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.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Loyola's Performance of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE

By Kento Ikeda

Program for Loyola's performance
During the second half of October, we read The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, watched the 2005 Michael Radford movie of this play, and discussed them in the Advanced Reading class of the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP). On Monday, November 4, we had a discussion with Dr. Laura Hope, associate professor in the Department of Theater Arts and Dance at Loyola University New Orleans and director of Loyola's performance of The Merchant of Venice. Then, we watched the play at Loyola's Marquette Theater on the evening of Thursday, November 7.

During her visit with our class, Dr. Hope explained that she had chosen to give the play a more modern setting than Renaissance Europe: that of fascist Italy in 1939 with Mussolini in power. Mussolini planned to recreate the Roman Empire. To begin expanding his territory, Mussolini invaded North Africa, specifically Ethiopia. In Ethiopia, there was a community of black Jews who understood themselves as the descendants of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba and who called themselves Beta Israel.

Dr. Laura Hope, Director
This historical background is important because Dr. Hope had cast an African-American actor as Shylock. Shylock, then, is from this black Ethiopian Jewish community of Beta Israel. Following the destruction of his homeland during Mussolini's North Africa military campaign, Shylock decided to relocate to Italy, where Jews were enjoying freedom and acceptance and where even some high-ranking posts in Mussolini's administration were held by Jews. Although Mussolini had not previously attacked jews, who had helped him to come to power, Italy suddenly enacted laws encouraging anti-Jewish discrimination some time after Shylock's arrival there. These laws appeared in the newspaper one day, surprising everyone, Jews and non-Jews alike.

Some remarkable features appeared in the performance of The Merchant of Venice directed by Dr. Hope.

SHYLOCK. Like the acting of Al Pacino (Shylock) in Michaelf Radford's movie, the acting of Akeem Biggs (Shylock) in Loyola's performance gave me a clear image of Shylock's feelings. Shylock was a Jew and was discriminated against by the Christians, and Biggs could express to the audience Shylock's sadness, anger, and humanity. For example, in the scene at court, when Shylock told us that he really wanted revenge against the Christians, Biggs came close to the audience and spoke loudly with a sad, angry facial expression and strong body language. Biggs's acting was so impressive that it changed the atmosphere in the theater.

THE PRINCE OF ARAGON. The Prince of Aragon, in the casket scene, as portrayed by Antonio Gil-Martinez in Michael Radford's movie and as portrayed by Lauren Patton in Loyola's performance were different. Both Gil-Martinez and Patton portrayed Aragon as a man with self-confidence who looked down on other people, but Patton also played Aragon as an old man who could not hear clearly and who stumbled when he walked. This was a funny part, and the audience laughed at Patton's excellent acting.

ANTI-JEWISH GRAFFITI. Loyola's stage set showed that Christians had written anti-Jewish graffit on the door of Shylock's home. This is another way to show discrimination toward the Jews in the play that was not used in the Radford movie.

PHYSICAL AND VERBAL ABUSE OF SHYLOCK. In the Radford movie, the Christians showed their contempt for Jews by spitting at Shylock's face, but it was difficult to do this in Loyola's performance. In Loyola's performance, the Christians treated the Jews harshly in other ways. In court, the Christians hit Shylock after his trial. Also, they threw stones at Shylock's house. Throwing stones at another's house is prohibited by law now, but at that time this showed that the Jews did not have the same rights as the Christians had.

In conclusion, Dr. Hope set the play in a more modern era than the Renaissance, and it worked even better than I had expected. This performance attracted me and forced me to think about discrimination deeply. There were many funny parts in the performance, for example, the casket scene with the Prince of Aragon, described above. On the other hand, there were meaningful parts, for example, the discrimination against Shylock. The contrast between the funny parts and the sad parts was distinct. In the Loyola performance of The Merchant of Venice, I could both enjoy the play itself and think seriously about discrimination.
Students of LIEP Advanced Reading class with Dr. Laura Hope, 2nd from left in front row, standing

* * *
Kento Ikeda of Japan
Our thanks to Kento Ikeda of Japan for this fine overview of our visit with Dr. Laura Hope, director of Loyola's performance of The Merchant of Venice, and of the performance itself. Kento is an exchange student from Sophia University in Tokyo, majoring in economics. Thank you, Kento!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Shakespeare's THE MERCHANT OF VENICE: Our Class Enacts The Three Caskets

In our previous post, we gave an overview of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, which we are reading in the Advanced Reading class of the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP). Early in November, we will attend a performance of the play by students in the Department of Theater Arts and Dance at Loyola University New Orleans, under the direction of Dr. Laura Hope.

