Intrepid Girl Reporter

the truth is

…that I am hungry now, and I probably wasn’t a very good sport earlier, and my room needs to be tidied firstthingtomorrow, and my blog is the first thing to come up in a Google search of the word “hotchken.” And I’m coming to peace with all of that. Today I woke up late and I ate some soup, but I’m pretty sure it’s the same soup we’ve been eating since Monday, and while I haven’t gotten sick yet, I still have to get over the mental block I have that says that cooked beef is only good for three or four days at the most. (Or do I?) Then I ate a pretzel at the new, revamped Tom and Tom’s in Sicheong (City Hall), which now features an extensive variety of soft pretzels – I can think of ten off the top of my head – and is so pleased about these pretzels, in fact, that a detailed explanation of what pretzels are (it starts by describing them as “a salted biscuit”) is permanently written on the front of the shop. Then I ate at Bagdad with Aewol (my friend who teaches in Aewol) and Transy, a Program kid out in Seogwipo who went to the university of the same name. (Incidentally, I made him my de facto brother in the second week of the Program’s training, but “Transy” is shorter.) So that’s one meal today, pretty much. Now it’s midnight and I just spent five minutes deliberating over whether or not I should make myself a piece of toast. The whole situation seems to parallel every problem I have in some deep way, but I’m not entirely sure how.

Scooter and I went to Expat Ultimate Frisbee today, which was fun, except that – if you know me personally – you know that I have absolutely zero hand-eye coordination, and also no experience with Ultimate. I was not a top pick, shall we say. The problem with me playing sports has always been that I have trouble focusing enough to be coordinated – I can do solo things better, because then it’s just me, but when I’m with other people I get self-conscious about the fact that this sort of thing just doesn’t come naturally to me, and then I’m really in a bind. Point being that at one point I forgot the rules and completely flubbed the one chance I had to do something worthwhile, and what I really wanted to do was stay on the sideline and watch some more so I could get a feel for it, but they convinced me to stay in and practice, which is difficult to do when you’re not sure what’s going on, and then they definitely felt sorry for me as The Girl Who Couldn’t Play Frisbee. (Who Can’t Play Frisbee?) And if there is one thing I cannot abhor, it is people feeling sorry for me. So I played until I could get a sub and then got out – I’m afraid that getting out, and the fact that I was visibly a little frustrated with myself (even though it’s just a game!), probably meant that I came off as a bad sport, so I’ll have to go back and redeem myself. I mean, I got back in, but I still wasn’t any good, and although it’s immature, part of me will always want to be good or go home. I need to grow out of it, but I’m thinking it might just be a part of who I am.

At any rate the Expats were v.nice – I recognized many of them, after all, from rhymeswithjeju, the mailing list for English speakers on the island – and it’s not their fault that they were concerned about a person with such appalling athletic skills.* To be honest, I think the language barrier has been getting to me a bit lately – I find myself increasingly frustrated with people who are only trying to help me, like, you know, my pottery teacher. Or my yoga teacher, for that matter. They know I speak very little Korean, and I know their English is equally limited, but sometimes they’ll just start speaking Korean and be surprised when I keep messing up, because I don’t know that my foot is supposed to be flexed or that I’m pulling the clay too hard. Maybe it’s the relatively stressful week I’ve had, although I might just need to come home for a bit.

It was a good day for Frisbee though; the sun was up, the sky was blue, it was beautiful (and so were you). Scooter coached me on some basic Frisbee catching technique after learning that I didn’t learn to catch anything until I was six, and to his credit, didn’t laugh at me too much when it bounced out of my hands. I also crashed a pickup soccer game between these two boys who were probably in fourth or fifth grade; I meant to just play, but they ended up giving me some technique tips for my kicks. Overall, it was an educational afternoon. Afterwards we went to Tom and Toms and met some Jeju National University students, one of whom is going to be my language partner. She has a puppy and the same name as Teddy Bear Barrette. Interestingly enough. Soccer’s been sick all day, so I visited her later with some Gatorade and some leftover naan, and we watched Muhan Dojeon and made one of those sewing kits that they sell at the stationery stores here – this was a stuffed cell phone charm in the shape of a bunny’s head. Mine is blue.

Here is my cool thing for the day: the New York Times wedding section. No, I don’t know why I read it, but yes, I always do.

*How unathletic am I? Here’s a story: The summer before my freshman year of high school, I swam competitively for the first and last time, on my neighborhood team. I had no natural talent and no experience. All the girls in my age group had been swimming for years. Ergo, I could not keep up with them; ergo, I had to practice with the elementary schoolers. No joke. But, in the crowning moment of my summer, there was one race in which I did not come in last, which meant that I was not the slowest, and let me tell you, fifth place has never been so sweet.



A. Today PCT criticized me, in front of the class, because this student who already had a ticket* was upset because I wouldn’t call on him, because, you know, he already had a ticket.

