Category Archives: Randomness

Another Friday, another tidbit

(And another white board, just for fun)

2015-07-24 21.22.53

The setting: The students are 15 and 16 years old. They are in the third grade of middle school. They are highest level of their age group. Some of them are very independent learners, who take every opportunity presented them to use English outside of class and in the community as well as in the classroom. Others are less motivated, but equally hard-working. They just want to pass and focus only on the classes that help them prepare for exams. With me, they study debate. Today we were analyzing opinion paragraphs.

Some things I said today:

  • “Please don’t copy another student’s homework. The purpose of this work is to help you analyze an opinion essay. If you copy from another student, you don’t get that benefit. It is better to turn it in late if you didn’t have time to finish it.”
  • “You three need to buy notebooks. When I see those torn-off pieces of paper that I know you will lose, I think you don’t care about anything you learn in my class.”
  • “Do you think this sentence is positive or negative? Why?”
    “That’s a good analysis. You are right.”

A conversation between two very different students that I overheard in English:

“What’s your opinion about question number one?”
uncomfortable laughter
“I think the main idea is (answer).” 

The first student leaned in to the second student when she asked her question. She spoke clearly and very slowly, respecting the second student’s level. She didn’t show impatience at the shyness, but gently guided and made a comfortable space for an answer.

I can learn from this: she got a result I wouldn’t have been able to get because she has a sense of what students her age need from their surroundings. She waited through the laughter with patience and persistence. And the answer came and it helped the whole group.

Playful Writing 7: Something I can’t forgive

The latest in the Playful Writing series inspired by Chuck Sandy’s iTDi blog post here. Chuck Sandy created a list of suggestions for writing playfully. I have been using them with my students for free writing topics. The rules my students follow are: write continuously until the timer rings; don’t erase or cross out; don’t worry about spelling or words you don’t know; don’t talk to each other. I have been slowly increasing their writing time over the weeks and I have also been monitoring for repeated mistakes or errors. My students have been excited to compete against themselves for their word counts and I am quite happy to see that even the ones who don’t have a lot to say during class have plenty to write about.


This particular topic was quite broad. “Write about a song you can’t get out of your head, something you can’t forgive, a scar you have, a difficult student, something you can’t give up, somewhere you always wanted to go but didn’t.”


Today I chose to write about something I can’t forgive. It’s a serious topic and I confess before I even begin that I didn’t follow my own rules. I rearranged the order after my timer went off, and I removed names. The story is, sadly, true, and forgiveness has no part in it. Please skip to the bottom.


Something I can’t forgive.

I learned to move on with my life. I hope we never meet.

I learned to move on with my life. I hope we never meet.

This is going to be serious rather than playful. It may have been ten years ago, I got a phone call. It was from a friend of a friend. “Sit down.” he said. “Are you sitting down?” His voice had no hint of surprise, smile, laughter. Something was wrong. “Yes, I’m sitting down. What is it? What’s wrong?” I asked. “T– died today.” “No.” I said.

T– was a lover and a fighter. His spirit burned with a bright fire. He drove a bright red motorcycle and played as whole-heartedly with the little kids we taught as he did with the adult women he loved. He drew his own Christmas cards for the holidays and made his own jewelery. If someone tried to touch his motorcycle, even out of curiosity, he would rush outside and threaten them. He gave me a spare helmet once to keep in my place so he wouldn’t always have to pack it with him. We rode together all over town. Life was fun. He drank two pots of coffee a day and did 1,000 situps and pushups every morning. He was an exercise fiend, former body-builder (2nd place for Mr. Canada). He lived a fast-paced life and never backed down.

The details came out later. He had been at home with his girlfriend. He hadn’t been feeling well. He was diabetic. He took insulin shots. He should have seen a doctor. When his seisure started, his girlfriend laid him down in bed. She didn’t call anyone. She watched as his whole body tensed up and he finally died. Then she left. Then she called his friend.

