Tuesday, August 22, 2006
more reflections - culture shock in reverse
what's been interesting is the disorientation to my own culture i've felt at various times over the past week. i was a bit surprised by this since i was only gone for five weeks. my other overseas experiences have been much longer (one year), so i expected disorientation with that length of stay. however, i wasn't really expecting it with this one, but it's definitely been there. for example, driving a car has been an interesting experience. more so than riding my bike, although yesterday in about 10 minutes i nearly ran off the side of the road and nearly ran into three other bikers. i guess i forgot that when you're riding, you can't look around at the signts. i guess i got used to this with all the walking and bus riding we did while in pusan. what also has contributed to the disorientation is the comparisons i've tried not to make but still do of certain things in this culture with the same things in the korean culture. it seems that now that i'm back in my own culture, it's easier to "romanticise" the other culture, which i found myself doing with the american culture while i was in pusan. it's pretty interesting how our brains process the information about a new place and what it does with that.
i mentioned in a previous post that at some points the experience seems surreal and that i'm afraid i'll forget about it. however, i've found that talking/chatting/e-mailing with people who are still there or who were there and went through the same experience keeps it alive. i've received several e-mails from students, one who is considering coming to the states to study. it seems the course had a remarkable impact on him. wow! e-mail from friends i made while there keeps me in the loop of what's going on in their daily/weekly lives. then chatting/talking with some of the team members, lisya and charm, and dr. h has helped to continue processing the experience.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
now that i'm home, i realize what a great experience it was to go to pusan and teach at pnu this summer. what i find interesting is how being back in my own culture is helping me to have a better understanding of my experience in pusan. for example, when i went for a run today, i noticed how the cars would yield to me. in pusan, it was the opposite, and i was curious as to why this is. i speculated that because there are fewer pedestrians in columbus than there are cars, pedestrians have the right-of-way. whereas in a place like pusan, that's densely populated and cars are quite expensive to own and maintain, there are more pedestrians. so vehicles yielding to them would cause a traffic jam. from experiencing this in my own culture, it seemed that i was able to better understand why it's done differently in the korean culture. i'll be interested to see if i notice other aspects of this culture that help me to construct meaning in the korean culture.
as i continue to process my pusan experience, it seems to me that i'm coming away from this with more understanding of the korean culture, particularly in regards to how important the issue of face is in the culture and how the fact that korea was a "closed" nation for a long time still seems to influence the culture today. i think this comes from talking with culture "experts" (a.k.a. the students) and watching the people.
- a special thanks to my dad who supported my decision to do this and loyally and meticulously read all my blog entries and even responded to a few. thanks, pop!
- to dr. h for masterminding the idea of a joint tesol certificate program between osu and pnu. without this, the summer wouldn't have been as exciting; for all the virtual support and encouragement prior to his arrival and for all the face-to-face support and encouragement while in pusan
- to cherepaha for his loyalty in reading and responding to my blogs; for sharing his insight on my teaching pedagogy and the use of technology in the efl classroom; mostly, for introducing me to blogging (and podcasting) - i think i'm now an blog-addict!
- to the students in the p, n and u classes who diligently read and responded to my blog - thanks for the creative postings!
- to all who responded to my blog via e-mail (alice, asha, chris, clint, craig, jerry, joseph, maj, michael, "n" and shandler) - loved your thoughts. hope you didn't mind if i posted some of them. they were too good not to share.
- to the team - charm, stuart and lisya - it was great working and living with you! i learned a lot (about myself) through this. it definitely is an experience i won't forget. to charm - thanks for sharing your knowledge about the asian culture and other practical things like how to use the washing machine, buying an ethernet cable, etc.; for sharing your food, especially the sky flakes, peanut butter and mini purple muffins; for the cleaning tips; for endless shopping trips - i don't think i hate shopping as much now; for the new nail color - love it!; etc. to stuart - thanks for the handouts on extensive reading from the tesol academy in seoul; for all the travel brochures; for having the patience (and courage) to live with three women for a month! you're a champ!; for "holding the door"; etc. to lisya - thanks for initiating discussions about our teaching; for sharing your teaching ideas; for the proposal and article collaboration projects - it's so easy working with you; for our night walks; for photo sharing - turkey is so beautiful! i really hope i can visit you there some day in the near future; for blogging with me; for cafe conversations and chipmunk watching; for motivating me to work on my dissertation; for inspiring me with your spirit and your view of "the glass being half full" no matter what the situation; for enduring unsustainable conversations with me; for sharing a bathroom; etc. (miss you, chicka!) to everyone, thanks for laughing at my endless jokes, even though they weren't always funny. (i hope they were at least sometimes funny. ;))
Monday, August 14, 2006
it felt really good to be back in the u.s. actually, in some ways, it didn't seem like i had left. it was a little surreal. i got up in the morning in pusan, flew for a long time, then ended up back in the states. i know that i've been gone, but because there really isn't anything here that tells me where i was, it almost seems like i wasn't. kinda strange.
