Tuesday, January 28, 2014

It Was Pete's Words That Helped Me Through

As a teenager embracing adulthood I went through many transformations as all people do. Music was highly influential to my life during that time. Back then we had the internet but it didn't consume our lives like it does now. Instead I used the radio and the public library's collection of CD's to keep the entertainment on. 

I'm not entirely sure when I started listening to Pete Seeger, but I believe the connection starts when I was listening to community radio station KVMR 89.5, back in Nevada City. There were shows like "The Woman's Collective" that spirited liberalism and spiritualism as a woman. There were also a lot of folk shows.  So as I transitioned out of being 18 into my early 20's I somehow heard Pete sing about loving your enemies and understanding what is really important in this world.

His words carried further with me as I lived away from my dad's home for the first time as I went to community college in Eureka, California. There I found my shy and small-town self clashing with meeting new people and being in a new community. But Pete's words soothed me and reminded me of how rich life really can be.

From "All Mixed Up"

This doesn’t mean we will all be the same,We’ll have different faces and different namesLong live many different kinds of racesIt’s difference of opinion that makes horse racesJust remember the rule about rules, brotherWhat could be right for one could be wrong for the otherAnd take a tip from La Belle France: “Viva la difference!”

 (Inside my dorm room, probably around 2002 or '03).

As I lived far away from home and the places that gave me great pleasure (the river, dad's cooking) Pete's words helped remind me I take those things with me wherever I go. 

When I moved out of Humboldt to the San Francisco Bay Area and living with my college sweetheart I continued to enjoy Pete's music and words. 

From "My Rainbow Race":
One blue sky above usOne ocean lapping all our shoreOne earth so green and roundWho could ask for moreAnd because I love youI’ll give it one more tryTo show my rainbow raceIt’s too soon to die.
Life in Berkeley was where I really encountered the "real" world, by living in a large city and taking the subway to school everyday. I got more into painting and art and most of all recognising that at some point I will have to enter this real world and work in it. I used Berkeley's public library to find some CD's by Pete, but his music helped me explore other folk singers and the traditional roots that his music came from.

(Berkeley, probably around 2005)

After college and as I entered the real world I didn't formally listen to Pete so much but his songs were heard enough that his lyrics became anthems in my head. When I left America for work in Korea, his wise words helped me through the tough times I faced.

My first year in Korea saw me dealing a lot with culture shock and also being apart of an even bigger world. 

From "The Water is Wide":

The water is wide, I cannot cross over,
And neither have I wings to fly,
Give me a boat that can carry two,
And both shall row – my love and I.
A ship there was, and she sails the sea,
She’s loaded deep as deep can be,
But not so deep as the love I’m in,
And I know not how, I sink or swim.
So I feel that Pete's words carry through me as I keep on trucking through in life. He helped me understand peers I worked with in Korea (both Korean and American) who I met with disagreement. His words echo in my mind now as build up a new life here in Seattle.

 Thank you Pete Seeger and I hope you are resting well wherever you are.  For more listing of lyrics go here.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Exploring Tacoma: Fort Nisqually

Tacoma, one of Washington's large cities, is located a bit southwest of Seattle. According to Ian and some of his pals it's not a "destination" spot. But with further examination I found a big park situated next to the Puget Sound with a living history museum situated inside it.

Fort Nisqually living history museum is meant to represent the first settlers of this land. From the site's website:
Fort Nisqually was the first European settlement on Puget Sound. Established in 1833 by the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), the original site was on the beach and plains above the Nisqually River delta in the present town of DuPont, Washington.
So actually the living history museum's structures were moved up to Tacoma at some point. If you know by now I enjoy going to Living History sites, as seen in last spring's visit to one in Carnation. In these places the people working there are skilled in the crafts from long ago and sometimes will talk to you like they come from that time period. I found at this site that not everyone took part in the old tongue.

Still the smell of wood burning from the blacksmith's house and the site of hand hewn architecture was fun.

I talked to the blacksmith who mostly liked to chat about the iron puzzles he makes. He gave me one, which I solved quickly and then another, which didn't take too long either.

What's this? The oldest wooden structure in Washington State?

There was a little exhibit room showing features of sewing back in those days. Apparently collecting a device that clamped down one's cloth while sewing is a popular item.

The main house, featured stylish accruements of the time and interesting wallpaper.

