Uncertainty can be happiness

"Security is a false god," or running around the world as an FSO

Archive for the ‘school’ Category


Posted by quirksalight on April 3, 2011

The most common question I get, considering my educational background, is, “How did you go from biomedical engineering to the Foreign Service?”

Convoluted? Yes and no. There’s a bit of history, and the kernels behind all this were placed a long time ago. In high school, I was on the high school debate team and that ignited my interest in politics and international relations. However, I was rather obsessed with science and had dreams of developing a treatment/device that would revolutionize medicine. It wasn’t until grad school, after being burned out of medical research, when I had to start thinking of, “now what?”. My temporary answer was to take a leave of absence for a year and teach English in Korea. That’s one of the earlier points in this blog, back in 2007.

But in Korea, teaching was one thing, but straddling two cultures socially and linguistically was a whole ‘nother beast. Plus, I came to Korea at a political change; for the first time in 10 years, the progressive party was out of office and the conservatives came into power the month I arrived, March 2008. This combined with my background in Korean culture and language, sciences, and interest in politics led to some interesting discussions with the faculty in my middle school, handling getting punched on a subway, acting as a facilitator for my foreign friends in Korea, and occasionally having to explain what the U.S. government was doing to my students, colleagues, and friends.

I really enjoyed that interaction – facilitating the understanding between two cultures, though not so much the getting hit part. Which led me to starting thinking about the Foreign Service. I always planned to go into public service, someday, when I was on the academic track. But I hadn’t thought about it again until when I was in Korea, pondering my next step. So I did – FSOT exam date was November 5, 2008. I got the acceptance in to the QEP in December 2008, decided not to sign a teaching contract for another year, gambling that I would pass the QEP and get to the OA, which I did. So I left Korea, with a freelance editing gig, prepped for the OA and passed on June 15, 2009. A year later, I was prepping to leave DC for my first tour as a POL officer in Seoul. whew! What a whirlwind…


Posted in ancedotes, commentary, election 2008, Graduate school, Korea, New York, school, Science, Seoul, teaching english | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Forensics and English

Posted by quirksalight on February 9, 2009

Last week was the second to last week I’ll be in the classroom. It’s also a great group of students to work with, as this was the “English Camp” and the students are self-selecting… I don’t have to push them, they all WANT to be in school. 🙂 Just awesome…

So I tried to keep things interesting… hence, the last two days, we learned about some simple forensics. What it was, fingerprints and fingerprinting, invisible ink, and ink analysis by paper chromatography.

Paper chromatography:

Black ink on strips of paper

Black ink on strips of paper

Using alcohol to separate

Using alcohol to separate



Invisible ink:
Paper with ink

Paper with ink

Heating the inked strip

Heating the inked strip

After heating

After heating

Posted in amusing, ancedotes, Buheung MS, education, english, EPIK, fun, Incheon, Korea, school, Science, teaching, teaching english | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Minus 9 in 10 minutes

Posted by quirksalight on October 12, 2008

This semester, I instituted a third rule to the “No throwing” and “No hitting” rules in my class. The third one is “No bad words”.

Now, you must be wondering why I put this rule in place when I’m not supposed to be understanding Korean in school. However, it’s apparently rather trendy for the middle school students to swear in English. The most popular being “sh&t”, followed by “f@#k”, and “b#&ch”. Yeah, yeah… I know, I do swear myself, but I know that the students swear b/c they watch movies where the characters say various profane words in a multitude of situations, and think it’s OK. But… it’s not really… and I don’t want to encourage it.

So a violation of one of the rules would lead to that group being docked one point for each infraction. One of my 7th grade students from the “New Zealand” team (I have the team names as English speaking countries), gotten a question wrong, and blurted out, “Oh, sh&t!”

To which I replied, “Excuse me? What did you just say?”
Upon his look of horror, I said, “Right. I thought so. Minus 1 point.” And walked over to the scoreboard and took off a point.
He was so annoyed that his outburst lost a point, he exclaimed, “Oh, sh&t!” once again. So I shrugged, walked over to the scoreboard, and took off another point.

At this point, the entire class, including my co-teacher was laughing at the boy’s exclamations. Especially because, once again, he swore when the second point was removed. This happened several more times, with his teammates getting angrier, the class laughing harder, and I, continuing to take off points as he apparently could not stop repeating the phrase, “Oh, sh&t!” again and again. Finally, after 8 points had been removed, he literally clapped his hands over his mouth to stop himself from saying anything.

Oh, the ninth point? After he had managed to stop swearing, one of girls on his team had gotten so angry with him, she punched him. Minus 9.

Posted in amusing, ancedotes, Bizarre, Buheung MS, Bupyeong, english, EPIK, Humor, Incheon, kids, Korea, language, school, slang, Social commentary, teaching, teaching english | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Newspaper censorship

Posted by quirksalight on July 9, 2008

To quote a friend: “Welcome to the real world. Things change last minute and are edited for controversy.” The real world making my effin’ head spin.

Specifically, censoring school newspapers.
After teaching a three-week lesson on newspapers, the advanced students in the 9th grade English club began their project; a school newspaper. Assigned reporters, photographers, cartoonists, etc, and had students design a basic layout of the paper.
(Yes, having students write a school newspaper in their second language was a HUGE amount of work – had to spend the three exam days to do to the layout and final edits!!!)

As the biggest news thread in Korea has been the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US and the resumption of US beef imports, it’s not surprising that several of the students chose it to be topic of their editorial cartoons and news article. The problem is, after the newspaper was written, layout completed and the final edit done, it was suggested that the article and one of the editorial cartoons be pulled. The reason was potential controversy. As the article was an accounting for the biggest protest rally on May 31st, I disagreed, saying that the student stated what happened without taking a position. I suggested that we remove an inflammatory quote, but to keep the article itself. It was “suggested” that the article was still potentially controversial, and that *I* rewrite to show the conservative sides.

If I do that – doesn’t that negate the student’s work? I mean, it’s not easy to write a news article, much less do it in your second language. The students worked pretty hard on these and I don’t want to discount that or make them believe that they did crap work. (b.c they didn’t) Also, why do *I* have to rewrite this!??! Argh. Finally, doing this changes the entire article. It’s not a reporting of the events at the protest. It’s an article on the Korea-US beef import and FTA issues.

And this is ENTIRELY separate from finding out that I had to redo the layout and paper size of the paper from B4 paper size and 8 pages to A4 paper size and 4 pages, after it was finished.

So I have to decide to rewrite it sometime during school tomorrow. (Thurs) Will update.

Posted in ancedotes, annoyance, Buheung MS, kids, Korea, news, school, teaching, teaching english, US, world news, writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The last month…

Posted by quirksalight on October 6, 2007

It’s strange… there’s exactly 4 weeks left before I move out of NY for good and it’s really sinking in. I turned in the form to declare that I will be taking a leave of absence from school. It’s only good for a year; I’ll have to fill it out again this time every year if I want to be eligible to come back sometime in the future.
Not too much in the way of packing. I’ve been living out of bags and boxes for the past two months. Still have to sell some yarn… that’s still on the “to do” list before I move out.

Posted in moving, New York, Otherlife/grad school, packing, school, update | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Moving + countdown

Posted by quirksalight on July 31, 2007

This gradual moving process is rather annoying (can’t wait for it to end!), but it’s done. I’m moved out of my most permanent “home” in my adult life and have begun the living out of boxes phase.
This also signals the eminent start of the countdown of my last couple weeks on Long Island; the first week of August is week 12. Tick tock, tick tock….

Posted in moving, New York, Otherlife/grad school, packing, school | Leave a Comment »

Any recommendations?

Posted by quirksalight on May 23, 2007

Deciding to take a break from my doctorate was an evolving decision making process over the past year. I remember asking myself why I was so unhappy when I doing what I wanted to do and working towards the degree I wanted. And figuring out the answers to that was so simple, but so difficult; that it wasn’t want I wanted anymore. And at that point, deciding to leave was a lot easier. Maybe it was a “Eureka!” moment or me just going through a “Quarter-life crisis”. Maybe.
Theories aside, I’ve been pursuing this goal, research in the biomedical sciences, since the start of undergrad… that’s a long time…it is high time that I consider the other options available out there.
I’m still optimistic enough and idealistic enough to want to make a difference in the lives of other people and think that I still can. Now, I just have to figure out what I want to do. Any recommendations?

Posted in amusing, Humor, Nerdity, Otherlife/grad school, school, Science | 1 Comment »

Taking another path –

Posted by quirksalight on May 22, 2007

I sent this e-mail today:

To my friends and family –

For a number of reasons, including the fact that I’m really not sure if I want to continue doing biomedical research, I have decided to take a leave of absence from graduate school. Not immediately; I’m finishing my current project and then taking a leave of absence (or sabbatical, if you prefer to call it that). It looks like it’ll take me until mid-October to complete my project, so hopefully I’ll get to see everyone in the NYC area before my departure. For the folks in the DC Metro area and Philly, I’m moving back to Northern VA for a couple months, so I’ll be seeing y’all in the fall. And everyone else – there’s a decent chance that I’ll see you in the near future.

As for the “what now?” question, well, there’s several avenues that I’m exploring at the moment, a handful that will take me out of the US for an extended period of time and other that will keep me here. Basically, I don’t know, and won’t know for a couple of months. But I’m happier in my life with the uncertain future than the idea of continuing in the doctoral program.
I’ll be documenting what going on, with other commentary thrown in here: https://quirksalight.wordpress.com/


Posted in Mental Stream, Nerdity, Otherlife/grad school, People, school | 3 Comments »

My general impression of grad school these days….

Posted by quirksalight on January 20, 2007

….is best said by this quote from Chapter 4 of the blognovel The Dark Net:

“If there was one thing Max had learned in his years at the University, it was not to work too hard. There was, after all, no clear connection between job performance and pay raises at the state-funded school. Work your fingers to the bone, thought Max, and what to you get? Bony fingers.”

So what the hell am I doing this for?????? ………..Yeaah……

Posted in Humor, Nerdity, school, Social commentary | Leave a Comment »

A sad day, for college & graduate students everwhere…

Posted by quirksalight on January 6, 2007

Momofuko Ando (1910-2007), the inventor of the instant ramen noodle died yesterday.
Generations of students thank you for your work; allowing them to eat in their years of hunger/schooling. 🙂

by Jorge Cham, http://www.phdcomics.com

Posted in Humor, In Memorandum, school, Social commentary | Leave a Comment »