You see, she was a married woman. She was committing adultery with him. And that’s illegal. She wasn’t looking for trouble. She was just looking for a bit on the side. So she sat there and watched him die. And never once called an ambulance. Never once tried to take him to the hospital. Not even after did she call the police.

T–‘s sister called me weeks later to find out why. She wanted to know how to get in touch with the girlfriend. She gave me the latest details. I directed her to someone I knew had the information she needed. I shared her pain. If I ever meet the woman who watched my friend die and did nothing, I will have strong words to say.


After I wrote this, my first thought was, “I can’t publish this.” But here it is and here you are reading it. Why? Because my students in class today asked me what I had written about. They were struggling with all the topic choices and needed ideas. I told them I had used the topic “Something I can’t forgive” and they asked what it is so I gave them the abridged version. If I can share with them, why not with you?

Some of the issues with this particular topic that came up in class today (and will probably come up with both groups tomorrow) are too many choices. The students needed a lot of time to think and choose what they would write about. Time was another issue. I gave them an extra minute and one of them ran out of words and got frustrated (and wrote about it!). I don’t think I’ll change the variety of topics for tomorrow’s groups, because students really did write on nearly all of them.  I will give them more time for thinking and asking questions instead. Tomorrow’s group are also older and less likely to run out of words, so I don’t think this issue will affect them. In the future, for the group who wrote today, I think I will keep the extra minute and let them know they can write their feelings and thoughts in the moment if they run out of words on the topic.

If you’re still here, thanks for reading.


Playful writing 6: I can’t live without…

This is the latest in a series of posts inspired by Chuck Sandy’s iTDi blog post: Learning To Play: A Writing Lesson Learned Late. I have been using his playful writing prompts as free writing prompts for my students. And I have been writing them myself so that I don’t have to ask my students to do something without knowing what it might be like for them. So far this project has been quite interesting in a few ways – they’re writing a lot more in the time I give them and some of them are really going deep. It has been a pleasure for me to get to know my students in this way, and a slightly scary pleasure to share myself with my colleagues in the same way.

Regular readers might notice that I missed a topic. Playful writing 5 was “when was the last time you were (feeling).”  I stared at the blank piece of paper-shaped screen for hours, day after day, with nothing to say, knowing that I was going to have to ask my students to do something I currently couldn’t. And my students wrote it last week. They wrote brilliantly, beautifully, and openly. And they inspired me to try again and so later this week I will.

Today, however, the prompt reads:

Write about coffee, ice cream, peanut butter, cheese, or oranges. Feel free to start with “I’m thinking about” or “I remember” but if you’re tired of those prompts try “I’ll never forget …” or “I can’t live without …

I can’t live without… actually, I can live without all of those things. I don’t like ice cream, peanut butter is crazy expensive, I only sort of like cheese, and oranges are a pain to prepare. Coffee is a vice, I admit, but at least once a year I phase it out just to prove I can still do it. To prove I’m not addicted. Coffee headaches are awful, and I really think I feel better when I drink coffee than when I do n’t. But I don’t like the idea of being dependant on anyhting. Maybe this says more about me than if there is a thing.

I know what you’re thinking: “Did she just sway she doesn’t like ice cream?” Yes, I don’t like ice cream. Sometimes I’ll have mint chocolate chip ice cream in a cone and somtimes I throw most of it away. Sometimes I can’t get away with not having ice cream and I have to. But I would rather not if I have the choice. Not because of health, buty just because it’s not very yummy to me.

I don’t think there’s any food or drink that I can’t live without, emotionally. I like variety and  choice and independence from the sorts of claws that addictions can hold. I can give up anything I feel like I might be getting addicted to and I regularly do that . That was what my ramen ban this year was about. I was eating it way too often (according to me!) and needed to make sure I could take it out of my diet. I did it, for a year (except two cheats that I forgave myself for) and I’ll put it back again.

Coffee, let’s explore that. I can live without coffee, but i’d prefer not to. I am nicer, friendlier, and in a  better mood when I’ve had coffee. I smile more, have more energy, and fewer headaches. That’s true even after I’ve given it up for months. One coffee shows me why I should have just kept drinking it. I have a theory about coffee – it is that people who put cream, sugar, chocolate syrup, caramel, and all sorts of other gunk in it don’t actually like coffee. I can’t imagine why they’d spoil the taste of it otherwise.

