Winter

I haven’t mentioned this yet, but my horrifying co-teacher has transferred to a different district. I have a new co-teacher, one who doesn’t seem to despise me so far. She’s a small, fairly quiet lady who’s teaching English for the first time this year after being a homeroom teacher for a few years. It’s a bit of a mystery to me how she got picked to teach English. She really has very basic English. I think I probably speak Korean better than she does English, and I’m almost positive that’s true for writing. Even simple phrases in speaking trip her up, so she usually says something like “House kkoing?” for “How’s it going?” and pronounces “How aboun nyou?” according to the Korean-language rules for blending syllables together. Often I have to puzzle for several minutes to get some idea of what she’s trying to say to me in her messages on the schoolwide messenger system; her sentences are basically mostly-random jumbles of words related to what she’s trying to say. For example:

i forgot change the clss today.

note? dictation note?

Translation:

I forgot one of the classes was moved to a different period today. Where are the students’ notebooks and dictation test booklets?

you’ll after game then warm up( review today’s lesson)

you’ll prepared g5 lesson.(read g5 tomorrow class)

see you tomorrow.

Translation:

[Regarding the 6th-grade lesson plan you sent me:] After you do the game, do a wrap-up where you review the day’s lesson. Also, prepare for tomorrow’s 5th-grade lesson by reading the teacher’s guide for the lesson.

When I emailed her confused, she explained:

i mistake the spell

after game wrap up in staed of Warm up

But I don’t want to make it seem like it’s just her. More broadly, it’s a mystery to most of us here how they decide who’s qualified.Sean has told us his co-teacher is about at the same level, and he can barely communicate with her. I think I remember hearing stories from Ben about a variety of other co-teachers who propose to teach English without actually knowing English. Where are all the people who’ve effectively learned English from the Korean school system? Maybe they all decided to get out of Korea.

At any rate, though, she speaks more than the kids do, and knows lots of vocabulary having to do with the classroom, so they can learn from her. In fact, for the first class I was surprised at how much English she spoke, though she’s quickly switched over into mostly-Korean mode. Whatever the case, it beats working with my other co-teacher and getting basically glared at constantly and told off daily. I’m approaching the new semester with actual hope, something that had all but died in me as far as teaching went. So that’s a nice change.

It’s been winter here. And all that that entails, but also, more, because it’s winter in a foreign country where I can count my friends who are at hand on one hand and I end up really not knowing what to do with myself. At college there was always something interesting going on, an event of some sort or another, and warm common places to hang out in—what I wouldn’t give to have a library I could retreat to here. And before college I was always spending the winter with my family. Even the cold itself is really just oppressing me. It doesn’t usually bother me, but that’s because one of the things I like about winter is that it gives you a chance to go inside and get cozy to get out of the cold, ideally while watching a blizzard outside. Around here, because of the heating situation that I complained so lavishly about before, the indoors aren’t cozy like they should be. So the cold really wears down a person.

I’ve filled the time with a few things. Lately, it’s been work on my font. Also, going to hapkido, which I’m swiftly getting tired of, in large part because it eats up such a big part of my already-short evening, but also because it seems to focus on moves that require a lot of memorization that would almost certainly go right out the window in a real fight. I found this out the other night when Russell, Sean, Deanna, and I were walking back from getting stupendously drunk at a bar in town, and Russell became erratic, unpredictable, and rather hilarious. He came up to me and refused to stop bumping into me from the front unless I would show how capable I was of stopping him with my hapkido moves. I tried a cool thing I learned where you twist someone’s arm and bend them to the ground with their head in convenient position for your fist. What actually happened was that Russell spun around a little bit and then wrenched free of my hand and said, “That was pathetic!” I said, “Of course it was, I’m drunk.” This was true at the time, so it wasn’t really a fair test of practical uses of hapkido—but then again, if you’re fighting, it’s not all that unlikely that you’re drunk, so maybe it was. In any case, I’m pretty sure I’m going to quit hapkido after I get my next qualification, which will be when I take the test for the blue belt, a couple Fridays from now. By then, light and warmth will be returning to the Earth in the evenings and I won’t be able to justify spending that time inside anymore.

Another thing I’ve done a bit of is hiking, though it’s a bit cold for that yet. Sean and Deanna and I went to a place near here called Candlestick Rock (촛대바위, chotdaebawi). It’s a 60-foot-tall monolith stabbing out of the side of a hill, and it’s only a couple hours’ hike away. And then Russell and Sean and I climbed two hills, neither of which we were really supposed to climb. But those are stories I’m going to leave for another post when I can dedicate the whole thing to them, because they’re worth it.

The other thing I’ve been doing, though it doesn’t fill the time because I mainly do it while I’m doing other stuff, is being homesick. It took a while for this to kick in for me, and I’m sure it has something to do with the bleakness of the winter here. I find myself missing things from back home. Some of them I could ask people to send me, but there are so many different things that if I got them all delivered they might fill up a shipping container. I miss Skyline Chili, LaRosa’s pizza, and Graeter’s ice cream. Also sufficient heating. Also all of my family and all of my friends, and being able to have conversations with them that aren’t through a little LCD window that tends to distort time. Also my bike, and my bike trip to West Virginia, and the Thanksgiving food I got then. And beef and cheese. And being able to roam around at night and even find food in dumpsters without worrying that someone will see me and report how unbecoming I am to people who have power over me. For that matter, being able to walk around without everyone knowing exactly who I am and what I do. And being able to grow my beard in whatever way I feel like. And watching freight trains thunder by. And knowing the names of at least some of the trees and insects and plants I see. And seeing the horizon. And being able to completely and clearly understand any conversation I have with someone I meet on the street. Basically I miss nearly everything, particularly all the things that most people take for granted. But I guess I’ll just have to deal with it, because I won’t have those things around again for a long time. I think the springtime will help. If it ever actually comes.

File under: language, teaching, climbing · Places: Korea


Anonymous

History

You are right–what you are going through is completely normal, and I think everyone who lives abroad has to deal with it at some time or other. Let's face it–there are things in your life that are completely worth missing a lot. And I concur. Spring should give you a really big lift, and help propel you forward to your next adventures.

As for your co-teacher, it isn't just Korea that has semi-adequate foreign language teachers, especially at the lower levels. If you learn a language in a classroom setting you need to supplement that with some immersion somewhere, because otherwise you'll never really have it. Unless, of course, you are in a country where you have your native language but hear English all the time on TV or on the street. I think of Scandinavia, where the kids speak better English than half the kids at Hamilton High School.

Anyway, we miss you too. Happy birthday in a few days, and be watching for a package from us. Grandma

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Anonymous

History

Well, the Queen's proper English was in the shitter before even I was born. Ya oughta be learnin' em how to really git a talkin' the right way anyways anyhow. While yer at it you could teach them some Jersey Shore fist pumping and how to properly spend an afternoon after waking up at noon (GTL).

Dave

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Chuck

History

Yeah—and the shame is that so few of the English teachers here seem to have ever actually lived in a place where they speak English. So they're almost all speaking textbook English, which is all distorted in weird ways.

Mom, thanks. I love you too. Dave, you should wash your mouth out with soap (at the very least for saying the J-S word).

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Anonymous

History

OKAY. OKAY. ARE YOU TEACHING THE PROPER USAGE OF THE WORD AIN'T. Remember Dizzy Dean once said, a lot of people who ain't saying' ain't, aint eaten'.. G.PA.

Reply

Dad

History

Well, I hope you can find the beans and cheese. There's a can of Skyline that ought to arrive in 10 days. I put enough Naugahyde in the box to make 3 books.

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