Reach the World – Field Note – Nature

Originally published by Reach the World, October 30, 2015
lotus flower
Whenever I visit a Korean historic site or a souvenir shop, I see lotus flowers everywhere! Lotus flower lanterns, lotus flower pens, lotus flower bookmarks, and lotus flower carvings, just to name a few. The lotus flower is an important symbol in Buddhism, showing that beauty and purity can grow and flourish even in an ugly and foul environment. In Korea, the lotus flower plays a central role in art, architecture and culture.

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Fall Conference Updates

This weekend was the annual Fulbright ETA Fall Conference. The conference was held in Gyeongju, which is about an hour and a half north of Gimhae. Gyeongju served as the seat of the ancient Silla dynasty, and over the weekend I saw some of Korea’s most important historical sites and relics. All ETAs made the journey to this small, historic city for a full four days of discussions, workshops, and reunions.

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Reach the World – Field Note – Food

Originally published for Reach the World, October 16, 2015
“What is your name? Where are you from? Do you like kimchi?”These are the three questions I hear most often from Korean students, teachers, and new friends I meet. Kimchi, or 김치 in Korean, is one of Korea’s traditional foods, made from fermented vegetables and a variety of spices. Kimchi can be eaten as a side dish or as an ingredient in foods like pizza or soup. Many Koreans eat kimchi with every meal!

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Vignettes About Being a Foreigner

Being a foreigner in Korea means I encounter a broad range of reactions.  Living in a racially and culturally homogeneous society, I am quite obviously different. Sometimes I am met with great kindness, while other times I am treated like a child or an outsider. These are a few of the encounters I have had, related to my foreignness.

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The Cookie Game: Teaching Debate


I stood at the front of the classroom, in front of the rowdy students who were carrying their conversations from the hallway into Janine Teacher’s class. It only took two or three students to notice that I was holding a box of Binch cookies before the entire class was silent.

“Teacher, why cookie?”

“Today,” I told each second grade class as their eyes glittered with cookie-lust, “one lucky state group will win the Binch. We are going to have a debate!”

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Jinju Lantern Festival

I glanced at my two sleeping sisters in the living room, and then I glanced at my watch. 6:15 AM. It was Friday, the national holiday of Hangul Day, and my ETA friends and I were meeting in Jinju for the famous Lantern Festival. It was going to be the first time in weeks that I had seen another native English speaker, let alone another American. It was also going to be my first weekend away from my host family, a thought which horrified Ye Bin.

“Where you stay?” she had asked me all week. “How many friends? You go Jinju alone?”

I scrolled down the list of contacts on my phone and pressed “call.” A woman’s voice answered, “Yoboseyo!” and I gave the apartment address. If the taxi pulls up in front of the gate in the next five minutes, I thought, I will have made my first successful Korean phone call.

I hung up the phone and saw Host Mom poke her head out of her bedroom.

Odi-e kayo?”  Where are you going?

“Jinju.” I held up my phone. “Taxi.”

She nodded, remembering, and waved goodbye. I headed out the door and saw the black taxi pulling up in front of our building. Success!

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