Sunday, April 28, 2013

전국 학생 종합무술대회

Let's break that down:
전국 (jeonguk) = national (全國)
학생 (haksaeng) = student (學生)
종합 (jonghap) = combined (綜合)
무술 (musul) = martial arts (武術)
대회 (daehwe) = competition/meet (大會)

Today, I went to Ulsan to watch a martial arts competition for students from Ulsan, Changwon, Pohang, and surrounding areas. It was my first time in Ulsan, although I spent the entire day inside the gym watching the competitions take place. There was a lot going on, and all of it simultaneously, like a track and field meet. It was extremely interesting, exceeding my expectations, since I kind of thought that I would have to babysit all day or something. Instead, I wandered around the gym and watched all sorts of exercises, demonstrations, and sparring matches. I also took photos when the students from my gym competed.

We were there from 9am-3pm, not including three hours of transportation, so when I got home, I was pretty tired. But it was a great experience. I got to talk (in Korean) with 관장님 (the director and teacher at my gym) all day, and I learned a lot more about taekgyeon and about martial arts in general. It makes me wonder if I'll ever be good enough to compete in a 무술대회 myself... Who knows?
All of the competitors. The white-clad kids in the back do taekgyeon (택견); red and black uniforms are for hapkido (합기도), and the variously-colored kids closest to me practice kumdo (검도), if they're holding wooden staves, or kickboxing (킥복싱), if they're wearing t-shirts. From what I observed, I have to admit that hapkido and kumdo are more exciting to watch than taekgyeon, but at least taekgyeon is older than both of them and has that "ancient tradition" thing going for it.
The man refereeing this taekgyeon 맞서기 (sparring match) is the 관장 of my gym. I haven't really learned how to properly spar yet. But even though these kids are already black belts, I bet that if I were pitted against them, I could just pick them up and toss them out of the ring. They're so little!
Taekgyeon kids and me. They aren't camera shy in the least! Towards the end of the day, when everyone was losing steam, they started to crawl on me and use my phone and camera, etc.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Kaya Cultural Festival

I had a great time with fellow Fulbrighters Brittany and Rachel today as we visited the Kaya Cultural Festival (가야문화축제) in Gimhae (김해). Kaya (or Gaya) is the name of an ancient Korean confederacy that was swallowed up by the Silla in the sixth century. The festival was partly a celebration of traditional Korean culture and partly a gathering for tons of foreign cultures to come and show off their food, art, and traditions, as well. The weather was a bit gloomy, but I suppose the approaching storm caused the winds to be better for kite-flying! More photos to come!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Science Day

Today was my school's annual Science Day. I'm not sure why they call it that, since it is probably more accurate to call it "Inter-Class Competition (in Categories Including but Not Limited to Science) Day". Since I am so rarely in the loop about these things, I knew next to nothing about today until, well, today. My students had had midterms all week until yesterday, so preparations for today's competitions began then, and the bulk of the special events took place today.

Each of the nine teams (divided by homeroom classes: four first-year teams, four second-years teams, and one team that included all thirty-three of the third-years) were given nine "UCC" tasks to accomplish. "UCC" apparently stands for user-created content, but it basically means that the students had to create something in the subjects of biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, and other science-y fields, as well as music and English.

I wasn't around to watch most of the competitions, but I imagine that my students were carrying out various experiments, building interesting machines, and programming like mad in the computer lab all day. I heard banging coming from downstairs and snatches of singing and musical instruments coming from upstairs. As for myself, I spent all day at my desk scrambling to finish some lesson plans for next week. Yes, I procrastinated (미뤘어요) and it was kicking me in the butt.

However, throughout the morning, representatives from each team would periodically pop into the English teachers' office to ask us for translation help or to check the grammar for the English UCC, whose objective was to create a short, two-minute video about anything related to science or the school.

After lunch, my three English teacher colleagues and I watched the videos and chose our favorites. My favorite was probably a video by one of the first-year teams that parodied Mythbusters, short clips from which I've been using quite extensively in class recently! I also enjoyed a dramatic movie that compared learning "science" by cramming for an exam versus learning science (i.e. doing experiments and exploring) for the love of it and, of course, my third-years' short film about what would happen if you traveled back in time and murdered all the great Western scientists because you hate having to study their theories for midterms. It was probably inappropriate, but it sure was entertaining. The winning video was a brief and cute PSA against the proliferation of tablets in society: the tablet may be replacing books, notes, and everything else in school, but it cannot replace... toilet paper. "Newer is not always better", cautioned the video at the very end.

Later in the afternoon, I had the good fortune to be able to watch the two winning UCCs from the music competition. The cohort from the third-year team managed to write a freaking musical (in a day in a half!) about the academic scandal in 1962 when Watson, Crick, and Wilkins won a Nobel Prize for their research in DNA but totally did not credit Rosalind Franklin for her ideas which they had used. Wow. The second-year team sang a catchy tune -- which included a hip-thrusting dance sequence -- about how much they love science. It was fun. I'm very impressed with my students' creativity!

Thursday, April 25, 2013


멘탈 붕괴 (mental boonggwe) means "mental collapse", another neat pairing of an English loanword and a Korean word to create Konglish slang. It is most often shortened to 멘붕 (men-boong) as an exclamation meaning, "I'm so done," or "My brain is fried".

I heard this today from 관장님 at my taekgyeon gym. We had just finished practicing 대걸이 (a kind of wrestling), and I was absolutely exhausted. I mean, this was half an hour of trying to keep myself from faceplanting on the floor of the gym while up against several black belts. 관장님 was really kind, though; he seemed to sense that I was frustrated and gave me a pep talk: "조금씩," he said. Little by little. I'll improve if I just take it a day at a time and don't get discouraged just because I can't figure it all out right now.

Needless to say, I was drained of energy as we closed up shop (ours is the last class of the day, ending at 10:40pm) and left the building. It wasn't until we had already taken the elevator down from the sixth floor to the basement when I realized that I had left my glasses in the gym! Now, my vision is really bad; obviously I wasn't able to see anything without my glasses. But I was so tired that I hadn't even noticed! 깜빡 잊었다!

관장님 found this funny, though, and joked that I was so pooped that I'd had a 멘붕. Yup, definitely a 멘붕, although not only is my brain so done with today, so is my body. OTL. Time to sleep -- the weekend is almost here!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

귀찮다 and 미루다

I learned a pair of interesting new vocabulary the other day. This week is midterms week at my school, so I have exactly zero classes to teach, as well as eight hours a day that I can spend lesson planning. Am I lesson planning? Heh. No. I'm playing Scrabble on Facebook, reading a book (currently, The Princess Bride), or scouring my reader for blog and news updates. This doesn't mean I'm not being productive, though! Because, as I've already said, I learned a pair of interesting new vocabulary.