I am running out of things to say on this topic. That doesn’t happen to me very often but it’s after 1am and I’m tired. I guess I can’t live without sleep (at least not for very long) and I can’t live without my nice warm heater on this cold cold December day. Well, I probably could if I had to.

i do miss things whenI go without them. But I have to prove to myself that  Ican doit. Life is weird and changeable and you never know  when something you couldn’t live without is suddenly six times the price you’re willing to pay for it. Or not available at all.

Free stock photo from

Free stock photo from


Okay, that sucked. Sorry for it, if you managed to read it all. Some notes to myself – I’ve gotta change the products for my students. Probably fried chicken, chocolate, rice, ice cream, and ? (for them to add their own idea). I have to tell them that I couldn’t think of anything I couldn’t live without so that they don’t feel bad if they draw a blank. I might even give them the option of writing about something they would like to give up instead.

Thanks for sticking with me so far.

Playful writing 4: painting a word picture

This is the fourth blog post in the playful writing series stolen from inspired by Chuck Sandy’s iTDi blog post.

Today’s topic is: ‘Paint a word picture of an elementary school teacher you had. Use this person’s name. Start with “I remember” as in “I remember that Mr. Denz smelled like a campfire and I yet I never understood why until …”’

I can already see a few potential issues in introducing this to my classes who free-write. First of all, I’ll need to explain what is meant by a word-picture. They may not have the skills to do this. Secondly, they are all still very close to elementary school and some could actually use their current teachers. I wonder how the nearness of the memory will affect the writing. Then again, who knows (yet) whether I can do it either with elementary school being so far back in the past.

So here goes nothing: 10 minutes of writing about an elementary school teacher from a time in my memory that is mostly blank.

I remember Ms. Kranz was all small. Short with short black hair, short arms, short legs, short hands and short fingers. She taught us using little sayings like “when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking.” I never forgot them.

She was adamant about us calling her Ms. Kranz. Not Mrs., not miss. It had to be miz. I never understood why. And then when we did call her, she invariably responded with PeeWee Herman’s classic line: “That’s my name. Don’t wear it out!”

We used to have nap time in class. She would have us put our heads down for ten minutes in the middle of the day. I never slept, but some students did. Back then I sucked my thumb. It was the only way I could relax. But it was hard to put my head down on the desk in a way that I could still suck my thumb.

Ms. Kranz used to give us manila paper to do our art projects. I used to think it was called ‘vanilla paper’ because I didn’t know the word Manila and I thought the color was supposed to be like vanilla ice cream (which I hated). I wondered if the paper got discolored the longer it was lying around. Maybe fresh vanilla paper was closer to white.

One day Ms. Kranz asked us to draw a nature picture. I don’t know why. I have never been a good artist (or particularly good at observation). I drew a line of blue for the sky and a line of green for the grass and I put in some flowers and trees. She looked at me with her face tight with frustration (I realize now that I’m a teacher that it must have been because I finished much too quickly and had done a shoddy job) and said ‘Anne, get up. Come here.’ She guided me to the window and waved her hand towards the landscape outside. ‘What do you see?’ I didn’t answer her. She was more specific: ‘Is there any space between the sky and the ground? Does the sky just stop?’ And that was the moment I realized that I had never cared to notice. Of course there wasn’t. I didn’t want to change my picture, though.

I also remember lining up on the day before Christmas vacation. She asked people who had already put up their Christmas trees to line up first. Then people who were going to put their trees up that weekend. Then people who put up their trees on Christmas eve. I was still sitting. My family had never had a Christmas tree. For my father, Christmas wasn’t about trees. It was about Jesus.

Ms. Kranz also arranged us in reading groups, pairing stronger readers with weaker ones. My partner was a girl named Carrie. I don’t know how much of this memory is real and how much is dream, but I remember sitting on a hill outside the school with Carrie and helping her read. The grass was green and the sky went all the way down to the fields. It was that kind of day.

