Archive for June, 2011
Some days are more interesting than others; today was neither dull nor particularly colorful; but that doesn’t mean I didn’t come away with a few indelible sound-bites.
The start of my day was not especially promising. First, I overslept, not by much, but enough to be forced into eating a granola bar on the way out the door in lieu of a proper breakfast. When I arrived at the fitness center I had 50 minutes to workout and shower instead of the usual hour and 20 minutes. Again, not a huge deal. I weighed my two options: 1) alter my regimen, omitting several exercises, or 2) speed things up and squeeze in my normal routine in 30 less minutes. I went with the latter option, jumping from one thing to another without any recovery time. Halfway through and I was still feeling good, albeit eventually I had to reduce the weight on some exercises due to a build up of lactic acid. The gym that I belong (is belong to strong of a word?) to is better than adequate, and even though they lack some exercise machines and free weights that I am accustomed to back home, the spas, saunas, and steam rooms make up for it. After finishing my last set of dips I rushed to the locker room to shower before heading to work. I don’t always feel comfortable showering, especially when a guy who scrubs people down (apparently he is employed to do this) is lurking, but after 7 months I have gotten used to being a nude foreigner among a sea of Koreans. A coworker told me a story of a former coworker of his that went to the sauna to relax. Apparently, this guy kept his shorts on because he wasn’t keen on the idea of going in naked. When the infamous back scrubber caught sight of this he rushed over, pull down the guys shorts, and waved his finger back and forth while saying, “No, no, no.” After showering I felt absolutely exhausted from the intense workout and a wave of nasuea and dizziness struck. To make matters worse (for the people around me) I forgot my deodorant and cologne at home. Leaving, I felt horrible, and instead of taking the fifteen minute stroll to work I took a cab.
It was at lunch with a group of female coworkers that I began to feel better. While eating a bagel and cream cheese the conversation turned to the “c” word. Some people adamantly refuse to even utter the “c” word. Personally, I don’t have any real qualms about saying it. The “c” word is widely considered one of the raunchiest, most distasteful words in the English language, and everyone at the table held this opinion … or so I thought. Out of nowhere, a very nice, sweet young teacher announced that she calls her dad a cunt all the time. Directly to his face? Sure, just joking around. “My dad calls me a cunt too,” she explained nonchalantly. From this moment on my day began shaping up nicely.
During our daily foreign teacher meeting the manager of the hagwon came in to make a few announcements. He stressed how important listening is to learning a new language and how our students needed more practice doing this. Up to this point, I was nodding my head in agreement. He went on to explain that young children learn language by listening and mimicking what they hear. Still nodding. Then came the curve ball, the Michael Scott moment: “You guys know Helen Keller right? Yeah, that’s how she did it. She listened.” I didn’t nod, and kept it to myself that Helen Keller was deaf and blind.
When I walked into my first class I realized that I had a new student. Nothing gets me more excited in the classroom than seeing a new student because it means that it’s time to choose an English name. Sometimes, much to my chagrin, a student will come to the academy already with an English name; most of the time though the student picks a name in the first class. I’ve learned that I have a tremendously powerful influence during the selection process and I’m not ashamed to admit that I utilize this power. I figure I am doing the student a favor, bestowing them with a cool name. Selfishly, this is really great practice for when it’s time to officially name a child. The little guy immediately took a liking to the name Tupac.
The sultry weather has fed my desire to do some traveling. With roughly four months left on my contract, a weeks worth of vacation days, and two three-day holidays, I will have almost two weeks (paid) to see some of Asia. China is first on the list with Cambodia and Thailand in a dead heat for the number two spot. Jeju Island, off of the southern tip of the Korean peninsula, is in the cards for a three-day weekend trip. One thing is for sure, I am determined to trek the Great Wall, something that we all read and learned about in school at a relatively young age, a creation that, to me, always seemed more mythical than real.
A few weeks ago, the landlady had a new air conditioner installed into my room. How nice it is to shut the windows and keep the bugs out (the screens don’t do the job) and stay fresh like a cut of tenderloin in a meat locker. I fancy (a word I borrowed from my UK counterparts) cranking the ac up full blast until it gets to the point where I am cold and then letting myself thaw, a routine I do repeatedly when I am home for any extended period. The ac has made sleeping so much more comfortable. There is something obstinately difficult about sleeping without a cover and now I can slumber with a thin blanket without waking up perspiring.
The summer semester is just three days old. From what I can tell, I like all of my classes. My schedule is decent in that I teach most of the upper-level classes, making communicating and unsurprisingly, teaching, so much more pleasant. It also makes joking around and having fun with the students less challenging because they can pick up on more things, especially sarcasm. Recently in a low-level class, I reverted to juggling board erasers in a lame attempt to captivate the students. Some students laughed, a few clapped uninspired, others rolled their eyes; performing like a circus entertainer in front of a class of tired, disinterested Korean children. I’ve found my calling.
I teach a total of 22 classes per week. The foreigners in the elementary department were asked to design a book for a special course that is offered to the students every Wednesday at no additional cost. Wednesdays are designed to give special attention to students who are not comfortable speaking, which means that origami and marshmallow spaghetti towers are featured in unit 2.
A young student who chooses to go by the English name, Mindy, is in my class for a third straight semester. Because she has better speaking ability than most in her class, she is by default the unofficial interpreter when a) I have absolutely no idea what a student is trying to communicate to me, or when b) a student and or the rest of the class has absolutely no idea what I am trying to communicate to them. Mindy is small and friendly with a pleasant smile, but this doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have an edge, she can get pretty feisty. Of late, she spends increasingly more time complaining and when she feels it necessary chewing out some of the rowdy boys in the class. The other day, I had the students take turns writing sentences on the board. When it was Mindy’s turn, my jaw dropped when I noticed her t-shirt read, ‘Skinny Bitch’. When I discovered that she had absolutely no idea what it meant I gently advised her that she probably shouldn’t wear the shirt any more. At the tail end of class I saw Mindy using her electronic dictionary, when suddenly her face grew crimsoned, and she looked at me with a tentative smile.
I am about 70 percent finished the painting I am working on in art class. Along the way I have snapped some pictures. Here is the evolution of the untitled painting: