Help Us Make Our $25,000 Goal!

Part of leaving the country means leaving behind lots of people and places and things I love. Although Dan Savage coined his “campsite rule” with relationships in mind (in fact, with a very specific type of relationship in mind), I think the concept of leaving a person or a place “in better shape than you found it,” is relevant to most circumstances in our lives. I hope that I have left the people I’ve known and the places I’ve been in better shape after encountering them.
One place in particular that I hope has been improved by my having been involved with it is the organization I work for, The Literacy Center. I would be thrilled to know that when I leave Flagstaff, I will be walking away from a healthier, stronger organization than the one that hired me.
To that end, check out this post about The Literacy Center’s efforts to earn $25,000 by the end of this Fiscal Year. If you believe in what this organization is doing for adults with low literacy levels, please do what you can to help support them. Even reblogging this post or distributing it via your social media channels can make a big difference!

Thank you!

think literacy

The Literacy Center is trying to make $25,000 by the end of the Fiscal Year (June 30th). If you appreciate the content on this blog or the services we provide, consider making a donation to help us reach our goal. You can donate online via: to help us start the new year strong!

This year, TLC has helped more learners study for more hours than ever before; by the end of the fiscal year our learners will exceed 5,000 hours of study through the various services we are able to offer thanks to your generosity. Also, by fiscal year end, we will have over 100 volunteers serving over 200 learners.

Additionally, our Partnership for Literacy Rehabilitation is now offering two to four literacy classes per week in the Coconino County Jail which helps reduce inmate recidivism, improving our community overall. (Learn more about PLR here, here and in…

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Learning the Language–Korean Class 101 Videos

There’s a lot–make that A LOT!–that I have to do to get ready for Korea. One of the more fun tasks, for me anyway, is studying Korean language.

I’ve had a lot of trouble learning and retaining languages in the past. I think the main reason is that I never really put them to use. I studied Spanish in high school and my first year of college (a practical choice, living in the Southwest), but I rarely, if ever, went anywhere that people were actually using Spanish. I didn’t watch Spanish television or movies, didn’t make Spanish speaking friends, so most of the language I had acquired faded away pretty quickly.

After giving up on Spanish, I switched to Japanese–I am a geek & do enjoy an occasional anime flick, after all–but even after four years of Japanese, my competency is extremely low. Again, I had very minimal exposure to actual language use and in Japanese, I had to start even farther behind, learning whole new orthographic and phonological systems in addition to vocabulary, grammar, and pragmatics.

The primary source of my exposure to Japanese language for a while. (I did know enough to recognize when the subtitles did not match what they actually said!)

The primary source of my exposure to Japanese language for a while. (I did know enough to recognize when the subtitles did not match what they actually said!)

Today I know about enough Spanish to have a very slow, very basic conversation, and I can write about as well as a 1st grader, but probably with a worse vocabulary. I know enough Japanese that if I hear people speaking it, I know they’re speaking Japanese, I recognize the grammatical structures they are using (i.e. “that was definitely a question” or “that was a negative statement–as in something is NOT…”), and I recognize a handful of vocabulary words, but that’s it. I can’t even have a basic conversation at this point.

So, when I decided to live abroad, did I choose a country where I could potentially develop the language skills I started when I formally studied language in school? No! Much better to acquire completely insufficient ability in yet a 3rd language!

Which is what I’m doing now. Independently. In my spare time. (Not that I have much of it to begin with, and a lot of it has lately been spent writing for this blog.)

I know that once I am in Korea, I will be hearing and seeing the language much more, and will have to interact using it, so I will pick it up, but before I get there, I would really like to have a basic survival vocabulary.

Currently, I have a native Korean speaker as a tutor (one of the many advantages of living in a town with a great TESL/Applied Linguistics program is that you get a pretty diverse set of international students hanging around), a couple of books on basic Korean, and the internet at my disposal.

If you, like me, are trying to use the internet to learn Korean I highly recommend Korean Class 101’s YouTube channel. The website itself seems to be mostly locked unless you pay for it, but there are a ton of videos available for free on YouTube, that integrate listening, speaking, reading, and vocabulary (throw writing in there too if you choose to take notes), and that use a variety of methods to get the content across.

Here’s a great example of one of their videos–which made me really hungry when I watched it, by the way–Korean street food is amazing!!!


This is what I love about this video series:

  • Important vocabulary items like the word for street food ( 분식 )1 are 1) pronounced by native speakers 2) written on the screen 3) pronounced slowly when introduced 4) visually broken into their syllables while being pronounced, allowing viewers to understand the word in a variety of ways.
  • Vocabulary is put in context–the hosts discuss not only the definition of the word being used, but when and how it is used, the nuances of meaning, and so forth.
  • The hosts’ mixture of English and Korean discussion related to the lesson is one that keeps me from disengaging because I don’t know what they are talking about, but that also exposes me to authentic use of Korean language
  • The lesson itself is focused on an authentic conversation about a given topic. Images accompany the conversation providing further context for the interaction.
  • After the main conversation of the lesson, the hosts pull important vocabulary, and teach it in more depth.

