Things my students wrote: Love letters to strangers

Earlier this semester I was working with my students to craft class newspapers and quickly found that they had never really been taught to write concisely. They were used to writing long, flowery (read: bullshitty) prose that went on and on for days and days about very little.

At a loss for what to do I asked my old Wisconsin State Journal co-worker, George, what he would do to help explain writing compact news articles.

George suggested having them write love letters to strangers. He explained, “When I was learning Norwegian, I had difficulty writing because I was trying to translate in my head as I went along from English to Norwegian. I should have been simplifying everything, because the whole point of communication is to have someone understand your message. There is nothing worse than a misunderstood love letter. So I used it as an exercise in explaining to students that if you think of presenting your message in a foreign language, that is one way to keep it simple.” Continue reading Things my students wrote: Love letters to strangers

10 things nobody tells you about becoming a foreign teacher

  1. You will call all of your students your “kids”

Most of my students are 19, meaning I’m only a few years older than them. But despite their adult status and our narrow age gap, when talking about my students I always refer to them as my “kids.”

Because they’re your kids, you’ll feel every triumph and failure with them. You’ll be ecstatic when one student passes their driving test or gets accepted into a study abroad program or even when the two kids who’ve been flirting shyly all year finally get together. And then you’ll be crushed when a good student fails a test or doesn’t make the basketball team. Continue reading 10 things nobody tells you about becoming a foreign teacher

Photo book: The Beauty of Beijing

There are cities where you go to spend a few days eating like the locals, visiting the sites, people watching, and soaking in the culture and then leave feeling satisfied that you’ve checked it off your list and don’t need to return.

Beijing is not one of those cities. It’s big, bustling, beautiful and utterly bizarre. Even after two trips there, I still don’t feel like I’ve had my fill of the capital city. I’ve maybe had a drink and an appetizer, but I’m in no way ready to lay down my napkin, push my chair back and pat my stomach contentedly. Continue reading Photo book: The Beauty of Beijing

Thoughts on second visits

Beijing.

It was my first taste of China, so many months ago. It was there that I struggled to slurp up soupy noodles (and ended up spraying Sam with broth and spices in the process). It was where I realized the words I’d learned on Rosetta Stone – “cat,” “sister,” “flower” – weren’t going to be much help ordering food, getting housing or interacting with people on a personal level. And, it was were a few other Drake teachers and I started to piece together an understanding of this beautiful and bizarre country.

Continue reading Thoughts on second visits

Hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge

I had no intentions of going to Tiger Leaping Gorge.

My original plan was to go to Lijiang and spend a few lazy days eating yak cheese and exploring the nearby villages.

But thanks to a chance meeting on a train and the certain swagger that comes with youth, I instead jumped on a bus and hiked 16 plus incredibly strenuous miles over mountains and around bends with someone I’d just met.

It wasn’t the first spontaneous decision of the weekend. After deciding at the last possible moment that I had no interest in spending the long holiday weekend in Guilin, I threw some clothes and my camera in a bag, went to the train station with a scrap of paper listing three far-flung destinations around China, and said I wanted to go to whichever one had the next train out. Continue reading Hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge

Photo book: 16 more reasons to love Siquijor

An authentic experience can be hard to come by in many big cities in Asia. Cities like Bangkok, Siem Reap and Singapore are so entrenched in Western travelers Asia hit-lists that adventures can feel canned. Whether it’s the people jockeying for room to take a picture of Angkor Wat, fighting over merchandise at the weekend market in Bangkok or waiting in lines longer than those at Target on Black Friday to see some temple, travel can get taxing.

Thankfully, there are places, like Siquijor Island, that acts as an antidote to travel fatigue. There the food is delicious, the people gregarious and genuine, the sunsets vibrantly hued and the only other Westerners are those who have “gone native.”  I already waxed poetic about the charms of the small Filipino island, but here are 16 more reasons why.

Continue reading Photo book: 16 more reasons to love Siquijor

Forever my favorite: Siquijor island, Philippines

From the sweet perfume of honey-marmalade topped pink rice to the lazy sensuality of a mongrel blend of spices rubbed into a rotating chicken, a myriad of scents assault my nose in the family-run market.

To my left were a group of middle-aged Filipino men, gathered around an old, flickering TV set, watching a sporting match that was evidently very exciting. Every few minutes the cacophony of raucous cheers and jeers and the toppling of chairs as the men leapt to their feet were heard throughout the open-air market. Continue reading Forever my favorite: Siquijor island, Philippines

The adventures, musings and mishaps of a foreigner in China