It's warm! I know it's far too early to start getting excited about spring, but fuck me if it isn't difficult when the temperature shoots up this much.
This weekend, I'm sort of hiding. I know it's not the most appropriate thing to ignore phone calls when I'm just back from nearly two weeks away and haven't seen anyone for ages, but I'm just not in the mood for going out. I'm tired, to begin with, since the jet lag fucked my sleep schedule for a few days, but I had to make it to work anyhow, and my energy level is always a lot lower when I'm doing fuck all but sitting on a desk all day long. Also, my place has been a wreck since I returned and my suitcases exploded all over with nowhere for anything to go. I've finally got that sorted, but now the weekend's mostly gone.
Shockingly, after about 20 ignored texts, The Baby (remember him?) is still trying to get in touch. Now he's even using "sis" in English. Should I meet him again? Well. I'm not gonna.
There is one person I can always be bothered to see however, and that's Mr. Willie, who made a trip out to Incheon on Thursday night. Unfortunately, he brought some bad (for me) news with him, that he won't be staying on for a few extra months as planned. Fuck these Koreans who somehow think learning English from a white face makes it a more valuable experience. Embarrassing. But I think he's mostly ready to go anyway. We've got plans to take a Seolnal trip down to Busan before he goes, and I'm really looking forward to that. I've been wanting to make it to Busan for ages, and traveling with Willie and his "these people" will definitely be better than going on my own.
Smalltown and his girl came over for a bit this afternoon to bring Mimi home and catch me in an embarrassing state of total disarray, as I was in the midst of cleaning the apartment and looking excellent, obviously. Apparently, Smalltown's girl decided to let him cut her hair. I have no idea... I mean... those two. They're something else. But they seem to be happy, so more power to them.
The good news is, both Secret Diaries and Skins have started a new series. And I've got coffee, chocolate and clean sheets. All is well in the world of Liz, even if it is currently a world of one. Who knows. Tomorrow I might even try my hand at that old writing thing. Wahey.
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
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.
I realize it's a slightly ridiculous way to go about things, but for the time being, I'm using pop music to study Korean. 2pm songs are particularly good for this because not only is there a load of repeating within the songs themselves, but the same phrases seem to haunt the entire album. By the time I'd finished translating and learning the vocabulary in two songs, there were only a few new words I encountered in the next two that I had to look up. But the grammar of each base vocabulary word changes a few different times, which helps me to pick up on that as well. Plus, if I ever get drunk enough to go ahead and cave in on that front, I could absolutely kill at noraebang. It already drives the students absolutely wild when I bust out just a line or two when I see them doing part of any given dance or for payback when they mention any word that triggers a pop song line in my head for all the English words I've had to avoid so far for fear of the entire class simultaneously bursting into song and dance in the middle of a lesson.
I'm pleased that the PE teachers have kept their drunken promises from the trip thus far and continued to acknowledge my existence in the school while unintoxicated. Today I had a nice little chat with the serious PE teacher that Coteacher got into a big scrap with earlier in the year. I defended him at the time by saying that, even though he'd never spoken to me, he reminded me of my brother, and I thought he was just under a lot of pressure and that's why he snapped at her when she questioned him about something. He had continued to ignore her throughout the year, and I explained that I thought this was less about his stubbornness than it was probably about the fact that he was embarrassed about his reaction to the situation and didn't know how to fix it. One day, following this advice, Coteacher decided to greet him first and she said the ice immediately melted, that I had been right, and that she couldn't understand how I could know that without having ever spoken to him. To me, he just seems one of those people whose personality is easy to read. I like him.
Now, I'm trying to get my apartment in shape, but to do that requires having another clothing rack, which I had intended to pick up after work today before a deathtrap of ice and rain started to come down outside. It's like Korea is personally welcoming me back with the worst weather ever. I nearly died on the walk home, causing two separate ajummas to attempt to walk me the rest of the way home with their assistance. As if, being twice their height and weight, I wouldn't completely crush them if I did end up going down. Sweet.
Tomorrow I'll be meeting Mr. Willie in Bupyeong for ddeokbokki, which shouldn't really be an entire plan, but somehow is. I'm sure alcohol of some kind will get involved at some point. It makes me really sad to think that he'll be leaving in a few months. I've gotten extraordinarily lucky in that most of the foreigners I know have extended or renewed their contracts, or are otherwise planning to stay on beyond their first year. That having been said, most of them live in Seoul and during the school year we get really caught up in our own things and don't have much time to see each other often.
