Korean, Reading (or Not)

“Ms, you know Korean, right?” my buddy at school asked me.

“Eh…” I hate that question.

“Can you come down to the office?”

I anticipated her next sentence. “I don’t know enough school language to be an interpreter or translator.”

“But you can read, right? It’s something I got from one of my parents.”

I guess I anticipated it incorrectly. “I can try. Why don’t you come up here—wait, you want me to show off to the people in the office?”

She laughed. “Exactly.”

I grabbed my electronic dictionary (which lives in my purse) and headed to the office. My buddy handed me a package of food and I tried not to laugh. “This is Japanese,” I said, pointing, “And this is Chinese. But there is no Korean on this package.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“You can’t read Japanese, right?”

I nodded, “Right, I can’t read Japanese.”

My Brain is Mushy

Today I finished reading Little House in the Big Woods in Korean. I have spent much too much time on this book and in a wild two days I basically read through one-quarter. Today I read 56 pages of the book (including a chapter on threshing machines, which was way over my head), which works out to be over 20,000 characters.

뇌가 말랑말랑해요. My brain is mushy. ㅋㅋㅋ

On an unrelated note, when you’re driving home at 1 am and trying to stay awake, blasting 땡땡땡 works.

Well, That Won’t Be Happening

There is no way that I’m going to reach my 1,000,000 jaso goal in Korean reading this year.

I got a bunch of children’s picture books from my ex-coworker’s daughter, and before sticking them in a box (to give to Fusion Couple Friends Who Want Kids? to put up on BookMooch? to list on Cragislist?), I’ve been reading them. Yesterday I flew through:

뭐든지 파는 가게 (A book about a man who sold everything and customers who came in for specifically-shaped things.)
해님 뭐해요? (A cute book about the sun going to sleep.)
통통아, 빨리 와! (A book about a fat pig who visits a rather angry duck.)
잠이 안 오니, 잔은 곰아? (A book about a bear who won’t go to sleep.)

Despite the fact that I won’t reach my goal, I’ve still been enjoying reading in Korean. As well as the picture books, I’ve also finished a translation from a French children’s novel, about a fat kid who beats someone up at school after watching a sumo match, and who gains friends because of it.

Next up? The comic book I found in the gu office when we registered our marriage—it’s some propaganda from the K-CIA to encourage kids to report North Korean spies. It seems fitting, no?

Getting Ahead

Several months ago, on a knitting board I belong to, someone said she was thinking of changing her college major and going into teaching. She gave a laundry list of reasons for this, but the one that most stuck out to me was that she said she felt like she was “behind” her friends, who had graduated from college two years earlier, since the writer had taken two years off of college.

A few thoughts came to mind when I read that. First, if you don’t enjoy teaching, there is no reason to stay in it, because you’ll just be miserable.

Second, you don’t become a teacher to get ahead or catch up to people. [Insert rant about my shrinking paycheck despite taking hundreds of hours of professional development, getting stellar reviews, being published in a teaching newsletter, and getting excellent test scores from my students here.] Teaching (in America, at least) is not the way to get ahead.

More importantly than all that, though—I don’t get the idea that you can be “behind” in life. It was something that came up on expat English teacher boards in Korea, too. People were worried that by teaching in Korea, they were “falling behind” their friends “back home.”

Using schooling examples (since that’s what the writer was using as her benchmark)… If you knew my brother in high school, you’d never believe he’d get where he is today. He certainly didn’t graduate from high school with any of his classmates. A friend’s brother is getting his college degree. He’s in his 30s and it took him eight years, and now he’s done it! My mother didn’t get a nursing degree until two days before her 40th birthday. My stepdad had a BA, an engineering certificate (I think?) and changed his mind and became a nurse—he passed his exams when he was almost 50. Was he behind? I had my Masters when a lot of my high school classmates graduated with their BA—but now they have kids, and I don’t. Which one of us is behind?

If you want to get/have/buy/do something, go for it. But do it because it’s what you want to do with your life now, not because you think you’re supposed to.

It’s life. As long as you’re living it, how can you be behind?

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers.

Burger Time. Writing Time. Cathartic Time.

I forgot how much I hate the standard school-year calendar.

I might just spend most of my weekend perfecting my Burger Time game.

