About Lee Mook

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So far Lee Mook has created 14 entries.

Major League Monkey: A Barrage of Experiences Teaching English in Sámara, Costa Rica

by Lee Mook

Have you ever played dodgeball? Have you ever played dodgeball with a half-eaten piece of fruit? Have you ever played dodgeball with a half-eaten piece of fruit against a monkey? Well, I have, and all my years in gym class couldn’t have saved me from being on the receiving end of a slimy, juicy, have-eaten mango splattering across my chest.

Sámara, Costa Rica is an exotic place. With white sand meeting the cool blue ocean, coconut and mango trees lining the beach and streets, great surfing waves, monkeys and orange-colored squirrels, and dark green vegetation-covered hills as a backdrop, Sámara is the picturesque beach town. But it’s unique. After being in Sámara for two weeks I can see that.


First, in Sámara I can make a measurable and real impact on lives of the people here. On paper, Costa Rica has one of the highest literacy rates in Latin […]

Kicking and Screaming: Playing Soccer in China

by Lee Mook
“There are two surefire things that unite people: war and sports. We come from all over the world–China, Korea, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Japan, and the US–but out there we will play as one team, and we will win.” My Chinese soccer coach’s rousing speech was met by a roar of excitement from all my teammates and me.
We stood on the “battlefield” (Beijing 80’s soccer field) with the wind whipping at our legs, prepared to face our opponents. Our team had been put together three days earlier, and we were to play our school’s rival in a friendly game of soccer. Although we had never practiced together as an official team, we had all spent various lunch periods, breaks between class, and afternoons playing pick-up soccer together.

The other team had practiced. A lot. The whistle blew and within 15 seconds (and a couple of bobbles by our defense) […]

Singing in the Shower

by Lee Mook

Everyone sings in the shower. Everyone. However, unlike in the privacy of your own home, in the dorms you can be heard singing in the shower by every room right above or below you. For the past 6 months, every day at 9:45PM, I have heard a shrill, soprano-pitched voice reverberating lyrics of Chinese songs through the pipes and into my room. My curiosity finally got the best of me. I went to the floor below me to investigate this mystery singer. The door opens, and it was the largest high school student I have ever seen. China remains to be full of surprises.

Another surprise, better in my opinion than discovering the next Christina Aguilera, is a new opportunity to volunteer. My Chinese class has started teaching middle school students foreign language at Beijing 80’s partner school.

Two fellow classmates, one from Russia and another from Kazakhstan, and […]

By |March 17th, 2015|Gappers in the Field|

On Teaching the Nanjing Elderly to Macarena

by Lee Mook

Holidays are always welcome, of course, but after five months of intense Chinese classes and English tutoring, this particular winter holiday was especially welcome. China’s winter break is a full month surrounding the Spring Festival, a holiday equivalent to Christmas and New Year’s Day, but involving many more dumplings.

To start winter break, I traveled with the rest of the students in the NSLI-Y program to Nanjing for a week of volunteering.

First, we visited a home for the elderly. Chinese culture holds very high respect for one’s parents and the elderly. One is expected to support one’s parents in their old age, so elderly homes, while rare in China, are typically lively, social, and well-maintained.

The residents and we volunteers prepared a number of performances for each other. My favorite was a dance their all-woman dance crew put together. I couldn’t help but smile as they launched into their […]

Teaching English in China Is Good for Me

by Lee Mook

“Leh, leh, leh.” Jennifer’s face is contorted as she tries to make out the sound of a “v.”

“Let’s try again: veh, veh, veh,” I say.

“Beh, beh, beh,” she replies.

Teaching English, or any language, I’d imagine, takes patience, precision, and creativity. For the past four and a half months I have been teaching English and Spanish, and I have discovered the truly puzzling difficulty of explaining how to make certain sounds. I have resorted to pointing, explaining, drawing diagrams, and even making freestyle raps about how to say banana correctly (copyright pending). The girl, Jenifer (English name), from this particular experience is, similar to all my students, an incredibly quick learner with ambitious goals.

I have found through teaching I have been able to connect with students here on a deeper level, and this has allowed me to make many good friends.

My experience teaching English in China has been […]

By |February 4th, 2015|Gappers in the Field|

China: Where New and Old Worlds Merge

by Lee Mook

China is a nation of extremes. It is an incredible example of a nation developing while retaining its rich cultural and historical identity. Mile-high glass skyscrapers tower over traditional, stone, single story housing complexes. I witnessed firsthand the two different, equally endearing sides of China’s development during my week-long tour to Shanghai, Wu Zhen, and Hang Zhou.

Shanghai’s modernity is unparalleled in China. Skyscrapers fill Shanghai’s skyline unceasingly. Car, buses, and trollies pack the streets. Busy people bustle on the streets, occupy the shops, and fill the restaurants. Ads for beauty products, cars, and beer control every available spot in the city, posted on buildings, buses, and humorously even on napkins. Shanghai’s immense population and pace of life remind me of New York City on steroids. However, under the skyscrapers that sparkle like jewels in the sun are the ubiquitous, Mao-era, three-story housing complexes. With diminutive and bland […]

By |December 9th, 2014|Gappers in the Field|

The Breakfast Club

by Lee Mook

“Do not talk to strangers” is one of the most common pieces of advice parents give their kids, but, sorry Mom and Dad: I am here to tell you, it is wrong!

When I arrived in China alongside 7 other American students, it felt easy to eat together, speak English, and stay secluded from the other Chinese students. However, I decided to break out of the American bubble and do something different: “the Breakfast Club.”

Every morning, at 6:10 sharp, the dormitory plays what I have decided is the Mario theme song, mixed with the sounds that would accompany a breaking news story. I fling my blanket off of me like jumping into cold water, quickly and all at once: I would rather stay warm, but I am also always excited to start the day. So I quietly go through my morning routine, careful not to wake my roommate, […]

By |November 19th, 2014|Gappers in the Field|

How to Become an Overnight Superstar in China

by Lee Mook

It is not every day that one becomes an overnight Chinese boy band sensation. I would imagine, furthermore, that becoming a boy band sensation typically entails some degree of planning. That wasn’t the case for me.

As my friends and I stood center stage in the dimmed lights awaiting the bright flash of the spotlights and the Chinese woodwind music to start, I cast a quick glance out into the audience. The massive, two story LCD screen behind us cast an orange hue on the auditorium, so that in the dark expanse I could make out the first few rows of bright red velvet chairs. I saw expectant listeners and competitor boy band members anticipating our performance.

“Remember to smile! And do not worry! They will love you,” my teacher had said in Chinese right before I walked on stage. She was absolutely right, we had been practicing for the […]

By |October 28th, 2014|Gappers in the Field|