I realized while I was in Glasgow that, while putting as much effort as I have into getting to know Koreans has been very smart, I could really stand to get to know a few more Westerners as well. There's a group of guys who have been around in Bupyeong for a while who Smalltown and I sort of idly chat with when we're out, but I haven't really made an effort to get to know them much beyond that. I think I'll work on that the next time I see them. When I first came to Korea, I really wanted to make an effort not to get entrenched in a foreigner bubble, but I don't think there's really any danger of that at this point. As much as it sucks that most foreigners here are on a rotating cast of characters thanks to this being contract work, it turns out that I've gone through Koreans just as fast, so I might as well give it a shot. Plus, I think all of those guys are about to re-sign as well.
아, 추워... back to the studying, I suppose. I have plans to make an excellent sandwich for dinner. It's the little things, right kids?
Hot Yellow Fellows posted this and I thought it was a prime example of what I'm not sure I'm ready to come back to trying to understand again just quite yet. I mean, when one of my students looks at me, indicates another student and says, "Teacher he smell boy!" it's funny enough. But then, they're fifteen. I realize that, essentially, they are children's entertainers. I just.... really?
Sigh. MJ Oppah's umma is in the hospital with something that sounds pretty damn serious and it's one of those situations where you're not quite sure what to do, because you want to do something kind to help, or to show that you care, but at the same time, you don't feel quite close enough to make that kind of gesture yet. I don't really want to stress him out by being a stupid foreigner who can't figure out where the hospital is and shows up with some kind of oddly cooked foreigner version of Korean food, and making him explain to his entire family what the foreigner girl is doing there. You know? That's got 'disaster' written all over it. And also might come off as a bit stalkeresque at this point.
It would've been really nice to come home to a Mike Magnes after this trip. Unfortunately, he's busy dying of the worst sinus/whatever infection ever and not being covered by his job's insurance just yet back in New York. JH Unni phoned me in the cab on the way home from the airport yesterday just to check in. I asked her to catch me up on any of the gossip I missed while I was away. She said nothing too interesting had gone down, that there were a few things, but I sounded too tired to hear it just then.
It was nice to arrive at the airport and have the cab line staff approach me in English and look completely taken aback when I answered them all in Korean, and then having them willingly shift over once they realized I knew where I was going and, in general, what was going on. The Korean conversation with the driver in the cab was relatively effortless. It seems I am still improving, despite putting very little effort into studying. I seem to pick up small things everyday and then after a while, they just sort of sink in. Texing with MJ Oppah and JH Unni in Korean has helped loads. At this point, I can understand everything they're saying, but it's also stuff that I wouldn't know how to phrase exactly in the right or natural way, if I hadn't had it said to me first.
I need new hangers and possibly a new clothing rack to accomodate all of the ridiculous shopping I did while I was in Glasgow. I'll have to hit up the Homeplusuh later. On that note, I've just recieved a message from my baby brother, which never happens, so I'm off to respond to it in too much detail. Smalltown's lost his phone because that's the kind of thing he does, so I'm going to try to catch him out for a drink sometime this week (no classes again until Monday) and catch up on what I've missed while I've been away. To all the people who have been leaving comments, I've read them all and appreciate them all, and will try to get back to them, but I may miss some because there's been a big pile up. Thanks for reading, as always, though.
The uncomplicated truth is that, for the first time, I'm not happy to return to the ROK. I miss my friends. I miss meeting new people and it being easy and comfortable. But I'll get over it. And I'll readjust. Give me a couple of days, kiddos.
To Steph and Joe Dillon and Gez and Murray and Maura and Alex, Casey, Julie... thank you for the wonderful trip and reminding of who I am.
All the batteries are charged. All the words in the next two chapters of the Korean book have been translated so I can continue to study on the plane, despite the absence of an electronic dictionary (should get on that when I return). Phone numbers, addresses and flight times have all been duly recorded in the travel notebook. Bills paid. Money withdrawn from the bank. Music uploaded on to mp3 player. I think I'm almost ready to go.