  1. Other teachers have asked me to not call on students who volunteer all the time, so everyone gets a chance
  2. The students will not take me v. seriously if they see me getting called out by another teacher
  3. Given the emphasis on “face” and the saving thereof in Korea, I can’t help but suspect that she maybe did it on purpose

B. I locked my classroom and closed the windows when I went to lunch, only to come back and find out that my students know how to jimmy the lock and BREAK IN. One of them left me an empty Popsicle wrapper accompanied by the legend “Here is my gift. Hillary <3”

  1. At least it was in correct English?

C. I’m pretty sure that my vice-principal was making fun of my walk today.

At least the weather is still beautiful and I have yoga tonight. Then pizza, because Oma got a raise. I’m really sick of Korean pizza.

October 15, 2007, 1:24 pm
Filed under: ACT, life on Jeju, life progress, music, pipe dreams, Pop-Song, skool, students, volunteering, yoga

My PopSong boys – the boys who had left because they were embarrassed that they were the only boys, the boys who skipped out for two weeks – came back today! I LOVE THEM. I was so happy. They still can’t hear pitch, but their presence, you know, it just adds so much.

Today I wore a plaid flannel skirt and met Scooter for coffee, which is almost usual now, and then Soccer and I went to see this art thing at the Art and Culture Center, and then I went to yoga and had dinner with ACT and her daughter so that we could talk about the winter camp I’ll be teaching. I am exhausted exhausted exhausted – and tomorrow will be the same; I’m going to school, then to pottery, then to Korean class, and THEN I will go home. That will be around 9. Today ACT asked me if I wanted to do any more volunteering, and I felt bad, but I was like, NO. Now I am going to take a shower and watch “The Office” and dream about my students singing sweetly. Or showing up, whatever.

Korean for beginners

Additions to my list of favorite travel poster slogans:

“Come On Baby”

“Nice To Meet You, Sphinx!”

1J kept me afloat, but 1K brought me right back down again. Usually 1K is in my top five classes; they’re obnoxious, but they’re smart, which is what I tend to like. Because the desks were out of order, however, they took that as a license to totally disrespect me and do whatever they wanted, and as a result I gave out my second – my second! – Noise-O-Meter 5, on the same day. When my co-teacher for that class – we’ll call him Mr. Kang – finally showed up, they quieted down and started listening, but unfortunately he didn’t come until halfway through, and by that time they were already writing me letters of apology. Letters that, I should admit, almost redeemed them. Almost.

Here’s a taste.

Proof! PROOF that they were swearing in Korean! (Although “Teacher, do you know this word?” followed by repeated chanting of said word is a pretty clear giveaway.)

Well, NOW my heart many hurting.

Even as he denies it, he requests another chance.

I know.

And what might be my favorite:

I also got this unexpected bit of wisdom from a notebook some careless student left in my classroom:

Since when did anthropomorphic chairs become so wise? And how did they know that I needed reminding of this now?

My friend C asked me today how I do it – “it” being, I guess, teaching, pottery, yoga, volunteering, the journalistic outlet for which I’m writing, and allotting adequate time to spend with the Crew. The truth is that I didn’t know how to answer. The truth is that I don’t feel like I’m doing it, or much of anything really; I’ve been on the same lesson plan for WEEKS, because it turns out that what I had allotted for one lesson actually required three. (On a side note, I almost punched Quagmire at the English teachers’ workshop last Friday, when he kept talking about how HIS students could do activities that involved picking out adverbs from a story and couldn’t mine? My students do not understand the phrase “Use this word in a sentence.” But as one of the other teachers reminded me today, students at his school have a lot more parental support [and wherewithal], and anyway it does us no good to compare.) My lessons at the ASP, or Study Room, involve jumping and screaming out the names of colors, and usually I plan them on the way there. Somehow, when I think about what I do every day, the first thing that comes to mind is watching reruns of “The Office” on TVLinks. It just seems like I may be getting credit where it isn’t due.

I did, however, add another activity today: Korean class. It’s free, it’s offered at one of the local universities here, and it’s taught by a primary school teacher who just so happens to have been HB’s teacher last year. HB is apparently the spawn of the Devil. I didn’t know. I’m not entirely surprised, but I don’t know that I expected to see her face freeze when I mentioned him, or to hear her say, “Always, when I am drunk, I scream out his name.” Well, I like him? D kept calling me the HB of our class, because I asked too many questions and apparently accidentally cheated during a game, and every time he said his name, it was like he had mentioned Lord Voldemort. But then I walked home with this other teacher who had been sitting in and helping out with the class, and as we talked, I realized that getting involved helps me feel less like a foreigner. (Duh.) Then she told me all about how people used to compare her to Anne of Green Gables, and in English (and Korean!) we talked about our favorite cities. I’m going to learn a lot.