Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Vocation vignette

I wrote the following for my church. They're pushing us to try to make us think about the ways our jobs and vocations are part of our worship to God. So...this is what I wrote. Mine went out to the church today. I've been feeling pretty blah lately, so I thought this would be a good exercise in trying to remember why it is I do what I do.
Hi! My name is Cheryl, and it is highly likely that we have never met. I have recently become a member of Immanuel after attending for the past 4 years; it feels good to be able to call this church my home now. So hopefully we will meet sooner or later. A little bit about me – I was born in Guam, an island U.S. territory in the Pacific (colonized first by Spain, then the U.S., then Japan in WWII, then the U.S. again).

Guam is a literal melting pot of cultures: because of its close proximity to Asia and its status as a U.S. territory, almost everyone is of mixed descent. For example – my mother is of Korean descent, and my father is of Filipino descent. As a result of this multicultural upbringing, I have a very distinct and often different worldview as it’s informed by 4 different cultures that are a huge part of my thought process and way of life.

I have many vocations like everyone else, but I guess my main vocation right now is teaching and educating young people and trying to empower them to think critically about the world around them. I teach first year English composition and Ethnic American literature at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I just finished grading my last paper at 5:00 PM on Tuesday, so I am in full summer swing!

My main focus in these writing classes is race relations and pop culture, and even more specifically hip hop. I wanted to teach a topic that the students could relate to, as opposed to starting a writing section on environmentalism or the musings of Foucault (not that either are bad, just not particularly interesting to 18-year-olds). I have always been an advocate of encouraging student voices in the classroom. When I was in school, I always felt shy about saying anything because I always thought, “What if I was wrong?!” By making pop culture and the media the focal points of my class, the students could then share their own life experiences and viewpoints and turn that into academic writing.

Writing, however, has become such a dreaded task in the classroom that it feels like I’m pulling teeth with my students, and I have often thought about how this field could be redeemed for the glory of God, especially in the capacity to which I teach writing, and I guess I can try to explain it this way:

As an English composition and literature teacher, my ultimate goal for my students is for them to become fully engaged scholars who can think critically. Our world is changing daily, and my goal is that by the time they leave my classroom at the end of the semester, they will have gained the necessary lifelong skills of being able to communicate effectively, analyze texts, and form cogent arguments about the information presented in the text. In many ways, I try to encourage my students to become more conscious of the world around them and to embrace so many of the different ideas and cultures which may or may not agree with their own viewpoints, which is a similar aspect that Immanuel encourages us to do with the community here in the UIC Area. My goal for each student regardless of how they perform academically is for them to see that they are bright, intelligent individuals who have important and valuable things to contribute; my goal is to love them with patience and the love of Christ while showing them that their opinions and suggestions do matter, and that those ideas can be transferred to the written word. I will be honest – I do not always succeed. I lose my patience, and I get frustrated when I have to repeat myself for the tenth time that commas are not periods. But I always try to remember the big picture in these moments: I strive to empower and encourage every student and show them that academic writing is, in fact, not impossible, and can very much be a powerful instrument of social justice and change. Ultimately, I want my students to walk out of my classroom feeling confident that they wield an incredibly important weapon in today’s world: the effectively written word.

My daily struggle in this job is learning how to be a witness in one of the most secular and anti-Christian environments. For a school that really attempts to embrace the ethnic minority and LGBT communities, UIC is a difficult environment for Christians. I have gotten into several uncomfortable situations with other students in the department after they found out I was a Christian. And since I teach a pop culture class, no one ever guesses or assumes I am a Christian. Sometimes I forget about being a Christian and just forge ahead with my own agenda of churning out anti-racist pro-social justice community activists (who can write well!). My biggest concern is that I immerse myself so deeply in these environments that I don’t even realize if I am compromising the Word of God. I really want to be able to be relevant, to connect with my students and know everything they’re talking about, but still be able to remember that at the end of the day, the only reason I do any of this is because God has called me specifically to this vocation at this point in time.

About a year ago in April, Nathan preached a sermon that has in many ways, changed the way I see my vocation. The main gist was that what should make your heart beat is living for something bigger than yourself. This is one of my deepest desires about teaching… and actually, just living in general, and I try to apply it every chance I get.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Korea v. China v. America

Gary and I are thinking of going to China for an extended weekend to visit my friend Ellen Mac0ratti. She married an Italian man who got a job in Suzhou, and moved my Park Ridge friend across the world. They might leave China soon though, so we are trying to see each other one last time--do the Great Wall, Tiananman Square, *sigh. I love to travel.

I have been browsing websites and the Chinese embassy website--it seems that Americans pay more than triple what every other country pays for a tourist visa. WHAT?!

Funny: Here is a question thread from the consulate webpage:
Mar. 19, 2009 06:55Mr.Jay Han(U.S.) said:
Please explain why American Citizen vs Korean Citizen single entry visa fee is big different from another? Currently I am residing in Korea and I want to visit China for a tour.