Does anyone remember if lighters are allowed on flights out of Incheon? If I don't get at least one cigarette in Dubai, I'll cry....
Take care, kiddos. Next correspondence will come from Glasgow.
No? No such luck? Hm.
Seriously though, I should work on this gang idea.
No one who reads this blog will actually understand this, but my god how many times has TOP kissed Daesung now? Not to worry -- there is no gay in Korea. Just don't think about all those adolescent nights they've spent pent up in their YG dorm together, locked away from all things female. I mean.
Anyone else find Korea's pop music lifestyle of snatching up the "artists" shortly after they learn to talk and keeping them under lock and key well into adulthood a little creepy? Never mind. I don't even know why I'm talking about this. I've got much bigger fish to fry at the moment.
Today went well -- this bunch of teachers are much more talkative than the ones last year, and it doesn't take too much prodding to get them going. We were informed by the overzealous even coordinator this morning that the best "teacher" from the conference will be chosen at the end, so we'd all better try our best! Skippy. I bet there won't be any kind of negative results from that either, like having to give a demo class or being forced into giving a lecture at the next district meeting.
Anyway, I took in an article about how facial expressions and our interpretations of them differ, between Western and Eastern culture, as a sort of sneaky, indirect way to try to get the teachers talking about the troubles we have on both sides with co-teaching. It was fairly easy to lead them into it, and after a bit of convincing, they were willing to speak openly about some things the weoneomins have done that have offended or troubled them, which gave me a chance to explain what was behind some of those behaviors. This conversation went both ways, of course, and hopefully (even though some of the teachers grumbled about how the article was going to be too hard beforehand) gave them a little break from the "activities" they've been doing for the last week and a half. Of course, I'm a pretty selfish person, and it was far more interesting for me, too, than having them cut and paste vocabulary phrases in groups or some such nonsense.
Since I got done early, I had a chance to get over to the bank and get some bills paid (my electricity bill came as huge proof of how much more cold-natured I've become this winter compared to last -- ouch) and ran to Homeplus to pick up a couple of sweaters before I travel, and some truly horrendous, completely Korean nonsense for the kid, the details of which I won't be divulging here, since she's a reader. Rest assured I'll get at least one photo, though, once I arrive.
Fooled around on the train with the idea of ringing MJ Oppah out of pure curiosity, what with having the entire afternoon free after finishing errands, but ultimately decided laundry, packing and cleaning should take priority. Can't promise it won't happen tomorrow, though.
A number of troubling interactions happened in quick succession Sunday afternoon just before I went to meet Smalltown for drinks, and he saw it all over my face as soon as he walked in. As a result of this combination, I ended up in part discussing the situation with MJ Oppah with him.
"Why are you being all weird about this? You've got a different guy around every other week. You've never been all bothered about it before."
"Yeah, but those guys don't give a shit anymore than I do. This is different."
"What, are you getting hung up on the 'hard to get' thing? Don't tell me that bug's got you as well...." We'd had a long phone conversation about a few other situations earlier, and why it is some girls seem to write a guy off as soon as he's obviously available to her.
"Oh hell no. You know I don't play around with that garbage. It's just --"
"It's just that he's too easy."
"No. Just let me think for a minute and I can get this straight. It's just that... I'm not really sure about him yet. And I can't claim to know what his intentions are. He could just be being friendly. But he's not like the other guys I've known. If he's down, he's down. And I don't want to play around with that before I'm sure. But I can't be sure until I know him better. And I can't get to know him better without possibly sending the wrong message depending on what he's thinking. And I don't want to be in that position, if things don't pan out right. I don't play around with people -- you know that. I mean, if we're both just playing, it's fine. But not really. Know what I mean?"
"Yeah. I get that."
He didn't have any advice, of course.
Anyway. It's too early to be making assumptions, but I've just got a feeling about this. So I'm trying to proceed with caution, but seemingly proceeding none the less. Hopefully it will all come out right in the end. This is my problem -- most of the time, I don't take anything all seriously. But when it comes right down to the serious business, I tend to take it way, way too seriously. But one thing's for sure: I am getting kind of exhausted from playing around with the college boys who don't know their asses from their elbows.