clint was there at the airport to pick me up. thanks, clint! :) we came back to my apartment to do some unloading and unpacking and then headed out to get something to eat. of the following, what type of food do you think i had for my first meal back in the states:
- A. American
- B. Korean
- C. Mexican
- D. Chinese
now that i'm back, i have to figure out how i'm going to spend the rest of the summer. ;)
*thanks to 'cherepaha' for bringing this to my attention
Sunday, August 13, 2006
the last day
today is my last day in pusan. it's almost hard to believe that the experience is over. i still can remember the day i arrived - it was right after the typhoon had hit and the rain was still here. stuart and eun-a, one of the students came to pick me up from the airport... today was sunny and hot, like all the days have been for about the past two weeks. i spent most of the day packing. late afternoon, lisya and i went out to the pnu shopping district to buy some last minute gifts and souveniers. (charm and stuart already left) we also had dinner together at a small restaurant near the university. we ordered our favorite dishes - mandu (dumplings), bibimbab, and sundubu. it was a good way to spend the last day of our time in pusan.
Friday, August 11, 2006
food, food, and more food
min-cheol, the guy i've been going to church with, and i went out for dinner tonight. it was a kind of farewell dinner. we went to a place near the pnu campus that serves duck. i had peking duck when i lived in china, but never tried it in korea, so even though he reminded me of my supposed vegetarianism, i employed my flexibility and joined him for duck. this restaurant was one of those where you cook on your table. the duck was quite delicious, although a little greasy. and there was so much food - several panchan and different types of sauces to dip the duck in . when we first got to the restaurant, there was no one else there. however, it quickly filled up. the food was delicious. the only thing i didn't like about the place was the loud music that was playing the entire time. it was very difficult to talk to min-cheol during the meal. the owner was a very energetic woman who was either running from table to table to cook the duck or behind the counter chopping more duck to be cooked.
after we had paid for the meal and were exiting the restaurant, she followed us out to spray us down with some kind of scent that was to cover the smell of the bbq. min-cheol told me that it was a kind of marketing strategy to get customers to come and not worry about smelling like bbq afterwards. it was interesting. after we left the restaurant, we wandered around the shopping district near pnu and eventually ended up at a pub, where we ordered a korean plum wine and anju, snacks to eat with it. i couldn't believe that we were ordering and eating more food after all that we had at dinner just 30 minutes prior, however, once it came, it was hard to resist. the panchan came first. this consisted of soft tofu, salad and caterpillars. yes, caterpillars. now i've tried everything. i saw these at several food vendors on the street, but had no idea what they were. they definitely looked like some kind of insect, but i didn't know what kind and didn't want to know. however, min-cheol, despite not knowing the english word for them, gave me enough info. for me to be able to figure out that they were in fact caterpillars. soon after the panchan were brought out, there was also a spicy seafood soup brought out. it was delicious. again, i couldn't believe that we were eating again after all that we had, but it all tasted so good, it was hard not too. again, i know it may seem like i spent my entire time here eating, but really, i haven't. ;)
at the finish
today was the last day of the course, so instead of having class, we planned a common gathering of all three classes, p, n and u, in p's classroom, because it had the best a/c and sound system of all three, for a potluck and performance. it was a really nice ending to a pretty tumultuous month. several students in all three classes prepared something entertaining, mostly in the form of a role play, the content of which highlighted what the students had learned during the past month as well as the distinct teaching styles of the four of us. it was really neat to see how the students displayed all they learned in such a creative way. many of the students incorporated the slang they learned from the simpson's episodes we watched in class and talked about or the o-h-i-o cheer that i taught them. they also imitated all of the teachers. their imitation of me included "hey guys" and "ja, ja", two expressions that i commonly use. the first reflecting my chicago accent; the second reflecting the influence of my second language (can you guess what that might be?!? ;)) on my first language. surprisingly, one of the students gave a presentation on her own. the others were done either with a partner or as a group. she is a briliant sketch artist and took time to draw each of the teachers. her presentation of her sketches was a kind of guessing game which she designed using powerpoint. she set it up so that only some parts of each person were displayed first and the audience had to guess who. after this, a full black and white was shown and then a color. it was so well done. the presentations took up most of the morning, although stuart had a part where he gave prizes to the students who had the highest scores on the final presentations in his classes. around noon, we had lunch, which consisted mostly of cakes, snacks and drinks. we took a lot of photos and ended up spending the rest of the time talking with students and finally saying our goodbyes. we left feeling pretty positive and were glad that the final day of the program ended on a good note. it was almost surreal that we were finally finished with the course. it was hard to believe that it was over. for some reasons, it seemed like the course lasted years; however, for other reasons, it seemed like it lasted only a couple days. i think it's still too soon to say how things went over all. i need a bit more time to process all that happened in the past month. during the party, i talked briefly with dr. h about the future of the program. it seems like there is a future for it for both osu and pnu. :) he also said that osu is extending the invitation for teachers beyond doctoral students in the department of second and foreign language. i was surprised to hear that. i think it's a great idea to open it up to others who may want the opportunity to spend time teaching in korea.
