Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Collage Self-Portrait: What is Beauty?

In the Advanced Listening & Speaking class of the Loyola Intensive English Program, students discuss a different social issue or concept each week and conduct projects to creatively express ideas about these issues. Last week, we explored the concept of “beauty.” We discussed the different cultural expressions of beauty and the influence of the media on concepts of beauty. We looked at fashion and entertainment magazines to identify ways advertisers use “beauty” to compel consumers to buy their products. Then we “dissected” the media’s definition of beauty and discussed the truly “beautiful” qualities we see in the people around us.

After a brief lesson on collage art, students explored the “beauty” they value in themselves by creating collage self-portraits from images they found in magazines.

Our LIEP Academic Director, Ms. Jess Haley, explains the project to the class.

LIEP students work on their collages: In the foreground Sister Pauline Phan of Vietnam (left) and Sister Theresa Le of Vietnam (right), and in the background Ms. Ana Pereira of Brazil (left) and Mr. Tom Almeida of Brazil (right).

Mr. Murtadha Almohammed of Saudi Arabia (left) and Ms. Ingrid Rodriguez-Fierro of Guatemala (right) work on their collages.

Ms. Ingrid Rodriguez-Fierro of Guatemala proclaimed, “At 45, I’m a very unique person with many beautiful parts!” Her collage is very busy because her life is very full – of family, charity work, food, flowers, and nature. She even represented time in her collage because, she said, even though she and time are not friends, it is an important part of her life.

Collage created by Ms. Ingrid Rodriguez-Fierro of Guatemala

Mr. Murtadha Almohammed of Saudi Arabia focused on family in the creation of his self-portrait. At the top of his image is the word mom. “She created me. She is me and all happiness I express is because of her.” Murtadha discussed his love of children, especially, of course, his daughter. “When you see your family, you see yourself.”

Collage created by Mr. Murtadha Almohammed of Saudi Arabia

Sister Theresa Le of Vietnam organized her collage components to resemble a face. The face is made of words and the image of a smile. “Even without a perfect face, with a smile, you will always be beautiful,” she said. Beauty, according to Sister Theresa, is trying to be the best self she can be right now.

Collage created by Sister Theresa Le of Vietnam 

Mr. Tom Almedia of Brazil made a very clever collage. "The main shape is my beard. I am known for it, but it also makes me think of something where secrets can be hidden and then brought out into the light." Tom explained that there is a lot going on in the beard--experiences, choices, travels, family--you can't identify just one thing because that's how identity is. Tom loves cocktails and food as well, but the other important component of his collage is the curved shape of words on the side--like an ear. "I'm becoming a better listener. It's a happy portrait because that's what I have in my life."

Collage created by Mr. Tom Almeida of Brazil

Sister Pauline Phan of Vietnam wanted to include two major aspects of her personality in her portrait – her life in Vietnam and her life in the United States. That’s why she created a face with two parts. She also surrounded herself with people. “My job and my mission are to go beyond myself. I like all the people.” She didn’t put a lot of elements in her image because, she said, we should try to express ourselves simply.

Collage created by Sister Pauline Phan of Vietnam

Mr. Marco Frick of Switzerland chose only a few very important elements of his identity to share on his collage. He chose foods that represent his dedication to health and family. The globe represents his passion for traveling as well as his admiration for his parents, who are both career travelers. The jacket represents his future in service and the special goals and commitment he has to that.

Collage created by Mr. Marco Frick of Switzerland

Ms. Ana Pereira of Brazil was very careful to create a human shape for her collage – she did this intentionally because she said, in Brazil there is too much emphasis on physical beauty. So, she added the words, “You are more than your shape,” and included the things that she feels make her beautiful – food, nature, and a baby to represent her daughter, who is “the biggest love in life.” At the base of the image, she added images of travel and study because “that gives you a cultural perspective and with that you can go anywhere in the world.”

Collage created by Ms. Ana Pereira of Brazil

A huge thank-you to our LIEP Advanced Listening & Speaking class for sharing their collage self-portraits and concepts of beauty with us!

