My computer in the office has been broken for two days, so I have a whole backlog of junk that I've quickly checked and failed to respond to. I'll do my best to get around to all of that tonight. In other news, my fucking computer in the office has been broken for two days. And ALL of my classes were canceled today. Result? I can now almost sing "Only You" without looking at the lyrics and I can recite four new dialogues in Korean from memory, which isn't really useful.
I saw Minwoo cry today.
Co came into lunch and announced that she's decided she's not going to give Minwoo anymore attention, but instead she will focus on her other students. I sucked a little air in through my teeth.
I told her I thought ultimately it was the right decision, but that she might want to go ahead and buckle herself in, because that was going to make for a definite worse-before-it-gets-better situation.
"You know... I don't understand. All of the really serious troublemakers never make a problem for you...."
Yeah. Well, first of all that's not true. We've just got a different definition of 'trouble maker'. For me, the trouble makers are the cocky bastards in the A classes who make snide remarks about how I can't even speak Korean. They've mostly cut the crap this year, I think because I finally have them in leveled classes, so they've seen that I am too most certainly capable of meeting them at their level -- I just wasn't willing to do it before, when it meant leaving 90% of the class behind.
Why do the 짱 crew like me? You really want to know, 샘?
Because I stroke their terribly fragile little egos. I coo at them when they change their hair or do some new god-awful thing to their ears involving needles. I tell them they have pretty eyes and compliment their "파션 스타일". I teach them ridiculous "American" handshakes, how to say, "Que pasa, ese?", and alternate it all with making a few jokes at their expense every now and then.
That, and they're a little bit afraid of me. Because I told them all that I was the 짱 at my school, and they don't really know whether I'm joking or not, because I have tattoos and my ear is gauged. Which is pretty much all it takes to be a bona fide badass in Korea.
That's it. That's the fucking code. To me, it comes as naturally as breathing. Whereas convincing those A level boys to stop insulting my intelligence right in front of my face because they're insecure about the fact that they can't actually manage to communicate with me in English all the time, even though they are supposed to be the best, is completely beyond me most of the time.
Anyway. Back to Minwoo. Just as I predicted, Minwoo ditched homeroom meeting time this afternoon, and when Co called him out on it, he responded with the achingly obvious response that she didn't need to pay any attention to him at all anymore, that she could hate him and just forget about him.
Boo freaking hoo, Minwoo. Really?
Co was furious and at her wits' end. She dropped him off in the office and asked me to watch him while she taught her seven class. As soon as the door closed behind her, Minwoo jumped up and reached for the knob.
"Um. Where do you think you're going?"
I gave him a dubious look.
"화장실 가요!" He shouted it in a nasty tone and slammed out of the doorway without waiting for a response. Son. You are not angry with me. Fucking tone it down.
I tailed him down the hall to make sure he was coming back, and when he did, he slammed past me into the office and threw himself back down in the chair. I walked in slowly behind him and closed the door. "You're not angry with me, Minwoo...."
He put his head down and sulked for a while and I left him to it, dicking around at my desk with my Korean stuff, watching him out of the corner of my eye. After about ten minutes, I saw his little head pop up and start eyeballing me over the cubicle wall. I gave it another five minutes for good measure. Head down. Head back up. Head down. Head back up. Shifting in his seat.
"Yes?" Minwoo never, ever speaks to me in English. This was interesting. I didn't change over to Korean.
"Is Mom coming to school?"
"I don't know."
"Are you going to die?"
"No. 저는.... I.... I.... 내일...."
"Tomorrow.... I.... school no!"
"Tomorrow you aren't coming to school."
"Well. Tomorrow nobody is coming to school. There is no school tomorrow."
"아니... I.... I ... school no!"
"Ooooh. You're never coming back to school."
"Not on Monday, or on Tuesday, or on Wednesday...."
"Yes! I no coming school!"
"Yes. Just.... teacher... me.... hate!"
"Oh, good god. Minwooya...."
Those fucking eyes. Burning lines straight into mine. He told me in Korean with total conviction that he's never coming to school again.
"Minwooya... if you never come back to school... do you know what?"
"I will cry." I moved my fingers down my face to indicate tears.
"Yes. Me. I will cry. Boohoohoo.... I will be so sad."
He cracked a smile in spite of himself.
"Minwooya... you know what. If you never come back to school, I will follow you."
"Yes. I will be so sad. I will miss you. So I will follow you. Stalker. Teacher stalker."
"Haha! Teacher stalker?"
"Yes. Teacher stalker."
"You know what? You are like my little brother. 우리 남동생.... you.... same."
"Yes. Look." I grabbed my wallet out of my bag and wheeled myself over to him still sitting in my chair, which made him giggle. I showed him the photo of my brother in his navy uniform I keep in my wallet.
"Oh! Very handsome..."
"Yes he is. You too. My brother... also... 'I'm not going to school! No! I won't go to school!'"
"Yes. You and my brother... same."
I wheeled myself back to my desk. "Minwooya..."
"Come back to school."
When Co came back in and started lecturing him again, he kept his eyes firmly planted on mine, which I felt a little guilty about. I don't have to discipline these boys the same way their homeroom teachers do, and I always feel a little bad about that, especially in these cases where I can't explain that I agree with the teachers, and that they have to take the consequences of their actions and stop behaving like babies. Because they're not babies anymore -- they're very nearly men. All I can really do is tell them to cheer up, and because of that, I get off easy. And they think I understand them in a way that the Korean teachers don't. Which isn't true. I understand the Korean teachers in a way that they don't, and have the luxury of being friendly to them, even when they're acting like little assholes.
As I headed for the door this afternoon, Minwoo told me goodbye in English. I turned to him and told him I would see him on Monday. He gave me a defiant look in response, but he didn't disagree. I hope to god that I do.