say what

Reflections on Truths and Lies in Fiction Writing

The first class of Writing Fiction is writing about lies and truths (see previous post)

We were then supposed to read other people’s paragraphs and answer these questions:

  • Is there anything that distinguishes the fictitious elements?
  • Are there common elements that you and your fellow writers write about as ‘facts’?
  • Do any of these passages suggest stories to you?

You know, sometimes it was really hard to tell what was fictitious and what was not when I was reading other people’s paragraphs. Everyone wrote about really different things, but I thought that some people’s paragraphs felt like it could ALL  be true.

I think the line between fiction and nonfiction can be really grey depending on the topic/details.

I think what made things stand out as being fictitious is when it seemed really over the top, something that was just TOO incredible or coincidental to believe. But perhaps I’m wrong and it was the truth, and something else mundane was the lie.

I’ve had some CRAZY things happen to me in Korea that when I try to explaining to people at home, they just can’t understand or believe.

say what

Actually, the paragraphs I wrote for this assignment were about my life in Korea, but I twisted it a lot for the lying paragraphs. But had I not told you most of it was a lie, would you believe it’s true? Most people don’t know a lot about Korea, so I could tell you “this is true!” and you might believe me.

The same goes for talking to people in Korea about America. For example, as a joke I tell my students I’m friends with Obama. They always says “Teacher!! REALLY? No!! LIAR!” but then I shake my head (no smiling or laughing) and say, “Yes! Really!”

Barney, minus the drinking at school, ha

Barney, minus the drinking at school, ha

Because I look so serious, and I am from D.C., some of them actually believe me! Or, at least, they have enough doubt in their mind to ask my co-teacher if I am lying or not.

obama dancing gif

This is so epic. Whoever made this, I love you!

It seems easier to lie about things you know something about, versus something you know nothing about, at least for me.

I think this is important for fiction writing. If you want to lend more weight to your writing you should add details of “truthfulness” even if your story is entirely fictitious.

I don’t think there are many common elements that the other writers and I are using as facts because all of our paragraphs are SO different. There are so many  different topics, different points of view, and different styles. Even if you gave two writers the same 3 lies, 1 truth to work with, the paragraphs they would write would differ and I might not think they actually have the same truth.

Actually, this seems like an interesting experiment. Give a group of writers the same 3 lies, 1 truth and see what they come up with. Then ask other people unrelated to the task to figure out the truth and the lies.

experiment

A lot of these paragraphs seem like they could be short stories or  that they could even developed into longer stories. Even just writing my two paragraphs I felt like I could maybe turn it into a larger story of some kind if I gave it more thought…. We shall see!

When a Korean criticizes the artwork you did just for fun

I showed my painting I did the other week to some Korean adult students I teach and that’s the first thing one of them said: “Terrible. It looks so childish. I did that when I was 10 years old.”

Seriously?

My friend Kate also showed a picture of our painting we did that night to one of her Korean co-teacher and the Korean said, “I looked at the paintings and they looked like elementary school work….”

As Kate put it: “Many Koreans don’t see the point of doing something unless it’s 100% or a masterpiece. The point of the evening was to drink and see what happens, not drink and vomit a Michelangelo.”

Exactly! If only I had a gif of someone vomiting a Michelangelo… anyone want to get on making that?

I find many Koreans are blunt. Too blunt. They often make comments about your appearance (weight, clothes, blemishes) and about other things which might be acceptable in their culture, but to a westerner it’s just rude.

One story I always remember is a friend of mine, Sara, told me how at lunch her female Korean coworker who had terrible English tried to tell Sara was a lot fatter than Korean women. Then, to make the point abundantly clear, when they later happened to be in the bathroom at the same time, this woman actually leaned over and grabbed Sara’s stomach and said “See! Fat!”

Sara isn’t even fat! She’s not bone thin like many Koreans, but she’s a normal size!

Korea, you’re killing me.

Copy-cat

One of my middle schools just had a school festival and during that time a bunch of student art work was on display.

There was a whole section of tree art done by 1st graders (7th grade USA) and this one picture particularly stood out for me with it’s vivid contrast of Pink and Green.

This picture is poor quality and taken with my phone but you can get an idea of what it looked like.

Fast forward to a water color painting party with my friends. I decided to copy that painting colors and image because I really admired it. So here’s my version of the tree.

Haven’t tried painting with watercolors in years! Fun experiment.

I’m not sure if I can track down the student who made the original painting since I don’t teach them and the name is really blurred, but if I can I want to tell them their art inspired me.

I bet in a million years they would have never thought the random foreign teacher at their school would like their art so much she would copy it.

eating food

Day 198: EAT ALL THE FOOD

I love Korean food. Love love love love love it.

But I do miss American food sometimes.