I'm getting too old for this shit. I was thinking about it while I was falling asleep last night -- I'm nearing three years out of university. I've got a full time job and my own apartment. I have neither the time nor the energy anymore to be putting up with 2 am drunk phone calls and people begging me to come out to bars when all I want to do is watch a damn movie and be in bed by 11:30. I don't fancy having some guy hanging around my flat criticizing the dust in the corners because his mom still does his laundry for him, while I'm running around teaching everyone under the sun, paying my own bills, doing my own grocery shopping and trying to squeeze as much of a social life as I can in on the weekends, in between studying Korean and trying to keep in touch with my family back home.
Well. That's certainly enough of that. In a couple of days, I'll be hanging around the kid's flat in sunny ol' Glasgow drinking wine, eating everything, and bitching about boys and life and all that unnecessary garbage to our little hearts' content, so you all won't have to read about it here anymore. Bring on the 20 hour flight. I'm ready.
If you want to know what it's like to perform, try this. Because these people don't know shit about you and somehow you have to go in there and, from the first second you take your place in front of the room, start leading them toward open conversation. Not to mention, if you catch them in the second week, they've already sat through hours and hours of weoneomins who may have only been in this country for a couple of months and don't have a fucking clue what they're doing (not their fault -- we're not given a single guideline for what this is or what we're supposed to do -- we're just told show up and teach teachers for three hours).
I just pray that I've ended up with a lucky draw -- groups that have made peace with each other and settled the pecking order, with at least one or two talkative leaders who will help me get the ball rolling. Usually, this involves having at least one male teacher in the room. The women tend to be more squeamish about being the first to speak out, whereas I've had some male teachers who have almost taken the class control right out from under me before.
But I enjoy these sessions. I like the challenge of it, and that moment where you finally shatter the barrier in the classroom, and people start to speak up not because they feel bad for you, standing up in the front of the room surrounded by awkward silence, but because you've managed to spark enough interest that they want to say something -- even if it has to be in English -- is one of the most rewarding moments you can have, amongst life's small victories.
Here we go. I've got a lot to take care of in the next couple of days if I'm actually going to make it out of country. Good thing I'll be finishing a little early today and tomorrow. Say a prayer for good weather and cooperative audiences.
Anyway, Smalltown's girl and I finally broke through the barrier last night when she realized she can communicate with me better than she can with him. IE, I speak and understand at least some Korean. I ended up doing a fair amount of translating last night and feel like I finally found my little niche in the couple fold.
Some real assholes that I've run into before came in last night and I just wasn't having it. A few really great foreign guys came in on their tails and one of them confirmed that they've seen those guys around and don't care for them one whit either. Sometimes I wish the expat community out here was like Survivor and you could vote people off. They'd be close to the top of the list of the first to go, that's for damn sure.
And now it's time for my confession. Father, forgive me, for I have knowingly stirred up shit. Premeditated, long contemplated shit. I pushed the button. The send button on my phone, that is:
ㅁㅈ오빠 잘 있어요? 다음주에 스코틀랜드에 갈 거예요. 언제 다시 한국에 와서 같이 식사하자.
스코틀랜드에 얼마나 오래있을거에요? 보고싶을거에요 좋은시간보내고 와서 꼭 연락해요^^
The funny thing is, when we were left alone, we did just fine with him speaking Korean and me speaking English, with a little bit of cross-over. But when we had the eyes of the other two who are fluent in both languages on us, we both froze up. 말해! 말해! Oh my god. Just leave us alone.
Anyway, it was a good night. I'm still not really comfortable with the whole we-run-up-a-huge-bill-and-then-just-stand-there-while-they-guys-pay-it-alone thing. 내 스타일이 아니야. 그런대 난 언니 따를거다. I did feel a bit shit just climbing into the cab with a load of 잘가!s and no thank yous. I felt especially bad for Big Guy, who orchestrated this whole thing to see JH again, so I texted him to tell him to tell his friend thank you for me, and that he did a good job, and thanks to him as well, because I had a really good night. He's got a weird thing about wanting to learn Spanish and has, for some reason, decided I'm fluent enough to teach him, so we text in Spanish, which just takes things to a whole new level of ridiculous.
Anyway, I had JH pissing herself with laughter on the train with just an imitation of Little Guy doing his whole, "I can admit it. I am playboy. I can tell the truth. That's just how I am." speech, so we've decided we definitely need to see him again soon.