Part of our preparation for reading The Merchant of Venice included a narration of key scenes by LIEP instructor Karen Greenstone, with students acting out the characters' roles. We would like to share with you our enactment of the three caskets! Below, you see our three caskets: one of gold, one of silver, and one of lead.
Our three caskets: gold, silver, lead
These three caskets figure in an interesting sub-plot of The Merchant of Venice. Any man wishing to win the beautiful and wealthy Portia as his wife must undergo the trial of the three caskets. Portia's father has died and has specified in his will that Portia is not free to choose her own husband but must marry the man who correctly chooses the casket containing Portia's portrait. However, there is a further severe requirement: if a man makes his trial of the caskets and fails, he must swear a solemn oath never to approach a woman with love for the rest of his life! Most men, learning of this requirement, choose to depart with the caskets untried. But a few determined men are willing to take the risk.

The Prince of Morocco, played by LIEP student Alaa Mufti of Saudi Arabia, is the first of these determined men. He chooses the gold casket, with its inscription, "Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire," beleiving that only gold is rich enough to contain the portrait of Portia, a woman desired by men from all corners of the world. Alas! The gold casket contains a skull and a scroll admonishing, "All that glistens is not gold." The Prince of Morocco leaves in sorrow.
The Prince of Morocco (Alaa Mufti of Saudi Arabia) stares in horror at the skull found in the gold casket!
The Prince of Aragon, played by LIEP student Mohammed Alghayudah of Saudi Arabia, is equally determined. He chooses the silver casket, with its inscription, "Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves," for the Prince of Aragon believes himself to be a deserving man. Alas! The silver casket contains a fool's head and a scroll admonishing, "Some there be that shadows kiss; such have but a shadow's bliss." The Prince of Aragon goes away, deeply disappointed.
The Prince of Aragon (Mohammed Alghayudah of Saudi Arabia) is disappointed with a fool's head in the silver casket!
Finally, Bassanio of Venice, played by LIEP student Faisal "Solee" Mouamenah of Saudi Arabia, arrives to make his choice. Bassanio chooses the lead casket with its inscription, "Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath." Bassanio declares that he is willing to give all for his love. He is rewarded with the portrait of Portia and with the real Portia as his wife. The scroll in the lead casket invites Bassanio, "Turn you where your lady is, and claim her with a loving kiss."
Bassanio (Solee Mouamenah of Saudi Arabia) happily gazes at the portrait of Portia found in the lead casket!
Unlike the lead casket in Shakespeare's play, our class's lead casket also contained a bag of dark chocolates for Bassanio (Solee) to distribute to the class!
Bassanio (Solee Mouamenah of Saudi Arabia) admires the bag of dark chocolates found in our class's lead casket and prepares to distribute them to the class!
This preparation, along with our viewing of the 2005 Michael Radford film of The Merchant of Venice, starring Jeremy Irons as Antonio and Al Pacino as Shylock, was very helpful in our reading of Shakespeare's play. A big THANK YOU to Alaa Mufti, Mohammed Alghayudah, and Solee Mouamenah - all of Saudi Arabia - for taking the roles of the Prince of Morocco, the Prince of Aragon, and Bassanio of Venice!

Our next post will invite you, first, to join us in a discussion with Dr. Laura Hope of Loyola University New Orleans' Department of Theater Arts and Dance. Dr. Hope is the director of Loyola's performance of The Merchant of Venice. In addition, our next post will give you an overview of the performance itself. We are excited about talking with Dr. Hope and then seeing the Loyola performance of The Merchant of Venice together!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Preparing to Read Shakespeare's THE MERCHANT OF VENICE

The Advanced Reading class of the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) has undertaken the challenge of reading Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, which will be performed in early November by students in the Department of Theater Arts and Dance at Loyola University New Orleans under the direction of Dr. Laura Hope.

The Merchant of Venice is rich in themes of love, friendship,  and faithfulness, on the one hand, and prejudice, hatred, and revenge, on the other. The play also raises questions about the proper balance of justice and mercy.

We began our work with The Merchant of Venice on October 16, with an overview of the play.

