Intrepid Girl Reporter

Sunday, 6/1: teach them well, let them lead the way

Would you believe me if I told you that I’m so excited about the prospect of MSYDP that I actually can’t sleep? How on Earth could it be possible to love something that has apparently sucked all of the life force out of my limp, exhausted body? Would you buy that I’m almost delirious thinking about it?

Well, BELIEVE IT, suckers.

I’m not even joking about this. This program – which at times I have believed to actually be sucking the blood out of my body – is coming up in two days and we are on a roll. Except for Scooter, who is convinced that his kids have no idea what’s going on. The rest of us have seen the future, and its name is MSYDP. Hallim met with her team today and apparently they solved Japan’s energy problems. I love this.*

Other noteworthy things that have happened this week:

  1. Started emailing with three of my favorite girls, all of whom are friends and in the same class. They’re wildly enthusiastic about everything and super funny. I almost feel this sense of relief, too, because I’ve been wanting to have contact with my kids all year, but most of them haven’t seemed comfortable talking to me outside of class until now. Which makes me sad, obviously, because The Other Kids In The Program get lots of outside time, and I’m not sure why my kids are only comfortable with me now, but I’ll take what I can get.
  2. One of those girls actually likes Jeff Buckley. She also actively blogs and likes Korean punk music. I think she might be the only one in this school of 1500 that falls under these categories. I feel like I did when I was teaching at Summerbridge and I met Amara, the only camper who wasn’t a Rihanna fan. (This is also “Besame Mucho”/sloth girl.)
  3. I wish I could write in more detail about my students, for writing purposes, but this blog is supposed to be anonymous and I’m still trying to figure out how to balance detail and anonymity.
  4. Went to a festival with Soccer and two Book Club girls. (Note: Also found out that one of my favorite boy students is widely perceived to be arrogant and unkind. Whatever. I still like him. Also, he has never behaved that way towards me, which is more than I can say for a lot of my other students.)
  5. Saw some B-Boys and like ten more of my students at aforementioned festival.
  6. Saw “Iron Man” again with HB and HBBFF and another HB Friend.
  7. Someone told me the desks had been changed in one of my classrooms and Monkey started singing “Changes” by David Bowie.
  8. Rediscovered the Pretenders and “Back on the Chain Gang.”
  9. During “Would You Rather” lesson, offered Korea winning World Cup vs. Japan giving up Dokdo. CTF was like, “But that’s not a valid question, because Dokdo belongs to Korea.” I responded that I agreed, but that Japan continued to claim Dokdo. To which he told me, “Well, that’s kind of like China and Tibet. Maybe soon an earthquake will hit Japan, just like it hit China.” Open Response Question of the Day: readers, how would you have responded?

*So when I was at this festival on Saturday, as I mentioned, I was with one of my girls from Book Club who goes to My School and who is incredibly smart and pretty and sweet and also really shy and doesn’t have that many friends. The girls I ran into are good students for me – participatory, skilled at English – but also widely perceived to be running with The Wrong Crowd, i.e. the crowd that wears too much eyeliner and dates older boys. That crowd. At the time, I was torn between hanging out with my book club student, whom I wanted to know was respected and valued despite her lack of social success in the middle school arena, and these other girls, whom I wanted to sort of watch over and encourage to at least keep studying. Which is sort of the dilemma I face with my intense joy re: the MSYDP kids. They’re brilliant. I love working with them. I see them doing incredible things. But then I’m like, these kids don’t need me. And my elation at working with these kids is definitely equaled by the excitement I get when I actually engage some kid’s attention who doesn’t usually care. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wish I had more time in the day to hang out with all of my kids.


Saturday, 3/22: WE ARE NOT HUNGRY
March 22, 2008, 3:19 pm
Filed under: Catholicism, English Book Club, host fam, students

In case you were wondering exactly why this country sometimes makes me want to stick my finger directly into my eye sockets and twist it around, I give you the following conversation from today.

(Host Brother jumps out and scares me, twice, which is, as Host Brother knows, a particular dislike of mine.)

(Host Mom wants Host Brother to be in the English Book Club. There is no room in the English Book Club, and the book is probably too hard. Also, I need a Host Brother-free space.)

(Host Mom and Host Dad want Host Brother to go to America. Host Brother is not mature enough for this. I remind him that if he goes, he has to be nice, to which he agrees and then, thirty seconds later, says, “You think I am bad boy. Yes? Okay. Ommaaaa!” Then he holds his arm in front of my face for no reason.)

(Host Mom offers to drive me to English Book Club. While I appreciate this, I am not in a particularly friendly mood after these incidences.)

HM [something in Korean]

HB Do you have a mind to stay in Korea?

IGR No, I don’t think so. I will be leaving in July.

HB [something in Korean]

HM [something in Korean]

HB So you don’t like Korea.

IGR That’s not what I said.

HB So you don’t like Korea.

IGR Of course I love Korea. You know that. It’s just that, you know, I have to have other jobs too before I can get into grad school.

HB I see. [something in Korean]

HM [something in Korean]

HB So when will you get married?

One thing I’ve noticed about living here is that if you say no to something, people will just keep asking you until you cave under the pressure. Soccer and I were discussing this yesterday, attempting to discern when it is acceptable to say no and when it is not, and I was reminded again today as I sat in the car and found myself thinking: They might take it as a personal affront if I don’t want to stay in Korea for another year. Should I stay longer? I could stick it out, right? before I realized that that is a terrible rationalization for doing anything, especially things you don’t want to do.

The Catholic Church teaches that there are certain kinds of mysteries in the life of Jesus – joyful, sorrowful, glorious, and (apparently) luminous (that one is new, I guess, and I just learned about it thanks to Google – obviously I follow this sort of thing pretty closely). While I would like to point out that I am not trying to be heretical here, and I am not trying to say that I have ever, for example, been visited by an angel, the concept of mysteries and their presence and importance in our own lives seems like a useful thing to contemplate, especially when living abroad, regardless of your belief system.

It is a mystery to me, for example, how I can go from wanting to hitch a ride on the nearest plane home to being present at the first meeting of the EBC, where I can be surrounded by excited (if rain-dampened) faces who wanted to spend their Saturday afternoon talking about books in English. We’re reading Holes, which is by one of my favorite YA authors, Louis Sachar; it’s funny and poignant and, rather conveniently for us, was made into a movie. I love Sachar because his books are funny, he allows his characters to take themselves seriously, and he isn’t afraid to give them serious things to think about. And he’s got a lovely absurdist streak. (Although I do get him mixed up sometimes with Jerry Spinelli. Maniac Magee is a lot heavier, though.) The kids seem like they’ll love him too. I swear, my heart grew three sizes that day.

Today I also learned that Kind Mother, who is a member of the book club and who has always struck me as something of an odd duck anyway, owns twelve (!!!) hamsters. This is a mystery to me as well.

Anyway, these are not exactly the Sacred Mysteries. But when you leave your sphere (or your country, for that matter), you discover that there are certain matters that it’s helpful to accept while acknowledging your own basic inability to understand fully, and that the very nature of the mystery itself might be rewarding, even if the matter at hand is aggravating enough that you want to get out of your host mom’s car and run straight into traffic. I’m still leaving in July, but I imagine that it will take me at least until then to contemplate these matters, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.