Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.  ~Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh was born in 1853.



If the English language made any sense, a catastrophe would be an apostrophe with fur.   
~Doug Larson

map of KoreaYesterday’s meeting with Jeong Sun/Alice was interesting and fun. I think we will fit well together but that is for her to decide at this point. My impression of her was that she is very intelligent, not really shy but somewhat reserved by American standards, soft-spoken, thoughtful, kind, and a very beautiful young woman.

It was not at all hard to get a conversation with her started which was good. She asked me questions too. In the past, I have had a hard time getting a conversation started with WESLI students. I chalked that up to a variety of reasons but primarily I think it probably was the fact that we were not a particularly good match because we could not find any mutual interests. I think I went through meeting four students before I met Mari, the Japanese woman who essentially became part of my family while she was here. I don’t think that will be a problem in this case.

She has a pretty good command of the English language, in my opinion. Pronunciation was off in a few cases—for instance she was trying to tell me her impression of the food at a local Korean restaurant and I didn’t understand what she meant until I realized she was trying to say the word salty as in the food was too salty.  She has good inflection and tone which is nice because sometimes people who have learned English in a foreign country sound really wooden when they speak. I didn’t notice any glaring mistakes at all.  But that’s exactly why she wants an English conversation partner—to correct minor errors in grammar and pronunciation.

I got a chance to ask all of my questions and then some so here are the answers:


Why did she choose the English name Alice? Does it have any special significance for her?


A friend chose this name for her. She wanted to use Roadie (I don’t know if I am spelling that right) because she thought it sounded funny. <grin> The girl has a sense of humor!

She was pleased that I was able to pronounce Jeong Sun properly. YAY me! I left the issue of whether to call her Alice or use her Korean name to another time.

She likes my name, Barbara, because the brushes she used to buy for painting in Korea were the brand name Barbara. She showed me how to write both of our names using the Korean alphabet and explained a little bit about the Korean alphabet to me.


Why did she come to the US and Wisconsin, in particular, to study English?


She wanted to travel and study so decided to learn English first. She came to Wisconsin because she heard that Wisconsin speakers have the best pronunciation with the least accent in the USA! She also heard that Madison was safest amongst the major cities with ESL schools. Finally, WESLI gave her a 10% discount on their tuition fees to entice her to come here.


How long has she been here? When will she go back to Korea?


She has been in the USA six months and this is the first time she has lived away from home. She’s not really homesick but she has had to learn how to take care of herself for the first time because her Mom did everything at home such as the cooking, cleaning and laundry. She thinks American children are much more independent than Korean children and was shocked when I told her that my daughter had gone to Germany when she was barely 18 and lived there for almost three years.

She is learning to cook Korean foods since her experience with the Korean restaurant was dis-satisfactory. I asked her about Kim chi and expressed an interest in trying it. She said that making Kim chi was something that required the skills of an older more experienced woman and she did not know how to make it. I told her that I had seen it in the stores here and would like to try it with her and she seemed pleased by that. She told me that Kim chi was like yogurt and had a lot of health benefits.

She has no plans to return to Korea and hopes to stay in the USA and pursue a new career. She was an Art Teacher in Korea but wants to go to some kind of technical school to learn new skills she can use here.


What does she like most and least about Madison?


She likes: Shopping at West Towne! State Street! The diversity of people she comes into contact with.

She said there wasn’t anything she really dislikes but said that it is very different from her home.


Does she have brothers and sisters? Are they older or younger than she is?


She has an older sister and a younger brother. Her father owns a small to medium sized factory that produces things like screws. He grew up in the country but relocated to Inchon as a young man. (I think that is what she said–I couldn’t quite understand this part because I don’t know how to pronounce Korean place names but she told me there was a big airport there and Inchon has an International Airport.  I asked her if it was near Seoul and she said yes.  Her eyes widened at that question but I’m not sure why.)  Her mother is a housewife.


Does she enjoy Korean Television Dramas and comedies?


Yes, but she thinks that they exaggerate emotions (I figured as much.  Those dramas really manipulate your emotions!) and she sometimes does not like the way they focus on “hot button” social issues because she thinks they make things seem worse than they really are. She thinks this is true for the news media as well and talked about how all the Korean news sites online seemed concerned about was traffic statistics on their site so they only told the bad news.  I told her that was true for America too and told her the old axiom of Newspapers “If it bleeds, it leads.” and tried to explain what that meant.  She seemed to get it just fine.

