacher’s dog Kimchi”) and found every excuse to talk about Teacher’s dog instead of, say, the topic we’re supposed to be covering that day. So this weekend, instead of letting my kids eat “Kimchi with kimchi,” I let Kimchi eat kimchi. Oh snap.

She loved it. I gave her just a tiny piece and she gobbled it up. Pretty damn adorable, really. (My kids loved it too!)

In addition, Kimchi is now the proud new owner of a puppy quilt! My mother, an avid quilter, completely surprised me by sending it (along with some much needed real chocolate). It’s literally one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen! The bone-shaped pattern combined with the bright puppy-like colors and the bone-shaped quilting in the black blocks is just perfect! In short, Kimchi is completely spoiled and has the most awesome puppy grandma ever!

Taste testing, her specialty…

And she loves it! I let her play on it for a while, and although her usual favorite place in the world is my lap, she really wanted nothing more than to roll around and mutilate tennis balls on her new puppy quilt. Freaking adorable.

In summary, my puppy is awesome and hilarious... And I’m starting to twitch from so much love and blatant pet blogging… Please forgive me!

- Christine -

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Touristy Things (Winter Edition)

I started out my winter season with a cautiously optimistic positive attitude. There were only a few inches of snow, everything looked pretty, and if I set out on my daily long walks with the intention of taking pictures and enjoying the brisk Korean winter, it didn't feel all that cold to me.

Mid-way through January, however, I have remembered just why I have always hated winter. Even though I'm accustomed to harsh Ohio winters, Korea is cussing cold!

My long walks discovering new corners of Bucheon have long since ceased, and in their place I have started taking long walks around E-Mart. I've stopped running, and morally opposed to spending money on a gym membership I know that I personally will never use, I have turned to nightly apartment yoga. I've started taking my inner-foodie self more seriously and have given up (for the most part) processed foods and begun making things by scratch on an almost nightly basis. My apartment is the cleanest it has ever been, I have finished more books in the past two weeks than I have since October, and I have gotten to spend lots of quality time with my baby puppy. It's true, these are all good things and probably positive life changes, but being cooped up and spending so much time in my nice warm apartment is slowly eating my soul.

Hence touristy things, winter edition. For the past couple weekends, I have done my darndest to find warm, indoor places to spend hours walking around, surrounded by other people (not puppies), and learn about Korean culture. So far, I have been fairly successful in my attempts, visiting the National Museum of Korea a few weekends ago, going to my first Korean hockey game last weekend, and the National Museum of Contemporary Art this past weekend. Phew!

Let's start with the National Museum of Korea. Located in the middle of Seoul, the National Museum is a history museum focusing on the evolution of Korea from its prehistoric roots to the modern era. It started with a lot of artifacts from thousands of years ago, like the ceramic horned pots used for agricultural purposes...

And eventually got into the infamous Korean celadon pottery... which I think is fantastic! I taught my kids about this exact piece last semester!

They also had some buddhas, pagodas, and other sculptures scattered throughout the museum.

Outside, they had a frozen lake with a little temple and a pagoda garden. It was late by the time I made it out there, and it was starting to get really chilly again!

Really pretty. I'm reading a book right now on exactly what all the paintings on the temples and pagodas mean, so I will update you all later once I get to that.

The next weekend I went to my first international hockey game, South Korea vs. Japan.

The hockey part was definitely cool (even without any fighting, boo!), but our favorite part by far was the Korean cheering section. They were loud, had drums, and danced and yelled in sync for the entire game. It was hilarious.

At one point a foreigner (the guy in the dark blue jersey) joined them. After jumping excitedly for maybe all of a minute, he seemed to get really overwhelmed with being surrounded by so many peppy dancing Koreans, and left.

Though a complete failure on the finding warmth front, it was really fun nonetheless. I had almost forgotten how much I liked hockey!

And then of course we had the MOCA Korea. Located on the South side of Seoul, the museum focused on how Western influence has impacted modern and contemporary art in South Korea. Yes, I'm kind of a nerd, but I thought it was fantastic!

I got off the subway expecting to find myself in Seoul, you know, surrounded by buildings and bustling with people, but instead I found this...

Mountains! Open space! I was in complete disbelief! The museum itself was located about 2 kilometers from the subway entrance, so failing my attempt to spend as much time indoors as possible, i took a short (freezing!) jog up the hill to the museum.

There was no photography allowed in the museum, so I tried instead to capture the outdoor sculptures...

Made in China? I couldn't resist.

Although I cheated and took just a couple pictures inside the museum... I'm a clueless foreigner who can't read the signs, right?

Giant tower of televisions, literally 3 stories tall!

And for those of you who worry about me living in an exotic country barely surviving with none of my Western amenities available, never fear. Living in Korea's not nearly as difficult as it sounds!

In conclusion, I'm still alive, and I wish it were summer. Gah I hate winter!

- Christine -

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Years

Happy New Years from the ROK!!!!!

In short, my 2010 was FANTASTIC! I graduated from college, travelled to my fourth continent, bought a puppy, conquered my fear of children, and mastered the chopsticks. I've been to the highest point in Korea, post-it noted a car, won the Miami Redhawk Hunt, and celebrated GBD to its fullest. My football team is finally good (relatively speaking...), I can read and write in Korean, I've become quite good at synchronized heal clicks, and I've grown to truly appreciate the US. I've become more independent, less high-maintenance, and have learned not to take myself too seriously. Despite a couple setbacks involving a certain tailbone fracture and a 4 month-long flu, 2010 was nothing short of awesome.

Here's to an equally successful 2011!

- Christine -