One of the blogs I follow is, which I highly recommend as an excellent resource to learn Korean for language learners of almost any level. And on this blog, I came across the word 귀차니스트 (kwichan-iste).

Unable to find it in a dictionary (I usually use Naver), I asked my co-teacher what it meant. I received a laugh in reply. My co-teacher said it was difficult to translate, but generally, a 귀차니스트 is a person who isn't willing to do anything, even important things, due to a lack of interest or motivation. A slacker. A deadbeat. A teacher who is on Facebook instead of creating his next nifty PowerPoint presentation.

Heh. Oh, how fitting.

The word itself is a linguistic oddball, a kind-of portmanteau of 귀찮다 (kwichanta) and the Latin suffix -ist to denote a person. 귀찮다 means "troublesome, bothersome" or, when used without context, something along the lines of "I don't care to do it". It's said frivolously, like "만사가 귀찮다" ("I can't be bothered to do anything.").

You can also use this verb with a direct object: "나는 그녀를 귀찮다." ("I'm tired of her.") or "학생들을 귀찮다" ("I'm so done with my students.") Hopefully, I'll never find myself saying this latter sentence, but it's a legitimate example my co-teacher gave!

More often, it seems, the verb is used as a modifier (adjective or adverb): 귀찮은 일 (kwichaneun il) is troublesome work, and 귀찮은 존재 (kwichaneun jonjae) is an annoying person. Most importantly, there's "귀찮게 하지 마라!" (kwichanke hajimala!) "Leave me alone!"

So, I've been a bit of a 귀차니스트 this week, since without my regular routine of classes, I've succumbed to the doldrums of procrastination (미루다/miluda). I mean, I've nearly finished my book, and I've written a couple of substantial blog posts lately, but I haven't finished a single lesson plan. And the week has flown by. Already it's Thursday tomorrow, and my goal is to pump out seven lesson plans by Friday. So let's go, 화이팅! No more 귀차니즘 from this 귀차니스트.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


"I have muffin top."
-- said by a male biology teacher at my school to explain to me why he was not eating much for lunch.

"I stalking you."
-- said by one of my male students, after telling me he wanted to eat lunch with me more often. I spit out my water.

While discussing celebrities with some students before class.
Female student: I like British men.
Me: Which British men?
Female student: I like all British men.

While playing taboo in class, the word is "taxes".
Student holding the card: This is... a country.
Me: What?
Student: Oh, I don't know.
Me: (writing "taxes" on the board) Anyone know what this means?
Entire class: IT'S A STATE!
Me: Oh gosh no, that's "Texas".

Monday, April 22, 2013

Let's Talk About North Korea

The question of the day: "Are you worried about North Korea attacking South Korea?"

Fortunately, my eleven-student third-year classes did not take the exercise too seriously. They are allowed to choose between two daily questions. The other was, "What did you do last weekend?" But I only asked about North Korea because some of them walked into class talking about it. "Teacher," they said, "North Korea, missile, today!"*

And they were frivolously cheerful because if North Korea obliterated the South with nuclear weapons, then they would not have to take their midterm exams.

So I casually asked for their opinions, careful not to express my own views on the matter, and listened attentively to their responses.

Most students replied in the negative. "No, I'm not worried." Why, I asked. "Because Kim Jong-un is just making empty threats." Or "because North Korea will attack America first." And "because if they launch a missile at us, then the United States will launch a missile at them, and then they will be -- Boom! (Sound effects, gesticulations, laughter) Gone."

When it was KW's turn, I asked him which question he wanted. "Question two," he said.

"Are you worried about North Korea?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because my brother is... 군인? 군인... Soldier!" he said, finally, adding, "He would die."

"If North Korea attacks South Korea--" I began.

"If North Korea attacks South Korea, then my brother would die," KW finished.

Suddenly, MW's head jerked up and she exclaimed, "Oh! Me too!"

And SJ also had a moment of realization. "Me too!"

"Wait, no," said MW. "Not brother... cousin!"

I was taken aback. "You all have brothers in the military?" I asked.

JB, who was a little slow on the uptake, asked MW in Korean, "What's 'cousin'?" -- "사촌," she replied. "Oh," he said, "me too!"

Everyone laughed at the coincidences, but it was actually quite sobering. About half of my students had a family member or knew someone in the ROK military, thanks to the mandatory two years of service for all able-bodied males. If war broke out, we all acknowledged, their lives would all be in danger.

But would North Korea (북한/Bukhan) attack? Most people back in the States seem to be genuinely worried about their safety. But your average South Korean just shrugs off the menace. It's a delicate balance between knowing that North Korea is bluffing and does not have any logical reason to make good on its threats against the US and South Korea and taking into account the apparent lack of logic that defines the current Kim regime. North Korea is unpredictable, and unpredictable is dangerous. Right?

Right, except North Korea is predictable, and their belligerence is nothing new. That's why South Koreans are not scared. Perhaps deep down, they are thinking critically about what would happen in the worst case scenario (everyone dies, so that's that). But day by day, concerns over food, finances, and next week's exams are the top priorities, leaving no room for panic, or even anxiety, over North Korea.
A political cartoon from a local newspaper illustrating how South Koreans are more worried about the economic repercussions of war than either A) non-economic casualties or B) war breaking out at all. The text reads: 전쟁나면 서민만 고생... [1st missile] 담보 대출 연체 가압류 [2nd missile] 학자금 대출 연체 가압류 [3rd missile] 손해배상 가압류 [running man]: "안 나도 서민만 고생." Translation: If war breaks out, only the common people suffer... [1] foreclosure due to overdue mortgage loan [2] foreclosure due to overdue student loans [3] foreclosure due to compensation for damages [running man]: "Even if [war] doesn't break out, we suffer."
That's why I myself am not worried. At all. I mean, I don't even think about North Korea much, even though it is often on the news. But South Korea isn't into fear-mongering, at least with regard to this particular social issue. I feel like the American media is quite different, with doomsday reports on some networks having led some Fulbrighters' parents to call frantically from the US asking if the imminent nuclear apocalypse is grave enough to warrant leaving the country. Well, my parents haven't mentioned word one about North Korea or asked about my safety in the past month, so they're either unfazed by nuclear rhetoric or they just don't care.

