Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Life Worth Exploring: Reflections on my Asian Field Research in Thailand and Myanmar

As I sit at my computer with the impossible task of reflecting on my 6-week Asian Field Research trip in Thailand and Myanmar (Burma), words fail me. If you read my last post at the beginning of my research, you know that I am a third-year doctoral student in the Graduate School for Education and Human Development at the George Washington University doing research on organizational development along the Thai-Myanmar border and inside Myanmar. I spent one week at four different organizations doing interviews, participant observation, and document review to see how leaders in these organizations are bringing about positive organizational change based on a certificate course they took in organizational development.

Despite being at a loss for words, I am not at a loss for stories, faces, and learning experiences. Here is a snapshot of my amazing time this summer:

At one of the organizations I visited, I volunteered teaching English in the evenings. They were so grateful and gave me a traditional ethnic shirt reserved for a teacher.

Teaching English in the evenings
This dog, which barked at everyone initially, warmed up to me and would run to me upon my return once it discovered I would rub its belly.

When traveling, the bus driver wrote “Toe” on my ticket because he couldn’t be bothered to write my name (or even finish the word “tourist”).

I was surprised that I boarded my domestic flight to Loikaw without anyone ever checking my ID.

I went running a lot in my free time as well. During one of my long runs, it began raining and an old man who saw me insisted that I come into his shop until the rain stopped. He gave me coffee and smiles that warmed me up. Here is a short video that shows me running with two of the people from one of the organizations I visited. I also got to play a unique sport called chinlone. 

I was challenged by many things as well. My first night in Myanmar I found a ¾ inch screw in my fried rice. In Loikaw, I stayed in a newly opened hotel far away from the organization I observed and they had no transportation, bicycles for rent, or anything! Walking to and from the organization allowed me to see more of the nearby community. The internet in Myanmar often only worked well in the mornings which was frustrating at first, but the fact that I could get a SIM card in my phone for a few dollars showed incredible development in the country from my first time visiting in 2011. 

The smell of betel nut has left an indelible (and not the good kind of indelible) mark on my olfactory system. This bus even had black trash bags for each person to spit in during the journey from Hpa An to Yangon.

Bags on the bus for betel nut spit

I am incredibly grateful to the Sigur Center for Asian Studies. I first heard of the Sigur Center through Dr. Christina Fink who lived in Chiang Mai for many years (where I also lived for four years) and am indebted to her and the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at the Elliot School for International Affairs for allowing me to have such a remarkable opportunity. 

This grant has inspired me to continue a life of research and learning in Asia, specifically Thailand and Myanmar. I am confident this research will blossom into my dissertation work, and hopeful that it will be the beginning of a career in academia in these areas.


Oliver (Ozzie) Crocco
Doctoral student in Human and Organizational Learning, GSEHD
Sigur Center 2016 Asian Field Research Fellow
Thailand and Myanmar
Hpa An, Myanmar

Monday, August 29, 2016

Sightseeing in Seoul- Hoyer- SNU- Summer Language Grant

For the last blog and video of my language study trip to Seoul, I visited the National Museum of Korea, Nakseongdae Market, Gwanghwamun Square, the Sejong Center for Performing Arts Exhibition Hall, and Myeong-dong.  The video is filled with pictures, videos of street performances, and my narration about the sites I was able to visit.
I attended a special exhibition commemorating the 40th anniversary of the excavation of the Sinan Shipwreck at the National Museum of Korea.  Nakseongdae Market is a market near my residence in Korea.  Gwanghwamun Square is a famous tourist site in Seoul commemorating historical Korean heroes.  Next to the square lies the Sejong Center for Performing Arts where I visited the Exhibition Hall dedicated to King Sejong and Admiral Yin.  Finally, I went for a stroll down the popular shopping district of Myeong-dong to buy last minute gifts for family and friends.

Verónica María Hoyer, B.A., International Affairs 2017,
Sigur Center 2016 Korean Language Fellow,
Seoul National University, South Korea.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Taipei to Hong Kong

Hello, dear readers!

Originally I set out to make a video compilation of night markets in Taipei and Hong Kong, however getting a good angle to film proved to be a challenge and resulted in quite wobbly and visually unappealing footage. So I decided to make a video summarizing my travels so far, in Taipei and in Hong Kong.

If you'd like music to accompany the video, try listening to this酒後的心聲, a song sung in Taiwanese and a recent favorite of mine. However, music is not necessary.

Though the famed night markets of Taipei are not featured in my video highlighting my travels so far, I would like to impart some useful knowledge of 夜市.