Definitely bedtime. Tomorrow I'll finally get to see Smalltown again. His girlfriend has apparently redecorated his entire flat while he was away and he claims he's totally fine with this. Freak. I'd be calling the police. Different strokes, eh? Goodnight, my darlings.
Feeling a bit scrappy tonight for no particular reason. Had a lovely last day with the boys, who have declared themselves my eternal "camp students". I introduced them to a very popular seonbae of theirs when he came in to say hello, but of course they clammed up and refused to show him how good their English is. They've already put in several requests for summer camp and took about 20 minutes to say goodbye. It's already making me think about July rolling around and whether or not I'll get offered another re-sign at my school. I want to see these guys graduate.
After they left, I spent a couple of hours in the downstairs office practicing my Korean with the other teachers, then back up to the fourth floor, where my guitar students came down for a break from the music room upstairs. Deskwarming's not so bad when you can manage to be a bit social, I guess.
Something strange is going on with this musical tomorrow. The whole situation is a bit strange to begin with, with the three guys from New Year's Eve, but the only one who isn't working tomorrow night is the one I nearly got into a scrap with at the hof, and then ended up swearing eternal bro-ship with. He's a little bit been trying to play things from both ends with me and JH, which is what got me turning all ghetto to begin with -- you don't fuck with me, you don't fuck with my girl friends, and you sure as hell don't fuck with me and my girl friends.
I have to be careful when I'm drinking. I imagine most of the time I maintain a fairly dignified presence, if I do say so myself, and I'm a pretty quiet person unless I'm with close friends. But if I get too much alcohol in me and someone presses the right buttons, I can go full-on scary-as-hell-street-bitch in about thirty seconds. Which is what happens when some big as hell muscle guy I hardly know tells me to "mind [my] own business". I'll show you minding your fucking business in a minute if you don't sit down and shut your fucking mouth....
You get the picture. Anyway, afterward we drunkenly bonded about protecting friends and it was all gravy. I can't imagine why the timid little glasses wearing guy who had been, up until that point while I was still shyly muttering in broken Korean, relentlessly and shamelessly pursuing me suddenly backed off -- can you? It's all part of my charm, kids.
Anyway, Big Guy tried it on via text message for a couple of days afterward, but I made it quite clear that I have no intentions of playing any fucking games where my friendship with JH is involved, and I'm certainly not interested enough in him to put things with JH at risk, so that's not going down. Now, apparently, he's looking for someone "for me" for this damn musical tomorrow night. I was confused at first, when JH said the third one, who is a fucking adorable tiny little guy, and the only one who would admit straight out that he's a womanizer, had work and couldn't make it, and that Big Guy is "trying to find someone else". Well, doesn't JH have another friend she could invite? Or I could see if any of my friends want to come...
No! You should let him choose someone for you!
Oh, Koreans. God forbid anything not be about matchmaking ever. I'm fucking terrified to see what this guy rustles up at the last minute. But as long as he can take my attitude as well as Big Guy and Little Guy did, then I'm sure we'll be alright. Like I said, I'm feeling scrappy. Nothing better to take that out on than some random new guy. If Big Guy produces someone who can stand up to it, then who knows? That having been said, I should probably start getting my place cleaned up.
Strange. I can't seem to stay out of these situations for long.
God bless my friends. They must get tired of me dropping in with such little notice. But they always have enough grace to pretend it doesn't matter.
It's going to be strange to be back in an English speaking country. Even when I was home in October, I would step up to the counter at a shop and stutter a bit before realizing I could just speak English. There was always a moment's hesitation before ordering in a restaurant, while I started to organize my thoughts into Korean, and then had to stop myself. At least it won't be like in Paris, where several times I had to stop myself, upon being spoken to in a foreign language, from responding in Korean. Language really fucks with your head.
Speaking of that, though, I had quite a heart-warming moment today, after lunch was cleared away in the office, when I saw that MJ Oppa had taped a note to the table before he left yesterday informing the other teachers that I was upstairs in the fourth floor office, that I was teaching until 12, and that they should invite me to have lunch with them. He ended the note with a small parenthetical, which was what really got me: "(우리말 잘 이해하십니다)". The other teachers saw me smiling at the sign and fluttered around about how I understood, and it must be true. So as for feeling forgotten, well you can forget that. MJ Oppa took care of that.