It was here that I talked to one of the guides and ended up hearing some of the history of Fort Nisqually and this area of Washington. As we all know the Native Americans of this state lived here first, but maybe what you didn't know was that the first settlers were British, Scottish and French-Canadian. Then the Americans started moving west and well the rest is history, I guess. Except for that part when later they took Native American children away from their families and into boarding schools.

I also learned that when the Americans first came out they didn't have much money with them and the kind shopkeepers let them buy everything on credit. What happened was that they cut down the trees and made roofing shingles out of them, so much so, that they had an overstock of said shingles. What did they do? They traded them down to California!

As you can see there is a lot to learn here and it reminds me of how I do like American history and then the part where you re-learn it from different perspectives.

Anyways, the rest of the views of the Fort were interesting. Like a roost of chickens and a garden with a huge turnip.

The living quarters of those not in the "big house" had beds without any mattresses. As I looked at them I figured I could probably survive on such bed since the mattresses in South Korea were as hard as wood.

Game of checkers (?) anyone?

After Fort Nisqually I remembered seeing a funky sandwich cafe on my drive down, so I headed out of the park to get some take out.

I enjoyed my lunch next to Owen's Beach in Point Defiance Park while overlooking the Puget Sound. A few otters graced the shores (sorry no pics) and I admired the clarity of the water.

I really needed this outing as I was beginning to feel too blue these past few weeks. I needed the smell of trees and the sound of water to wake me back up again. I also put school work on hold this past weekend as I made time for me. Overall, I think it helped as I do feel more refreshed these days. So I hope to get out at least once a month, if possible, to some place new.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Into January and the Rain

The above is how Seattle has been looking for some time now. Except that today was sunny and it's going to be that way (hopefully) for the next few days. The above is also when a storm system was rolling through, and I've been told usually those storms last longer.

In essence, I'm not really bogged down by the weather but I did miss the sunshine there for awhile. I'm still glad I can go out of my house without having to bundle up for freezing and snowy weather (like I did in Korea).

This is my second week into the Winter quarter and I'm surprised things are running smoothly. I think the intensity and anxiety I felt last quarter has made me well aware of what I need to do to get my school work done without that happening. A reminder of what classes I'm taking:

  • Instructional Design for Adults
  • Social Linguistics or Linguistics in Society
For the design class I am working with a group to put together information about collaborative, cooperative and competitive group work in adult learning. A lot of my members shot for researching collaborative learning, where I decided to take a closer look at competitive and divergent thinking. I'm going to relate that last one to collaborative learning.

For Social Linguistics it's been really great because I definitely connect with the issues being brought up and also find it connecting with my current teaching.

However, as much as I'm a go-getter and organised person I feel myself a bit scattered at the start of this quarter. I started doing research on my 2 papers for Social Linguistics without a real map ahead of me and also starting looking at lesson plan ideas for the other class. So I have a bunch of windows out with a lot of tabs, and already folders with PDFs in them. I've gotta get that all organised, printed and looked over...get that whole process really going. But sheesh, it's only the second week right!

I've also signed up for a few subbing gigs (completed one). Last quarter I really passed up on subbing since I felt I had no time, but now that I'm living in a studio (on my own) I need to bring a little extra cash to pay for those things in life.

My life in Seattle has been trucking along, I suppose. I know I need to get out there more, take in the social scene and what-not. I'm going to...I swear...

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Observations and Reflections on Teaching Saudi Arabian Students

I teach at an English for Academic Purposes private school here in Seattle. It is a small school with about 95 students in total. Generally I am one of their substitute teachers but over my last winter break I took on 3 regular hours a day.

These were 3 private tutoring classes with 1 Saudi Arabian student in each. The classes last for 50 minutes each. The session I taught lasted about 4.5 weeks, but with a lot of holiday breaks thrown in. Also note that the Saudi students get to leave school from 10:30 to 2pm for mosque every Friday. So some Friday's I only saw 1 student.

Class 1: Male student, intermediate level English and what was taught was set by the school. Using the book "Pathways" I was told to teach two units. This book focuses on reading and writing skills such as understanding the main idea, supporting details and looking for context clues.

Class 2: At first I had a female Saudi student who was very focused and knew what she wanted to learn, even though we were given the book and set units. I enjoyed teaching her for the first few days but there was an issue with her schedule and I had to exchange her with a different student.