Monday, August 07, 2006
dr. h's arrival
Sunday, August 06, 2006
a motley crew
these are some shots taken at today's fellowship group, which met at edwin's apartment this week. last sunday we met in the middle school near the church, which is the usual venue for the group. however, when we met there last sunday, it was just so hot that edwin, one of the co-leaders (pictured in the yellow t-shirt and jeans in the photo above) asked me if i thought we should have the group at his place today. i responded with an emphatic yes! in fact, if we had the group at the middle school today, i was thinking not to go just because of how hot it was last week. actually, despite the heat, meeting at the middle school last week was interesting. upon entering the school, we had to remove our shoes and carry them to the 5th floor, which is where all the groups meet. each group takes one of the classrooms and we sit at the students' desks. it gave me a feel for what a korean middle school is like and reminded me somewhat of my middle school days. after we spread the word about the change in venue, we piled in people's cars and taxis and headed over to edwin's place. edwin was born in korea when he was four and then went to the states with his parents when they immigrated at this time. now he's back in korea working as a project manager for nike, working on men's running footwear and gear. today he showed me the newest technology for running that his team is currently working on. it's a kind of joint project with apple ipods, where two devices that track the distance, speed, etc. of a runner can be inserted into the end of an ipod nano and the other underneath the pad of one of the runner's shoes. the nano also has power songs that help get the runner going and then the influence this has on the runner's performance is displayed on the ipod nano screen. it's pretty amazing. edwin lives in a really nice apartment complex near haeundae beach. his apartment is on the 29th floor, and he has a great view of the ocean. the a/c was on when we got there, so it was much better for our meeting than last week. we talked about the passage from john 15 on the fruit and the vine and had a pretty interesting discussion. jill (pictured above right), who has a bachelor's and master's degree in theology from a university in scotland, which is where she's from, had some interesting thoughts on the passage, which she freely shared. this is one of my favorite passages because of the number of times "abide in me" is mentioned and the prepositional usage (not "by" or "around" but "in"). i guess only a language instructor would see this. ;) prior to starting our discussion, we ordered nang myun (spicy cold noodles, which is a dish eaten in summer because it's cold, although i don't really get why it's also spicy. doesn't that defeat the purpose of it being cold?!?) that was delivered about the time we were finishing up. it was really nice not to have to leave the air-conditioned apartment for lunch. afterwards, edwin asked if we wanted ice cream and went to baskin-robbins to get four different kinds. michael, the other co-leader of the group, from nigeria, was planning to go to the orphanage to play with the kids today and asked if anyone was interested in going. i considered it, but it has just been so hot and the orphanage doesn't have a/c, so i decided not to go today. it turns out there were others in the group who also weren't interested in going today because of the heat. last week we thought about taking the kids to the beach, but when we were there last week, it looked like the social workers at the orphanage take them to the beach quite often. so because of this and the heat, we decided not to take them.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
mountain top view
after visiting the national museum, we drove to the top of a mountain, where the views were spectacular. the drive up reminded me of the drive to blowing rock and boone we did last decemenber - endless beauty. the mountains were similar to those in north carolina except it seems that there are mostly pine trees that cover the mountains, which give them a craggly(is this a word?) look.
three cherry blossoms
Friday, August 04, 2006
(this past week i didn't get as much done on it as i hoped. lisya and i decided to collaborate on a proposal for aera, which was due on tuesday, so that took some time at the beginning of the week. the focus of our dissertations is academic literacies, just with different populations, so we thought that this would make for an interesting conference presentation. that's more or less why we decided to collaborate on this. it was great fun working with her on this because we're on the same page in regards to the topic and we work well together. she's the first one classmate from our department i've collaborated with outside of course projects.)