I'm having a great time with the camp boys, even though we have (as I predicted) been kicked out of the EOZ with no warning for construction again. We're just camping out in my office, which suits them fine, because a. it's a hell of a lot warmer and they can sit on the heaters and b. I brought in hot cocoa mix, so they spend the entire four hours on a sugar high, making a huge mess while they're at it. I'm quite proud of how I picked up all 9 names the very first hour -- it used to be quite a struggle for me to get them all down within the first couple of days. Camp is quite a different experience when I can understand the boys in Korean and they're aware of that. We feel more integrated more quickly, and they're much more comfortable around me from the very beginning. Which has resulted in a lot of instant "아 재미 없다! 선생님! 게임! 제발! Hangman! 영화!"
"No! Listen. Hangman and movies are boring. You think you want that. You don't. Trust me. I'm the teacher. After ten minutes of Hangman, ten minutes of a movie.... 아 재미 없다! 재미 없다!"
"Just be patient. Fifteen minutes, vocabulary. Then we will do something better. You have to learn the words first before we can do something. You know that. You trust me, right?"
"Yes but ah Teacher vocabulary very boring!"
"It's school. It's supposed to be boring."
My class smartass (every camp has one) and the leader of this discussion Chanyang thinks this over for a second and then nods to himself with his hand on his chin like a miniature wise old man: "Ahhh. School is supposed to be boring. 맞아요." He turns to the others, as if it has been they who have been stirring up the controversy, rather than him, and says, "야! 조용히해! School is supposed to be boring! Don't be childish!"
Even the vocabulary can get fun when we get into the more abstract stuff, because I can't just show them a picture while they write it down. I have to explain slowly and they have to listen carefully to guess the word I'm getting at, so it becomes like a game in and of itself. Even Chanyang gets right in there, on the edge of his seat. Yesterday, I was quite proud of us for sitting there and managing to translate over fifty words like "easygoing" so we could do an activity based around horoscope, which I had noticed had piqued their interest quite a bit when I mentioned it the day before, while we were working on "Do you believe in ______?"
At the time, we got off on a huge tangent with them all telling me their birthdays and asking me to tell them about their signs. So I designed a huge two hour lesson about it and, believe it or not, we managed nearly an hour's worth of conversation. At the end, I printed out each of their horoscopes for them in English and they clambered around to have me explain them. Another good thing about being in the office is having the printer right there for things like that.
The other Korean teachers remain completely mystified as to how it is I'm teaching these boys for four hours a day by myself with my minimal Korean abilities. They were grilling MJ Oppa about it yesterday, and when they came to get me for lunch, they were awed to find the boys still hanging around twenty minutes after camp had ended, explaining something to me using the small whiteboard in the office. The boys just don't have the hangups adults do about the language barrier. They start out shy and uncomfortable and nervous, but by the end of day one, we're all communicating just fine without any awkwardness whatsoever.
I have three boys this time around who are C level first graders and who were absolutely terrified to show up on the first day and find no sign of a Korean teacher safety net. But eventually I got the higher level boys to stop swatting and shouting at them for asking me questions in Korean, and after they got comfortable with that, they've started speaking English on a level I don't think anyone suspected was possible. I was worried at first, but they are getting along just fine.
I'll be sad to say goodbye tomorrow. I really wish it could always be like this.
Cha. This weekend is the musical in Seoul and Smalltown's return -- I can't believe it's already been three weeks. It flew by. Then a couple of half days teaching at another school and off to Glasgow for a couple of weeks. Summer vacation dragged by, but it feels like winter vacation is already almost gone, and it's just begun. Time flies, as the saying goes, I suppose. I just want it to start getting warm again soon. I've just about had it with this cold shit.
You've officially been warned that this is a poorly written, disorganized rant right here in the title.
People get so arrogantly detached off into theory sometimes that they forget that theory doesn't exist without humanity. What I see and touch and smell and feel and taste is not less real than the reasons I might see, touch, smell, feel or taste something in a certain way.
