30 March 2011

I live like a hermit in my own head

Odds and sods:

Random Coffee Shop Korean: You like to read?

Me: Yes.

RCKS: You must like to read fantasy.

Me: Not really. Why do you think that?

RCKS: Oh. Because of your hair...[1]

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Part of the teaching assignment that I have for this semester of the school year requires me to teach an advanced class after school.[2] The class has no book or curriculum map, which means I get to pretty much make up everything. That’s kind of awesome. So asides from teaching the children bad pop songs, playing games, and completing Highlights[3] hidden pictures activities,[4] I’ve required them to write an English diary. They’re supposed to write five sentences in English five days of the week (twenty-five sentences altogether, for the mathematically disinclined). When I made this announcement in class, the students complained and complained until I told them that I would also write a diary, only mine would be in Korean, and that then they could read it and laugh at my horrible attempts at Korean. They seemed to think this was a fair deal, and stopped complaining.

I figured it was only fair, and writing five sentences every day seemed like a good way to improve my Korean. I don’t know if it’s actually worked out that way though. Mostly, I think it’s just led me to realize how fundamentally boring my life really is. There’s a daily struggle to think of something I can say in Korean and something that feels as though it’s worth bothering to say. Usually I just settle for the first part, which has led me to write many sentences about stuff like brushing my teeth and eating rice.

The reality of it is that my life is probably pretty boring to most people, though. I wake up, mess with the cat, eat, go to work, come home, eat, mess with the cat, read, write, go to sleep. More or less. Still, I don’t actually find it all that boring, because the interesting stuff is in the details. For instance, yesterday, when I got home to work, one of those FedEx post-its was stuck on my door. I couldn’t figure out why I’d be getting something from the FedEx people, so I was excited. I rushed downstairs to the guard’s office to sign for and retrieve my package. As I was signing for the package, the guard’s hand brushed mine. He exclaimed over how cold it was, and then proceeded to hold my hand for about two minutes. See, that, to me, is weird, and funny, and interesting (not to mention vaguely creepy in a strangely sweet way). But it isn’t something I can really relate to my students, and it isn’t something I’d be able to explain well in Korean.[5]

Anyway, I told my students that I would allow them to laugh at my bad Korean, but I plan to have someone check my diary before I present my sentences to the students. Some of them are convinced I know Korean anyway. This is far from the truth. I just know enough classroom Korean to fool them, because I often understand what they’re talking about. I’m able to figure out a lot of what they’re saying based on the few words I do know and the context of the situation. I can’t do anything really useful, like formulate my own sentences. Still, I figure there’s no real reason for them to know that. Long ago, I came to the conclusion that one of the tricks to living is to just act like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t, and realize that everyone else is doing pretty much the same. Thinking this way allows for forgiveness.

Nowadays,[6] the other teachers gather in my classroom after classes have ended for the day. They drink tea or coffee, depending on their personal predilections. They invite me to join them for teatime, and I invariably do. The problem with this is that teatime can last anywhere from ten minutes to an hour and a half… and it’s conducted entirely in Korean. I try to listen and pick out words I know, and understand what’s being said, but after about twenty minutes of doing this, my brain is exhausted. So it wanders.[7]. Most of the time, teatime doesn’t bother me, but sometimes it’s tiresome.[8] I just hope that the kids I teach don’t feel the same way in my classes

[1] I’m not sure whether he meant the color or its length. It’s the color it is because that’s how it grows. It’s the length it is because I don’t like having strangers touch my head, so I’m lazy about getting it cut. We all have our glitches.

[2] Last semester, my after-school requirements included teaching daycare class. Daycare class was comprised of children who are between the ages of maybe six and eight. Frankly, I have very little use for children under the age of ten (actually, to be completely honest, I don’t have a lot of use for people over the age of ten either, but this is not about my misanthropic bent). They’re occasionally cute, but rarely tolerable. The class was a weekly hour of hell. The kids weren’t bad, but I felt a certain agony whenever I had to teach them. I’m much happier to be teaching the advanced class.

[3] You remember Highlights Magazine for Kids? It always had its logo, “Fun with a Purpose!” stamped on every cover. When I was a kid, I thought it said “Fun with a Porpoise!” I was always really disappointed by the lack of dolphins in each issue. I think I was probably in my teens before I realized that it didn’t say porpoise. I’m kind of a dumbass a lot of the time. Incidentally, did you know another word for porpoise is mereswine? No? Now you do. Isn’t your life just slightly better?

[4] Seriously. It’s good for learning prepositions, and prepositions are probably the trickiest part of language, because if you think about it hard enough, you realize that there’s really no consistent sense behind the way we use many of them (Is Oprah on the TV, or is Oprah on the TV? If Oprah’s on the TV, she’s bound to hinder one’s ability to watch Oprah). So I try to bombard them with preposition activities. Exciting, eh?

[5] I’m pretty sure I did a poor job of it in English, as well…

[6] Nowadays being a word that all of my co-teachers are particularly fond of. It’s cute.

[7] Today, I was thinking about the words gone, phone, and done. None of them rhyme, but when you look at them, you’d figure they would, right? English is such a mongrel of a language. I guess that’s part of its charm, but it really must be a pain in the ass to learn if you don’t grow up with it.

[8] Such as when they speak for five minutes straight and sprinkle my name throughout the conversation, and then don’t bother to tell me what it is they’re saying. I’m pretty sure they’re not plotting my death, but you can never know.

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