Times like these I forget my host siblings and I aren't actually related.
Inseo walks by and calls So Yeong and I pigs.
Naturally, we lock him in the bathroom and turn the lights off.
He escapes (we let him go).
He calls us pigs again.
I throw my dirty socks at him.
He gets his WET dirty socks and throws them at us.
So Yeong gets my dirty sock, pins him on the bed, and rubs it all over his face.
Inseo starts throwing random objects.
Later.. I’m doing jumping jacks with my excercise DVD in my room. He calls out and asks where the earthquake is. Later, as I’ve moved onto jump rope jumps, he runs through my room with a book on his head (as if he’s in an earthquake). Then he starts ducking and covering.
Tonight’s dinner was unsettling. A big bowl of spicy noodles with tons of strange little sea creatures with eyes.
At one point, I was trying to work my way around something that was staring at me to get to a bean sprout, when I accidentally bumped against it with my chopsticks. One of its little beady eyes popped off, fell to the table with a plop, and began rolling its way towards me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my “trouble girls” recently. Probably because I’ve interacted with them more this week than in any previous weeks.
The same day that Song I wrote her pen pal letter, I had another teacher’s high moment. I think I’ve mentioned Park Ja Yeong before, if not by name. She’s the “uncontrollable” third year that the teachers always warn me about. She steals money, she supposedly has no home, she’s the one I saw getting rapped on the head and hit in the back by the teachers, she’s ALWAYS in the hallway for some school crime… Trouble with a capital T. Hence my surprise (as I’m sure I mentioned in the blog) when I found her completely docile in class. She says hello to me with a huge grin whenever she sees me, and as far as I know, she hasn’t stolen any socks of mine. I was just talking to my mom earlier this week about how I really wish I could know her better. But she’s a third year, which means I rarely get to see her, and soon she’ll have graduated. I think this was a total answer to prayer, then, when she came into my room with her classmates on Thursday. I wasn’t supposed to have their class but there was a schedule change so in they came- twice in one week. Her friend (also ‘trouble’) came to my desk to say something about how on Tuesday I texted her ((the last class period, a table of girls gave me their phone numbers for me to text them)). Park Ja Yeong, upon hearing this, grabbed my pen on my desk and wrote down her number in my notebook.
I was thrilled! That afternoon I sent her a text. And she texted back! And I got my host sister to help me translate some (my host sister thought I was crazy, I’m sure- “You know she punched the mirror in the bathroom and broke it, right? She’s..scary” she told me) ((side note— not to be confused with the window punching, which was a different girl. Mid school girls are CRAZY!)). Anyways, when I saw her today she gave me a big wave and I heard her telling her friends that we had been texting last night.
That was just some background so that you understand the rest to come. Warning: this post is a little different than my usual ones. Just thought I’d give you a head’s up so that you don’t suffer from tone whiplash. :) I’m being lazy, so I’m just going to post what I wrote in my journal last night about something that’s been on my heart lately.
“November 24, 2011
Been having a good week with the monkeys. Even though it’s just been movie week, outside interactions have been ‘making my cup overflow’, so to speak.
Today’s highlights: Park Ja Yeong gave me her phone number so I texted her. I’m sure So Yeong thought I was crazy but I was so excited!
And Song I coming in to write her pen pal letter…! I love that girl so much, and she’s done nothing to deserve it.
Maybe this is silly (or could be taken as pretentious) to say, but I feel as if God is helping me understand His love for us (me) through my students.
I’ve found that many of my favorite students are those who are the ‘trouble makers.’ As I told Stephen today, I live for finding the soft spots in my tough girls.
Song I, who is loud, rude, lazy, disrespectful, crazy (etc etc etc) has completely stolen my heart, for really no reason at all. But I find her antics hilarious and I swell with pride whenever she accomplishes a task. Park Ja Yeong, who I dont even really know, has me desperately wanting to be friends with her, to give her a big hug and love her as a sister.