we were hoping to catch pirates, mostly to sit and drool over johnny depp, at least for lisya and myself. i really don't think stuart (or charm) were interested in drooling over johnny ------ (hey, clint! "mr. pasty doesn't seem to look too pasty to me in these shots!!!!!! ;) i think lisya agrees with me on this.) We missed the 7:00 showing, so we hopped on the subway and headed toward one of the major shopping districtis in pusan, seomyeon, in the hopes of catching it at the theater there, but the only showing was 12:30am, so we headed back to the pnu district to a place called camel, "a basement bar". we were there a couple hours and then decided to head back home only to find out in an e-mail that dr. kim lost her position today. after receiving the negative feedback from the secret course evaluations, we e-mailed her requesting to meet with her at lunchtime today to discuss this. however, we received no response from her. we learned from the teachers at dinner tonight that in the korean culture, superiors do not respond to requests like this because it goes against the confuscian based hierarchical structures at place in the society. in other words, she can arrange a meeting with us, but we can't arrange a meeting with her. how frustrating! on top of that, the correspondence we did receive from her was a e-mail message telling us she had lost her post and that we would need to report to the dean now. she didn't really give much explanation for this, but it seemed like it came as a shock to her as well as others in the deparment. the teachers did tell us at dinner that the administration at most universities in korea is transitory. administrators hold their positions for what seems to be a short time compared to in the states, and new administrators typically bring their staff with them, which causes others to lose their jobs. the dean, dr. cho, who we're now reporting to, is new as of july 1, so i wonder if this sudden change came about because of his new post or if there was something else in the history between him and dr. kim that caused her to lose her job. needless to write, for another day this week, we were shocked. the question in our minds was what does this mean for the program. thankfully dr. h will arrive on sunday night; we'll meet him on monday to talk about all that has happened this week and try and figure out what's going to happen to the future of our program. we really hope that the program will continue, but right now there are so many questions in our minds that we have no idea what's going to happen. hopefully tomorrow will be a drama free day.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
thoughts on teaching
In class today, we continued the theme of famous people. I designed a cloze dictation on Margaret Mead (one of my favorite famous persons). I also used the text to talk about grammar and vocabulary issues, particularly usage issues. The second activity we did in class was another follow-up to the interviews students did in class on Tuesday this week. One focus of the activity was on vowels and language rhythm; the other focus was on how the part of speech of a word changes the pronuciation of it. Most of the pronunciaiton practice I do with the students in the class is a listen and repeat exercise, with me being the source of input. It's unfortunate, but because we were not informed ahead of time that these would be the types of classes we would be teaching, we did not bring the appropriate materials with us. Consequently, we don't have tapes or CDs as another form of input for the students to listen to. Most of the listening exercises we pull from the Internet, which has been both good and not so good. The other activity we did in some of the classes today was to have students pair up and share the information about the famous people they researched. While they were sharing this, I went around and made note of the language difficulties they had when speaking and checked the accuracy and content of the 10 questions I asked them to write and that they would ask if they were to meet this person in person. I wasn't able to do this in all the classes because we had to let the second period students go early on account of an evaluation that was being administered at the end of the period (see below for a more detailed explanation and response to this). And then, because of a lack of communication on Dr. Kim's part regarding our lunch meeting today (She organized a lunch between us, her, the dean and another professor. It was very nice; however, she failed to tell us that the venue had been changed. We waited for 20 minutes and then left to go find our own lunches before we had to be back in the classroom to teach. By chance, we went to a place where the office staff was having their lunch, and they told us where the new meeting place was.), we were 20 minutes late getting back from lunch (It was good that Dr. Kim called the students to let them know we would be late because of her lack of communication with us), so I was unable to do everything in the other two classes that I accomplished in my first class of the morning and to keep the classes more or less at the same place, I decided to save the famous persons discussions in two of the classes for tomorrow. After class on Tuesday, I uploaded the interviews that the students recorded to our class podcast page so that they would have access to these. For homework, I asked them to review their interviews and write down three aspects of their spoken English that they want to work on improving and bring this to class with them tomorrow. In class, I gave the students some examples of what I meant by aspects of their spoken English, e.g., pronunciation of consonants and vowels. I also reminded them that other teachers, like Lisya, were working on spoken English issues with them, so I asked them to think of these and consider them as possible aspects they want to improve. Our next theme is entertainment and the subtheme I chose is sitcoms, primarily because of my experience teaching sitcoms in the ESL classroom. I asked the students to bring in a synopsis of a Korean sitcom, including the main characters and be prepared to discuss their favorite episode. I'm going to have students share these and then we'll watch another episode of the Simpsons, which I'll decide tonight, although I'm not sure if we'll have time to start it tomorrow or have to save this for Monday's class. I'm finding, and the others are too, that it's difficult to cover a theme a day, so I'm taking two days per theme, barring no secret course evaluations or other disturbances (e.g., no air conditioning in the classrooms. Come on! It's like 100 degrees. And we have to compete with all the construction noise.)