All in all I think we both enjoyed ourselves and we planned to meet again next Thursday at the same time and place.



Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn  

I’m excited because today I am meeting a Korean student from WESLI to see if we will be a fit as English conversation partners. Her Korean name is Jeong Sun (first and middle) but when she replied to my contact Email, me she told me her English name is Alice. She’s 27 years old.

I wonder if she chose an English name to make it easy for us Wisconsinites to talk to her or if she really prefers to use that name. If it is the former, I hope we can just drop it soon and use her Korean name because it is very pretty and I THINK I can pronounce it OK. I found the meaning of the name online. Jeong  means “virtuous and chaste.”  Sun means “goodness”

We’re meeting at the Fair Trade Coffee House on State Street which is a short walk from my house. I can’t remember the last time I went out for coffee so this will be a treat.

I’ve written up a list of questions I hope will be good conversation starters for this initial meeting. I’m curious about:

Why did she choose the English name Alice? Does it have any special significance for her?

Why did she come to the US and Wisconsin, in particular, to study English?

How long has she been here? When will she go back to Korea?

What does she like most and least about Madison?

Does she have brothers and sisters? Are they older or younger than she is?

Does she enjoy Korean Television Dramas and comedies? (This one is important because I am absolutely hooked on them and would like very much to find someone to watch them with me who understands the language and can explain the nuances that I think are there but don’t understand. They are subtitled so she doesn’t have to translate them for me. I just want her to explain the cultural things that are happening.)

My interest in Korean Dramas is what prompted me to contact WESLI and become a volunteer English conversation partner. I think they are wonderful morality tales and probably a reflection, albeit imperfect, of Korean culture just like American television is an imperfect reflection of American culture. On the other hand, the Korean television dramas are far better than anything I have seen lately on free American television. I don’t have cable so I may be missing some really good stuff on American TV but I doubt it if what is being talked about in the forums online is any indication.

So that’s my big event of the day. The week actually. Oh, and my daughter and son are both coming to see me this evening. We’re having a BLT salad and I am going to make them some of my spiced coffee. Sunday we’re having a family get together with everyone for my nephew, Greg’s birthday. He requested fried chicken and everyone in the family is super excited because we usually only fry chicken on the 4th of July because we’re all calorie and saturated fat conscious the rest of the year.

What a powerful post. I am reblogging this and sending it to my daughter and all the young women I know as well as the young men in my life. The one good thing about getting older is this pretty much stops happening to you when you get past child bearing age.

Alaina Mabaso's Blog

There’s nothing like a smile to brighten somebody’s day – if the smile is freely given.

But how do you feel when someone else tells you to smile? Especially if that person is bigger than you are, a total stranger, and has interrupted you for no reason while you walk down the street, wait for the train, or stand in line at the store?

Most women can tell you exactly how it feels.

I had a chat on Facebook with a male friend recently. He had posted a frustrated status update because an apparently gay man had winked at him at the gym. He insisted that he wasn’t bothered by the other man’s sexuality: he just prefers personal and emotional space. He wouldn’t hold it against someone who approached him in a bar. But the gym is different: “that’s the one place I can recharge and set my mind right…

View original post 1,791 more words

Tell St Peter at the Golden Gate
That you hate to make him wait
But you just gotta have another cigarette

~Willie Nelson Smoke!Smoke!Smoke!

They say that the first step in overcoming addicition is admitting that you are addicted and powerless over the substance of choice. Fine, I’m addicted to nicotine. Satisfied?

The problem is that I have no trouble at all admitting that I am addicted and the cigarettes control me more than I control them. The problem is that I’m not really unhappy with this situation. I like my cigarettes. I don’t want to quit smoking.

 Oh yeah, I KNOW I should. I’ve read and experienced all kinds of evidence for that. But I don’t wanna. And you can’t make me, so buzz off, please and thank you.


cigarettes, cigarillos

Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn  

God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.  ~James M. Barrie


This is the last time, whispered sweetly,
leaning in, close to my ear
so that only I would hear.
This is the last time, make a memory.
And so I did: wrapped
up in September’s sunshine, kept
safe, a treasure, this simple act,

an expression of love so strong
my heart longs
to hold you back
even as you walk away from me
towards tomorrows I will not see.



There is a story behind this poem—aren’t there always? I considered telling it in this post but I think I will let this poem stand alone for a few days before I write about what prompted the poem in order to let it become what it will for whoever takes the time to read it. I like to make some of my poems a bit ambiguous as to their subject and just try to capture the emotions that surround the situation. Do you think I have managed that with this one? Who do you think whispered this in my ear? What was “the last time?”  Why are they walking away?