God is showing me and helping me understand how He loves the broken. These girls, by societal standards, are broken. But not to me. To me, they are so, SO precious. I remember a teacher once saying that all students are stars, and the job of teachers is to pick up the dusty ones, brush them off, and help them shine.
The other teachers look at Park Ja Yeong and see a lost cause. I look at her and I see a young, hurting girl- one who still smiles when you tell her her hair looks pretty. She’s not lost…I think she’s just waiting to be found.
Other teachers look at Song I or Eun Ji or Song Ah and see trouble. “Because they are athletes,” my coteacher explains. I look at them and see enormous energy, creativity, and wit. Other teachers explain to me that they are rude and don’t listen. But they listen. The ‘hard’ taekwondo players blush and get suddenly shy when they find out I want to go to a match to cheer them on. Lee Yeon lit up when I told her her English is good, and recently she’s been finishing her work in record time. When she finished her word search on Tuesday far before anyone else, I heard her quote to her friend- “Your English is good. That’s what Liz said to me.”- the words I had said WEEKS ago.
I fear that in writing this I come off as self righteous and congratulatory. That’s not at all the intent. The purpose of this entry is to thank God because I think He’s helping me to understand His unconditional love a little better, and teaching me how to love better.
Where is the beauty in loving only those who shine the brightest or only those who will love you back? That’s conditional love, and there’s no wonder in that.
No, as a teacher, give me the Seong I’s and the Ja Yeong’s. After a class with them, I may want to sit in a dark corner for a while. But they make the good moments- like texts from Ja Yeong or her enthusiastic hellos in the hallway and pen pal letter writing with Seong I- all the more beautiful and special.
I thank God He hasn’t given up on me. I don’t think educators- or society- should give up on them.”
Post script- tonight I, at the risk of feeling like ‘that creepy teacher’, texted Ja Yeong again to tell her to have a good weekend.
Yesterday, Song I (the one I mentioned in a previous post… with the picture of her about to poke my coteacher’s butt… ahem) demanded a pen pal.
Now.. this sent me over the moon. The fact that she wanted a pen pal was unheard of, and I was so excited. I kept telling her to come to my room tomorrow and I would give her her pen pal’s name… I sorta expected her not to come.
BUT SHE CAME!
Today, enter Song I, with a pad of colored paper in hand. She was obnoxiously loud and impatient while other girls were around (and I couldnt help but laugh because I find her hilarious), but she sat down right next to me and demanded help writing her letter. “English no.” she said.
"Okay… write ‘Hello’." I told her.
"Hello." she wrote.
Then she handed me her paper, saying “Ggut!” (“Finished!”).
We both laughed.
But for the rest of the time, I worked with her in-between helping other students. At one point she even yelled in English, “Help me!!”
I wish you knew her so that you could know what a huge moment this was. I was swelling with pride. Together we wrote her letter, and now she will have an American pen pal.
The pen pal project continues to take over my life, but in a good way. My girls are beyond excited, some of them are picking out their wedding dresses for their inevitable marriages with their American pen pal, and every day at lunch I am swarmed with girls requesting pictures.
Because you see… I’ve started to pass out the MVCS pen pal letters. This has caused quite the stir. The MVCS letters have pictures attached, so when I passed them out to the first class, this resulted in screaming like I’ve never heard in my life. (Taylor A., you’re quite big in Korea.)
Because I’m only handing them out class by class, this has led to slight anarchy. Seo A Hyeon threatened that she would “not be here tomorrow” (her friend mimics jumping off a high building) if she couldn’t see her pen pal. Gulp. ((Secret: I showed her hers, that was a little too much for me. hahah)). One of my classes started chanting “Cole Cole Cole” during a lesson because they heard he was cute. At lunchtime, I’m swarmed with girls whispering their pen pals name in my ear, girls on their knees begging to have their letters, and girls grabbing my hands and arms in a moment of desperate pleading.
I can’t help but think of those shark feeding frenzies you see on the Discovery Channel:
Other than that, not much is new.