The second student was another male Saudi student who's level was low. We weren't given a textbook and instead the previous teacher told me to work on vocabulary and sentence making. I did this by using a picture dictionary and also supplemental material. I also made it a point to practice phonetics, especially vowel sounds.

Class 3: Another male Saudi student who was at mixed levels. He could read and write very well but his speaking still needed fine tuning. Again another class where I was given the Pathways book and to do a few units (actually was the same curriculum for Class 1).

Initial Reflection:
To be honest, I don't have much experience with Saudi Arabia, it's culture and it's people. I would say I'm your average American who knows about this part of the world from what she reads and hears via media.

What has been great about teaching multi-cultural classes at this school is that I have been opened up to new worlds and ways of thinking. I'm also seeing how vital it is to be open minded and also receptive to the student's needs based upon their cultural background. In addition to this I'm also trying hard to not lay down stereotypes and box my student's into a set standard based upon their country of origin.

Indeed, all three of my students exemplified differences on varying degrees of language, knowledge and identity. I have so far concluded that I can't bunch all the Saudi students into one category and teach them based on those assumptions. However, I can say that I myself have a lot to learn about their culture and that when compared to East Asian cultures, that I have mostly taught, I can definitely feel distinct differences.

My observations will be based upon the interactions I had teaching these students privately. I am looking for how they used the language, their ability to talk about certain social and cultural topics brought up and anything else that was particularly noteworthy.

Language use:
Overall I found that students displayed a general range of language abilities, from being able to speak clearly to not yet grasping writing.

Since the arabic language has distinct differences from English I found somethings that stood out in relation to this. For one the way some of the students wrote was interesting, by starting letters from a sort of backwards formation. It's probably hard for me to describe this but I'll just say that the stroke order of making the letters definitely came out differently from what I naturally do. Unfortunately, I never really bothered to pay attention to this in other students until now, so can't really say if Korean or Chinese students do the same thing.

The same thing would often happen with sentences during essay writing. My Class 3 student would often put the subject at the end of his sentences and I would have to go in and let him know this error. It happened often enough that I can say it must have something to do with his first language.

Across the board it would often occur that these students didn't capitalise their sentences, only realising later and fixing it (or when I corrected them). Since Arabic doesn't do capitalisation it makes sense they would have trouble remembering this. The following site reiterates what is distinct about Arabic:
Texts are read from right to left and written in a cursive script. No distinction is made between upper and lower case, and the rules for punctuation are much looser than in English.
So as you can see I discovered issues of L1 to L2 coming into their writing, as I taught these students.

As for speaking I couldn't really grasp whether they had any issues related to their cultural background, since all three of them spoke at different levels. However, I think their abilities to speak fluidly and form ideas and not be shy to speak them is definitely prominent.

Yet in the low level student (class 2) he definitely struggled with certain consonant clusters and vowel combinations. Seeing this initial stage I could tell he must still be in the process of identifying and using certain English sounds.

All together those make for the language use observations that were most prominent.

Cultural and Social knowledge:
What I mean by this topic is student's ability to respond to questions and content that asks students to think about and give their opinion on social and cultural matters. The book used did exactly this by having students read texts then answer questions and comprehend vocabulary as well. The material in these books aren't the usual "cookie cutter" chapters such as "How are you today?" "Let's go to a party!" Instead the topics in the book are academic ones meant to prepare these students for critical thought and language use as they advance into University life.

So for Class 1 and Class 3 the unit we worked on was about "The Problems of Trash" such as the large Pacific garbage patch, artists using trash to make art and so on. Unfortunately, climate change and the environment is a repeated topic in EAP classes. However, I found this book took care of the issue quite well with up to date information and questions relevant to one's daily life.

Both student's were able to talk about and discuss the topic of trash, and I really enjoyed talking about how artists can turn trash into art (since I have an artistic background).

Yet, I really tried to make sure students elicited their own knowledge about the subject and expressed their own opinions. Also my goal wasn't just to teach content but to make sure students understood the reason behind the language choices in the book, how it was organised and to be able to reuse these concepts on their own.

Overall I was impressed by their ability to identify, talk about and discuss the topics at hand. They also provided cultural insight and reflection of what they saw in the new culture they have been living in.

Other Noteworthy Observations:
For this part I'm going to say that I think these student's come from a country and culture that is at odds and at difference with American culture. So at times they were surprised to hear certain topics and explanations come up about culture here, meanwhile I was also surprised to hear what they expunged about their home country.

