A Mini Post Before My Netbook Dies

Well, I’m in Dunkin Donuts again having some coffee and writing with the last 40 minutes of battery life my netbook has. I thought I’d be a little more specific about what I’ve been doing the past couple days.

I go in at 10 AM to start preparing for the day, which has generally consisted of doing nothing while Michele and Tien do all the work and speak to each other in Korean, and every once in awhile tell me what the plan is. I can dig it. The classes are all taught from a website that just uses a Flash program to tell a short story. The youngest kids learn about things like weather, clothes, body parts, etc… while the older kids get more complicated things. The very first lesson I had to get up and teach to the kids was about the Giant African Land Snail, and I had to explain what it meant when it said they have “both male and female organs”. Some of the stories are really strange.

The next highest lesson is called How Cedar Needles Saved a Ship, and it’s about French explorers that get scurvy and the Indians show them how to make tea from cedar needles to cure it. The highest class works on a story called The Chrysalis Dream. Can you tell me what a chrysalis is? Mmhmm, I didn’t think so. And the kids in 4th grade are learning this.

This brings me to an interesting fact. In Korea, age works a bit differently than it does in America. I was told that I’d be teaching kids that were seven to twelve years old, but they’re actually much younger sometimes. In Korea, when you are born, you are already considered one. Then, you age one more year on the Lunar New Year. This means that it’s quite easy to be two in Korean just a day after you’re born. They still celebrate birthdays on the day of  (I learned today a kid in my last class shares my birthday) their birth, and forms will specify if they want Korean or Gregorian age, but if you ask anyone on the street how old they are, they will respond with their Korean age.

Anyway, the day starts off with the youngest , and therefor hardest group. They’re only learning vocabulary about the weather right now, and it’s impossible to explain anything in English because they know almost none, so Michele does most of the work in this class. I feel bad, but there’s nothing else to do. It doesn’t help that there’s about 20 kids. Michele has told me that parents often call her to complain about the size of the class, since they were promised it would be no larger than 15, and she feels bad about it, but it’s just how the situation is right now. Today something really amusing happened. In the middle of class, Michele pulled one boy to the front of the room and said he was a “bad student” who would have to sit up front. They talked for a moment and pinky swore on something. She told me to keep an eye on him. When I asked what he did, she blushed for a moment and said she couldn’t tell me. I laughed, but now I wonder what it was. I didn’t see anything happen that would elicit that kind of reaction, and it seems like something that would would draw attention. Perhaps it was something he said?

It’s extremely hard not to immediately pick favorites in each class. In the youngest group, there’s already one mischievous rapscallion that caught my eye. On the very first day when classes were being sorted he was the one running around kicking everyone’s shoe bags (In Korea to prevent the places from becoming dirty shoes are removed at the door, and if completely necessary slippers are worn — so each student has his/her book bag and a shoe bag that they carry their shoes or slippers in).

The second class has one of the most adorable little girls I’ve ever seen in it, and she can’t be more than five years old. She apparently picked the name Stella for herself, which I can’t find a more perfect name than.Have you ever seen something so cute you want to squeeze it until it dies? Oh my god. It’s a shame that she seems completely uninterested in learning English.

Some of the classes I have favorites in, but don’t really know their names yet since they’ve only gotten their English names today, unless they’d already had one they liked for awhile. They’re all favorites for different reasons. Sometimes because they’re little trouble-makers, sometimes because they like to learn, sometimes because they’re cute, sometimes because they’re shy or nerdy.

My absolute favorite is in my second to last class. On the very first day she came up to me and introduced herself and said her name was Ariana. She’s the only one that has gone out of her way to introduce herself to me outside of a classroom activity that she’s prodded by a teacher to do. I found it really brave. She’s also really cute with her little glasses and pigtails. Today after class she asked Michele something because she was unsure of how to say it in English, then came over and asked me if I remembered her name. She was so excited when I said that I did that she was bouncing up and down. Good lord, talk about heart melting.

After her class I went to work with Tien who has the oldest and best English students. I was with her for two classes and did zero teaching, but both classes asked me a whole bunch of questions about myself, why I was in Korea, how I liked Korean food, if I could speak any Korean, etc…

The kids are all different, just like kids in America. Some are really shy and hardly ever speak, while some are very loud and pushy and insistent. The most common way for them to grab my attention is just to scream “Teacher!” which at first sounds extremely rude, but in Korea they normally just address people in authority by their title instead of a name. Some participate a lot, some just sit and stare or fiddle with something. Just like any normal group of kids. While the first class of young kids is the largest at 20, the maximum for the rest of the classes is 15, and they get as small as eight.

After all the classes were over I waited a bit with Michele and Tien, then we left. I found an eyeglasses shop with them and bought the contact solution I so badly needed after leaving it in Chicago. Word of the day: sikyumsu — contact solution. We parted ways and I went home to relax a bit before finding food. TV here is odd. The first thing I saw was a show where they went into women’s homes and tried to find dirty places. It was obvious the women were supposed to have clean homes, so they’d look in very odd places for dirt, such as on top of high shelves or in the exhaust fans in the bathroom. One woman would not be beat and even cleaned her vacuum so it was free of dirt.

After that was a show about the preparation of seafood, like octopus, stingray, crab, etc… I don’t like seafood, but it gave me the motivation to eat. I went to a small shop nearby, and while the menu didn’t have pictures, I found bibimbap and had that.

I didn’t have my camera with me, but there it is. A bed of rice with bean sprouts, kim chi, and all manner of other vegetables with a fried egg on top. Quite good. It came with the normal banchan, kimchi and some very sweet pickled vegetable of some kind. To note: Koreans don’t drink much water or pop with meals. If at all, they drink at the end of the meal. If you’re thirsty during, you just drink a weak soup broth.

There was only one woman working, and she seemed quite busy. I ordered completely in Korean — bibimbap juseyo — which I was proud of. She wasn’t very friendly, even after I said it was delicious and thanked her, but whatever. I got out without speaking English to her, so I felt like it was a success. A woman was there with her two kids and they said hello and asked if I was a teacher. Lots of kids are interested in saying hello, if nothing else, just because I’m American. Then again, some kids couldn’t give less of a shit about me. Some just seem really surprised and do a double take.

I guess this ended up being not-so-mini, but my computer keeps bitching at me about it dying, so I should leave.


One Response to “A Mini Post Before My Netbook Dies”

  1. i’m proud of the way you’re navigating in a brand new culture with a brand new language.
    of course, i’m jealous as hell! 🙂

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