But that doesn't mean I can't relate to the feeling of dread when one's family is at even the slightest risk of danger. Before class one day*, I found CY looking out the classroom window at the army training base across the valley from our school. It's so close to us that I can hear taps playing from the barracks when I walk home in the evenings, and when they run drills I sometimes spot colored smoke rising from the trees, even from my desk in the office. CY was now looking at the low gray buildings. "Three weeks later," she said quietly, "my brother will go there."

"Your brother is going to be a soldier?" I asked. "In three weeks?"

"Yes," she said.

"I see," I replied. "Are you going to miss him?"

CY nodded. Suddenly, it hit me.

"Ah! But, North Korea... Oh, okay. Oh, dear. That's tough. Are you worried? Your brother is not going to the border, is he?"

"No," said CY, pointing to the army base. "There."

"Oh, really? He's going to be right there? Well, that's good. He's very close. Can you visit him?"

She shook her head. "I think not."

"Well, I'm sure he will be fine," I said, actually unsure of anything I should say in that moment. "Two years is a long time, but I think he will be okay."

- - -

*This class and conversation took place about two weeks ago. I would have posted this then, but 1) I was busy and 2) it's not like the so-called North Korean threat has blown over quite yet, even if other international news has overshadowed it.

P.S. A recent Reddit IAmA featured a North Korean defector, answering users' questions about life in the communist state. A very interesting read.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

You can paint that house a rainbow of colors

Whew. It's been quite a busy month, as I've taken on an extracurricular as well as another teaching gig, so I haven't had as much time to blog about everything. So here are some snapshots!
Some of my students presented their environmental science projects at the Gyeongnam Province Water Expo (March 22nd). The text at the top of their booth reads "Changwon Science High School".
I went hiking with friends a few weekends ago on a gorgeous day (March 23rd). On the way up, we passed this tree with a spirit carved into it, along with the axiom 過猶不及, which, according to a friend, means: "Doing too much is the same as not doing enough, praising the ability to achieve perfect balance while achieving a goal."
My friends at me at the top of 정병산 (Jeongbyeongsan), 566 meters above sea level. It took about 2.5 hours to reach the top.
Last weekend I went bowling and went on a picnic with friends from Korea, England, and the US (April 13th)! This photo was taken at Yongji Lake (용지호수) in Changwon. If you were wondering, I still suck at bowling.
This past weekend, I traveled up to Seoul to visit my friend Miyuki, a fellow Swarthmore alum who is currently globe-trotting on a Watson grant to conduct research on queer art and activist communities around the world. She's in South Korea this month, having a blast, and I wanted to join in on the fun. On Saturday, we spent the day eating vegan, shopping at Gwangjang Market, and scoring tons of free fabric scraps from the Hanbok Market.

This is actually kind of a funny story: I wanted to show Miyuki the Hanbok Market because I knew that the amazing colors and bright fabrics clustered in the narrow aisles would be a feast for an artist's eyes. It was like color heaven, and Miyuki really wanted to ask for some extra, unneeded fabric for some of her DIY sewing projects. I wasn't sure if it would be impolite or not to ask this of the tailors and shopkeepers, so I cautiously approached a kind-looking old man and asked, "혹시... 필요없는 글로스를 있습니까?" That roughly translates into, "By any chance, do you have any cloth that you don't need?" I'm sure the grammar's off, though. In any case, we managed to get our meaning across, and Miyuki showed them some of the things she'd made with leftover fabrics, such as her skirt and pins, and the man gave us several pretty squares of silk for free.

This was great, but as we kept wandering around the maze of stalls and colors, Miyuki wondered why we couldn't ask for more from the other shopkeepers. Some refused us, but others were quite enthusiastic to share -- and probably also very intrigued by these two young, random Asian-but-not-Korean foreigners in their traditional market. One man told us that the Korean word for fabric scraps is 자투리 (jatoori), and when the woman across the aisle from him heard us talking about this, she vigorously motioned for me to come over to her stall, then handed me a plastic shopping bag literally stuffed to bulging with 자투리. I was shocked, and then thanked her profusely when I came to my senses. Miyuki and I were ecstatic at this find. After we shopped for a bit -- I got a new jacket and tie -- and ate street food, we went back to her apartment to jam on the guitar and swim in a rainbow of colorful silk.
In the evening, Miyuki and I met up with fellow Swattie Jen and Miyuki for some excellent chatting and catching up at Churro 101, a cafe in Hongdae, Seoul, that specializes in churros con chocolate!
And of course, because I was in Hongdae, I had to stop by my favorite bar in the country, AcousticHolic. Folks there remembered me, even though they haven't seen me in over a month! That made me really happy. Of course, the great music made my night, as usual. In this photo, Sunho, Mijeongi, and Guitar Jedi (I found out that his name is Junho!) are performing.
Lastly, on Sunday afternoon, I attended a fundraising event for a queer women's group called the Mapo Rainbow Alliance. There was a home-cooked lunch, a tag sale, and some performances. There was also a man doing caricatures, which Miyuki gladly sat down for. Her caricature was so adorable!
Long story short, a great weekend! Cons: I keep forgetting how easy it is to blow a hundred and fifty bucks or more in just a few days when I spend a few days in Seoul. I mean, transportation alone is killer: since bus ticket prices have increased, it costs over ₩60,000 just to get there and back. Factor in food, fun, and a place to sleep, and gahhh, my wallet is left as skinny as a few receipts because there's hardly anything else inside. Another con: trying to follow and make sense of the Boston lockdown as it unfolded in real time during my bus trip to Seoul on Friday evening. It sort of haunted me the entire weekend. But I'm thankful that everyone I know and love is safe and that the ordeal is now over.

But pros! I had so much fun in Seoul, met old friends and made new ones, and had some new experiences while introducing old ones to people who I knew would appreciate it. I learned a little bit about queer (퀴어) culture in Korea, which left me wanting to know more. I watched Pokemon in Korean and ate many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the Yellow Submarine hostel. Most importantly, I think, I did not feel like a stranger in a strange land. I promise I'll be back again soon.

P.S. A gold star for anyone who knows where the title of this post is from.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


So I taught a lesson on beauty.

I was nervous as I planned it, because even though I was using resources shared by other Fulbrighters -- which meant that I didn't have to create this lesson entirely from scratch -- I felt like I wasn't adequately prepared. A lot of "beauty lessons" that are passed around in native English teacher circles have similar themes: beauty is only skin deep, beauty is cultural, everyone is beautiful in their own way, etc. It is certainly more of a "moral" lesson than a grammar-based one.