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Buckeyes in Eagle Country
Today I received a spontaneous lunch invitation from two students in the P class. I went with them and Stuart to a traditional Korean restaurant, where we met other students from the P class and sat on the floor and ate (what seemed to be a million) panchan (side dishes) including kimchi, dok, bean sprouts, spinach, squid and others along with a boiled pork dish. (Yes, it seems that my vegetarianism has (temporarily) gone by the wayside.) (BTW, don't worry, Pop, I won't bring any pig intestines home for you since it seems like we have enough of these already in the States! ;)) At lunch, I learned a lot more about the Korean style of eating, including what dishes are shared and what aren't. I had difficulties distinguishing what dishes weren't shared at lunch today because every time I've been to a restaurant where I've sat on the floor to eat, everything on the table was shared with others. The only time I've had my own entree was at restaurants where I sat on a chair at a table.
Just before lunch, one of the students in the N class gave me a small container of two different kinds of panchan, which I believe she made herself. One of them was spicy stems of garlic; the other was spicy catnip. She included a note with these which provided an explanation of them. She wrote that they might be a bit sour, which I found to be true with the catnip. I was planning to eat these with the lunch I brought today, but because I ended up eating with the P class, I ended up eating these with my dinner tonight. They were delicious and a nice compliment to the kimchi pocum pap (kimchi fried rice) I made for dinner.
I just reviewed the past few postings, and from these it seems like the only thing we do here is eat. For the record, I am doing other things than eating. Really!!! ;)
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Last Friday, the U class invited me to have lunch with them today in the form of a potluck. To be honest, I really had no idea of what to bring because I'd never been to a potluck in Korea before, so last night I went to E-Mart (the local version of Wal-Mart, just on a smaller scale) and wandered around for about a half hour before deciding to take kimbab, which is like California roll. I chose this dish because it doesn't require heating and is easy to transport. A lot of the students also brought different kinds of kimbab. I guess this is a popular potluck dish. ;) It wasn't the only dish we had at the potluck; there was also rice cake, fried egg, pig intestine, and various side dishes. One of the students brought hot peppers (from his parents' garden) with soybean paste and catnip (which his mother prepared) in hot sauce. Everything was delicious. For dessert, one of the students brought some plums. Fruit seems to be a common ending to most Korean meals and is quite refreshing after eating a lot of spice. While eating, I found out a little bit about the custom of potlucks in the Korean cultures; they are common mostly with university students. I also found out a little bit more about one of the students - both his parents work in the food industry; his father works at a Korean bakery making dok, traditional Korean rice cake; his mother works as a cook in Japan. I found it interesting that his mother spends several months during the year working in another country, away from her family. After everything was cleaned up, the students went and had a coffee from the vending machine located on the first floor of the building. It's very common to have coffee with milk and sugar following a meal. I've heard it's because Korean food makes one very sleepy, so the caffine in the coffee helps in counteracting that. What I also find interesting is how the students brush their teeth after eating rather than chewing gum or eating a mint, as we (sometimes) do in the States.
Today in class students were to have prepared an interview with a "famous" professional/college athlete. At the beginning of class I gave students 10 minutes to go over their interviews one more time with their partners and informed them that these would be recorded. I brought in my mp3 player for students to use as a kind of microphone during their interviews and to record their interviews to listen to tonight and debrief tomorrow in class with exercises targeting pronunciation and conversation troubles. (More about this later.) These have been uploaded to our class podcast page. While students were presenting, I asked the others to listen carefully and asked them detailed listening comprehension questions following each interview. As a follow up to today's lesson, I asked students to listen to an interview with Jim Tressel (head coach of the OSU football team), take notes and bring these to class with them tomorrow to discuss. Tomorrow we'll be finishing up the sports theme and starting the theme of famous people. In preparation for this, I asked students to think of a famous person, do some research on this person and bring this to class with them tomorrow.