Here’s a list of the food I am craving to eat while I am on my sojourn in the states. **

 

In no particular order I want:

**I am crossing off my list as I eat these delicious items**

 

1) Hummus
2) Feta Cheese
3) Pepper Jack Cheese
4) Capital Ale House $1 Burger night and Fries
5) Mango Sticky Rice
6) Mr. Yogato
7) Oven Baked Pizza
8 ) Moby’s Iranian Food
9) Lasagna
10) Yucca Fries
11) German Chocolate Cake with Coconut Icing
12) Ice Cream Sandwich
13) Strawberry Cream Pie
14) Captain Crunch
15) Broccoli Cheddar Soup in a bread Bowl
16) American Style BBQ with Corn on the Cob
17) Bagel with Cream Cheese
18) Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
19) Watermelon
20) Shockers
21) Reeses
22) Popcorn
23) Vanilla Yogurt
24) CHIPOTLE ( I LOVE YOU)
25) American Chinese Food
26) WONTONS (especially those made by the notorious KKY)
27) Pepperoni
28) Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
29) Poptarts
30) Tortillas
31) Chicken Caesar Salad
32) Salmon drizzled with lemon juice
33)  Shredded Wheat Cereal
34)  Roast beef sandwich with pesto on cibatta bread
35) Sandwich from Wawa or Sheetz. Mmmmmmm happiness.
36) Vegan Brownies
37) Latkes
38) Pumpkin Pie
39) Potato Salad
40) French Toast (IHOP)
42) Blueberry Tarts
43) Len Libby Chocolate (from Maine)

44) Eggo Waffles (Mostly because I love this gif)

 

I feel like this list could keep growing. I was tempted to google pictures to put in here, but seeing that right before lunch will make me too sad that I am still a few days away from food heaven.

** Some of this stuff I can get in Korea. BUT it’s not the same as in America.

 

 

UPDATED (9/011):

My trip home was filled so much tasty food that I could barely eat it all. I think  eating 30/44 was quite a feat! But right now I am craving an ice cream sandwich. I regret not making that happen!

airplane gif

I regret nothing

Lately I’ve been thinking about the the fact that I have almost lived in Korea a year.

That’s so crazy to me because it seems like it was a month ago I hopped on a plane and jetted off to this country that I had never before set foot in, nor spoke a word of the language.

I flew to Korea exactly like this. No lie.

I’ve also been thinking about all the things I have seen and experienced in the past year, and thought about what some of my other friends have been doing (or not doing) in the same span of time.

I am happy that I have an independent and adventurous spirit and that I am willing to do whatever it takes to pursue my dreams, instead of feeling I am living a life full of regrets.

I hope I will always maintain this sense of wanderlust and the desire to do daring, unconventional things.

confused korean

Day 92 Part 2: I attempt the impossible

Part 1: Korean Names Overview

PART 2: Attempting the impossible

This year I am attempting the impossible. I am teaching over 600 students and I want to remember all of their names!

Why? Because students respond much better in class when you know their name versus saying “Hey you! Red Sweater! Read the sentence!” The students already have the problem of speaking English as a second language, so if they are zoning out the best way to grab their attention is to say “MINJU!!” Generally they snap to very quickly after that.

The Inherent problems in this task:

1)     My classes are HUGE and I don’t see them that often

2)    Korean Names are really similar!

3)    Korean students don’t always write their name properly in English

4)    Korean Names are hard to pronounce

5)    Korean students look very similar

Problem #1:

I have many students in my classes. My smallest class is about 14 kids, but an average class size for me is 32 students. The 3rd  grade students (9th grade in America) I see once a week. The 2nd grade students (8th grade in America) I see once every three weeks.

Problem #2:

There is a huge similarity among Korean names. Check out Part One: Overview of Korean Names for more details.

Furthermore  in Korea it is important to introduce your  full name when you meet someone.

In America, it’s easy.

“Hey! What’s your name?”

“Sarah.”

“Sarah! Nice to meet you! I’m Riley.”

In Korea:

“What’s your name?”

 “My name is Jeong Seung Hyun!” the student spits out faster than a rattlesnake biting it’s prey. 

First of all, too fast! Secondly, your family name is unimportant!

Family name! This is too much!!

I just want to know their first name. However, this confuses them because they always say their last name first.

So then I end up asking them “What’s your given name” which further confuses them!

Given name? What does given name mean?

Problem #3:

Even though at this point my students have been studying English for 5 or 6 years, some students don’t know how to write their name in English and/or when they do they write it wrong.

This was a challenge for me when I first moved to Korea since I couldn’t read, write or speak Korean.  Blog post pending about the trials of trying to learn names last year.

So if I look at a Korean name written in English and try to pronounce it, I might end up saying the name wrong because it is written wrong!

Wrong all around

Problem #4:

Even if a student wrote their name completely right, some Korean names are REALLY hard for me to pronounce.  They are foreign and strange sounding.

Like this name:

I find the vowel    hard to pronounce in Korean words, which makes it difficult when I have to say the student’s name.