Mark told me he wanted me to do NaNoWriMo with him. I’m 1,000 words from reaching goal. I’ve been a rebel—I’m doing a slightly fictionalized memoir of my time in Korea.

The whole idea of writing a memoir about my time in Korea is entirely for me and I never want anyone else to see it, but writing about what Heidi did in Hong Kong was by far one of the most cathartic writing experiences in my life.

Alligator

“Ms, what happens if an alligator bites its own tongue?”

“What do you think would happen?”

“Well, I dunno. They have sharp teeth. Would their tongue get bitten off?”

And that, folks, is my introduction to Alligator.

***
Yesterday my class chose their class representative for student senate. Most of my students raised their hands. Alligator said, “Wait, does that mean we have to be responsible and stuff?”

“Yes.”

“Never mind, then.”

I teased him. “I’ll see your mother today right, since she usually volunteers today?”

“OK, OK, I’ll do it.” He raised his hand.

I wrote the names of the sixteen students who wanted to run on the board. “OK, now, if you want to win a vote, you have to make speeches. You have ten minutes to write a speech.”

The class protested and Alligator pointed to the sky triumphantly, “I quit!”

“Can’t.”

“Oh, man…”

The students got started on their speeches and I walked around the room, making sure they stayed on task. I overheard Alligator say, “This so backfired on me. I am never volunteering for anything ever again.”

Another teacher came into the room and I told her what was going on. She rigged the named Popsicle sticks in the old metal soup can on my desk and pulled Alligator’s stick first so she could hear his speech.

“You cheated!” he said to me.

“How? She drew the sticks,” I said, gesturing to the other teacher.

Alligator looked at us suspiciously and I tried to maintain an innocent expression.

“If you vote for me, I will tell them whatever you want me to tell them and I will report back to the class. If I forget, you can yell at me. But I am not very responsible, so I will probably forget, so please be nice to me and yell quietly. And by the way, you can not talk about this with anyone outside of this classroom, and that means you can’t tell my mother. Please do not vote for me.”

I was laughing so hard I had tears streaming down my cheeks.

He didn’t win. But a lot of kids voted for him.

Seaweed Soup

I picked up Good Man’s phone and saw a strange phone number. “Yeobosayo?”

“Amanda!”

“Ah, hello Mother.”

“Amanda! Today is Good Man’s birthday.”

“I know.”

“Amanda! Why aren’t you at work?”

“I am going soon.”

“Amanda! Cook my son seaweed soup for his birthday.”

“I will. Here is [Good Man].” I handed Good Man the phone. He didn’t even lift his head from the pillow.

“Ung?”

“Honey,” I said, tapping his head, “you have the phone upside down.”

***
“Oh, shit! I forgot to cook you miyeok guk!”

“It’s OK, that means I am not one year older.”

142 Random Thoughts

I can not wait until my grad class is over this quarter. I’ll only get a month off before my next class, but I’m just over it.

I love my job. I am finally, finally doing exactly what I wanted to do when I decided to go into education almost ten years ago. My kids are amazing, and the work is rewarding. My admin and I get along. But I forgot how much I hate the standard school year calendar.

Good Man and I went out with Diana and Min Gi last night. I bowled my best game ever—142. I called Grandpa to tell him. He was very proud and I can tell he’s happy that one of the grandkids is into bowling.

And then I found out that Grandma is in the hospital again.

I hate DST. It completely messes up my sleep and since everyone uses electricity, daylight saving saves nothing.

American life is boring.

Good Man doesn’t want to live in Korea. I don’t want to live in America. Yet we’re basically stuck here until he gets citizenship because no way in hell are we going through that time suck of getting him a green card again. I know it’s for the best—when he has his American citizenship, he’ll be dual and we can come and go here and there as we please, for the most part. But right now, waiting for that citizenship?

And I worry about being sucked into American life. I worry that the longer we stay here, the harder it will be to leave. Logically, I know that’s pretty ridiculous. I left Atlanta after seven years. It was the only thing I knew in my adult life. I left Korea even though I was happy there. I have itchy feet. He has itchy feet. One of the things we’ve agreed on all along is that we won’t live in either of our countries forever. I know we’ll move, eventually, but I worry. It’s in my nature to pre-worry.

My car is making a rattling noise and I am afraid it’s going to cost us thousands of dollars to fix and seriously, I’d rather use that money to go to Korea this summer.