What the 7-day black and white photo challenge was really about

I have mixed feelings about social media photo challenges. I appreciate the connection the person who tags me is making, and the challenges are a creative way to step out of the mundaneness of daily life. But they’re also a bit off-putting. I don’t like bothering people by tagging them, and I also have a hard time following the rules that usually come along with each challenge. It’s definitely an odd social phenomenon: creating connection and yet, creating a slight-annoyance.

I decided to take part in the 7-day black and white photo challenge (no words. no explanations… this is what irked my inner rebel) for two reasons: I think black and white photography is a worthy challenge (you need to find the right color contrast or the shot won’t have much impact), and the particular seven days this challenge fell on marked a major transition in my life that I wanted to chronicle.

A transition happens when one experience ends and another begins. It can be an exciting time, but it can also be intimidating or overwhelming. Transitions of varying degrees happen many times over the course of our lives. They can mark events such as a birth or death, and they can also mark events such as changing classrooms or educational communities – a topic I’ve written about in the past (see: transitions and group dynamics).  Of course, the magnitude of the impact isn’t determined by the event itself but by the person experiencing it. There is really no big or small transition. They are all worthy of acknowledgement and honoring. By honoring the transition we create space for the possibilities ahead, and we send appreciation to the experience we are letting go of.

At the end of these seven days, my transition point would look like this: I’d have started maternity leave knowing I wouldn’t return to the university I’d been teaching at for the past eight years; I’d have moved out of the apartment that saved me from commuting from our home in the countryside; and of course what would eventually greet me on the other end of all this is the uncharted world of parenthood.

So abiding by the rebel within, and my everlasting appreciation for transitions, here is my explanation of the pictures I took during those seven days.

Day 1 – Mother Nature Soothes

I took this picture at the end of our Sunday walk. At the start of the walk, I’d been feeling overwhelmed thinking of everything ahead. I had midterms to correct, final classes to teach, professors to guide as they took over my classes, a doctor’s appointment to go to, an apartment to move out of, a big baby bump to carry… While I knew it wasn’t true, it felt like I had to take care of it all then and there. But there’s nothing like a walk with Samsoon in the fresh autumn air to bust that all out of my head.

Since I’ve been pregnant, Samsoon seems to look back at me more often when she’s walking ahead. Maybe she feels my increasingly slower pace. She seems to show a loving concern for me that I never noticed before. She recently heard me slip on the gravel — thankfully I didn’t fall — and then rushed over, looked at me, and licked my hand. The combination of this sweetness and the sun shining on the falling leaves shifts my mood at the end of those walks.

Day 2 – The Waiting Room

I took this in the doctor’s waiting room during one of our now weekly Monday visits. It’s crunch time. The baby is shortly on its way, and doctor’s visits are becoming a bit tenser.

Day 3 – My Last Office Lunch

This was the last time I bought my office lunch chamchi (tuna) kimbap at my usual kimbap place. The owner always greeted me with a smile. The same goes for the owner of the Paris Baguette where I got my morning coffee. I’d like for them to know how they always set a positive tone for my day.

Day 4 – Student Appreciation

During the final moments of my last class, I received this “rolling paper” from my students. It was filled with words of support for the coming birth, and appreciation for the two years I had been their professor. They even gave me suggestions for naming the baby (still don’t have a name yet). It was hard to hold back the tears. So I didn’t. I couldn’t have finished my time at the university on a more positive note.

Day 5 – End of an Era

No more walking up and down these ramps to get to and from class.

Day 6 – Silent Celebration

The midterms are corrected and handed in. I’ve passed the baton to the professors who will replace me during my maternity leave. I’ve said goodbye to my students. We’ve moved out of my apartment. It’s been a full week to add on to my full belly. It’s time to rest.

Day 7 – On the Last Day the Dream Begins

Ceramic whales by Seo Byongchan

And like that, I take the first steps into a new life. A life that was first hinted to me nine months ago in a taemong (태몽) / conception dream. Many Koreans believe that before a woman becomes pregnant, she, or someone close to her, will have a vivid dream of either an animal, fruit, or other significant objects. The subject of the dream is supposed to predict the personality or the gender — or rather, genitalia — of the baby.

Since this isn’t part of my culture, I wasn’t really looking for a taemong, but one morning I remembered the comforting dream I had of a blue whale. I was on the deck of a large ship, enjoying the salty air and wind in my hair. Then all of a sudden half the body of a huge blue whale emerges, turned so that it’s looking at me with its one eye. We gaze at each other and have a gentle yet silent exchange. Nothing is said, but all is known. And then it submerges quietly into the depths of the ocean.

This was our baby’s taemong. We have yet to know what this will mean for our child’s personality, but the whale seems to be connected to wisdom, strength, and peaceful communication. Sounds good to me!

What transitions have you gone through lately and how have you honored them? Share your experience in the comments below, or send me an email by subscribing HERE.

























10 years – a brief story

Just before leaving classes for the day, a teacher-trainee earnestly asks me, “This is kind of private question, but do you think you are going to stay in Korea forever?”

This is a common question. I get it at least once a year. For the first time in a long time, I felt comfortable saying, “I don’t know.”

I came here ten years ago, and at that time one year was all I knew. I never could have imagined 10 years and the stories that came along with that timestamp. But here I am. 10 years. And why do I still say, “I don’t know?” Because what do we ever know? I think we all look back with awe: awe at the joy, the sorrow, the celebration, the gratitude, the compassion… the magic.

I often felt unease with my answer, but now I realize it is the most realistic answer I could give. Although Korea and I have deep karmic currents, my heart longs for Canada and familiarity. And although it has this longing, my heart also realizes this wonderful Korean connection.

