Sheep Go to Heaven, Goats Go to Hell

“I’m not feeling all right today,/ I’m not feeling that great.”

That’s not entirely true, but Thursday and Friday were two really rough days for me. Thursday morning started off with Lawrence saying that he was quitting and not coming in anymore. Then when I get to school Jieun tells me that Michele is quitting as well. Needless to say, I took this quite badly. After lunch I just sat in a classroom by myself and put my head down. I wasn’t having a break down or anything, but sitting by myself like that was the only thing keeping it from happening. I was kind of freaking out inwardly about how the hell I was going to be able to keep working, particularly since there are four first grade classes at the same time, and with only one Korean teacher that leaves two unattended classes. Quite the problem. My main worry is that if the program was forced to shut down, unless I found a job quickly, I’d have to leave the country. Since Lawrence is half-Korean, he has a different visa and even without a job he can stay here two years.

Lawrence ended up coming in after Mr. Lee convinced him to at least finish the week. At least I didn’t have to teach every class Thursday. Friday he had to go do his health check, just so he could get paid for working two weeks. I’m working on the assumption that Monday he won’t be working. So Friday I taught every class but two first grade classes and the last class that Lawrence got back in time for.

Anyway, Michele and Jieun could tell I was pretty upset, but knew well enough that I just needed to be left alone. After like half an hour of a lot of inner turmoil I just kind of ran out of steam. That’s how it works with me. I may have a brief period of high anxiety, but then I run out of energy to maintain it and become a lot more lethargic and apathetic about whatever it is. I still didn’t really even speak to Michele the rest of the day. After work I left a different way and didn’t even say goodbye. I wasn’t entirely sure if she was finishing the week or not, but I didn’t want to have to deal with it.

Friday I was a lot calmer about everything. I did my best to show her I wasn’t upset by making small talk and joking around with her, asking her what she planned to do, etc… I’m still not crazy about her leaving, but when it comes down to it, she hated the job. She wasn’t happy. I can’t really say anything else or try to convince her to stay without sounding selfish or bitter. So that’s that. She said she still wants to take me to some restaurant we had talked about, so I guess she still wants to see me outside of work, which is good, but it doesn’t make my job any easier.

Now, less about me and more about the kids:

It’s pretty common to see kids cry in class. Earlier this week a first grader started absolutely sobbing when I handed out a simple word tracing worksheet. Michele asked him why he was crying and he said that he always had so much work to do and he felt like he couldn’t talk to anyone about all the pressure he felt. To understand this, you have to realize that after regular school is over, kids go to hagwons, or after-school activities. This ranges from things like English, piano/violin, taekwondo, badminton, etc… They may be doing three or four of these every day after school. And it’s year round, even when schools aren’t in session, hagwons are. Many students may not get home until 9 PM every day. They generally have an hour or two in between each hagwon to relax and play, but each hagwon has its own workload, so even once they get home they have a lot of things to do before bed.

This means that kids take school extremely seriously here. Even the trouble-makers or kids that seem really disinterested in learning take bad grades on tests pretty badly. Korean children also tend to take punishments very personally. I’ve talked about how I make them stand against the wall, and even that’s enough to get kids to cry. Yesterday a girl in one of Lawrence’s class was mocking me, so I made her stand, which upset her pretty badly. When class was about to end, I had her sit back down, and when I turned around, I caught her flipping me off, so I made her stand again while the entire class got to leave. When Jieun came in and asked about it, I explained. Then the little girl turned to defend herself and was crying pretty steadily. She tried to say she was flipping off another student and not me, but regardless it’s something she shouldn’t have done. It took several minutes of hard prodding to get her to apologize, and a couple more to get her to do it in English. I wouldn’t classify her apology as quite sincere either.

In the very next class, as I came in to teach Jieun pulled a student out of class to talk to her. I could see she was already crying a little when she left. She didn’t come back in during class and Jieun was still talking with her as the next class was starting. In the break between classes I went into the hall and I could hear them in the next room over and this girl was just completely bawling. Like balls out, something you can hear halfway down the hall, uncontrolled sobbing. I figured perhaps a student had made fun of her and she was really upset by it. When I finally got a chance to ask Jieun why the little girl cried so hard, she just said she was talking a lot in class and being disruptive, so she pulled her outside to discipline her and the girl was just way too sensitive about it and lost her shit.

Monday is pay day, but I still don’t have a bank account. Mr. Lee said we might be able to do it Friday after work, but he never came back. I’m assuming he’s busy with Lawrence shit, which I can understand. He also said that banks are completely closed all weekend, so doing it today isn’t even an option. I’ll just have to wait until Monday.

From reading I’ve done, it seems like a lot of people encounter anti-Americanism here. I think Koreans have a mixed bag of emotions about Americans. The Canadians I’ve met have all said that when Koreans asked what country they were from that the response to them being Canadian is usually along the lines of “Oh, that’s good. I thought you were American.” Now, no one’s been openly rude to me because of being American. Perhaps they are just less friendly once they find out. I’d never lie and say I was Canadian just to see if people were more friendly. If they don’t like Americans that’s their own prerogative. It’s usually related to American politics, most specifically the 30,000 some troops that are continuously occupying South Korea.

That said, there are also a lot of people who love Americans. A couple of Koreans have expressed great enthusiasm for Obama. They think he’s the bee’s knees. Kids in particular love me. I got to the DnD around 12:30 PM, right as kids were getting out of Saturday school. Yeah, every other week, kids have to go to school on Saturday. I think it’s a lot less formal than regular school though, since they don’t seem to mind. It may also be because this Saturday is the monthly birthday party. Every month, each class has one big birthday party for each kid with a birthday in that month. Anyway, just sitting in here for awhile I saw quite a few of my students. All of them at least stopped to wave through the window. Most of them came in to say hi and ask me a couple questions before they went on their way. If they got anything, they’d share it with me. I got part of a donut, a piece of candy, and half of one girl’s hot chocolate she didn’t finish when she left. If nothing else, at least the kids like me.

Well, I think I’m going to end this here and spend awhile watching Korean pop music videos. Why? Here’s why:

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