Culture
La Boquilla Tour

La Boquilla Tour

Even though I’ve hit the ten month mark in Colombia, I’ve failed to really show you how wonderful my Peace Corps site is. Now is your chance to glimpse some important places in La Boquilla through the eyes of my 9th grade English conversation club. Last semester, I worked with this group of students to film a...
a lesson about pants

a lesson about pants

An acceptable outfit: jeans and a see-thru shirt. As I was sitting across from José, devouring a Mediterranean-style crepe, I shifted in my seat and felt a thin layer of sweat underneath my bare thighs. I was wearing a dress, and the air conditioner had stopped functioning in the restaurant. I thought about something that...
Staying with nomadic Mongolian families: part III

Staying with nomadic Mongolian families: part III

Day 3: I arrived at the third family’s home, where I met my host mother and her two grown daughters. One of the daughters and I walked towards the forest to collect kindling for the wood stove. As I piled fallen branches into my arms, I remembered a moment during my exchange semester at the...
Staying with nomadic Mongolian families: part II

Staying with nomadic Mongolian families: part II

Day 2: The clouds hung heavy in the sky; it was about to rain. The second family greeted me outside and ushered me into their ger–a round felt tent traditionally used by nomads. The mother, Amar, handed me a mug of suutai tsai, hot, salted milk tea. I sat on the couch and tried to formulate some...
Prayers and fortune telling at a Taoist temple

Prayers and fortune telling at a Taoist temple

“Before we eat dinner at the night market, we’re going to pray,” Olivia’s mom said as we stopped in front of a Taoist temple in Taichung. My Taiwanese friend Olivia turned to me, “We’re only doing this because you’re here. We rarely go to the temple.” I smiled, thinking about all the times my parents...
Gay in Korea: an interview with an American expat living in Seoul

Gay in Korea: an interview with an American expat living in Seoul

My Korean co-teacher once told me that she had never met a gay person. “You probably have without realizing it,” I responded. She didn’t seem convinced. The gay scene is still quite hidden in Korea, even though this year marked the 13th Queer Culture Festival in Seoul. I recall meeting one gay guy when I...
Solo Daecheop: a flash-mob style blind date for the singles in Seoul

Solo Daecheop: a flash-mob style blind date for the singles in Seoul

In South Korea, Christmas is a romantic holiday, rather than a family or religious celebration. Couples spend the day flaunting their status in matching sweaters and reindeer horn headbands, making dinner reservations for two, and raising the armrest between their seats at the movie theater. In order for singles not to feel quite so lonely...
Notes from the covert world of Korean shamanism

Notes from the covert world of Korean shamanism

CELINE CROSSED HER LEGS and took a long drag of her cigarette. “The shaman told me my grandmother’s hometown. She pointed to it on a map,” she recounted in her thick French accent. “Later, the adoption agency gave me the exact same information.” A couple other exchange students and I sat on perpendicular wooden benches...
Postcards: the Chinese calligrapher

Postcards: the Chinese calligrapher

August 24, 2011 On a bright summer morning in Beijing, the calligrapher skillfully ran his brush along the smooth, gray stone of the Summer Palace’s pavilion, making curvaceous strokes with lines as beautiful as the ancient, upturned rooftops in the distance. Each character was written quickly and boldly with water for ink, appearing for an...
The Ddongchim: Korea's obsession with anuses

The Ddongchim: Korea’s obsession with anuses

As I walked inside IBK Bank one day, I didn’t know whether to run away or burst out laughing as one of the employees, an ajeosshi (middle aged man) with a beer belly, casually grabbed a pen from his pen holder. It wasn’t a solid-colored cube void of personality, like you’d expect to see at a bank,...
Perceived as a Prostitute on the streets of Seoul

Perceived as a Prostitute on the streets of Seoul

Last winter, after work one day, I changed into a black hooded sweatshirt, skinny jeans and Converse—nothing that, I thought, would attract much attention. Setting out for the grocery store, I grabbed my purse and a reusable shopping bag. I reached a crossroad near the elementary school where I work, and a middle-aged man in...
Rising before dawn in the mountains: a Buddhist templestay at Geumsansa

Rising before dawn in the mountains: a Buddhist templestay at Geumsansa

Geumsansa, one of the largest Buddhist temple complexes in Korea, lies in the quiet, western foothills of Moak Mountain, located in North Jeolla province. “Moaksan, the so-called ‘Mother Mountain’, is the cradle of many different indigenous religions. The mountain’s shape looks like a mother cradling her baby, just as Moaksan embraces Geumsansa,” says the Templestay program. The...