The picture I used to illustrate this poem is one I took of the sun shining on the leaves in the courtyard of my building in September of 2008 when we had stellar fall colors. I titled it September’s Sunshine and thought it would be a good companion for this poem.  It even illustrates this weeks photo challenge “Through” since the sun is shining through the leaves.

Thanks for reading…

Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.

Last week, a group of about 10 of us from The Capitol Center Apartments went on a little excursion (about 3 1/2 blocks) to visit one of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Art Department labs. TASS Matthew Piepenbrok and his students Kristine Karlen, Bao Thao, and Sean Everett gave us an exciting demonstration of glass blowing and patiently answered our questions. It was a lot of fun and very educational.  

The Universtiy of Wisconsin-Madison at the behest of Harvey Littleton was the first college to establish a glass blowing lab in the United States in the ’60s. Above is a view of the furnaces in the present-day lab.  There are four of them and they all have whimsical names because it is easier to tell someone to use Lucy than it is to say the second one from the left.  Lucy and Joe were the ones in use while we were there.

TASS Matthew Piepenbrok (pictured left) is studying to be a professor of art and if his presentation to our group is any indication, he’s going to be an excellent one. He’s a very engaging and personable young man with a great sense of humor and seems to have a profound love of teaching others about his craft.  Examples of his art work can be found at ARTQ.net

In this picture he is showing us the molten glass he has just poured into a cold mold from one of the furnaces. What a card! Wouldn’t it be fun to have a professor like this?

Here he is showing us the hollow stainless steel rod that the liquid glass will be “loaded” onto in preparation for blowing. It was very warm in this lab due to four furnaces that were keeping the molten glass at a temperature of around 2,400 to 2,000*.

The long sleeve on Matthew’s right arm is to protect him from burns as he loads up his glassblowing rod.  According to Matthew and his students glassblowing is a very risky business and not a day goes by when one of them doesn’t get burned as Bao Thao kindly demonstrated for us later in the session! They were very nonchalant about it, treating it as an ordinary part of their day in the lab although you could tell it hurt.

Above Matthew and Kristine Karlen are loading a glob of molten glass onto the rod. In the picture at the right, Matthew is showing us a closer view of the glass after a small amount of air has been blown into it. At right, he is using a pad made from many layers of newspaper to begin shaping the glass. Later on he showed us how the heat from the glass had burned through several layers. 

The whole time the glass is being worked the artist or glassmith must keep the rod turning in order for centrifugal force to keep the glass on the rod or gravity will take effect and the piece will slump and become disfigured.  That’s not so hard at this stage but as they continued to add glass, the piece became heavier and heavier.  We were given a sphere of cooled glass to examine and it is quite heavy. I’d guess between 10 and 15 pounds.

Little by little more molten glass is added to the piece and more air is blown in then more shaping is done to smooth the piece and achieve the desired size and contours. All the while the rod must be kept spinning to keep the glass attached to the rod. The work is painstaking and physically challenging.

The top picture  shows Matthew blowing more air into his  globe of glass. Bao Thao steps in to assist him and Matthew demonstrates other shaping tools glassmiths use to get the effects they want to produce.

Sean Everett steps in to become Matthew’s assistant and things begin to get very dramatic! 

Protruberances were added to the sphere by dropping globs of glass from a rod. To keep the glass at the right temperature, a propane torch was used. Melted glass started dripping onto the cement floor!

At this point they began to let gravity take effect and elongate the round sphere in preparation for the cold mold that had cooled by now to be attached to the piece. It took 3 people to manage that task! Clearly glass art of any complexity is a collaborative effort.

Bao Thao brushes excess sand from the attached cold mold while Kristine Karlen stands by with the propane torch in case heat is needed to keep the glass at the right temperature. The glass can break or crack at any moment if the right temperature is not maintained and in fact, did during this demonstration but fortunately not badly enough to ruin the whole thing so they would have to start all over.

The cold mold has now been attached to a solid stainless steel rod and Matthew, Sean, and Kristine detach the former sphere from the hollow rod. They will begin pulling and twisting the piece into a an elongated horn shape after adding some colored pigment.

Bao and Sean hold the tip of the horn while the piece is being turned and pulled to shape it.

Kristine applies some heat to the tip to refine the shape just before it goes into the cooling tank.  She looks wicked cool with that propane torch!

Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn

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