And this this name:

Gyuuuuu is just weird to say. So no matter how hard I might try to a say Korean student’s name I will probably mess it up.

Why so difficult!!

There are many more examples I can think of, but I think you got the point.

Problem  #5:

Korean students look very similar. They tend to have same  eye color, same hair color, same haircut,  and many students wear thick, black framed glasses.

Hair cut styles:

For Girls: Long (straight or permed) & Bangs! Almost every Korean girl student has bangs and they  are CONSTANTLY brushing them.

For Boys: Short (sometimes permed!)

Not to mention all my students wear the same uniform!

This is exactly what I am talking about. THE SAME!

I felt like the students tended to blur together more my first semester teaching because just how similar they all looked compared to American students. American students differ vastly in both facial features and also in their style of clothing.

The loud kids in my classes are really easy for me to distinguish from the others and same goes for the kids who physical appearance sets them apart from the others. The students with a different hair style (colored! a light brown!), or  a student who wears white glasses instead of black, or who throws on a preppy sweater over their collared shirt tend to be more memorable.

But for the more quiet students, unfortunately, it was and still is lot easier for them to blend in the background since my classes are just so BIG.

–>  So what normally happens as a result of all of this: 

I will ask a student their name. They will tell me “Kim Sang Jun.” I will attempt to remember their name, but won’t see the student for 1 or 3 weeks. In the meantime I have a ton of other students whose names I want to learn.

When I finally see that student in class again, the following three scenarios ensue:

1)     I will end up forgetting Kim Sang Jun’s name entirely. Oops.

2)     I will confuse him with someone else because I think he looks like “Jae Won” He’s not Jae Won. Damn.

 

3)    I call on him and say “Seong Jun!”

“Teacher! WRONG! Sang Jun! Sang Jun”

Double damn.

Solutions:

Last year I had each student make a name tag. My vision was that they would always bring it with them to class and slowly over time I would learn all their names with the help of the visual stimulation.

WRONG! The kids would forget to bring it to class or would lose them.

You forgot? You lost it?.... Cool

As a result, feeling so overwhelmed my first couple months teaching here, I didn’t end up learning my student’s names unless they specifically sought me outside of class to talk to me a lot.  I know, I know. That’s terrible.

My only excuse is it was hard to adjust to Korea land.

This year’s plan:

At the beginning of my first class with my students I had each student write their name in English AND Korean (in case they wrote their name in English wrong) and then I took their picture with their name. Seeing the students name WITH their face has made it a lot easier for me to remember their names.

Also, seating charts! I made a specific seating chart for each of my classes which I constantly refer to. Some students names I know off the bat because I talked with them a lot last year and this year.

I got this

BUT other students I hardly see, so it’s good to have a reference chart. It is my goal that within next month I will have learned most of their names!  Wish me luck with this endeavor!

 

awkward

Day 92 Part 1: Overview of Korean Names

In the interest of sparing people from information overload, I decided to split up #92 Storyaday into 3 parts.

Part 1: Korean Name Overview

Part 2: I attempt the Impossible

Most Koreans have three names: Family name and two given names. The family name always come first.

Example: Kim Min Ju

Kim= Family Name

Min Ju= Given Names (note that the names are 1 syllable each)

Korea is the land in which everyone has very similar or identical names. Here are the 5 most common surnames in Korea.

 Just because a person has the same last name “Kim” does not mean they are directly related to another person with the last name Kim.

For me, it is impossible to know who is related to who unless they specifically tell me: “That girl is my sister. That boy is my cousin.”

I might think two kids look similar and are brother and sister, but then it turns out they are NOT related and they are boyfriend and girlfriend. Vice versa: I think they are dating, but they are brother and sister. That is an awkward mistake to make.

Now let’s look given names:

 There seems to be a set of given names that Koreans like to use and they deviate from the names very slightly.

 For example, in one class alone I have 8 kids (mostly girls) whose given names starts with “Ji”

Oh dear. That is a lot of Ji’s walking around.

Also, Koreans tend to like to have similar given names but like changing the order of the given names. So in a class I might see students with names like this:

Sometimes the names are very similar but different by one letter:

And, to top it all off,  most of the times it is hard to tell who is a boy and who is a girl by looking at the names.

In America if you see the name “Sarah” and “James” you are going to know that Sarah is a girl and James is a boy.

Likewise if you see names like “Ashley” and and “Dylan” you are probably going to assume “Ashley” is a girl, “Dylan” is a boy. You could be wrong, of course, but more often than not the results will be as expected.

But here in Korea many names seem to be gender neutral which is a problem for foreigners.

For further reading on Korean names I suggest you read these posts. I find them really fascinating!!

Now Read Part 2: I attempt the Impossible !!

English Winter Camp Video (storyaday)

This video is about the two week English winter camp I taught.

It was a mix of a detective camp and a music camp.  There was a heavy emphasis on the detective portion (7 days) and a little on the music (3 days). It was exhausting, but a lot of fun! ^^