We only did that once.

Ms. Kranz made a big impression on me in a lot of ways.


Well gosh. Ten minutes, 543 words, and I don’t know how much any of this counts as a word picture. A critical look back doesn’t show enough depth of description to let a stranger picture anything, I guess. I got caught up in the ‘I remember’ part – Ms. Kranz was my first grade teacher at St. Paul’s Lutheran school. I must remember when my students do this to be lenient on the topic because if I can’t stick to the topic, I can hardly expect them to either. I wonder if I should let them read a bit of mine as an example, but I hesitate now because I don’t want to prejudice their writing and if some of them can write on-topic I’d rather they do that.


If you’re still reading, thanks. Have a wonderful week.

Playful writing: I remember/ I don’t remember

Playful Writing 3: I remember/ I don’t remember

This is the third writing prompt suggestion from Chuck Sandy’s iTDi blog post. I have been trying these as ten-minute free-writing activities before I give them as topics for my students, just to see what comes out of it and to make sure I can do what I am about to ask my students to do and to see where it might need to be adapted for them. The results among my students have been quite interesting – for the most part, they have said that the time limit is too short. I’m hesitant to make it longer, though. I’d rather they manage their time and I’ll increase time slowly as I originally planned. They have been sharing a lot of themselves, sometimes quite seriously, under the promise of privacy. I am getting to know them a lot better.

So without further ado, setting the timer for 10 minutes of continuous writing, let’s go!

I remember when I was a university student. I worked in the physics department office as an administrative assistant. I worked 20 hours a week – a decent part time job for whenever I didn’t have classes to attend. My boss was a wonderful woman named Lalla. She knew me better than I thought, in retrospect, and was always looking out for me. I also worked with another group of students – Adam, Nabeel, and Dennis. We used to do the New York Times crossword puzzles every day. They were free back then and we’d have no problem with the Monday puzzles. The Tuesday and Wednesday puzzles were usually okay, too if a bit more challenging. By Wednesday, there were questions that nearly stumped all of us but eventually we figured them out. Thursdays were even more difficult and I don’t think we ever finished a Friday puzzle. We never tried the Saturdays.

Anyway, when we couldn’t finish a puzzle – a Thursday one or a Friday – we would fill in the remaining letters with 7s and ‘silent Q’s. I remember how much we laughed over it. I had complained that you can’t put a ‘Q’ there. It has its own sound and completely changes the word. And Adam explained to me that it was a ‘silent Q’ and it could go there. The conversation usually dissolved into giggles and a group trip to the lunch truck for chicken fried rice.

I remember a couple years ago when I was just getting into professional development and thinking about teaching and how to become a better teacher. Oh, my thoughts are so different now from what they were then. But I was shy and couldn’t find my voice. I was uncertain – who was I, among all these people who knew what they were talking about and had been doing it forever? What if I said stupid things? What if my opinions then stuck to me and I couldn’t change them? How would I protect myself from the world and from myself. I needed a way to speak. And I remembered silent Q.

I remember the day I started using Q as an identity – it was on Twitter in a free informal webinar that probably had something to do with iTDi. I logged in and the room asked for an identity – so I typed in Q. And I met a lot of interesting people that day. But I guess they didn’t really meet me.

Time’s up. 416 words – fewer than last time.

I’m afraid that’s the not-very-interesting story of the origin of Q, now retired because I can use my own voice thanks to the friends who value it and helped me build my self-confidence.

Reading back, I wonder if I am giving my students the chance to know me as I know them through their writing, and if I should do that or need to do that. Would I be willing to share my writing with them? That’s a question worth thinking about, I guess.

This writing task took ten minutes and was pretty easy, mainly because I already knew what story I wanted to tell. I think when I do this with my students, I will give them a few minutes to think before writing about a story they might want to tell. I will also give them the option of writing a series of disconnected memories if they wish.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading.




This one’s for you, friend. Because you asked.


Playful writing: I’m looking at…

Last week I decided to try the playful writing tasks that Chuck Sandy suggested in his iTDi blog post. I want to do this for myself to maintain my love of writing, and also to see what sort of adaptations I will need to use these as free writing tasks with my students. This week’s playful writing task is about observation.

Chuck Sandy writes: “Begin like this: “I’m looking at …” and then have a look around where ever it is you are. What captures your attention? Focus on that.  Look some more. Then, start writing. 10 minutes. Go!”

I am looking at my computer. It is about five years old. Well, it’s five years old to me. I bought it used in 2009. It’s held up really well, considering it was second hand to begin with. I’ve reformatted it once, when I thought I was going to give it away. I changed my mind, though, because my laptop wasn’t a good replacement for it. My computer is white with a large screen. It is great for watching movies and high resolution youtube videos. The background on the desktop is an archaic map. The countries are all shaped wrong because back then no one really knew what most of the world looked like. There are a lot of folders on my desktop as well. They are separated into photos, articles, writings, videos, and other things. The thing I use most is Chrome. I use it to connect to the internet, to prepare for classes, to work, to contact people, to do proofreading work, and just to play with my friends. I also use Skype all the time. I use it to stay in touch with people who are far away. I like seeing people’s faces when I talk to them. I have a weekly meeting with my mom and my brother. Lately it’s been nice because my little brother is at home too so I get to talk to him more than I normally would (which used to be once a year or so!).

Next to my computer is a pencil case. It contains pens, pencils, scissors, erasers, and a box cutter. Oh, and about five paint brushes. I don’t paint, and I don’t know why I keep them there. Maybe one day they will be useful. One of the pens in my pencil case has a giant pink rose on the end of it. It was a gift. Next to the pencil case is another gift – a small booklet of poems. Written on the outside is “with love for Q”. I treasure this and read it once in a while.

On the other side of the computer is my printer. It’s an all-in-one type of machine. It scans, prints, photocopies, and faxes. I mostly use it to print and scan. On top of that are the books that I have been using in my proofreading. There are four of them, but I’ve only needed the first two so far. They’re big and colorful and I think kids will really like them. I grew to like the characters in the books. But I noticed that all textbooks in the universe must use the same voice actors for their characters. I recognized the voices as soon as I played the cd.

Beside the printer is a small book. It’s written in Korean and it’s all about Dokdo, the island to the east that Korea is very **. Anyway, this book was a gift from a student. I promised him I would try to learn to read it.

And there’s the timer. I realized that I surround myself with gifts that I treasure, dreams, and things that make me happy while I’m on my computer.

The things I am looking at

The things I am looking at

Once again, ten minutes continuous writing seemed long. I’ll have to also remind my students that it is okay to switch over to other things. I notice that I didn’t actually describe the appearance of much of anything. Most of the things around me are important because of their emotional attachment, I guess. And I know that physical appearance is the last thing I notice when it come to observing scenes. I wonder how that affects how I observe my classes. I guess I have to allow my students the freedom to get off topic and to describe in whatever ways suit them.

Now it’s time to go to work. Thank you for reading if you got this far. Sorry for being boring if you didn’t.

Two things that happened today

I want to tell you about two interesting things that happened today.

My first class of the day is with my boss’s son. I’m teaching him reading skills, writing, and presentation skills in preparation to enter a high school in New Zealand. We started working on writing with a personal narrative essay. He’s on the third draft now. Today we went through his writing bit by bit. I circled the words that he chose wrongly (I think he was choosing by sound). I noticed that a lot of them were prepositions and I started thinking: I’ve read that prepositions are among the last things to be acquired in English language acquisition, so how can I help him help himself when he’s just not sure?

The answer, of course, is pretty simple. I turned to COCA. And I taught him how to use a corpus and to select likely combinations and take a look at the context. I didn’t fix a single one of his preposition mistakes but with the help of COCA he fixed them all himself. Granted nothing else I had planned got done in the hour, but he said this is a really helpful tool that he can start to use on his own now.