A Lot to Learn:
This whole experience I had within the last few weeks reminds me that I have a lot to learn about Saudi Arabia. So I've taken on the challenge and started slowly to educate myself about their culture and language.

Again, I don't want to hold these students to a stereotype of, "Oh, since they come from a desert nation they must like to...XYZ..." etc. But I can't help but want to be able to talk about their culture without saying, "Oh, I didn't know that!" In other words, I want to be less ignorant.

Yes, initially we all will think about the glaring differences between their country and ours. Such as women's rights, religious extremism and a historical past that hasn't always been kind. To be honest, I think to understand these huge differences it is better to see what the place looks like from the inside. For one I could say South Korea has a lot of audacious differences when compared to America, but since I have lived there I understand the reasoning behind such things.

Now I can't really jump on a plane and go to Saudi Arabia, but I can travel virtually. So far I have enjoyed watching the following video of a food traveler to the country. If you have some time take a look.

If anything I'm now eager to try some Saudi Arabian food (not camel though). 

Finally, the whole thing reminds me to kick the habit of putting America as my center of the world. The rest of the world functions in such different ways and while I teach I want to be able to show that I am not just open minded but aware that America doesn't need to be the starting point for my comparisons. I hope that makes sense.

Well these are all very initial observations and reflections on teaching Saudi Arabian students and I'm sure it will all evolve and change as I continue on.

For a good site to answer questions you might have about Saudi Arabia I found the following one very useful: Centre for Intercultural Learning

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Walk Around My New Neighborhood

The sun came out after what felt like weeks of greyness. I think it's not that it rains a lot in Seattle, but that it remains covered in grey clouds for a long period of time, that can get to you. But I figured the sun had to come out at some point, and well it did. Tom too has been enjoying the sunshine and on some mornings it seems to really perk him up.

I actually didn't move too far from my last place but I'm definitely closer to the International District. Nearby my home is a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple, which offers free service on Saturday mornings. So I might try to get up and check that out some day.

Maybe it's just my optimism but this neighbourhood also feels a lot safer than the last, however I can't really vouch for that yet. Also nearby is a local church that does the food bank thing, which I went to one time ago. So there were folks walking to that with their bags.

But I think one of the gems in my new area is the Judkins Park and play field. A huge grassy area with benches and paths to enjoy.

I took some time out and used my new iPad Mini to sketch the scene, which was made easier using a stylus I just got in the mail.

I look forward to exploring more around my neighbourhood and maybe using the park for exercising or maybe convince Ian and his pals for a game of kickball.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Foggy End to 2013

For New Year's Eve I attended a party that was hosted by Ian's friend's. It was nice to meet new people and join in the celebrations of 2013 ending. But what I really wanted was to see the fireworks go off on the Space Needle. So when it came time to look out at this sight, it was shrouded by dense fog. This reminded me that "this is Seattle" and foggy weather is something that happens here on occasion.

Despite this setback I still enjoyed the moment and liked bringing in the new year here. On my walk to my car I captured the foggy scenes.

The fog gives the streets a surreal feel and sometimes you couldn't see too far ahead, shrouding street signs and normal points of reference along the way.

I've been wanting to capture the foggy nights and am thankful I got to do so cause of being up late for the New Year.

2014 is here and upon us now. My Winter Quarter starts next week and I'll be finishing teaching regular hours this week. I really can't grasp that almost a whole year has gone by since I moved out of Korea. I think for some time I did miss Korea, but it feels like that has worn off. I suppose this means I was ready for my new life here. Even though it is a bit harder here (bills and more responsibility) I definitely feel more comfortable than I was in Korea and more in control.

Although I really miss the fun of being able to travel and see something new and interesting, especially to Japan, I'll see what I can do about exploring locally.

Tom is still getting used to the place here and hopefully I can take him out on a leash so he can explore a little bit more. But I do my best to play with him and bend to his will. 

My projection for my year in 2014 will be lots of school work, some regular teaching work and towards the end planning my transition into full time work. I'm hoping I'm doing enough now to be able to secure a full time position once I graduate. I guess keeping up my confidence is best as I move forward. 

I hope everyone has a good year and makes resolutions that are sound and attainable. I usually don't make resolutions that are specific but more like "just do what is right...". We'll see..