Here is what young women tell me on college campuses when the subject comes up: They can’t compete, and they know it. For how can a real woman—with pores and her own breasts and even sexual needs of her own (let alone with speech that goes beyond “More, more, you big stud!”)—possibly compete with a cybervision of perfection, downloadable and extinguishable at will, who comes, so to speak, utterly submissive and tailored to the consumer’s least specification?
K, first of all, I'm not "competing" with shit. How out of touch with reality do you have to be to take a statement like this seriously? A guy would rather sit in and watch porn on his own than be with a less-than-perfect real, living, breathing, flesh-and-blood woman? Since when? And what kind of guy, exactly?
The women in porn do not look like real women. They are not supposed to look like real women. Of course, there are all kinds of variations these days, but the stuff your regular, run-of-the-mill type of guy is watching does not contain images that will ever, ever remind him of his girlfriend (or his sister or his mother) -- that's done on purpose. Get back to me when you want to go a bit deeper than "her tits are bigger than mine and her tan is so perfect wah wah wah" and maybe we can get into this. Get a fucking grip.
Furthermore.... how can I compete with a woman who has no sexual needs of her own, no voice of her own, no will of her own and who is completely submissive and under the control of her 'partner'? Answer: Who fucking cares? Who wants to go anywhere near a man who finds those traits desirable, let alone coming to the conclusion that he allowed, of all things, pornography to develop this desire in the first place? This is where this article takes a real Cosmo stance right from the beginning -- I'm going to talk about women! women! women! now! I'm going to give women a voice! I'm going to tell you how women feel! are affected! All through the frame of how desirable they are to men. I mean. Oops.
For most of human history, erotic images have been reflections of, or celebrations of, or substitutes for, real naked women. For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women. Today, real naked women are just bad porn.
Utter bullshit. How many men do you actually know? Not even worth responding to.
... pornography—and now Internet pornography—has lowered their sense of their own sexual value and their actual sexual value. When I came of age in the seventies, it was still pretty cool to be able to offer a young man the actual presence of a naked, willing young woman... Our younger sisters had to compete with video porn in the eighties and nineties, when intercourse was not hot enough. Now you have to offer—or flirtatiously suggest—the lesbian scene, the ejaculate-in-the-face scene.
Also, first day of camp. Anyone have any ideas how I could disguise going out to play in the snow as an English lesson? No? Hm. I reckon I could come up with something. As it is, third graders have been texting my phone all weekend asking if they can come to camp, so I know they're talking amongst themselves and I'm kind of afraid of who all is going to show up today. Either way, we'll work it out and have a good time. Or as good of a time as is possible at English camp, I suppose.
Into the fray.
The business owner, JW, apologized profusely, as soon as we got situated in a new little cafe/bar that JH's friend just opened, about being so completely "wasted" at our last meeting. I like how he uses the word "wasted" even though it's such an obviously American thing to say, and everything else JW and JH say is so obviously English. It was good to get a chance to talk to him, even though I definitely got the feeling he was vibing on JH (which she confirmed later) and like I was interrupting his intentions a bit. He talked more about his company and I got to understand that the job he gives to young men is provided for boys who he says, "cannot exist in the normal school system". Basically, he wants to give them a chance to do something productive, which they can feel proud of. Which everyone knows is right up my alley.
He started to explain this after he asked what I do with my free time, and I told him about the boys at the center, which led to a great conversation about the education systems in our respective countries and what can be done about kids who just don't fit in. He said he had realized, recently, that giving the boys a creative outlet through their work and chance to earn their own bread and be proud of themselves was good, but that it wasn't enough -- that they needed to have the chance to continue their education -- that was the most important thing. I told him I thought he had hit the nail right on the head, because ultimately the biggest problem you run into with boys like that is a deeply ingrained sense of believing that that they are stupid, because that's what they've been told all their lives. That giving them the chance to make something of themselves was one thing, but addressing the underlying problem of, "I can't learn anything" is another thing altogether. I told him that if he ever gets the education side of things up and running, to give me a call if he needs a native speaking teacher, because I would love to help out, and my background in teaching actually starts with students who don't have a traditional way of learning.
It kind of explains why those boys were so goosey at the Christmas party -- no doubt they don't have much confidence speaking English. But I can fix that -- that's my specialty.