The LIEP Advanced Listening & Speaking class with their collages

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Learning about Love

The Intermediate Listening & Speaking class of the Loyola Intensive English Program has just completed a unit on love. We have discussed ways of meeting a lifelong partner, benefits of marrying and of remaining single, advantages and disadvantages of marrying someone from a different culture or religion, and even the science behind the hormones associated with love.

Earlier this week, each student gave a presentation to the class on some aspect of love. Below are summaries of three very interesting presentations.

Mr. Dong-Joo Lee of Korea spoke about four signs that can help us know when we are in love. To know if we are in love with someone, Dong-Joo explained that we can ask ourselves these four questions.

  • Do I find myself speaking habitually about him or her?
  • Do I want him or her to be with me to share experiences?
  • Do I desire to give gifts to him or her?
  • Do I find myself waiting for him or her to call me on the telephone?

If the answer to these questions is yes, said Dong-Joo, then I am in love.

Ms. Katya Dashkovskaya of Russia spoke about the love of fans for their team or idol. Katya described fans' state of mind, as fans seek to wear clothes featuring their team or idol, to imitate their idol's appearance, and even to know their idol's biography better than their own life story! Katya distinguished between two kinds of fans.

  • Quiet fans meet to talk together about their idol.
  • Destructive fans may break objects and injure people to show their loyalty to a sports team.

Ms. Zoe Lu of China told the true story of the Australian kangaroo Lulu, who was found orphaned on the road and taken in by a human family. The human family loved Lulu, and Lulu loved her human family. One day, Lulu demonstated her love when a family member suffered a life-threatening injury. Lulu screamed to call the attention of others, and she used her legs to hold her injured loved one in a safe position. Zoe saw this true story as an illustration of the proverb: One good turn deserves another.

Thank you to Dong-Joo Lee of Korea, to Katya Dashkovskaya of Russia, and to Zoe Lu of China for excellent presentations on very different aspects of love!

Mr. Dong-Joo Lee of Korea, Ms. Katya Dashkovskaya of Russia, Ms. Zoe Lu of China

Friday, October 3, 2014

An Excursion to See the Play BROOMSTICK

On Friday evening, October 2, Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) student Azusa Kurosawa of Japan and LIEP instructor Karen Greenstone went to see the play BROOMSTICK by John Biguenet, who is also Chair of the English Department at Loyola University New Orleans. Two posts earlier, we wrote about Professor Biguenet's visit with our LIEP Advanced Reading class to discuss with us his short story "I Am Not a Jew" from his short story collection The Torturer's Apprentice. At that time, Professor Biguenet also told us a little about writing BROOMSTICK.

BROOMSTICK is a play about an old woman or witch who lives alone in a cabin in the woods. She tells us stories from her life - stories that are funny, wise, sad, insightful, powerful. At first the witch seems to be the personification of childhood fears, but soon she begins to talk about her earlier life - her feelings about her parents and their behavior, her first love, her experience of deep loss. The play is both lightly enjoyable and deeply moving. It helps us to ask ourselves questions about personal power, about perception and misunderstanding, about justice.

Azusa and Karen were very impressed with the witch's story, with the skilled acting of Liann Pattison who portrays the witch, with the realistic yet magical stage set depicting the interior of the witch's cabin in the woods, and with the ability of the playwright John Biguenet to capture the strength and the vulnerability of the witch in words.

BROOMSTICK is the first play in the 2014-2015 theatrical season of Southern Rep Theater in New Orleans. It is being performed at the Ashé Cultural Arts Center through November 2, 2014.

Azusa and Karen recommend BROOMSTICK to you! A huge thank-you to John Biguenet for writing this powerful and moving play, to Liann Pattison for her spell-binding acting, to Southern Rep Theater for producing the play, and to Ashé Cultural Arts Center for hosting it!

Asuza Kurosawa of Japan and LIEP Instructor Karen Greenstone

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 of Atlanta USA, 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 has 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!