Sunday, September 28, 2014

Intercultural Conversation on the Topic of Limits

On Thursday, September 25, the Advanced Reading class of the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) enjoyed our first Intercultural Conversation of Fall 2014.

An Intercultural Conversation is an opportunity for our LIEP students to engage with other members of the Loyola University community and with interested New Orleanians, who are invited to join us in discussing topics that our LIEP students have read and talked about in class. We meet in the Library Living Room of the Monroe Library at Loyola University New Orleans, where we are served cookies with coffee or tea. We begin with a time of informal chatting to get acquainted in small groups.
New Orleanian Dee Smith, Loyola University student Mary Beth Brungardt, and LIEP students Ana Pereira of Brazil, Ryota Kojima of Japan, and Sister Theresa Le of Vietnam are getting acquainted.

The whole group then comes together to discuss our Intercultural Conversation topic.
The whole group is gathered for our Intercultural Conversation.

Last Thursday's Intercultural Conversation topic was limits, a prominent topic in our September class readings and discussions. During this Intercultural Conversation, we talked about outer-imposed limits, such as traffic speed limits; inner-imposed limits, such as limits on amounts and kinds of food we eat; and limits that we discover, such as how much alcohol our bodies can handle. We talked about how we respond to other- and self-imposed limits and to discovered limits, as well as how and when we strive to stretch our limits. We talked about how it felt to learn society's limits as children, how it feels to be faced with a different set of social limits in a new culture, and how it feels to return home and re-adjust to one's own culture's social limits after becoming accustomed to different limits in another culture.

Dr. David O'Donaghue
We are very fortunate to have Dr. David O'Donaghue lead our Intercultural Conversations. Dr. David O'Donaghue is a philosopher, a psychologist, and an artist. As the founder and director of two life-long learning initiatives, the New Orleans Lyceum and Chautauqua New Orleans, he has organized many such discussion groups in New Orleans coffeehouses, libraries, and homes.

Thank you to Dr. David O'Donaghue, to our New Orleans and Loyola friends, and to our LIEP students and faculty for making our Intercultural Conversation such a rich time of sharing ideas!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Conversation with Professor John Biguenet, Author of "I Am Not a Jew"

Our Advanced Reading class in the Loyola Intensive English Program has been reading short stories and articles about how we respond to differences, particularly to people who are different. One of the most poignant of these has been "I Am Not a Jew," from the short story collection The Torturer's Apprentice by John Biguenet.

The Torturer's Apprentice
by John Biguenet
A collection of short stories,
including "I Am Not a Jew"
In "I Am Not a Jew," Mr. Peter Anderson, a U.S. tourist in Germany, takes an evening walk alone outside the town of Waldheim and comes across a Jewish cemetery. Attracted by its beauty and peacefulness, Anderson enters and strolls meditatively among the graves. Suddenly, he is confronted by a group of four tough neo-Nazis, who threaten him. Terrified, Anderson saves himself by crying out, "I am not a Jew!" This is true -- Anderson, in fact, is not Jewish. Later, however, he feels guilt about his response. The story leaves Anderson -- and us -- with the question: What should I have done?

John Biguenet
Professor and Author
Loyola University New Orleans
On Monday, September 22, we had the wonderful opportunity to meet and talk with John Biguenet, the author of "I Am Not a Jew." Professor Biguenet is also Chair of the English Department at Loyola University New Orleans. He spoke to us about how he came to write this story and explained how its many vivid descriptive details come from his own experience visiting Germany.

Professor Biguenet told us that he wrote "I Am Not a Jew" in response to the war in Bosnia during the 1990s. This war raised disturbing but important moral questions for him. In grappling with the complexities of writing about Bosnia, Professor Biguenet realized that he could examine the moral questions more effectively by situating them within a context more familiar to readers -- that of post-World War II Germany.

The details of "I Am Not a Jew" include the picturesque ice creams sold in the town's shops, the ambiguous angel/demon figures surrounding the town fountain, the elaborate but somewhat sinister mechanical clock above the town square. Professor Biguenet explained how these and other details came directly from his experience and observations in Germany and how he used them in "I Am Not a Jew" to create an environment that is just unfamiliar enough to be slightly disconcerting.

Most importantly, Professor Biguenet stressed that his purpose as an author is not to provide answers but to ask questions.

Thank you, Professor John Biguenet!

Professor John Biguenet with the Advanced Reading class

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Reading Novels

In the Advanced Reading class of the Loyola Intensive English Program, small groups of students have chosen a novel to read for the semester. Each group meets on Wednesdays to talk over the week's chapters.

Five students have chosen to read The Braided Path by Donna Glee Williams. The Braided Path is a light fantasy that takes place in a craft-based society living in a physically steep vertical world, where a single path connects one's Home Village with the villages above and the villages below. The novel explores what it means to find and follow one's passion and path in life and to determine and then stretch one's limits.