The reason I felt unprepared was that I had a hard time deciding what my own lesson plan should focus on. I had the material to compare traditional standards of beauty in different countries around the world, show what the media and Photoshop can do to change our perceptions of beauty, and teach an American idiom or two. I also had photos, fables, videos, statistics, and various classroom activities at my disposal. It was too much to cover in one hour, so I had to pick and choose. And thus I had to think critically about what message I wanted to send to my students.

I decided in the end to focus on just two things: what is considered beautiful differs in many countries and cultures, and the way we perceive beauty is heavily influenced by the media. I hope that these are objective ideas. What I wanted to avoid was moralizing or preachiness, as well as too much sentimentality. 75% of my students are teenage boys; I felt like it would be difficult to reach them on an emotional level.

Furthermore, because I also wanted to know what their thoughts were, I gave them a (admittedly very boring) worksheet to fill out as we went through the lesson. (To be honest, it was also partly because I've been getting annoyed with my students for not bringing a notebook to class regularly; this way, they have to write something. And then I can read it.)

So here are some of the questions I asked, along with some selected answers. Most students didn't finish their worksheets, for various reasons. But almost everyone had at least one interesting answer. The most clever, cute, or thought-provoking I've compiled here, errors intact.

A Korean man/woman/person is beautiful if...
Male student: they have small face and length over 180cm; best of all, they look like American.
M: they are slim and they have a plastic surgery and they seem like [student's name].
M: A Korean woman is beautiful if her face is pretty and she is kind.
M: they have V-line on their face.

Female student: A Korean woman is beautiful if she is skinny.
F: A Korean man is beautiful if he is tall and has thin body and looks like woman.
F: A Korean man is beautiful if he gets plastic surgery.

Beauty is different in every culture. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
M: I agree. Beauty is decided by culture, and culture 영향을 받다 [is influenced by] environment.
M: I agree because everyone thinks differently, especially people from different cultures.
M: No, I don't agree. These days, Thanks to TV, Internet, SNS... what people want in beauty is very similar.

Where do we get our ideas of beauty?
M: we get our ideas of beauty from friends or TV or Internet. But In my case. I get ideas of beauty from my heart.

A beautiful Korean person might not be considered beautiful in another country. Do you agree or disagree? Can you give an example?
M: disagree. Korean persons are most beautiful in the world.
M: I disagree. For example, 한지민 is a beautiful Korean actres. She is always beautiful and sunshine anywhere.
M: dis, worldwide human love kpop and korean idoles.

A person who is considered ugly in Korea might be beautiful in another country. Do you agree or disagree? Can you give an example?
F: agree because they may think ugly Korean women seems true oriental.
M: Agree. Hyoyeon in Girl's generation is most ugly in GG by Korean people said. But in the other country people said Hyoyeon is beautiful.
M: No. Ugly is Ugly.

You are beautiful even if you do not look like a Korean celebrity. Do you agree or disagree?
M: agree. If someone tell me handsome. I'm handsome. If someone tell me not handsome, I'm not hansome. So, I can't judge it.
M: I disagree, because I'm not beautiful.

You are beautiful even if you are fat, or have freckles or an unusual haircut, or have single eyelids or double eyelids. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
M: I think they are beautiful if they are attractive enough to cover these proplems.
M: I agree because real beauty is not a external beauty. real beauty is internal beauty.
M: Disagree. These are makes people look like ugly or disgusting.
F: If I am fat. I am not beautiful.

Overall, I was not surprised with the answers. I need to actively tell myself not to be disappointed, however, because to be quite honest, it saddens me that most of my students are unable to see beauty in anyone who is not tall, thin, fair, and cute. For them, fat can't be pretty. Hairless can't be pretty. Tattoos and piercings cannot be beautiful. Freckles, in particular, are atrocious. (I think my students initially thought that the freckled girl whose photo I showed actually had a bad case of acne, even though I provided a Korean translation: 주근깨, not 여드름. Nevertheless, they were literally revulsed by her.) Why, teenagers, why must you exhibit such shallowness?

Well, Andrew, you say, because they're teenagers, duh. And because you asked them for their opinions, and they gave them.

Right you are. I've got to cut them some slack. After all, beauty is subjective, and it's silly to bemoan a difference of opinion.

On the other hand, I know that I gave at least some students something to think about as they left class. US, one of my more likable students, told me that at first, he believed that our individual ideas of beauty came simply from our own minds, but now he can see that what we see in advertising and on TV does influence us.

- - -

On a side note, I also showed the Average Faces of various East Asian races, and my students could pick out the Korean every single time. It was impressive; I had trouble distinguishing the Koreans and the Japanese, but my students knew instantly who was Japanese (and made disparaging noises at them...). When asked to vote on the most attractive face, most hands up went for -- you guessed it -- the Koreans. Second-place finishers were the Taiwanese, weirdly enough.

How well can you do? Take a look below.
Which country is each "average man" from? (Answers below)
Which country is each "average woman" from? (Answers below)
So, that's evidence that familiarity breeds liking (I think I'm mis-using that psychological concept, but anyway). It's no surprise to me that Koreans like Koreans. But what about races that they're arguably unfamiliar with? I showed my students white faces next. A majority of every class thought that the bottom left pair were the most beautiful, but nobody correctly guessed what country they were from.
Each man-woman pair represents one country with a majority White population.
So, in light of Dove's most recent beauty campaign and its consequent backlash, I've thinking more than ever about beauty and its role in our society. There's so much to be dissected here that I'm really tempted to do a follow-up lesson with my students and see what they think of concepts such as inner beauty, unconventional beauty, and self-esteem.

I would love for all of my students to think highly of themselves, because they're all quite smart and I'm not just saying that. But in addition, I believe that because everyone is created in God's (spiritual and physical) image, there's beauty to be found in every face, and I hope that knowing they are beautiful just as they come can help my students battle the pressures to conform to the unnatural and impossible beauty standards that we face.