I’ve started practicing for my piano recital that’s coming up… Jingle Bells and some other pretty song I don’t know the name of (piano teacher kept calling it ‘four hands’, but I feel like that’s probably not the name…?). I could’ve kissed my teacher when she told me that So Yeong (host sister) will be playing with me for both pieces. This means I do the really basic stuff, but will be drowned out slightly by So Yeong, who has to play the really difficult parts. Hallelujah! I’m not in this alone. bahahaha.
Oh! (Not to go back to the pen pal topic or anything…) but God is good! I talked to my coteacher, and she talked to administration, and the school has agreed to pay for my pen pal packages. I was bracing myself for the cost, but starting to get nervous because I have over 250 letters to send to the US… That was going to be pricy. But the school will pay, I just have to put them in a package and address it! Asa! (<—Korean way of saying ‘Yessss’).
Also, I went to Seoul this past weekend. We had Thanksgiving dinner with the new US ambassador to Korea. It was great, and I will put up some pictures later. :)
Speaking of Seoul, four of my friends and I are officially going to live in Seoul in Februrary. We’ve signed for an apartment, and I couldn’t be more excited! (Except that it’s going to be absolutely FREEZING.) Looking forward to the whole ‘living-in-a-big-city-with-friends’ experience. :)
And this, kids, is why you should never use Google translate.
Today I did something that I swore I’d never do.
I laughed at a student’s English.
All week, students have been giving me their pen pal letters. Many have me check them over before they commit to writing on their cute stationery, and I fix the odd grammar or missing words.
Today, though. Today was just…beautiful.
One of my favorite students (I mean, what? I don’t have favorites. Oops.) came to me with a beautiful sparkly gift box filled with goodies for her pen pal. She handed me her two page written letter with pride. Excited, I began my reading.
And…. I lost it. Oh, I lost it. I kept saying “Sorry, sorry sorry” in Korean because I felt so bad for laughing so hysterically, but I just could not control myself.
I hope you will enjoy it just as much as I did:
"Nice to meet you! My new friend Jeremy. I’m your new friend 14 year old, Ehm Ji Won. My nickname is Wonzzang~ Well, even though sustained an encounter with a letter, but I knew a friend wants to get comfortable as the original!! The letter I’m going to briefly introduce myself. I live in Gyeongju in South Korea in If you come to Korea sometime in the future just as the race! Silla racing heritage, relics probably be surprised if you’ve never seen so much shit!
And to meet with you I really miss him! Haha… My photo got it! I wonder I really wish you could send your photos. Detailing the issues that are not long, eh? I too like to be writing. Anything less is less, so long doe look.
Do you like you like me writing a post? If you love me as I talk a lot. And my favorite thing in the world, clothes, shoes and accessories bitch. Clothes and shoes, and accessories that’s one of the reasons that I laugh! In the future, so I’m gonna make a great designer or clothing business. How cool! You’d love to do something as an adult? I wonder! Please. Just write it down when you reply~
Oh, like you, for nothing like foreigners! Like a new thought.I was not very good at English, brave, and Meet foreigners blindly “Hello” and yell. Among the foreign artists, and Ne-yo, Maroon 5, Sting like a. I’m wondering this time, you wonder what is happening in school. About the letter to the school wish you could introduce. I have seen living in the United States faces, blue eyes, I I want to see a blonde get. I envy you.
Oh for the first time I sent this letter in English was good. November 11, do you ppaeppaero Dei and the eminence he’d ppaeppaero can a gift? Sending and receiving of friends ppaeppaero ppaepparo’s Day! Today albeit with a brief introduction about me, it’s great.
Let’s go slowly, you know each other. ^ ^
We are writing this letter ought to have grown to meet me at the time! At that time a major feat for me somewhat proficient in English, right? You learn Korean! Let’s talk to me!
You have a lot of talk about you I want you I’ll forward your reply! And here’s a phone number and email address to send a message right! Bye-bye!!!!”
My life right now sort of reminds me of a real-life version of Jumanji.
I’ve started this pen pal program, right? And it’s going really well- I already have over 340 students in the program (both American and Korean). But… the monkeys are getting a little -too- excited about it all.
