A quick update for everyone out there. We at Munkácsy Mihály Gimnázium started an English language newspaper at our school last December. We published one issue in print and now it will continue, mostly, online. Check it out at http://munkacsytimes.wordpress.com. All the articles from our first issue are already available there, and new articles will be published all this week.
As an English teacher living in South Korea last year, I developed a tired habit. Week after repetitive week, I mentally promised myself that I would really, truly contact local Wisconsin newspapers in search of one that might grant me the space for a column. I managed to deftly avoid 52 self-imposed deadlines, but I have finally broken the cycle of procrastination. It just took moving to Kaposvár, Hungary to finally get my act together.
Each month I write a column entitled New Beginnings: At Home and Abroad, for Sun Prairie, Wisconsin’s local newspaper, The Sun Prairie Star. This month I wrote a piece about that priceless moment in every good trip where you get swept away in a moment, and how I found that instant of genuine awe is Vienna’s National Library. You can read the rest of the article here, at the Sun Prairie Star’s website.
After a week of exploring Vienna, the moment I had been waiting for finally arrived. I was utterly swept away. The woody scent of books found its way through the chilled air to my nose as the soaring crescendos of Richard Strauss’s opera Der Rosenkavalier played in homage to its debut a century ago. Overhead stately figures in Grecian robes leaned over a balcony in a warmly painted fresco, and old globes with sea creatures poking out of seas begged to be spun.
Yet all of this decadent beauty was only a secondary compliment to this room’s main attraction: books. Lining shelf upon shelf stretching two stories up were the crinkled pages of books dating back hundreds of years. I was in the State Room of Austria’s National Library, one of Europe’s best, and among the books filling the shelves were pages churned out by the press over 500 years ago.
You can read the rest of the article here, at the Sun Prairie Star’s website. If you’re interested in reading more, rest assured, more articles wait just a click away. Like my October piece about the contrasts between building a new school in Sun Prairie and rural Hungary, or my December column, about spending Thanksgiving with a 30 pound turkey and a dozen ex-pats. And of course, there’s more to come next month.
Meet Újhold, the Hungarian Vizsla that became our temporary roommate for the night. Our friend Franky found her wandering unattended in the Penny Market parking lot. He is a sucker for all dogs, but especially Vizslas since he has a very loved and sorely missed Vizsla of his own back in the United States. It’s little surprise then, that everything she did reminded Frankie of his own dog, Luna. He even christened her Újhold, a possibly rough Hungarian translation of New Moon. He couldn’t leave the parking lot without knowing she had a place to sleep, which turned out to be the foot of our bed, since Frankie’s not allowed dogs in his building. I’m not the hugest fan of dogs, though I have to admit, she was a perfectly polite guest. The real question is, does anyone know her owner?
You don’t have to be in South Korea long to notice two things: there is a large population of foreign English teachers and it does not have the best reputation. Truth be told, it is no struggle to find examples of ex-pats who show more interest in late-night drinking than day-time teaching. When you look a little deeper, though, there are plenty more examples of appreciatively respectful foreigners engaging with the people and culture in all sorts of meaningful ways. This short film made by Bodeene Amyot, a Canadian teacher and filmmaker, is a testament to the positive influence foreigners can have in South Korea. Seoul, Hope, and Mustard Seeds is a short glimpse into the many philanthropic organizations that foreigners give their free time to. Continue reading
I recently began participating in a great online group called 30 Days of Biking. The goal, to ride your bike every day during the month of April. Continue reading
In the 1950s a style of music emerged in the United States that combined the sonic wonders of early Rock ‘n’ Roll and Hillbilly Music, a particularly swingin’ kind of country music. The people who pioneered and made this music famous are not unknown souls, they are people like Johnny Cash, Elvis Presly, and especially Carl Perkins. They called it Rockabilly. Continue reading
Greetings everyone, it’s been a while since you last heard from us, and even longer since you heard from me. We’ve been pretty busy getting things in order around here, on the personal side of things, we have both been inexplicably busy lately. We’re thinking about the future, and trying to get things in order to apply for our next job. Those of you who follow me on twitter probably know I was at home for about two weeks over the Thanksgiving holiday. My grandma was undergoing surgery for pancreatic cancer and my return home was an emergency trip to be with her and my family while she prepared for and recovered from the Whipple Procedure. Now that it’s Christmas, Danielle is at home with her family, and my brother Tony arrived earlier this week to visit during my winter break.
In addition to working on some backend upgrades on this site, we’ve been collaborating with Anna and Andre (Seoulful Adventures) on the first of a series of journalism projects. We are currently putting together a story about the large Filipino community in and around Seoul and Incheon, centered around the weekly Filipino Market in Hyewha. Last weekend the four of us went out to the market and put in about five hours of interviewing and learning about the market, and the people who work and visit it. The project is the first of many to be produced under the umbrella of a new organization called International Underground. We hope to have the Filipino Market story up, and launch the full site soon. We’ll have more details here for sure. In the mean time, you can subscribe to the email list or the site’s RSS feed in the reader of your choice.
Creating International Underground does not mean that Schoolhouse: ROK will disappear. On the contrary, it means we will be able to focus on bringing you news and analysis from this site, but also do more broadly targeted, and more in-depth journalism, reporting unique stories, from among a community of journalists located in the Seoul area, and eventually around the world.
Thank you for reading, happy holidays, and stay tuned.
All the students at school would like to wish you a Very Merry…Thanksgiving! I admit I’m a bit late with this sentiment, as that day of family feasting is likely fading in some people’s memories as Christmas approaches, but the kids are as cute as they were a month ago, so don’t be deterred.
Of course they needed a little prompting to shout, “Happy Thanksgiving,” for the waiting camera, but you may be surprised by just how much they understand about the holiday and its history. The video may not show it, but my first grade students can even rattle off the name William Bradford and spout off a fact or two on the Wampanoag Indian tribe. I suspect that is more than I could say at their age.
Do you ever wake up in the morning, pour some milk into a bowl of cereal, and think, “Hmm, I wonder what on Earth children in South Korea eat for breakfast?” Find the responses to this query and plenty of other questions about the daily life of a student in South Korea in this video created by fellow teacher Seth Mattern.
Seth is a certified educator in the United States, and after the logistics of international pen-pal projects and video exchanges proved too messy, he created this website with another teacher in Colorado as a convenient forum for cultural exchange between students the world over.
In addition to this, which I imagine is only the first of many videos to be posted in the future, poke around the website to read some essays by both Korean and American students, and responding comments. If you’re an educator anywhere in the world, and are interested in participating in the site, just send an e-mail and I would be thrilled to put you in touch with the appropriate people. Even if you’re not an educator, I know the kids would love to read any comments and answer any questions you may have.
These students are in fourth and fifth grade and recorded this around 8:00 at night, since they stay at our school until 9. You’ll find that later nights and longer hours spent in schools of all varieties are not the only differences between Korean and North American students. And as for breakfast in Korea, I’ll let the kids speak for themselves, but I suspect many will be surprised by their answers. Enjoy!