Mar. 25, 2009 02:30Mr.Zhongguo(China) replied:
America is a rich developped country.

Well, there you have it folks. It doesn't always ppay to be an American.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Memory of my mom part I: The Bomb

(I remembered this the other day. It happened many years back, when we were still living at our old house in Edgebrook Towers. Classic mom tale).
My mother received a cake-sized unmarked parcel wrapped in generic brown paper in the mail. So of course she then was convinced it was a bomb. Oh yeah, why target an up-n-coming young and brash politician, when instead you can terrorize a 68 year-old Korean woman who still pronounces naked as a monosyllabic word? She rendered her suspicions to me on yet another occasion where she had entrapped me into endless conversation/aka. life lessons in our kitchen. When I asked her what she did with the package, she lightly pattered off one of her “me-I’m so silly, but always still a genteel lady” laughs, while informing me that when she finally was convinced it was indeed a bomb, she calmly walked out into her backyard and threw it out into the great beyond with a rigor of a pro-baseball pitch. She said she got nervous and felt that at the very least, it wouldn’t be staring at her from the dining room table.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ten Random Things I Miss about Chicago

I WILL NOT INCLUDE PEOPLE because then the list and what I miss about them would be 400 pages.

1. Devon Avenue. I need to thread/wax my eyebrows and other parts, and Korea just doesn't have Indian/Pakistani women who will thread me for five bucks.
2. Garcia's/Sticky Rice. I miss good, cheap, authentic-ish Mexican/Thai food. I miss BYOB and homemade salsa and Pad Kee Mau and Patron-margaritas after I break up with yet another bonghead.
4. The Grind. As strange as it is, I think I've spent a third of my year at that cafe, using their internet and drinking expensive coffee made by the same hipsterish baristas who remember me and ask me if I've cut my hair when I have!
5. Singing. Although singing loud rock-bandy songs wasn't exactly my cup of tea, I really miss singing and making music with a buncha rowdy boys.
6. Lake Michigan. Not just looking at it, but biking to it and riding the beachfront trail. It's almost majestic with the skyline in view.
7. Teaching at Lake View. Although I will never go back, and I like taking this break from teaching, I miss feeling tired and alive.
8. Chicago's Craigslist. I feel as if I interacted with craigslist at least once a month! Furniture, free teacher supplies, part-time jobs, tickets to Great America, finding an apartment, so on.
9. Thad's apartment. All the pretty sunlight in the late afternoon, the musical instruments, his kitchen, watching back to back movies then sleeping over and having a lazy Saturday afternoon.
10. Taking walks around Northcenter/Lincoln Square. Tree-lined neighborhoods, the Chicago River, Welles Park, Lincoln street.

A nice walk down memory lane. Instead of working.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Two websites


Here's an example:

The firm that I interviewed with decided to rescind their offer. I called my mom and she gave me a pep talk. Afterward, she sent me this text:
if one door closed try find another. still have window. still have roof. push them u will see the sky. sky is unlimited so are u. never lose your faith. not u. ur my chinese girl. love mom.

If you don't know at least one Chinese mom, this will not be as funny. This is my brother's wife's mom. Hilare. There are really funny tidbits on this website. Especially birthday cards. SO FUNNY. I just bust a gut laughing.


WHAT THE HECK!!! We shoulda started this blog. GOLLY. Well, her language is a bit flowery at times, but the points hit the mark.

Many of us were forced to drink this nasty concoction of mystery juice to cure ailments a simple Tylenol could have cured. Have a headache? Have some Hahn-Yahk. Oh, you're fat? Hahn-Yahk will cure that. A genital wart? Hahn-Yahk. You're short? Eat some spinach and wash it down with Hahn-Yahk. You're not married? Drink some Hahn-Yahk and pray to Jesus foo! This is why I never like to admit I am sick or am becoming sick. I am deathly afraid that my Korean Mom will find out and mail me a giant package of Hahn-Yahk. Guess what I have in my fridge at this very moment? An entire drawer full of Hahn-Yahk to cure pimples (see #19). Yeah. Pimples. The Hahn-Yahk should eventually cure me of my face. I love my Korean Mom.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Monday psalm

the sun
amazing warm touch on my face
brushing my cheeks
these subtle Spring kisses

today, my jeans feel snug
but for once
i don't feel unattractive or unlovely
i feel sexy
this taut fabric around my thighs
and curved hips
and my blinking brown eyes
blushed lips
earthy hints in my skin

this melancholy tune
reminding me
these bittersweet realities
together we breathe
of no grass green and empty streets
where the sun sets on us all

all of us
made of earth

we are not alone
we are all here
seeking for
everysingleone kissed
but not every one receives

let's hold hands
and feel and remember
let's learn of this
know of this
grow in this--all of This