My last class of the day was switched at the last minute. Our middle school students are studying hard for their midterm exams, but a few students felt they’d studied all they could study and even done all the extra problems. They were tired of it. So my boss asked me to take those learners (from a mix of classes) and do something with them. They asked immediately for a game, of course. The first game to catch my eye is one called “Pass the bomb.” It has a plastic toy “bomb” inside with a variable timer that explodes as people pass it. The original game is played with cards. Each card has a topic (the forest, the toy box, the hospital, etc) and the idea is to say something related to the topic on the selected card and pass the bomb before it explodes.

We couldn’t use the bomb – people were studying and it’s too noisy. So I altered the game a bit – I asked them to choose a card at random and try to speak for one minute on the topic. I modeled it first (not very well) to show that it’s not an easy thing to do. They managed it and enjoyed the challenge, but the results were pretty boring so for round two, I asked them to choose a random card and create a story around the topic. That was a lot more interesting as students created stories about mad waiters in restaurants and thieves who steal and eat only fruit and homicidal toys from the toy box (who date, then break up, then date, then break up, then finally the two girl toys start a relationship and live happily ever after – all in heaven because they’d already killed each other at the beginning of the story).


Anyway, those are some things that happened today.

The Goat Baby

I asked Sarah to tell a story based on the picture below. She told this story, while I recorded it. I transcribed it for the next lesson and helped her edit it. This is the final product, shared with her permission.


Once upon a time, there was a couple who lived in the countryside. They didn’t have a baby, even though they married a long time ago. They worried about it, and then they heard about the fact that if they go to holy place with the goat and pray then they will get a baby.


There was one qualification that they have to treat a goat like a baby on the way to the holy place.


If they go there with the goat, like a baby, they heard that they will come together with a baby’s ghost on the way back home.


So they decided to go there. Before they left, they discussed how to treat the goat like a baby. He thought about the easiest way to carry the goat while he rides a bike. He reminded of his childhood and he remembered that if he was on the back of his mom, he felt comfortable. So he decided to carry a goat on his back.


On the way, he met a lot of people who were treating goat like a baby.


After they arrived there, they prayed for a new baby like they heard. They came back and they indeed had a baby. But the truth is, the baby resembled a goat.


By Sarah Hwang

Goat Baby

Tag – you’re it!

Tag! You’re It! 

Photo by Savihav taken from used under CC license.

Photo by Savihav taken from used under CC license.

I’ve been reading and tweeting a lot of these tagged posts because I love finding out random things about members of my PLN. Recently I was tagged by Vicky Loras, who is one of the most active, kind, supportive and thoughtful people I’ve ever met. I’m delighted to be tagged and for the chance to tag 11 more and learn more about the people who are a part of my digital life.

The rules: 

If you are tagged, here’s what you have to do:

  • Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger asked you.
  • Nominate 11 more bloggers
  • Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

11 things about me:

  1. My favorite thing to bake is apple cinnamon muffins.
  2. I don’t eat most sweets or snacks.
  3. This fall I rode my bike across Korea and got a medal for completing the trek.
  4. I don’t own a TV or watch TV programs on my computer.
  5. I’d rather swim in the ocean or a lake than a swimming pool.
  6. BEARS! Bear Down!
  7. I’m afraid of all things without their own face (including clowns and people dressed up as giant stuffed creatures).
  8. I have been accused of being a reflective practice junkie.
  9. My apartment doesn’t have a bed or chairs, and I like it that way.
  10. With a few exceptions, I hate talking on the phone.
  11. I love tweet-ups and meeting my PLN in person.

Vicky’s questions for me:

1. If you were not an educator, what line of work would you imagine yourself in?
I used to dream of running a dessert cafe on the hills of San Francisco. A sort of coffee shop/ library type place. Now I’d probably choose another country, but back then SF was the most beautiful city I’d ever seen.

