Looking back.

I've spent two days, thus far, trying not to hang myself with computer wires while wasting time at work. Today, I ran out of internet about three hours in. After spending some time reading about weird sleep phenomenon (don't ask), I came across some old as hell stuff I wrote two years ago nearly to the day, the week I was leaving New York. At the time, I was working at an international center for university students who didn't speak English as a native language. Most of my students were Korean. Have a look. It's a bit spooky.

Today was surreal, to say the least. I gave my notice at work, with very little explanation and everyone looked a bit befuddled. My students, bless them – they will be the ones I miss most. I have one in particular who I’ve been working with for almost a year now – JC. I used to dread our meetings, because he refused to speak. I could not drag conversation out of this kid to save my life. But slowly, he has come along and we converse well together now. I took his anxiety on as my own, as I have a habit of doing, and was convinced I wasn’t doing something right at first, until I ran into another student of mine on the bus one afternoon and she sad that JC had been the one who referred her to me, said I made him feel comfortable speaking English for the first time.

Tonight we were going over some of his personal essays, and there was one about how he has struggled with English.

I am feeling myself to become silent people since I have lived in United States. I am like mute in English, lonely, frustrated and sad.

I had to take a minute to sort myself out. We finished editing that essay, and I was waiting for him to move the next in front of us, but he just paused for a long moment. One thing I have learned very well since becoming an ESL tutor is how to stop my own nervousness, which urges me to push the conversation always forward, and be quiet when these pauses happen. It takes my students a long time to compose their thoughts sometimes, and if I rush onto something else, they never get a chance to say what they really want to. “You know, L. I am very sad you are leaving. Do not go away, please.” I didn’t know what to say, so I took out my copy of The Town & The City and asked him to write his email address in the back. “Do not forget me, please.”

“JC, you see this book? It’s a very special book to me. I will always have it with me. So I will always be able to contact you.”

Do I have that book with me now? Do I fuck. And I've never once contacted that student. A lot of unforeseen shit went down between the time I left New York and the time I arrived in Korea. Somewhere in between, I lost touch with a lot of my students, and I promised them I would never do that.

I'll call home tomorrow and have my ma attempt to dig that book out from wherever it's ended up. I remembered suddenly, today, reading this, that a big part of why I wanted to come to Korea in the first place was because of how close I had come to be with my students, and how I watched them struggle. I wanted to try to understand what it was like for them.

Is it the same thing? No. Is it close in a lot of parallel ways? I think so. And I think now is a good time to try to find out what happened to some of those students.


Anonymous said...

ma is already on it.

Anonymous said...

but, feel free to still call. I miss the sound of your voice.