The main plot of The Merchant of Venice revolves around a loan of 3000 ducats from the Jewish money-lender Shylock to the Christian merchant Antonio. The prosperous Antonio, whose wealth is tied to his ships, all of which are at sea, has agreed to borrow 3000 ducats to finance his poorer friend Bassanio's courtship of the woman he loves, Portia. The catch is that the bond that seals the agreement between Antonio and Shylock specifies that Shylock will cut a pound of flesh from Antonio's body if Antonio does not repay the loan by the due date! This bond is supposed to be a joking way of providing Antonio with an interest-free loan, but when Antonio's ships go astray and he cannot make the payment, Shylock, embittered by years of Christian prejudice against Jews, demands his pound of flesh.

The Merchant of Venice also has three interesting sub-plots.

The Three Caskets: The loan taken by Antonio from Shylock for 3000 ducats is to furnish Antonio's friend Bassanio with everything necessary to win the beautiful and wealthy Portia as his wife. Portia's father, however, has died and has specified in his will that Portia may not choose her own husband but must marry the man who chooses correctly from three caskets: one of gold, one of silver, and one of lead. Anyone who wants to marry Portia is faced with this choice. 

The Elopement of Shylock's Daughter: Shylock's daughter, Jessica, deeply hurts and saddens her father by running away to marry her Christian lover, Lorenzo, and taking along Shylock's money and jewels.

The Rings: Bassanio does win Portia as his wife, whereupon Portia presents Bassanio with a special ring, obtaining Bassanio's promise that he will never allow the ring to leave his finger. (Bassanio's friend Gratiano also wins the love of Portia's serving maid Nerissa, obtains a similar ring from Nerissa, and makes a similar promise to wear the ring always.) But both rings go astray later in the play!

Our next post will show how we built on this overview, calling upon volunteer students to act out the sub-plot of the three caskets!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Intercultural Conversation on Responsibility

The recent work of the Advanced Reading class of the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) has revolved around environmental issues of global warming and climate change. As described in our previous two posts, the class has read the book Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth by Mark Hertsgaard, watched the film An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore, and visited with environmental expert Dr. Aimée K. Thomas, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Loyola University New Orleans.

To complement our work on global warming and climate change, we focused our second Intercultural Conversation of the semester on responsibility. Each of our Intercultural Conversations is a wonderful opportunity to carry our discussion beyond the classroom walls: we meet in one of the seminar rooms of Loyola's library and invite members of the Loyola community and interested New Orleanians to share ideas with us. Our discussions are expertly led by Dr. David O'Donaghue, a philosopher, psychologist, and artist, and the founder and director of the New Orleans Lyceum and of Chautauqua New Orleans for life-long learning.

Our first Intercultural Conversation of the semester focused on crisis. This second Intercultural Conversation focused on responsibility with this question:

Do we have a responsibility to past and future generations?
If so, how do we exercise this responsibility?

Our reading encouraged us to think of our responsibility to care for the earthly legacy of past generations and to leave a clean and beautiful planet for future generations, but we were open to looking at other areas of responsibility to past and future generations as well.

As we began our Intercultural Conversation, turning our attention first to a definition of responsibility, the idea of duty emerged. Some of us felt that duty could be burdensome, while others felt that duty instilled a sense of pride. One student from Saudi Arabia spoke of his first taste of responsibility, at age ten, when he was asked to take care of his young niece for a little while. This duty, or obligation, that he had been given caused him to feel good about himself: he experienced a kind of honor in being the big one and caring for the little one. On the other hand, another member of the Loyola community expressed how he had initially found the responsibility of child-care burdensome until he switched his thinking from child-care as fulfilling a duty to child-care as true caring from the heart.

The idea emerged that responsibility in excess can have negative consequences. Over-caring for others can prevent those others from learning to exercise life skills on their own. It can also lead to over-working and neglecting our own self-care so that we become tired and lose our enthusiasm for life.

As we began to speak of our responsibility to the past and to the future, one New Orleanian pointed out the importance of our inter-connectedness with each other, with our ancestors, and with generations yet to come. A student from Saudi Arabia spoke of the hopeful direction he sees in his country, where an attitude of the powerful overcoming the weak has been replaced with an attitude of mutual respect and support, of recognizing our inter-connectedness. A student from Brazil spoke of the warmth of his countrymen, their willingness to help each other, and their ready smiles. On the other hand, a student from Japan expressed regret that some of the cultural treasures of the past in the city of Kyoto had not been preserved as carefully as he would wish.

The LIEP students, the other members of the Loyola community, and the New Orleanians who participated in this Intercultural Conversation all enjoyed the pleasure of enlarging our concept of responsibility by hearing the ideas of others and sharing our own ideas. We extend a huge THANK YOU to all the participants in our second Intercultural Conversation and to Dr. David O'Donaghue for his expert leadership of our discussion!