Yesterday marked my first official “Pen Pal Letter Writing” hours in my classroom—a time after lunch where I make myself available for the girls so they can write their letters and I can help them with spelling or whatever they need. I grabbed a packet of instant coffee and a cup of hot water, excited for the first day of letter writing hours. I envisioned myself helping the four or five students present while enjoying my post-lunch coffee and cookies.
…Oh how wrong I was.
When I got to the doors of my locked room, the monkeys were already beginning to congregate outside. They cheered when I opened the doors and rushed in. The next half hour looked something like this:
For the entirety of the “Pen Pal Letter Writing Hours,” I had an average of 25 monkeys pressing around me at my desk, swarming and hovering, each one trying to talk above the other. At one point I just got the giggles because I didn’t know what else to do. One kind soul (one of my higher level girls) started volunteering herself as translator and body guard. She’d try to tell them “One at a time” or “Back off, you’re suffocating teacher” ((something like that in Korean)), and translating when needed. But the herds just kept on pressing in. At one point, I suppose one bold monkey behind me had the urge to stroke my hair, because that’s exactly what she did. Midsentence with another student, I just feel —stroke— and then, I guess this was the first time she’s touched curly hair, because then I hear “WOAH!!!”…
Anyways. The bell rang and the monkeys dispersed and my cup of boiling water had just passed beyond lukewarm into ‘cool.’
But here’s the thing- the monkeys keep finding me. Wherever I am, they come out of nowhere and suddenly I hear “TEACHER! Is Jacob Dickens a handsome boy??”…At every break, they come into my classroom in big groups to ask me the same three questions:
1. Is my pen pal handsome?
2. Can I switch to a boy pen pal?
3. How is my pen pal’s face?
At one point yesterday (I can’t believe I’m admitting this), I locked my classroom door, shut off the lights, and watched part of The Notebook. I just needed 10 minutes of sanity.
*Started taking piano lessons! My first lesson was yesterday and it was so much fun. I’ve never played an instrument before. My piano teacher is adorable and doesn’t speak much English so it’s a lot of fun. Twinkle, twinkle, here I come!
*I’ve started a pen pal project at my school and it has become an extracurricular in and of itself. The girls are so excited to talk to American students ((“Teacher! Boy student! I want handsome boy student! Write ‘Handsome boy student’ for Ah Hyun, please’)). We’re partnering with a school in California and my very own MVCS, so it should be a lot of fun. Now…I just need to collect letters from hundreds of middle schoolers that I only see once a week… Oh boy. ;)
*I’ve also started a little personal project. I realized that I need to learn student’s names and there’s no way I can do that by seeing them once a week. So I bought a flashcard book, have been taking pictures all week, and soon will have a complete book of all my students’ pictures and names. Let the memorization begin!
*Persimmons are quite vogue right now. Tis the season. Have you ever eaten one? I had never seen one before in my life.
1. Capture a photo of her as she crouches behind your coteacher, (who is writing on the board and is completely oblivious), pretending to poke aforementioned coteacher’s buttocks. She will be shocked and impressed once the flash goes off and you have sneakily captured her miscreant deeds.
((And then don’t show your coteacher the picture, or else said student will die a bloody death before your very eyes))
(((Student also doesnt need to know that you only got the picture as she was starting to stand up.. haha)))
2. Memorize her name. Then, when you are doing a lesson on emotions, and you come to the word ‘bored’, you can tell the class, “I Seong I is BORED, because she is yawning.” (As she yawns). She will be impressed that you know her name. And that you know that she is bored.
3. When she burps loudly in the middle of class, stop whatever you are doing, turn to her, and say “Niiiiiiiiiiice.”
This last one especially impresses all.
And that, my friends, is how I got Miss I Seong I, taekwondo athlete/tom boy/loud mouth/ teacher butt poking/terrible student to be a great student for the day. She even took notes on the lesson like everyone else, instead of chewing on her paper like she sometimes does.