  • Though the Shilin Night Market may be one of the most famous night markets in Taipei, you could honestly do without going to it. It's extremely crowded. I once went on a Saturday and it was uncomfortably 人山人海. If you do end up going, stay away from the fruit ladies. They will lure you in with samples of tantalizing and juicy fruit, one after another, and before you know it you're paying over $300 NT for a small bag of cut fruit. That's $10 USD. Think of Whole Foods prices, but even more expensive.
  • The recommended alternative? Raohe night market, highly recommended by a teacher at ICLP. Right next to it is Wufenpu, where you can get unique clothes on the cheap. $100 NT shirts galore, and that's just about $3 USD.
That is all for night markets, now feel free to take in some sights and sounds of Taipei and Hong Kong.


Anna Du
B.A. International Affairs and Chinese, 2018
Sigur Center 2016 Chinese Language Fellow
National Taiwan University, Taiwan

Monday, August 8, 2016

Cheong Wa Dae, The Blue House- Hoyer- SNU- Summer Language Grant

Outside Cheong Wa Dae

Greetings From Seoul,
            I was able to take part in a Cheong Wa Dae compound tour. Cheong Wa Dae is South Korea’s Presidential residence and executive office.  The tour was an outside walking tour and did not include the opportunity to enter any facility other than Chunchugwan, the press hall, where the tour began.  The tour included a viewing of the Nokjiwon, the Presidential garden; Gyeongmudae, the site of the former Cheong Wa Dae building; the Grand Garden in front of the main building; Yeongbingwan, the State Guest House; and Chilgung, the location of seven enshrined royal concubines’ ancestral tablets.

          The outside of the Presidential compound was beautiful.  Picture taking was limited for security reasons.  The limiting of photos allowed me to be fully engaged in the tour, as well as the translated informational audio.  The most interesting part of the tour to me was the historical commentary of the development of the current presidential compound.
The elevation of the location now hosting the presidential compound is believed to have begun during the Goryeo period when the city now known as Seoul became the Southern Capital of the Goryeo Dynasty.  During the Joseon Dynasty, it became the back garden of the Gyeongbokgung Palace—the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty—and served as the location for Hoemaeng, an allegiance ritual before the spirits of heaven and earth during which merit subjects received rewards.  Gyeongbokgung Palace was constructed in 1395 during the Joseon Dynasty and was burnt down during a Japanese invasion in 1592.  Gyeongbokgung was not reconstructed until 1867 and in 1910 was once again mostly destroyed by the Japanese colonial invasion, during which the Japanese Governor-General’s office was erected on the site of what is now Cheong Wa Dae. 

Grand Garden

Chilgung, Ancestral Tablets
Yeongbingwan, the State Guest House

Nokjiwon, Presidential Garden
Beginning in 1990, the South Korean government began an effort to restore Gyeongbokgung Palace as well as other historical sites.  This restoration included the construction of what is now the presidential residence, Cheong Wa Dae.  Before the construction of Cheong Wa Dae, South Korea’s executives resided in the old Japanese Governor-General’s building.  This building was used until the construction of the new Cheong Wa Dae.  After completion of the new presidential residence, the former building was torn down in a symbolic act of severing historical ties with the Japanese occupation and with symbols of its colonial power.  While the former building was torn down, the historical importance of its existence and demolishment is highlighted by the inclusion of the former site, Gyeongmudae, and the stone marker that took its place, during the official tour.

My personal translator after my audio died
The location of the Presidential residence, built in the back garden of the Gyeongbokgung palace, being in such proximity to Seoul’s preeminent historical sites, reveals a palpable effort to preserve and infuse the historical into the current symbols of Korean national identity and power.  Like museums, preserved historical sites serve to conserve and propagate particular and chosen historical narratives which shape contemporary views and identities.  The very reconstruction and preservation of Gyeongbokgung Palace and other historical sites, and the location of the newly constructed, adjacent presidential residence serve as important markers of historical resilience and the deep-seated memory that forms Korean identity and power structures.

Chilgung, Site of Seven Ancestral Tablets

Sources referenced:
“Place and Buildings.” Republic of Korea Cheong Wa Dae. Accessed August 6, 2016.
“History of Cheong Wa Dae.” Republic of Korea Cheong Wa Dae. Accessed August 6, 2016.
“Gyeongbokgung Introduction.” Gyeongbokgung Palace Office. Accessed August 6, 2016.

Verónica María Hoyer, B.A., International Affairs 2017,
Sigur Center 2016 Korean Language Fellow,
Seoul National University, South Korea.