So what do I do? I just do, and I try to be. It’s all I can do. And for the first time, I’m ok with that.

Let’s see what the next 10 years bring. In the meantime, this is just a touch of what the last 10 years have brought.

Christmas 2004
Christmas 2004 – le chemin du moulin

Picture it. New year’s eve 2004. Halifax, Nova Scotia. Fireworks, my parents, and dear old friends. Korean visa gratefully (FINALLY) in hand.

Flight to Incheon. January 1, 2005.

The magical and mysterious land of Daegu, South Korea.

Bulguksa > Byongchan. 나는 청말조와해요.

at the end of 2005...hehe
proud, but wow… that picture!

Meditation. Contemplation.

Moonkkang/Youngmoon English Institute.

to the core
to the core

MA TESOL at SIT. Heaven.



Marriage. Transition.

Keimyung University.

NVC practice group at FIN English, Daegu.


Teacher training – KIETT.

Reflective Practice Special Interest Group.




Centro Espiral Mana.






Coming home.



2015 :)

Wordless Wednesday: What a way to start the first day of class!

Happy Birthday Josette!

Bloggers go wordless on Wednesdays. Join the fun!

Weekly Photo Challenge: A (Satur)day in My Life

I usually enter the weekly photo challenge via my personal blog, but after recording a day in my life, it was clear — once again — that there is a fine line between personal and “professional”. I invite any of you ELT photographers to join in on the fun. :)

I had a surprisingly geeky good time — maybe not that surprising to those who know me– diving into the new textbook of the semester. I read about superheroes and what makes a regular person a hero, and figured out ways to modify the material to make it more relevant to our teacher-trainees. A big thanks to @bora_maren for generously — and randomly — giving me a sample last semester.

Truly enjoying this textbook. First textbook use in 4 years. Blog report to come.
Truly enjoying this textbook. First textbook I use in 4 years. Blog report to come.

It was then time to unveil the results of our #KELTchat poll for the chat Sunday night. Although most of the KELTchat crew was either presenting at (Mike Griffin, John Pfordresher and Alex Walsh) or attending the KOTESOL Seoul Conference, they were ready to spread the news and retweet at the sign of the hashtag – congratulations to Anne Hendler for being the quickest RT draw in town — or Seoul.

The last task of today was reading and giving feedback on the teacher-trainees’ reflections on giving and receiving feedback; yes, quite meta. They wrote this after they did their short experiential lessons called “The Teaching Game”, where teachers teach a 5 minute lesson on anything other than language (i.e.: origami, dance moves, magic tricks…). I learned a lot about how they processed the experience.

Teacher-trainees reflecting on the feedback process, and me giving them feedback on their feedback experience. #meta
Teacher-trainees reflecting on the feedback process, and me giving them feedback on their feedback experience. #meta

What will tomorrow bring? I’m looking forward to tackling this challenge again this week.

The Mirror That Sees Me (a short story)

The following tale was inspired by my experiences at Centro Espiral Mana; in and near La Fortuna, and Liberia, Costa Rica; and during the SIT TESOL course. I hope you enjoy my attempt at creative expression. :)


There is a mirror out there that has great clarity. Once you look in this mirror, you’ll see your truth reflected. When you first take a look, you may not believe what you see because your heart is too clouded. I have a remedy for this cloudiness.

First you must go to the rainforest. Visit the sloths, the iguanas, the tree frogs, the vultures, the howler monkeys, the flying fish, the scorpions, the fire ants, the toucans, and the blue butterflies.

Eat papaya, pineapple, rice and beans, lemons, mangos, and avocado. Drink the coffee. This is all prepared by loving hands and you will taste the essence of pura vida

You may meet a lovely Mexican woman who shares her traditional dishes with you. A kind lady from Honduras helps her prepare these meals. Accept their food with gratitude as they blend it with love. You need this love in order to see your reflection.

Walk to the river. You’ll meet a dog with no name. He will teach you about unconditional love. All he wants from you is your presence. Be present. Breathe. Feel the earth beneath you.

Swim in volcano water and cleanse your doubts. Make a detour at the healer’s house. It is deep in the jungle. Listen to her words and accept her healing hands.

When you you’ve done all that I’ve mentioned above, you’ll notice that some of the haze has lifted from your heart. But there is still a bit more clearing to do.

After a while  you’ll come to a place at the end of the road. Here you’ll meet four teachers. Listen to them. Observe them.

the four guides

They’ll hold up the mirror and show you ways of looking at yourself. These ways may seem unconventional. They are. Trust them.

Now, look into the mirror one more time. The fog has lifted. Do you see? You are more than you knew. You are you.

Cultivating a Bountiful Crop of Rest in Nova Scotia


Teachers need rest.

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop. – Ovid

We need rest in order to maintain our levels of compassion and empathy towards our students. We need rest in order to remain creative because creativity profoundly serves our lesson plans. We need rest to stay open to the change that learning requires.

This is how I’m taking a rest right now.

Home Cooking

Rapûre (rappie pie in English) is the traditional meal for Acadians from Nova Scotia. Click on the link to find the recipe for Clare‘s best selling rappie pie, Evelina’s Rapûre.

Some of you may not know this, but I’m of Acadian descent. This means I was raised francophone and my second language should be English. I, however, can’t see an identifying division between my two languages. My intention is to write a blog post of how this has affected me as an English teacher. Stay tuned for that processing.

Nova Scotia’s Beauty

un petit bergot (a periwinkle snail)

Continue reading “Cultivating a Bountiful Crop of Rest in Nova Scotia”