- - -

Okay, and now for the "Whose face is that?" answers:
Men: (top left to right) Mongolian, Taiwanese, Chinese, (bottom) Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese
Women: (top left to right) Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Mongolian, (bottom) Japanese, Chinese, Korean
Whites: (top left to right) Italian, French, (bottom) American (!), Swiss

Why am I not surprised that my students found the Americans the most attractive, even though they kept guessing that they were English or French?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Photos from Jeju

Well, it's been a rather gloomy and dismal day, and that's not just on account of the weather. It's gotten cold in Changwon lately, and there have been scattered rains. Also, awful things are happening in the United States and around the world. So it's time to go to my happy place and relive memories from Jeju Island (where I attended the Fulbright Spring Conference two weekends ago).
This was the view from my hotel room! It was in Seogwipo, on the southern coast of the island, looking south at nothing but ocean.
First stop on the one-day tour of the island: famous volcanic rock columns making interesting formations at the water's edge.
The peak of Sunrise Peak! (일출봉정상/Ilchulbong jeongsang) (taken by Adam)
It took about 20 minutes to get to the top, and the wind was blasting us the entire time. Here's another shot at the peak, facing east.
Looking west, back toward the island... it was gorgeous! 아름답네요! I love the colors of the water and the rooftops.
Down by the beach, Jeju's famous female divers were looking for shellfish. When they found their catch, they'd discard the beautiful shells. But this one I picked up in a tide pool. (Seems like I also got photobombed by Ashley.) (taken by Katelyn)
Cuttlefish/squid (오징어/ojingeo) drying on a line on the coast. Nom nom nom...
"I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams."
A Jeju pony! Riding one is on my Korea bucket list.
Have I mentioned yet that it was super windy and cold all day? Jeju is famous for its women (the divers), rocks, and WIND!
Super-windy. 바람이 불었어요.
But then we went somewhat inland to chill by a beautiful river and take a short hike to see a waterfall.
And here is the aforementioned waterfall, called Cheonjiyeon Waterfall (천지연폭포), or Sky-Land Waterfall. The hollowed-out bottom portion is made up of softer, porous volcanic rock, which has been worn away by the splashback of the waterfall, while the upper granite portions remain.
Since my departing flight was on Monday evening, I had time to hike up a hill in Jeju City with some Fulbright friends at sunset.
We also visited an arboretum. Ginger is standing in a sculpture of the hanja (Chinese character) that reads 木 (목), or tree. Adam is doing Gangnam Style because he is silly. We also got dinner, and I had 제주 육개장, and it was delicious.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Researchers (+ an announcement!)

The Spring Conference was not only a chance for Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) to get together and share what new and exciting things they were doing, but it was also a major gathering for the Fulbright researchers, affectionately known by us ETAs as "our other half". These two dozen-or-so independent academics, some fresh out of college and others working on their Masters or Doctoral degrees, have been in the country since last fall. Their research spans a wide variety of topics all related to South Korean history, culture, economics, health, or politics, and it was all quite well done.

During the last day and a half of our weekend in Jeju, the Fulbright researchers presented their research -- mostly background and updates, since they have not been here for too long yet -- to the entire Fulbright community. I actually expected it to be tough to sit through tons of these presentations at a time, since I knew that I'd be tired from the island tour and also probably not very interested in their subject matter. Boy, was I wrong. I was completely engrossed by more than half of the presentations, and I didn't doze off once. I think the doodle-notes helped a bit; during the presentations that didn't engage me as much, I took to "enhancing" the notes I'd taken on other segments and ended up with a pretty page of tons of information about South Korea. Here are some notes! Browse at your leisure and leave a comment or question!

Joanne Cho is researching suicide in the country whose suicide rate is the greatest among all OECD countries. Suicide (자살) is the leadingcause of death for Koreans aged 10-40 (age 10?!), although a higher proportion of older men and women commit suicide, which makes this a social issue on all fronts, for all people. The reason behind this is often cited as stress, social pressure, and inadequate mental health care, but Ms. Cho thinks it's not so simple. She is investigating not only the mental health care system and its purported deficiencies, but also the stigma and the paradoxical influence of high-profile suicides on public perceptions of how to deal with shame.

Emerson Song is researching the effects of 한식 (hanshik, or Korean cuisine) on obesity. Koreans have a significantly lower average BMI than residents of all Western countries, but the number of overweight and obese adults is rising. Also, did you know that Asians and Caucasians gain weight in different ways/places in the body? Due to this, it might be necessary to reevaluate the way Western medicine defines "obese". The more you know!

Korean-American Return Migration
Stephen Suh has been interviewing Koreans who have lived abroad (read: in the US) for extended periods of time but have since returned to Korea and are living stably and comfortably here. Why would Korean-Americans want to come back to Korea? For one, the economics prospects in the US still suck, and native-like fluency in English can get you a long way in any job in Korea, not just as an English teacher. But the typical locations of Korean return migrants are indeed English education and international businesses, as well as in the US military, which might indicate a propensity toward vocations that accentuate a return migrant's American identity. Does the US exert a strong cultural influence on Korea without using military force? Yes. (Mr. Suh calls this neo-imperialism.) Do 재미교포 who come to Korea have a role to play in all of this? Perhaps.

Chaebol Urbanism
The 재벌 (chaebol) is a unique type of business conglomerate that has flourished in South Korea and, arguably, been at the root of its meteoric economic rise in the past fifty years. Justin Stern did a unique economic and architectural study of the effect of these conglomerates on the visual landscape of Seoul. There was a lot of fascinating history included in this presentation: did you know that in the 1960's, the South Korean government extended huge benefits to Lotte, then a small confectionery company, so that they could finance the building of a grand hotel, and then an amusement park, and then an apartment complex? These business depended on the government for their big breaks, but once the construction began, it took off and hasn't stopped since.

These days, the mark of the conglomerates is huge. Names like Samsung, Kia, Hyundai, GS, and LG are everywhere: on gas stations, cafes, department stores, office buildings, theaters, phones, and even life insurance. They have spread their influence so far that even the government now wouldn't dare funnel any money into any project without first getting the okay from a chaebol. Anyway, how has this affected the urbanization of Seoul? Well, aside from having everything that makes a city a city owned by one conglomerate or another, each chaebol's headquarters appears to have staked out a geographic portion of the city to call its own, which, when you consider how every chaebol wants its own skyscraper and beautiful, futuristic office complex in its own neighborhood, will give us a strange, scattered skyline in twenty years or so.

Cosmetic Surgery
Kayleigh Nauman is heading up an interesting project investigating attitudes of foreigners in Korea toward cosmetic (plastic) surgery (성형수술). This is informed by the fact that there are between 400-600 cosmetic surgery businesses in the Gangnam neighborhood of Seoul alone -- and yes, they are regulated as businesses, not as medical practice. Loads of foreigners travel to Korea for "medical tourism" (150,000 in 2012), but why do they choose Korea?

Ms. Nauman wanted to dispel the stereotypes that cosmetic surgery in Korea was the cheapest in this region of the world (because it isn't), or that Asians wanted to look like K-pop stars, or, heaven forbid, that Asians want to look more "Western". (I mean, I've realized by now that suggesting that the Korean or Asian beauty ideal is just Hollywood glamour transplanted onto the other side of the Pacific is, in fact, a misguided opinion at best and a white- or American-centric microagression at worst. And it still wouldn't really answer why Korea is such a hot spot for people who want to cut up and realign their legs and boobs and faces. (By the way, I acknowledge that I did write about this very idea a month or so ago. And +1 for embedded parenthetical statements.)) Anyway, this was interesting research that was definitely on my mind as I planned a lesson on beauty standards for my second-years for this week.
Doodle-notes! (Clicking on the photo will make it bigger, but it will not fix my handwriting.)
There was a quintet of Fulbright researchers whose topics involved North Korea and North Korean refugees. They were so informative and intriguing that I took copious notes, and I will write them all up as a separate post later.