Below are two photos of the students who have chosen Williams' The Braided Path.

Students in the Advanced Reading class of the Loyola Intensive English Program meet with their group to discuss the week's chapters of The Braided Path by Donna Glee Williams. 
The Braided Path reading group. Seated left to right: Ms. Azusa Kurosawa of Japan, Mr. Marco Frick of Switzerland, and Mr. Murtadha Almohammed of Saudi Arabia. Standing left to right: Mr. Haotian "Lee" Li of China and Mr. Ryota Kojima of Japan.

Another five students have chosen to read The Night of the Comet by George Bishop. The Night of the Comet takes place in the bayou country of Terrebonne Parish in southeast Louisiana in 1973, the year of Comet Kohoutek. The approach of the comet is the catalyst for igniting latent conflicts in the Broussard family: 14-year-old Junior (our narrator), his awkward but passionate science teacher father, his socially ambitious but frustrated mother, and his talented but alienated 17-year-old sister.

Below are two photos of the students who have chosen Bishop's The Night of the Comet.

Students in the Advanced Reading class of the Loyola Intensive English Program meet with their group to discuss the week's chapters of The Night of the Comet by George Bishop.
The Night of the Comet reading group. From left to right: Mr. Hikaru Yokoyama of Japan, Sister Theresa Le of Vietnam, Ms. Maria Paula Posada of Nicaragua, and Sister Pauline Phan of Vietnam. Not pictured: Ms. Ingrid Rodriguez-Fierro of Guatemala.
In mid-November, our authors -- Donna Glee Williams and George Bishop -- will visit the class to talk with the students reading their novels. We will report on their visit!

Traditions of Naming

The Intermediate Listening & Speaking class of the Loyola Intensive English Program has been working with traditions of naming: meanings of names, good names for babies, ceremonies for naming babies, formal and informal ways of addressing people, legal name changes, effective business names, hurricane names.

Below, three students display and explain their names.

Mr. Dong-Joo Lee of Korea has written his name in the Korean script, in the English alphabet, and in Chinese characters. In Korea, the family name, in this case Lee, is placed first. Dong-Joo explained that there are several Lee families in Korea. He belongs to the Gyeng-Ju Lee family group. Dong-Joo also explained that his family consulted a naming specialist to give him his individual name. The name Dong-Joo was chosen for him. Dong-Joo means East Pillar.

Ms. Ekaterina "Katya" Yurevna Dashkovskaya of Russia is married. Her original family name is Vasileva, but since her marriage, she uses the family name of her husband, Dashkovskaya. Katya explained that her first name, Ekaterina, means Purity. She told us that nearly all Russians use a nickname, or a short form of their first name. She herself is called Katya, a short form of Ekaterina. Katya also explained that Russians have a middle name, based on the first name of their father, with a masculine ending for a son and a feminine ending for a daughter. Because Katya's father's first name is Yuri, Katya's middle name is Yurevna.

Ms. Sonia Maria Clemente of Brazil explained that her first name, Sonia, means Dreams Come True. Her middle name, Maria, comes from her family's Catholic religious faith, where it is common to name a child after a holy person. Maria was chosen as Sonia's middle name to honor the mother of Jesus. Clemente is the family name of Sonia's father.

Thank you to Mr. Dong-Joo Lee, Ms. Ekaterina "Katya" Yurevna Dashkovskaya, and Ms. Sonia Maria Clemente for sharing the meaning of their names with us!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lunch at Dat Dog

On Friday, February 7, students and teachers from the Loyola Intensive English Program had lunch together at a restaurant that specializes in hot dogs! The name of the restaurant is Dat Dog!

Dat Dog is located at 5030 Freret Street, just 10 blocks from the campus of Loyola University New Orleans, so we decided to walk. It was a pleasant stroll along a friendly residential and small business area of Freret Street. We arrived at Dat Dog just before the main lunch crowd, so we were able to place our orders and find seats together at several outside tables.

The Dat Dog menu includes hot dogs of all kinds - and all are delicious! There are beef and pork sausages from Germany, sausages from Italy and Slovenia and Poland, hot and smoked sausage from Louisiana, crawfish sausage and alligator sausage from the Louisiana swamp, duck sausage, fish sausage, and two kinds of vegetable sausages.

We enjoyed our hot dogs and our time together. It was a satisfying way to end our week and begin our weekend! 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

How to LIve Effectively - LIEP Students' Thoughts

The Advanced Reading class of the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) has begun our Spring 2014 semester with THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE by Stephen R. Covey. In preparation for reading this book, the class considered their own thoughts about habits that lead to personal effectiveness. Here are their ideas.

Alaa Mufti of Saudi Arabia
Do things efficiently.
Know your limits.

Dalal Alokla of Saudi Arabia
Exchange information with others.
Give each part of your life a reasonable time.
Understand priorities and minorities.
Develop the courage to experience new things.

