Spring. The campus erupts in lavender, pink & green. Some students wear clothes that match the flora (see stripe shirted fellow in background). I'm on my way to the Third Annual International Scholars' Day Reception and Banquet, held at the President's house on campus.
What's it like to be an International Scholar? Let's take a look.
One thing all International Scholars should be aware of is the possibility of getting into a Jungle Cab. I'm speaking from experience here. Given the number of cabs in a city like Seoul, overall, the probability is low. However, if you do happen to find yourself in a Jungle Cab, I offer the following advice: sit back, relax, and enjoy it.
Enjoy the foliage and grass-lined seats
Enjoy the flowers in the window
If you're hungry, try a few grapes
Enjoy the giraffes
Enjoy the parakeets, nore (karaoke), and rear-view/bushy-headrests
Enjoy the Tiger!
Before the Banquet, a special event: Poet & Professor Natasha Trethewey gives a talk and reads from her Pulitzer Prize-winning book Native Guard. After gracious introductions by colleagues John Frankl and Gabe Hudson ("the warmest welcome I've received in Korea"), she began:
To be there, and hear
Left to right: John Frankl, Loren Goodman, Natasha Trethewey, Gabe Hudson, Paul Tonks
I never knew there was a Native Guard; neither did the Professor of American History sitting next to me. It is fascinating to hear of Professor Trethewey's archeologi-poetical project of recovering their voices, and the poems that resulted, as well as her deep relationship with her parents (her father is also a poet). I love what she says about how she uses the dictionary as she writes to unfold everyday words through their "secondary and tertiary meanings" -- something I realize I often do with pleasure. Spurred by a student question regarding poetic form, Professor Trethewey reads the poem "Myth," (p. 14), a palindrome. She mentions a poem she had read earlier was a pantoum, which I had not noticed, and I think about how that "not-noticing" of form is a mark of its highest execution. Such a pleasure!
After a break, we remove to the banquet. Wine is flowing. I meet and talk with professors in all disciplines from all over the world: India, Switzerland, Canada, Japan...
In the President's Garden: (r to l) Hans Schattle, John Frankl, Dustin Hellberg, Paul Tonks (hands clasped), and Michael Kim (w/Gameboy?)
Colleagues Chris Weagle and Lancelot Bourne
Again, the food is too good: gone before I can get a single shot.
In the middle of the raffle, Dustin -- drawn away by that little carton peeking out of his shirt pocket -- hands me his number ("lucky 7") until he returns. What luck! Seven is called. I go forward to collect the prize. Getting around town is going to be a lot smoother now. Perhaps the Surgeon General should add "raffle accidents" to the list of hazardous smoking effects?
As the evening winds down, I'm thinking about my classes, the people and projects involved. In addition to Poetry as a Second Language, I teach Social Documentary, Dramatic Writing, and Ethnographic Approaches.
Everyone in Social Documentary is hard at work on their documentary films. Every week we meet in the Media Library Theater to watch a film together, study and talk about it. Last week it was The Thin Blue Line; next week, we'll watch Genghis Blues. Our first film assignment was to make a music video. Here's one, "Oko za Oko," directed by Maciej and starring Violet. I'm hoping we can invite Eric Fensler to guest lecture and/or teach a class here in the near future.
Dramatic Writing: (l to r) Lehyla Heward, JiHyea Hwang, Juliana Kim, Soo Ji Kim, Joanne Yoon, Porshia Bernard, Loren Goodman, Champ, Konrad Becker (also in Ethnography), Destiny Hong, Sun Hyung Kim, Jae Won Shin, Sungkee Kim (not pictured).
Dramatic Writing is going well. We started with monologues, reading Edgar Lee Masters and Barbara Anderson, progressed to dialogues, read and wrote short avant-garde and longer plays. We also dip into acting from time to time. Last class, we engaged in one of Sanford Meisner's famous acting exercises, expressing range of emotion through repetition of utterance with a partner. Konrad and Porshia had some particularly memorable exchanges of the lines, "Nice shoes," "You have an expressive face," "Why are you smiling?" and "Sixty-nine." We'll soon start writing our spec scripts for American Dad.
I'm thinking of everyone's ethnographic projects. I can't tell you much about them, as some are undercover. But I can give you some hints:
One involves makeup, one involves ink;
One involves dancing, one involves drink.
Yong Ah and Hey Seong discuss Napoleon Chagnon's Yanomamö. Sara enjoys a quiz.
In addition to conducting a our own ethnographic projects, we also read a lot of great books. A couple weeks ago we finished Mitchell Duneier's Sidewalk, and are now deep into ¡Nisa by Marjorie Shostak.
Although I usually teach two classes, I had such a good time last semester I figured a couple extra would be great. I don't think I'll teach four again anytime soon. It's a great pleasure, but ... well, let's put it this way: I think I now understand the Korean proverb "Dogs do not eat teachers' feces."
International Scholars' Day is quickly coming to a close. When I wake up tomorrow, will I still be an International Scholar? I head home, prepare dinner for my roomate, and go downstairs to visit the Kangs. Mr. and Mrs. Kang run a dry cleaning shop in Jewelry City. Their son Min Seok is active in art and Tae Kwon Do. You can see some of his work on the wall behind them. He's also good friends with my roomate.
Signing off, from Jewelry City.