Overall, I felt really fortunate to be able to hear the presentations given by the researchers. It was academically fulfilling to tackle these issues and get some dialogue going with my fellow Fulbrighters. It was also very refreshing to see Korea through the lenses of people who have not been dealing with students and principals and lesson plans and classroom management for six months. I'll say, teaching can really swallow you whole; after a while you begin to forget that anything else exists outside of your various classrooms.

In addition to the Fulbright researchers, some other parts of conference were given to Fulbright ETAs who were doing their own side projects, independent research or community events, things like that. As I heard from my colleagues who are compiling cookbooks, editing our annual literary magazine, or developing education-based NGOs, I obviously felt like I've been absolutely unproductive with my time here. I'm so lazy and not driven compared to everyone else! But hearing about everyone's projects was great nevertheless.

This is all such a far cry from Fall Conference in Gyeongju last October. Our last conference was themed around solving the myriad problems that had cropped up in the first-year ETAs' experiences thus far in the grant year. We're all a long way from that now: small group discussions were no longer "how to address school issue X and homestay issue Y" but more for living in Korea (dating advice, dealing with sexual harassment, exploiting every feature of your smartphone) or preparing for life after Fulbright (resume building, pursuing teacher certification). And, as I've noted, all of the large group talks were presentations on amazing projects we've accomplished since last August.

Most importantly, while I was anxious about my future around the time of Fall Conference, I can proudly and excitedly declare that during Spring Conference, I decided to renew my grant. This means that I will stay in Korea for one more year! I get a month-long break in July/August, and then it's straight back to teaching. I'll get to watch my second- and third-years graduate again, and I'll gain so much more experience in teaching and living in Korea.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Fulbright Spring Conference 2013

This entire past week, I have barely had the time to process all the information thrown at us during Spring Conference. It was a lot to digest, and there was such a huge variety of lectures, workshops, and presentations, that it was hard to keep track of it all. Fortunately, I took notes! They started off as doodles, but as soon as I started jotting down points and ideas that interested me, I must confess I reverted straight back into student mode and started mad scribbling. Before I knew it, I had a page of fascinating information, provocative questions, and great new ideas for my classroom. I'll share just some tidbits:

Why is Korea "Real Life"?
Program Director Anthony Cho encouraged all of us teachers, especially the first-year grantees, to rid ourselves of the notion that our grant year was just a "break" between college and so-called real life (i.e. grad school or a job back in the US). Even if our stint in Korea is just a gap year, we shouldn't treat it as if it doesn't matter in the long run. Why not? Because our impact on our students is real and will have real consequences. Because we are discovering and will discover new and important things about ourselves while we're here that we will surely bring home with us, even if we don't pursue careers in education. Because, unfortunately, we're only young for so long, and to discount twelve months of our lives as merely "some time I spent dicking around in Korea" would be simply absurd. It may not seem like it, but what we as teachers are spending one year doing is real -- just as real as the lives of our friends who are already in med school or climbing up the corporate ladder -- and very, very important.

What are some strengths of the Fulbright ETA Program?
During a segment of the conference that was meant both to pat us teachers on the back and to prod us into reevaluating our successes as teachers and cultural ambassadors, the program director and executive assistant revealed that they had sent an assessment survey to our schools. The results of this survey were shared, albeit only in anonymous statistics, to our collective amusement and a bit of surprise. Fortunately, we ETAs earned fairly good grades all around: 85% of us received A's in class preparedness, and 86% received A's in "observing Korean courtesies". It seemed like the biggest strengths were that Fulbright teachers actively engaged their students, were well-prepared, taught quality lessons that catered to student needs, and were very polite and well-mannered. On the other hand, weaknesses included insufficient classroom management, insufficient cooperation with our co-teachers, and insufficient hours spent at school (which, factoring in our contract, is not actually our fault at all; but if a school doesn't like that Fulbrighters get three full months of vacation a year, they can take it to Mrs. Shim).

What are some new things I'd like to incorporate into my classroom?
Great teachers steal. I caught and held on to dozens of great ideas tossed around during conference, including, but not limited, to: encouraging art in my students, but not limiting this to drawing on scrap paper (make a video! write poetry!); playing games that emphasize speaking with emotion, not just speaking correctly; having students encourage one another in the classroom, as in applauding correct answers and learning encouraging phrases ("Good idea!", "Great job!"); and allowing more time for any activity, since it always feels longer for the teacher than it does for the students. I was also very charmed by the idea of considering one's fellow classmates as "learning allies", instead of as competitors, obstacles, or nameless, faceless Others. During the small group session for LGBTQ folk and allies, one common grievance aired was the inability to bring up queer issues in class in a constructive and educational manner. On the bright side, we shared some ideas on how to incorporate respect for sexual diversity in lessons such as family, dating culture, or current events.

How can US education and Korean English education learn from each other and improve?
These notes were taken from a long and thorough workshop session on education. Now, I have never taken a course in Education, and the only experience I can claim is a month of job training and six months of teaching, but I'd like to offer what I can.

Korea has the lowest illiteracy rate in the world, and its overall educational quality, according to the Pearson index, is ranked second in the world, after Finland. 98% of Korean students graduate high school, supported (or pushed) by their families and societal pressure. A huge proportion of the adult population holds a bachelor's degree -- 98% of those in the 25-34 age bracket, according to a 2010 OECD report -- although many people are underemployed in an economy that can't support the ever-rising number of college graduates. Generally speaking, the stats are good, right? But Koreans students are among the world's unhappiest, and they have an alarmingly high suicide rate. Suicide is the leading cause of death of Koreans aged 10-19 (in fact, it's the leading cause of death of all Koreans up to age 40), and the infamously stressful academic environment does not help this.

With regard to this, I believe that the Korean education system needs to step up its game in mental health support and treatment at schools. If mental illness becomes less stigmatized, students with suicide potential will be able to freely get help. Also, there are lots of ways to keep students succeeding without being locked into a rigorous, constant-testing method of education. Especially for EFL education, the absolute dependency on test scores instead of any sort of holistic evaluation is misguided. To get into college or obtain any government job, you need to pass some sort of English aptitude test -- even if you won't use English at all in the post. Those who test well in English will often find more success than those who don't (even if their speaking skill is really quite good). I feel like the stakes are too high for arbitrary numbers to have so much sway over one's future!