Potential downfalls:

  • If you don’t yet know how to read 한국어, the written Korean characters, these videos may not do you much good. However, there is another series on the Korean Class 101 channel that can help with that.


So far, this series is proving to be very engaging and good for helping me pick up the language (although I definitely need to practice more and take notes if I want things to really stick!!!)

Check back for more resource reviews once I finish my TEFL class and have a little more time to devote to intensive studying. In the mean time, if you know of any great resources for studying Korean, share them in the comments!



1-Wondering how I did that? I used a Virtual Korean Keyboard program.

How Did I Get Here? An Origin Story

I am moving to Korea! In August! And I’m thrilled. Really.

But in thinking about what’s to come, I’ve also been thinking a lot about how I got to this point in my life.

All super heroes have their origin stories, most involving some kind of tragedy. All adventures are preceded by normal, if sometimes unsatisfying lives. (Really–Bilbo was just sitting around the Shire until some mother fucking wizard put a mark on his door and a bunch of crazy dwarves started showing up. Then there was this whole thing with a ring… LONG story short, three and a half books later, Middle Earth is saved, but first Bilbo had to come out of his hole.)

Especially if there's a TARDIS outside!

Especially if there’s a TARDIS outside!

So this is the origin story of Jessica–the type of person who goes out and drinks and talks to people she’s doesn’t know, who writes and reads her work in public, who dances, who sings karaoke, who backpacks 12 miles in and 12 miles back out (if very slowly…), who lives by herself, who sees her friends and her family, who takes vacations, and who in two and a half months will be living by herself in South Korea. Pretty big transformation from the Jessica who spent the majority of every weekend at home on the couch watching Doctor Who and napping.

One year ago, if you told me I would be well on my way to moving to another country… by myself… to live and work for one year, I would not have believed it. In fact, if you told me that one year ago, I probably would have ended the conversation with you, and gone home and cried, because some random person on the street decided to fuck with me–telling me I would have all these beautiful things that at the time felt completely unattainable.

That’s because up until October of last year, I was in a pretty bad place in my life. I was in the tenth year of a relationship that had lasted since high school and was really not working for me. AND I was about to take the plunge into making that relationship really, really permanent. I was engaged and on the verge of buying a house, two actions that if fulfilled would leave me unhappily married and cohabitating with not only my spouse, but his parents whom I would be expending a lot of energy to care for.

Some part of me knew this was the worst idea EVER, but the rest of me kept telling myself things like: but they NEED you and he’s really not that bad, you’re just being crazy/need to try harder and maybe things will be better once you’re married and perhaps worst of all you have nowhere else to go.

Fortunately for me, a dear friend of mine who had been away came back into town briefly and during his visit, staged sort of an impromptu drunken intervention, inviting me to hang with him and a couple of his friends (one of whom happened to be a certified therapist). This drunken, pseudo-therapy/Cards Against Humanity hangout did a couple of things for me. First of all, it was fun–that game is excellent! Second, it gave me independent, external confirmation that the negative feelings I’d been having about my relationship were valid and that I deserved better than I had given myself up to that point. Third, it encouraged me to be really honest with myself about why I was unhappy and what would need to change to make me happy. And fourth, it prompted me to go home and write the following list:

Things I want for myself:

  1. To be happy more days than I am sad
  2. To travel to other countries & experience other cultures, languages, foods, etc.
  3. To write more, progressing toward publication
  4. To pursue my other interests, art, crafts, gardening, etc. + reading
  5. To see my dad more
  6. To get outside more like Nick [my brother] does (hiking, fishing, backpacking, etc.)
  7. To feel like I am in control of my life and not vice versa
  8. To spend more quality time with friends
  9. To stop worrying so much about money
  10. To feel physically healthy, mentally stable, and confident that I can do the things I want to do and be the person I want to be

The next day I had lunch with another friend, and unlike in the past when I would sort of mention that something might be kind of wrong, but let the conversation move on to something else (because who really wants to hear about my problems), I kept bringing it around to this topic. At this point, Friend #2 confirmed that yes, I did actually deserve to be happy, and no, this relationship did not seem to be working for me. Further, she confided that she was not the only one among my friends who was worried about me. Further still, she told me that if I needed somewhere to go, her home was open to me.

I left my partner the next day and within the week was working on plans to get out of this country. Eventually, I landed on teaching English for a program in Korea, and have been working on getting there ever since.

(Oh, and as far as my list goes–nothing but checkmarks!)