2. Which person in ELT would you like to meet in person and why?
I can’t choose just one and I have been privileged in already having met a lot of ELT people. A couple more I’d love to meet are Tony Gurr (and Dexter) and Chuck Sandy. I am sure I’d learn a lot from those guys. 

3. What new activity / hobby would you like to start?
I’d love to learn a new language and alphabet. Maybe Russian or Japanese.

4. Which is the best book you have recently read? Why?
I think every book has something to recommend it. I’m currently reading a work of fiction called “Fortuna’s Bastard.” I like it because the author really got into the minds of the characters and because of its attitude towards the unexplainable.

5. If you could change one thing in the world, what would that be?
I’d make tolerance and acceptance a part of all education systems, normalising rather than hiding the things people think of as “different”.

6. Which is the nicest destination you have visited so far and why?
I think the most beautiful place I’ve visited is Sapa in northern Vietnam. The terraces hills rise as far as the eye can see. I could have spent a lot more time there.

7. If you decided to write a book, what would it be about?
If I decided to write a book it would be full of fictional short stories about everyday objects. 

8. What is your favourite song this period?
I don’t really have a favorite song. But I like listening to birds and crickets and the sound of rain falling.

9. What is your favourite and least favourite food?
My favorite food is pizza. And I think my least favorite food is also pizza. Because there’s pizza and there’s pizza, see. 😉

10. Which is the next conference you plan to attend?
I guess that’s the KOTESOL National Conference in Korea in May 2014.

11. With whom from the PLN was your first meeting in person? What was it like?
My first PLN in-person meeting (outside of Korea) was with Vicky. It was really exciting to visit her in beautiful Zug, get the grand tour, have coffee together, and learn more about someone I really respect and admire. 

I’ve tried not to tag anyone who’s already been tagged by someone else… Anyway: You’re next…. the following 11 bloggers have been tagged! 


And here are your questions (if you have the time to take up the challenge).

1. What was your very first job?
2. What is your most valuable possession?
3. Where do you want to go to retire?
4. What is the most important thing you learned from your parents/ parental figures?
5. Mountains or Ocean?
6. Most beautiful thing you have ever seen?
7. What’s your favorite blog post you’ve written?
8. Favorite education quote?
9. Have you ever done something adventurous? Please share!
10. The correct number of hours of sleep is ______ in 24.
11. What is something you do that has absolutely no connection to TESOL?

Adventures of the #RovingReporter – part 2

Months beyond the promised update, the adventures of the roving reporter continue.

In case you missed part 1, you can see the post and pictures here. A brief summary: at the tail end of last fall, I decided to try my hand at a bike ride from Daegu to Busan to see my friend John Pfordresher give his first presentation at Busan’s KOTESOL workshop. The ride was 203 kilometers long and took about 20 hours, largely due to my state of (lack of) fitness, unexpected mountains, rain, heavy backpack and poor preparation. It might be argued that the only reason I made it at all is pure stubbornness 😀 . The presentation was well worth the ride and the roving reporter wisely decided to leave the bicycle and take the train home.

A week later, on Saturday night, I took the train back again to get my bike. That’s how I found myself in the same room of the same motel where I ended my journey the week before.

Same classy motel, same classy room, same classy bed

Same classy motel, same classy room, same classy bed


Day 1: Just because you can….

From the previous trip, I learned a few important things: lose the heavy backpack, break the journey into two days, and prepare for the unexpected. I found my bike again where I had parked it. I knew the first 90kms would be relatively easy. Nevertheless, there was a long way to go.

This is where i took the trail. I have 203 kilometers in front of me and two days to do it.

This is where i took the trail. I have 203 kilometers in front of me and two days to do it.

The first part of the ride had been in the dark the week before. It turned out to be the most beautiful part. It was sunny and the river shone.

The sun shining on the Nakdong River in Busan, South Korea.

The sun shining on the Nakdong River in Busan, South Korea.


I met a rider on the bridge at Miryang, at a trail station, the first person I spoke to the whole trip.

Where are you going?
To Daegu.
Today? It’s far.
No, tomorrow. I’ll stay in a motel tonight.
You’re going all the way on 
(through gritted teeth – I was defensive of my bike. After all, it had gotten me to Busan the week before without any problem. It was a good bike.)