Xiaomei Sun of China
Accept advice from others.
Travel widely.

Leena Salama of Saudi Arabia
Participate in social events.
Read widely.
Be optimistic.

Murtadha Almohammed of Saudi Arabia
Balance your concern between your own life and others.
Your actions reflect your thoughts. Work on your thoughts first.
A big thank-you to the LIEP students of the Advanced Reading class for these excellent thoughts on living an effective life!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Intercultural Conversation on Justice - Mercy - Revenge

Our third Intercultural Conversation this semester at the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) took place on Thursday, November 14. Each Intercultural Conversation is an opportunity to exchange ideas on a timely topic from different cultural perspectives, bringing together LIEP students, other members of the Loyola community, and interested New Orleanians. Our facilitator is Dr. David O’Donaghue, the founder and director of the New Orleans Lyceum and of Chautauqua New Orleans for life-long learning.

For this final Intercultural Conversation of the semester, we decided to include something speciala time for LIEP students and New Orleans participants to visit informally in small groups before coming together for our larger discussion. As we visited at small tables, we enjoyed cheese and fruit, as well as delicious brownies and lemon squares baked by one of our New Orleans participants.

Natsumi Akiyoshi of Japan
Natsumi Akiyoshi of Japan remarked that she enjoyed the conversation at her table of four, with two other LIEP students and one New Orleans participant. Natsumi said that the conversation turned to political and religious differences among Japan, Venezuela, and the United States. Natsumi was impressed that there are so many Christians in Venezuela, where religion is a prominent part of a person’s education and is discussed in daily conversation. Natsumi said that Japanese do not often talk about religion, so this difference interested her.

Soon it was time for us all to come together for the Intercultural Conversation. Because our class had read and discussed Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, we chose a related question:

What do we do when someone has committed a wrong?
What factors lead to revenge or justice or mercy?

In class, we had seen how revenge, justice, and mercy work together in Shakespeare’s story of the Christian merchant Antonio and the Jewish moneylender Shylock.

  • REVENGE: Hurting someone excessively to get back at someone for a prior hurt. In The Merchant of Venice, we see revenge operating in the Jewish moneylender Shylock, who has been deeply and frequently insulted by Christians like Antonio. Shylock is almost gleeful in his anticipation of cutting a pound of flesh from Antonio’s body.
  • JUSTICE: Exacting a penalty that matches the wrong done. In The Merchant of Venice, we see a kind of justice in the penalties required by the Venetian legal system for someone who  seeks to take the life of another.
  • MERCY: Wholeheartedly accepting a lesser penalty than an offense merits, or possibly foregoing any penalty at all. In The Merchant of Venice, mercy is discussed at length, but is very scarce in practice.

For this Intercultural Conversation, we looked at how revenge, justice, and mercy work in our own responses when someone does something wrong. The participants focused largely on finding positive ways to handle wrong-doing by others.

RESOLVE ISSUES OR LET GO. A student from Saudi Arabia said that he always strove to follow the advice of his father, who counseled that peace of mind comes from letting go and forgetting about it when another person behaves annoyingly. Others cautioned that sometimes, if an issue is not resolved, it can fester and possibly lead to harmful revenge. We agreed that it is best to talk about an issue and resolve it if possible, but when no resolution is possible, it is best to let go fully.

TRY TO TEACH THE OTHER WHAT IT FEELS LIKE. Another student from Saudi Arabia said that people are often unaware of the effects of their actions. This student believes that it helps if an offending person can feel the effect of his behavior from the receiving end. With a close friend or family member, if explaining the effect of offending behavior doesn’t help, this student will try to create a situation where the tables can be turned and the offender can be given a taste of how it feels to be treated as he has been treating others. We agreed that this can be effective if used very sparingly as a teaching tool in a close relationship.

PUT YOURSELF IN THE OTHER’S SHOES. One of our LIEP instructors suggested that the offending person may intend no offense at all. This instructor tries to put herself in the place of the offending person, which often helps to change her perspective. She has come to see that some offenses are completely unintentional.

DISTINGUISH BETWEEN INTENTIONAL AND UNINTENTIONAL HARM. A New Orleans participant said that he finds it easier to respect and deal with a person who is intentionally hurtful. To him, this makes the issue very clear and easy to confront. But some people, he said, hide an intention to hurt, even from themselves, causing them to say or do hurtful things while proclaiming good will. In such cases, the issue is blurred and cannot be confronted openly.

FINAL THOUGHT. Dr. David O’Donaghue offered a final important thought—Harm is not a good teacher. People find it hard to learn from revenge, whereas there is a much greater chance of learning when justice or mercy is offered.

Thank you to Dr. David O'Donaghue and to our LIEP students and New Orleans friends who participated in this thought-provoking Intercultural Conversation.