Because it was our first time meeting after NYE, other than a short phone conversation yesterday, JH and I ended up turning the conversation to the three guys we met that night, and exchanging the details of who had contacted whom, and to say what. JW got visibly agitated at that point, and decided he would go home and let us "have girl talk time".
One thing I can say about JH -- she really seems to enchant the fellas. Not in the traditional sense of just, gosh she's beautiful and cute, but in the sense that she doesn't put up with their crap. We kind of took those three boys a bit by storm, being that they were a bit younger and obviously used to dealing with girls even younger than they were. That we spent most of the evening scoffing and rolling our eyes to each other anytime any of them would come out with a line seemed to throw everything a bit off balance. But they put up with it and seemed to have a really good time, and so did we. We have tentative plans in the future to all meet for Mexican food and also to go to a musical together (don't ask). We'll see if that pans out.
JH and I are progressing nicely. On NYE she shyly mentioned something about having slept with a guy she was telling me about, and I thought it best to go ahead and make a point out of that right then and there. I told her she didn't have to be shy with me about such things, that she could be completely honest and herself, because I neither judge, nor have room to judge, on such matters. She explained that she had a hard time not feeling guilty about things like that, and was eager to stay on the subject when I told her she had absolutely no reason to. Regret, maybe. Who among us hasn't felt some regret when it comes to things with the opposite sex? But guilt? Absolutely not. I told her she must work really hard on changing her thinking from "a man does this, it's okay/a woman does this, it's not okay" because that's all just a bunch of bullshit.
But I just don't want them to think that I'm a slut.
Fuck what they think, darling. What they think is not more important than what you think. And if they are going to judge you differently than they judge themselves when you both did the same thing, then they are small, stupid and childish to begin with. And not worth a second thought.
I know it can be hard to face a community of boys, which is basically all we have to work with here, when you know they discuss things amongst themselves in typical boys' club style. But the only way to deal with it is to hold your fucking head up high and not give them one single second to think they have the right to make any judgments whatsoever about you or your decisions. They are absolutely beneath such things, and that's simply the end of it. Fuck 'em.
I can tell she's still a bit nervous to be completely honest with me, but I think she'll trust me with time. That has been one of the things I've been missing the most here in Korea. I can meet plenty enough girls, but not one among them so far has seemed to be the kind I can talk completely honestly with and not have some sort of judgment enter the picture. Smalltown and I had a big discussion about this one night back when I was lamenting the lack of the fairer sex in my life here, and he said, I don't understand why you have so many problems making friends with girls, but you've got guy friends coming out of your ears.
I thought about it for a long time and ended up explaining that, to me, believe it or not, girl friends are extremely important. I love my guy friends and couldn't live without them, but a girl friend is something different -- something more serious, somehow, at times. I feel nervous when I'm with a group of new girls, careful of what I say and do and how they will think of me. When I'm with a group of new guys, I could give two fucks either way -- they can take me or leave me, as they will. I said I also felt like girls are more discerning when it comes to friendship. Guys generally don't give a fuck what their buddies are up to -- smoking, drinking, whoring around, cussing... whatever. They usually have the attitude of, if what you're doing doesn't affect me, then more power to you. Whereas girls tend to be more concerned about the things that their friends are up to. Which can be hard for a girl like me. I often feel like I can't just relax and be myself.
Times that by a thousand, and you've got the situation with girl friends here in the ROK.
I guess this is a really long-winded way of saying that I'm finally going to make it to a host bar. Which anyone who has been reading this blog for any amount of time knows has been a goal of mine for a long time. There's one just one floor down from the new bar that opened in Bupyeong, and after JH made a joke about just going there on NYE, I informed her that I was really curious about that kind of thing, but hadn't had a chance to go, because you can't go alone. And you certainly can't go with a guy. She said she'd been dying to try it as well, but none of her other girl friends were the type who would be up for it. So now, we're going.
Power duo. We're going to make so much trouble. I love it.
Some new characters on the scene but we'll get into that once we're sure of what they are exactly. Now back to the teen drama. ^^
I'm drunk as hell obviously. And should have gone to bed instead of making a cup of coffee. But I feel good about this year, my darlings. I want to milk every last second of this evening's optimism. You know it doesn't come around often for me. Tomorrow, promises will be broken. But tonight they really meant something.