While I love teaching English and I love my job, I feel like I could be more effective as a teacher if I taught leveled classes. That is to say, instead of teaching homeroom classes in which a handful of students are conversationally fluent, another handful don't understand me when I say, "How was your weekend?", and the rest are scattered somewhere in between, I would prefer a smaller class for the most advanced students, another class specifically for those who are behind, etc. Foreign language education in the US is leveled in this way with no exceptions; it helps every student learn at their own pace instead of being swept along beyond their ability to understand or feeling trapped and bored in a class that's too easy.

Another change I might implement to the classroom is to simply make classes smaller and meet them more often. Most of us Fulbright teachers only see one class once a week; sometimes only once every other week. This doesn't add up to enough opportunities to actually use English! I use every minute I can outside of class to chat with my students in English so that they can practice, but it would be awesome if I could just have more class time with them.

On the other hand, we have the mess that is the American education system, which I think could also take a few pointers from its Korean counterpart. One thing's for sure: American students and parents need to respect teachers and schools much more. While helicopter parents -- those who not only hover over their children but also descend upon schools to (verbally) attack teachers for failing them -- are on the rise in Korea, it's nothing compared to the levels of crazy you can find in the States. And students in Korea treat even their classrooms and hallways with respect, cleaning them weekly. They contribute so much to their own educational environment. I can't imagine American students keeping their campus clean unless it provided them with service learning hours.

Also, I believe that the US should implement higher standards for its teachers, as well as a better environment for them. Teachers are very highly regarded in Korea, and this is due in part to the difficult and intense process of becoming one. Education programs in the US don't always give fledgling teachers enough classroom experience before throwing them out of the nest, so to speak. Then, when they arrive at their schools, they find paltry institutional support, ridiculous demands from the administration, and not enough resources to invest properly in their students. (This op-ed by Randy Turner in the Huffpost illustrates expresses appropriate frustration at the current situation.) This is all to say nothing of the thousands of simply crappy teachers out there. I think teaching should be elevated in the US. Teachers ought to have the same respect and reputation of all those doctors and lawyers and entrepreneurs, and in turn the quality of the teachers our education programs churn out must also improve. It'll take a while to get there from our current situation, but it can happen.
Doodle-notes from Spring Conference! (Click to enlarge)
Whew. That was a lot to write. If you're interested in more, I've posted a scan of my doodle-notes from the ETA portion of the conference. I have another whole page for the Fulbright researchers' portion of the conference, which I will post tomorrow. And, of course, I'd love to continue discussing any of these ideas. Feel free to leave a comment!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

돌하르방 - Stone Grandpa

Stone A-kong and me. (Taken by Ashley Park)
All you need to know about them. They are made of volcanic rock and can be found all over Jeju island.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

흑돼지 - Black Pig Barbecue

흑돼지: black pig. You can see the hairs still on the meat, as well as some of the ink from the authenticity stamp.
Jeju Island is famous for its black pigs. Their actual flesh is colored like normal pigs', but their hair is as dark as mine. In the past, they were raised on human waste, which I find rather disgusting. But today, black pig farms raise them more conventionally. To prove that a plate of pork is legitimate Jeju 흑돼지 (heuk-dweji), they stamp its hide with ink. As a consequence, at a traditional Jeju barbecue restaurant, you are not only given a plate of raw meat to cook on your own, but this raw meat has little black bristles and purple blotches on it. Even without prior knowledge of these pigs' traditional diet, it didn't seem so appetizing.

Fortunately, in Korea, meat is meat (고기가 고기예요), and as soon as the pork was grilled to perfection -- taking a bit longer than expected since the cuts were very thick and fatty -- I ate my fair share and enjoyed a fully satisfying meal. (I haven't been a vegetarian for such a long time now...) This special experience of a traditional island dish took place on the second day of the Fulbright Spring Conference. (I'm writing out of chronological order because... 그냥.)
Fulbright friends at a barbecue restaurant with a beautiful view: Ben, Luke, Ashley, Monica, Courtney, Hana, Katelyn, and Jason.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


저는 매일 학교에 돌아올때 홈스테이가족한테 인사로 그걸 말해요. 그다음에 어머님은 "앤드류 잘 다녀왔어요?" 라고 말해요.

I say that every day when I come home from work as a greeting to my host family. Then, my host mother says, "En-de-ryu, jal danyeo-wasseoyo?" which roughly means, "Welcome home."

지난 주말에 제주도에서 풀브라이트 회의 다녀려고 아주 좋은 시간이 있었어요. 해가 났고 바람이 불었고 경치가 아름다웠고 너무 재미있었네요! 다른 풀브라이트 원어민 선생님들을 만났던 시간이 저에게 축복이예요. 그러니까 저는 진짜 고마워요.

I had a fantastic time last weekend on Jeju Island (제주도/Jejudo) for the Fulbright Spring Conference. It was sunny, windy, beautiful, and so much fun! The time I get to spend with other Fulbrighters is a real blessing for me. I cherish it a lot.

그런데, 저는 천국에서 돌아오자마자 직접 교직과 한국어 수업 듣는것과 택견 배우는것을 계속했어요. 피곤하네요! 그래서 이 블로그에서 제주에 대한 기사 말고 저는 지난 주말에 제일 좋아하는 사진중에 하나를 나눌까요.

That said, I returned from the island paradise to hit the ground running in terms of teaching, attending Korean class, and resuming taekgyeon training. I'm pretty pooped. So, I'll leave the recollection posts about Jeju for the next few days, and instead just post one of my favorite photos from the weekend:
My friend Katelyn and me at the Cheonjiyeon Waterfall (천지연폭포). Look at how blue the water is! (photo taken by Kathy Hill)
P.S. Native Korean speakers, please feel free to correct my Korean!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Stray Observations from My First Korean Baseball Game

NC Dinos Stadium in Masan.
I went to my first baseball game in Korea yesterday: the NC Dinos (of Changwon) versus the Lotte Giants (of Busan). I went with teachers from my school in an organized outing that replaced our weekly soccer game. Here are some things I learned or noticed about Korean baseball:

1. The nine major league baseball teams in Korea are all owned and sponsored by big companies like Lotte, LG, Samsung, and Hanhwa. The Dinos are sponsored by NC, a video game company. So, my city's team is not the Changwon Dinos, but the NC Dinos. I find that odd but not surprising.
Everyone who sat in the section directly behind these girls (and the dino mascots!)... probably didn't see much of the game.
2. Korean baseball fans are very much into their sport, and their cheering is as important as the game itself. Often, the cheerleaders (yes, there are cheerleaders, both to dance and actually to lead cheers) get the crowd so pumped up that they ignore what's actually happening on the field.
All of the songs and cheers for the NC Dinos batters. The song for #09 김종호 was set to The Pussycat Dolls' "Don't Cha".
3. Lotte Giants fans are particularly known for their devotion to their team and the unique style of their cheers and songs. It was difficult to counter that with the cheers for the NC Dinos, since nobody was really familiar with them yet. NC Dinos are playing in the major league for the first time this year. In fact, the game I attended was their second game in the big leagues, period. (Yesterday they played their first game of three against the Giants and lost.) So, the fans were given free posters (that could be fashioned into bullhorns) and fliers that taught everyone the cheers and songs made up for the batters and the team, and the cheerleaders spent every spare minute teaching the crowd the chants and slogans and proper hand motions. It was all highly amusing.
Two of my fellow teachers with chicken and beer. No popcorn, cotton candy, garlic fries, or cracker jack here.
4. Lots of Koreans go to baseball games for the fried chicken and beer. My fellow teachers and I arrived at the game an hour before it started simply so that we could picnic on tons of junk food. I filled myself up with fried chicken, sausages, sushi, dried squid, and Pringles. It was pricey, but it was delicious. All of this instead of exercising with the other teachers? Sure, why not?
#39, Charlie Shirek. I did a double-take when I first saw him, before I knew that Korean baseball teams could have foreigners.
5. There are a handful of Americans on many Korean major league baseball teams. NC Dinos actually has three Americans, and their starting pitcher is one of them. His name is Charlie (찰리), and he is from North Dakota. I cheered for him as loud as I could, and got all of my fellow teachers to say, "Come on, Char-lay!" Hehe.
안타! 안타! 안타!
6. Some baseball-related vocabulary:
야구 (yagu): baseball. 야 actually means "field", not base.
쌔리다 (ssaelida): to hit (a ball). This is Gyeongsang dialect; in standard Korean it is 때리다.
외야, 내야 (weiya, naeya): outfield, infield.
안타치다 (antachida): to make a base hit. Fans chant "안타! 안타! 안타!" when they're at bat.
삼진 (samjin): strikeout. Also chanted over and over again, at a team's pitcher.
죽인다 (jukinda): Awesome! Literally, this means something along the lines of "It killed me!", but in slang, it has a positive connotation. I think this was part of a celebratory cheer for a run scored.

Lastly, this article from Changwonderful does a great job selling the NC Dinos and explaining the ins and outs of Korean baseball.

You know, I got more into the game than I expected to. The ninth inning was especially intense: 2-2, bottom of the inning and the Dinos are at bat with one out and a runner on third. The batter hits a pop fly into left field, it gets caught, no big deal if the runner on third makes it home... and he does! And the crowd goes nuts! And then... and then the umpire calls it out! What the heck? I didn't even see the ball get thrown back to home plate, but the call is clear. And wow... crushing disappointment. I felt it right alongside everyone else in the stadium. I left the game shortly thereafter, but I heard on the radio and from my fellow teachers later that the Dinos went on to lose their momentum and were defeated 3-2 in the tenth inning.

Haha, so I really enjoyed the game, even though I thought I was going more out of curiosity and a sense of duty and 정-building with my school. I've been to just a handful of baseball games in the US, and I don't think that Korean games are really much different! They might even be more fun, what with the crazy cheers and all. I just might go to another game this season and support my new team... NC Dinos!

P.S. I'll be out of town this weekend. Fulbright has a weekend conference on the Korean island of Jeju (제주도)! It's been favorably compared to Hawaii. Although the forecast calls for rain on Saturday, I'm going to make the most of it and am looking forward to a great time. Cheers!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Yaenoeul Choir Concert and Easter

Yaenoeul Choir (얘노을 합창단) at their 12th annual concert. Can you spot the white guy?
My friend and fellow Fulbrighter Adam has busied himself this past year with teaching at a large middle school, studying taekwondo, and singing in a choir. I thought that that alone was cool. But then I learned that this choir was, like, seriously legit: directed by a famous Korean maestro and everything. And I learned that Adam was the first foreigner to sing with them in their illustrious twelve year history. Dang! All of this made me even more excited that I was going to their annual concert!

The choir rehearses all year for just one performance. (One large performance, for an audience of thousands.) Their repertoire was incredibly vast: one set of traditional choral pieces, one set of arranged Korean songs, one set of gospel music and spirituals, and one set of modern pop music done in glamorous show choir fashion. Ten of us Fulbrighters came to support Adam, watched him rock the bass parts like a boss, and squealed in delight when he stepped out to deliver solo lines as Javert in the final piece, "One Day More" from Les Mis.

The whole thing really was wonderful. As Cecile put it, if there were anything that really epitomized the notion of "cultural exchange" that we Fulbrighters are supposed to promote, it's this talented white guy from the States taking part in a first-rate performance that itself represented a hodgepodge of cultures and musical styles. Good feels all around, not least due to the quality of the music that night.
Adam's in the center, with the black bag. On his right is his conductor, a nice man with a magnificent perm. Surrounded by friends!
Videos will come soon, I promise.

Well, after the concert, we all went out for dinner and drinks (extremely late, just like the day before). I had "scoop pizza", a ridiculous concoction of dough, cheese, bacon, and French fries, that was heavenly and quite sinful at the same time. So much cheese... We stayed at the restaurant until after midnight, and back at the hostel, I chatted with Adam, Julia, and Alanna until four in the morning. Ridiculous. No wonder I've been so drained this week...

On Sunday afternoon (Easter!), I went to church at Dongshin's English service. There, I met up with Jaeyeon and Bridget, and we also ran into Megan, whom I did not expect to see there! The Easter service was really nice, like a breath of fresh air. It felt great to sing and worship and feel a bit of joy again, after so many weeks of going through the motions, in a sense. I think Megan is very lucky to have a large and vibrant church community in her city. I do have a church community in Changwon, but it's not quite the tight-knit family that Megan seems to have found. Well, I'm not going to complain. The visit was really nice, anyhow.
Me, Jaeyeon, Bridget, and Megan at Dongshin. If we look a bit tired... you know why.
Then, it was time for goodbyes! I'd already parted ways with most of the dozens of friends I'd met over the weekend, but for all of us it was only a brief valediction, since this weekend we will all gather again for spring conference on Jeju Island! Woohoo! It's going to be great.