I let him cycle on his way to Yangsan and didn’t bother to tell him it was in the opposite direction.

The bridge to Miryang, one of many crossings of the river.

The bridge to Miryang, one of many crossings of the river.

Korea is full of these tiny little villages hidden away in the mountains. They are mainly farming villages, that grow different crops depending on the time of year. This place was just finishing harvesting their cabbage in preparation for making kimchi. The farmers were putting up plastic enclosures over the fields. I wonder what they will grow this winter?

Korean countryside

Korean countryside

There it is: the end of the first 90 kilometers. I got lost twice – once for nearly an hour – and around 5pm found myself staring at the trail station that marked the beginning of the difficult stuff. There were 110kms of difficult riding in front of me and I had a choice: I could ride a few more hours and put some of them behind me or I could stop there and find a motel.

... but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep ...

… but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep …

You probably already guessed what I did. I rode on until 1opm. I climbed two of the mountains in the dark. And, because the world can be ironic and painfully funny, it started to rain. Finally a lone motel appeared and the owner had a shed for bicycles to keep them out of the rain and a warm room waiting for me. When I logged onto the internet, I realized I was lucky: my rain was snow in Daegu. I slept well.

Day 2: …doesn’t mean you should.

My motel in the morning light - the trail has been rain-washed and I'm ready for the next part of the adventure.

My motel in the morning light – the trail has been rain-washed and I’m ready for the next part of the adventure.

Not far from the motel was the next trail station. I had breakfast there and prepared myself: I had two mountains to go (plus one more that I had forgotten about) and wanted to get to Daegu before dark.

This wier is beside a trail station and is at the bottom of one of the two remaining mountains.

This wier is beside a trail station and is at the bottom of one of the two remaining mountains.

The first of the two mountains was behind a Buddhist temple. I rode up and over, my early morning energy at its peak. The view was stunning.

Looking down on MuShimSa from the top of the mountain

Looking down on MuShimSa from the top of the mountain

This was followed by the mountain I had forgotten, a small one that was fun to ride with the energy I had. And then I saw a sign that is true anodyne for tired eyes: Dalseong gun – I was entering wider Daegu; I was almost back.

Dalseonggun - the edge of wider Daegu.

Dalseonggun – the edge of wider Daegu.

Through fields and over hills I traveled with new energy, following signs for Dodong Sawon. Suddenly there it was, at the bottom of the last mountain. There was a dog in the yard and not a human in sight. I was grateful to know that I would be home before dark. It was getting cold.

Dodong Sawon - a Confucian academy

Dodong Sawon – a Confucian academy


Arresting beauty

Arresting beauty

Finally as the sun set behind me and the moon rose before me, I saw the sight I was waiting for: the ARC. This is where Nakdong meets Geumho and where my day ended.


An apology:

And so my bicycle came to a stop at Keimyung University in western Daegu while my body rested. Then on a warm, sunny afternoon three weeks later, the time was right. I went back for it to try to get it to the starting place in eastern Daegu and complete the adventure.

Keimyung stays beautiful long after all the leaves have fallen all over the city.

Keimyung stays beautiful long after all the leaves have fallen all over the city.

Within an hour, my whole body was in so much pain I had to get off the bike and park it. Defeated. And there it stayed for another three weeks while I went to a doctor.

I squished a nerve - ouch!

I squished a nerve – ouch!

Under no circumstances, the doctor said, should you put pressure on the palm of your hand. He eyed me sternly. Don’t even think about doing anything remotely like this:

"Yes, that is what you should not do. Now let that be a lesson to you."

“Yes, that is what you should not do. Now let that be a lesson to you.”

So I apologize to readers of the Adventures for making you wait so long for the return journey. I come back to you defeated by the trail and by my own body. The bicycle made it home in the back of a car and the adventures of the #rovingreporter have come to an end.

What an adventure!

What an adventure!


%d bloggers like this: