Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Aesop joins the KKK

I little while back, I wrote a post about a children's story that I thought was one of the most abysmally depressing fairy tales I had ever read. This week, when I prepared my lesson plan, I pulled out the next story on my curriculum map: The Fashionable Crow.

As with "The Flying Turtle", I was unfamiliar with this particular story, so I gave it a quick glance so I knew what to write about in my lesson plans. After looking at a few of the pages, I realized the story deserved a thorough read-though. Then I took pictures of every page because I knew I had to share.

The Fashionable Crow
an Aesop fable

Once upon a time, God decided to throw a party. All the birds in the world were invited because God had announced he would be choosing which bird was the absolute prettiest.

As the birds were arguing about which would be God's favorite, a crow overheard the plans for the party. He asked if he could attend, and the other birds told him he shouldn't bother coming. They agreed that he didn't have a chance at winning because he was too ugly, too black, and too dirty.

No, really.

The birds headed to the pond to bathe and get ready for the party. Since he was just told that he is dirty, the crow followed them to the pond to get cleaned up. The birds (having been raised in Alabama at the turn of the nineteenth century) told the crow he could not bathe with them because he was too black and dirty.

After the other birds had all left, the crow spent two hours trying to scrub away his blackness, but he was disappointed to find that he could not wash himself white.

The crow then discovered that he could cover himself with all the beautiful feathers that were left behind in the pond, and no one would recognize him. He adorned himself with the other feathers and set off for the party.

When he arrived at the party, no one recognized him, including God. The birds were in awe of his beauty and God declared him the most beautiful bird in the world.

Upon further investigation of this stunning new bird, the other birds realized that he was actually covered in their old feathers. They proceeded to take back what they discarded in the pond just a few hours before and found the black crow hiding beneath the rainbow of feathers.

The birds angrily stormed away, leaving the black crow to shamefully reflect on his blackness.

The moral of this story:

Although the moral of the story is fantastic (and much needed in a culture so obsessed with the ideals of Western beauty), I'm fairly certain that wasn't the best way to get the point across. At the end of the tale, the crow is left weeping about his inferiority and blackness rather than embracing and celebrating his differences.

In the end, I opted to skip over this particular Aesop's fable in favor of one that I wasn't morally opposed to reading aloud. When I decided I was going to post this story on my blog, I did a quick google search in hopes of pulling up a video I could link to, but I had a really hard time finding one. As someone who has spent the last seven months illegally watching TV on megavideo, I knew there had to be a cartoon of an Aesop's fable somewhere online. After half an hour of searching, I finally decided to take a peek at wikipedia.

Here's a link to the Perry Index, all 725 fables credited to Aesop. To save you some time, I'll tell you what's not on there. "The Fashionable Crow."

The only places I can find mention of this story are on Chinese and Korean educational websites, and they all credit the story as having been around for thousands of years. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that since I can't find mention of this fable anywhere else on the whole internet, someone in Asia just made it up and tacked a famous fairy tale-writer's name on it to give it credibility.

Classy. And ridiculously racist.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


It's Sunday night, which means I'm patiently waiting for Mommy and Daddy to come online so we can have our weekly chat. I spent the whole day with my really great friends, going to church, getting lunch then ice cream, noraebang-ing, and (unsuccessfully) shoe shopping at Express Bus Terminal. Despite all of that, and for reasons I can't quite put my finger on, I'm feeling inexplicably lonely right now. I've been feeling off all week, like I'm a shadow watching my life go on but not actively participating. It's an unsettling and depressing feeling.

Thus I'm writing a blog post with a funny video I've been saving for a while in hopes that people will like the video and, by association, like me more because of it. Could you indulge my shamefully low self-esteem and comment on this post? I'd really appreciate it. Here's a possibly possessed child for your troubles.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Emergency procedures make me like kids

Warning: this post is weird. I know that. I'm going to try to explain myself, but I'll probably just come across sounding crazy. Oh well, it's not the first time, and it won't be the last.

This morning at GATE School, we had a fire drill. I know that at home, the teachers are far better prepared than the students, but knowledge of the impending emergency drill is really as far as it goes. In Korea, however,we're really prepared. Like, all the way prepared.

Twenty minutes before the fire drill, we had to get the kids ready to go. We bundled them up in their coats and scarves and waited in a patient line for the alarm to ring. Maybe I just forget how it was in elementary school and this is actually the norm, but I feel like I recall standing in the freezing cold hoping that I'd get to witness the moment when the whole building exploded (I pulled all my knowledge of fires from Hollywood).

Our school is on the fourth floor of an office building, so we had to lead the kids down four flights of stairs to the parking lot. I need to brag a little bit here: my kids were by far the best behaved.

Look at them standing all quiet and adorable in a line! If only they were that well-behaved all the time...

As we walked back up the stairs, I felt a ridiculous fondness for my littles. I felt extremely protective, like if a fire were to pop up in the hallway, I would dive headfirst into it and beat it into submission with my bare hands. Apparently mama bear instincts in my head are closely tied to affection; I frickin' loved those kids by the time we got back upstairs. They were my favorite people in the whole world, and I wanted to show them off to everyone as though they were prize-winning sheep.

This wouldn't be weird for me, except the fact that this isn't the first time emergency procedures have made me like a group of kids significantly more than I did ten minutes before. During my student teaching, we had a "pretend-there's-a-psycho-loose-in-the-building-and-hide-in-the-corner-of-your-classroom-so-you-can-get-killed-like-sitting-ducks" drill, during the class that drove me crazy. I kind of hung out in the corner letting the kids be my human shield for the first thirty seconds or so, but when they all had huddled into the corner, some kind of weird savior complex came over me. I made my way to the front of the group and proudly stationed myself in front of all my kids. I knew no one was actually coming to get us, and I also knew that if they did, I'd be the least effective bullet shield on the planet. When the drill was over, I genuinely felt like all the kids were still alive due to some protective maneuver on my part. They owed their lives to me, and that made me like them more.

I'm so weird.

I've spent the whole day desperately in love with my kids. During lunch, I usually tell them they have to leave me alone, but today I jumped out of my chair and played with them. It sounds pretty stupid now that I'm typing it; I teach a bunch of three- and four-year-olds yet I never play with them, but I just don't. I was so frustrated with having to teach a classroom full of kids who don't speak my language that I forgot that they're just kids. It turns out they're actually pretty fun.

(Little story: when I was playing with the kids, all the boys chased me with guns they had made out of legos. My co-teacher shouted something at them in Korean, and I asked her what she said. "I told them to stop killing the teacher." Does that make anyone else laugh or am I just really giddy today? I guess it doesn't matter.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

This post is kind of just for me

As you well know, I've been having a terrible time with my kids lately. They don't listen to me, they're awfully disrespectful, and they cry when I try to discipline them. I'm basically winging it 98% of the day and just praying I'm not screaming my head off when people walk by my classroom. It's been rough.

Today, however, was a little miracle. The kids weren't angels by any means, but they kind of listened. They knew they had upset me a lot yesterday (after my blog post, I hid in the library and cried for an hour about my inability to impart wisdom in any form), and they seemed like they were actually trying to make me feel better. They listened to me sometimes, and they told each other to stop speaking Korean so I wouldn't have to yell. That could in part be because I made two kids cry today... baby steps.

Anyway, so the reason I'm posting is because there was a moment today that was so sweet I'm not sure I can even capture it. After we watched Mr. M of the Letter People, I closed out the window and my kids saw the background of my desktop.

That's the picture I had on my old computer too, and my other kids always asked if that was my family (probably because all white people look the same). When my new kids saw the picture, though, they all got quiet and studied it, then one precious little girl raised her hand. When I called on her, she said in her broken English, "Miss Nikki, those friends?" I told her they are my friends in Ohio. She looked like she was thinking for a minute before she smiled and said, "Look like good friends. Happy."

Sometimes I guess it takes a three-year-old to get me to stop complaining about every little thing and remember the many, many blessings I have.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Whiny, whiny, whiny

Don't read this post. Seriously, just don't. Go right back to facebook and keep surfing. Or watch this video and make that song your ringtone.

I warned you. Go. Back.

I hate teaching fives. Hate it. The kids are so adorable, but only in a "I'd look at a picture of that kid" kind of way. I don't want to be in charge of their education. This is just like when I taught at the preschool, except at least then I signed up for it. This time, I was told I was teaching kindergarten, and three-year-olds are not kindergarten.

Thus far today, June has sneezed six times. Why do I know that number exactly? Because every time he sneezes, he blows snot all over his face. Seriously, I wiped snot off his ear. His freaking ear. The disgustingness of this is only rivaled by the fact that every time he sneezes, he stares at me with a look that clearly conveys that I am the only person in the world who could possibly be responsible for what has happened. He doesn't even attempt to get a tissue himself; that's my job, and my job alone. I've never wanted so badly to tell a three-year-old that he's a pretentious asshole.

On top of that, the kids don't listen to me. At all. My other kids spoke really good English, and they used their English all day long. The rule at GATE is "No Korean in the classroom," but that apparently doesn't fly in my class. They speak Korean all day. They talk to each other in Korean, they talk to my co-teacher in Korean, they talk to me in Korean. When I tell them to speak English, they just repeat back "English, English, English" in a high-pitched voice, then go on babbling in Korean. Basically, they spend the whole day mocking me.

Additionally, I'm expected to do activities that are significantly outside these kids' ability levels. We had to fill out a time capsule book today, and the kids had to write their names on the first page. I wrote my own name on the board and said a DOZEN times that they needed to write their names in the blank on their paper. What name did they write? I don't think I need to tell you. As we went through the rest of the book, my morale steadily fell through the floor, until I finally just collected their books and sang the Days of the Week song until lunch.

Speaking of songs, I have to sing a song for everything we do. A song for sitting down, a song for lining up, a song for cleaning toys, a song for eating snack, a song for eating lunch, a song for the days of the week, a song for the months of the year, a song for everything. Do you remember at the top when I said the kids don't listen to me? Okay, well that still applies. So I feel like a giant tool while I stand at the front of the room singing songs to a bunch of kids who think the only reason I was born was to wipe the snot off their ears.

I'm gonna go hang out with Brian.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I'm a mediocre teacher

It's story time. I imagine all of you sitting on a colorful rug in front of me, maybe pulling each other's hair or refusing to sit in one place for longer than three seconds. It's annoying. Stop it.

Most of you know that I went to college to be a teacher and also that when I graduated, I swore off ever teaching. When I told my parents I was moving to Korea to teach, the first thing they said (even before "aren't you worried about North Korea?") was "but you hate teaching." It's true. I did. And here's the mysterious why.

During my student teaching, I was overly idealistic. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was going to be the best teacher any of those high schoolers had ever seen. I made all my own lesson plans, despite having a veteran teacher at my disposal with proven-to-actually-work ideas. I stayed up until midnight coming up with the most creative ways to teach things I had never heard of, and I planned out my lessons down to the minute. I was going to be Teacher of the Year before I ever got my license, and my students were all going to become English teachers because of my sheer awesomeness. Until I actually got into the classroom.

Teaching is hard. When you care about the students more than you care about your paycheck (you don't get paid to student teach, so I obviously did), you realize the incredible responsibility you've been given. High school students might think they're invincible, but they're really quite insecure and awkward. They're going through a time in their lives when they're sure they know everything, but as any adult can tell you with complete confidence from the other side, they still have so much to learn. Of course, if you ever tell a high school student this, they'll hate you for all eternity. They're just precious like that.

The first few weeks of student teaching, I was exhausted but happy. I knew I loved literature and I knew I was entertaining enough to make my class as fun as Brit Lit can be for teenagers (so, more fun than a root canal, but less fun than a half dozen papercuts). I enjoyed the new stories and plays I was teaching, even if I did have to stay up all night the night before to actually get the reading done. Some of the kids came in before school to discuss Shakespeare with me, and I had kids who weren't even in my classes saying hi to me in the hallway. My very first lesson, an intro to sonnets, had nearly every student in the class in tears, sharing in each other's pain and connecting with music and poetry. My cooperating teacher leaned over to me during that lesson and whispered, "Don't forget this moment. Not every day will be like this, but the whole reason you teach is to find magic like this." I smiled, but inside I was laughing. My teaching career was certain to be *filled* with days like that!

Fast forward two months, and you'll find me sobbing in the teachers' bathroom. Okay, so rewind about an hour.

One morning, I had a meeting on campus and had to miss part of my teaching day, so my cooperating teacher taught the lesson I had planned. I gave her all the notes, and she followed them perfectly. When I returned, she told me about the lesson and how wonderful and enriching it had been for all the students. Of course, I thought, it's fabulous. The following morning, I taught the exact same lesson with the exact same notes to another class of kids, but with a completely different outcome.

As I started in on the prior knowledge questions, the kids weren't really responding in the way I had hoped. I decided perhaps it was just a bad morning, so I dove right into the story we were reading and started asking how they felt about it. The more I pressed, the more they recoiled; we were getting nowhere. Instead of swallowing my pride and starting over, I shoved my way forward, pelting the kids with questions that didn't make any sense since we hadn't established any of the prior knowledge bases. They said they didn't understand, and I was beyond frustrated because I knew they could; they were just being lazy (in my mind). Eventually, I threw a hissy fit and gave up, stomping over to my chair and refusing to continue the lesson.

My cooperating teacher was shaking with anger, but she handled the situation with fabulous poise. As soon as the kids filed out, she asked me what I could have done differently and why the lesson didn't work. I started crying.

Although I am the kind of girl who cries when I'm angry, hungry, cold, or just because it's a Tuesday, I was crying this time because I had failed. It was my fault the kids weren't understanding the story, and it was my fault I couldn't control my temper long enough to help them. I hadn't respected them, and I felt unbelievable remorse. That was the day I gave up on wanting to be a teacher.

I didn't walk out of the building or change my major; I was too far into college to justify that. That day, however, I started looking for other life paths that didn't include dry erase boards or dead-white-guy literature. In the months (and years) that followed, I planned out a few dozen different lives for myself, and not a single one of them had me in a classroom.

Then I moved to Korea.

I knew before I got here that kindergarten wasn't my thing. I lasted about two months at a daycare before I chose being unable to buy food over working with toddlers. When my boss came to me earlier this week and insisted that I sing a clean-up song every time the kids put their toys away, I made a mental note to just never let them play with toys again to avoid having to sing that stupid song. I'm not sure why I thought I'd magically transform into Mary Poppins when I got in front of a classroom full of really small people, but teaching kindergarten has taught me some things that I'm certainly better off knowing.

Everything that's worth doing takes practice. I didn't want to be a teacher because I knew I wasn't the absolute best on day one. When things take work, I typically abandon them. I'm blessed to be really good at the institution of school, which means not necessarily that I'm smart but that I know how to play the game well. I can have no idea what a writing prompt is asking and still get an A on the essay, not because I'm a genius but because I know how to write what teachers want to read. I'm pretty good at social situations, not because I'm the friendliest or most out-going person in the room but because I know how basic human interactions are supposed to work. I approach everything in life like it's a big game, but I only play the parts I know I'm really good at.

Teaching is different, though, because I'm not very good yet. I know what good teachers do, but I can't for the life of me get it right all the time. I'd say I'm a good teacher maybe 60% of the time; the other 40% I'm faking it (and when I say "it", I mean "absolutely everything"). For the first time in my life, though, I desperately want to get better at something. I want to work really hard at something I'm only mediocre at doing until one day I'm actually great. I've finally given myself permission to fail sometimes, and it feels like such a huge weight has been lifted. Yeah, sometimes I'm still going to suck. Sometimes I'm going to sing "Five Little Monkeys" in different voices for forty-five minutes straight and call it a lesson. But sometimes, I'm going to ask my kids what the days of the week are, and they're going to answer me (in order!) and I'm going to have succeeded. At first those moments will be few and far between, but they'll get better. I just have to keep practicing.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Romance, passivity, and belligerent drunks (not in that order)

Today is White Day in Korea. For those of you not cursed enough to live in a country where they celebrate three separate gag-me-now holidays, allow me to explain. Back in February, we celebrated Valentine's Day, but here, they call it "Red Day." On Red Day, girls are required to give their men something covered with hearts, then the men return the gesture (I've heard they're supposed to return it three-fold, but I have no proof of this) exactly one month later. One month after White Day, all the depressed and lonely singles tear themselves away from their tear-soaked pillows to cry into a bowl of black noodles on Black Day.

Although one of my precious littles gave me some chocolates today, that was the extent of my celebrating today's holiday. I had a glaring lack of men lining up to be my... shoot, what would I call that? They wouldn't be my Valentine... my... white... guy? But then again, it's not really the whites that celebrate White Day... although that would be pretty funny, if they made a holiday just to acknowledge all the foreigners.

Wow, tangent much?

Anyway, so I didn't have a date today (I mean, clearly). Instead, I went to dinner with my new friend, Bo. Bo and her husband are in Korea short term, training to be sent to Syria on missions. They joined my bible study last week, and Bo and I decided to become friends, beginning with dinner tonight. We met in the middle of our houses in a part of town neither of us were really familiar with, and after stopping to snack on some street food, we settled on a random Korean restaurant.

If I had been paying better attention, I could have told you what kind of food we were eating. It was a little like a cross between dak galbi and sam gyeop sal, which I realize means absolutely nothing to 95% of the people reading this. Basically... spicy, bacon, veggies, rice cakes? Cooked on the table and surrounded by a thousand side dishes; pretty standard in Korea, also pretty delicious.

**Note: for the rest of this story, you will need the following two vocabulary words: ajumma is an older Korean woman and ajusshi is an older Korean man.

Although Bo and I had a lovely conversation about nearly everything (we talk faster than the Gilmore Girls), the conversation wasn't the most memorable part of the meal. When we were picking at the leftover rice at the end, an ajumma two tables down told Bo that we were talking too loudly. This happens to me quite often; in fact, I was poked in the side and told to quiet down on the bus just yesterday. However, this time, we weren't really being that loud. The restaurant was full of people, and the only reason our conversation stood out was because it was in English. The ajumma told us to quiet down, Bo replied (in Korean), and the woman's husband decided he had a few things to say. He started arguing with Bo and reaching for the soup ladle on his table. Bo grabbed her phone out of her purse, and the ajusshi focused his intoxicated eyes on me.

Bo and her husband, Abe, live really far from where we were having dinner, so I thought maybe she was just calling him to help calm herself down. I was doing everything I could to avoid the ajusshi's glare; I have honestly never seen so much hatred pouring out of a single person. Wiping tears off her cheeks, Bo told her husband about the ajusshi who was yelling at us, that he was calling her a bitch and threatening to chuck the soup ladle at her if she didn't shut up. When Bo hung up the phone, the ajusshi and his wife stood up, and the man started screaming at us. The whole restaurant got completely silent and watched the drunk old Korean man yelling at two young foreigners. He came around to our table and reached for one of the spatulas, but he must have changed his mind right before he actually threw it. Bo yelled back at him in Korean and English... but she was the only one.

Imagine this scenario happening in the States: a very obviously drunk old man starts shouting at two young women in a restaurant. He threatens to throw things at them and calls them horrible words. Would the entire restaurant sit idly by and watch this unfold? They do in Korea.

A few months ago, this video caused an internet sensation. In it, an ajumma on the subway was offended by a teenage girl who crossed her legs "the wrong way." No one came to the girl's defense when the ajumma started screaming at her, and the situation escalated. If you watch the video, you'll see the ajumma grab the girl by the hair around the 24-second mark. She then proceeds to whip the girl across the subway car by her hair while the girl shrieks in pain. As awful as that situation is, watch the video again and ignore the ajumma. Instead, look at the bystanders.

Not until the very end of the video, after the teenager has been assaulted, does anyone stand up for her. In my mind, though, that's not the worst part. Look at the bystanders' faces. Look how embarrassed they seem at the thought of witnessing such an act. Instead of protecting the innocent, they're humiliated that people are causing a scene.

This, it seems, is the way Korea is. Aside from the occasional joke, I don't talk a lot about Korean culture on this blog. Partially it's because I'm trying to respect my new surroundings and don't want to criticize unnecessarily, but partially it's because I don't feel I'll ever know enough about another culture to pass judgment. There are a million things wrong with America, so who am I to say what's "wrong" here?

But this is wrong; passivity is wrong.  When a girl is getting attacked on a subway, someone should step in. When two girls are being threatened in a restaurant, someone should step in. Those who silently stand by while someone is mistreating another human being are just as guilty as those who are actively doing the mistreating. I'm going to hop off my soap box for now, but my blood has been slowly heating up against global injustice, and you can expect a lot more of this from me in the not-so-distant future. A *lot* more.

The ajusshi and his wife walked past our table and stopped to put on their shoes. The man kept screaming, but suddenly, Bo's husband appeared. He stood directly between the ajusshi and Bo, staring at the old man without saying anything. Before I realized it was Abe, I was honestly in shock that someone had tried to come between us and the drunk couple, but as soon as I recognized his face, I started crying. Abe and a friend had been a few blocks away having coffee, and they left everything and ran to the restaurant when Bo called. Without question, Abe stepped straight in front of his wife, protecting her from the man who was threatening us. The ajusshi and his wife stumbled out into the street, and Abe sat down to comfort Bo.

That's a husband.

I've been learning a lot about relationships lately - the good and the bad. Recently, I've found myself surrounded by couples who really just have me in awe of their respect and love for each other. Although that usually makes me feel sad and broken, like I'm somehow not good enough for that, I've realized lately that not only do I deserve that too, but that it's worth waiting for.

So I guess White Day did end up being quite romantic after all, drunken ajusshis aside.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A children's story

Teaching fives (and remember, that's Korean age five, so in the real world, they're three and a half to four) is very different from teaching sixes. My sixes could read and write, and I spent much of my time encouraging them to write hilarious stories or teaching them unnecessarily complex vocabulary words just to amuse myself. Now that I'm in the tiny class, however, things are drastically different. We spend a lot of time - and I mean a LOT of time - practicing holding pencils and getting them to successfully make marks on paper.

I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was so not made to be a kindergarten teacher. I'm not at all going to quit, and I (probably) won't end up killing any of them, but it's really not my cup of tea. I've been dealing with a lot of guilt about that lately, like there's something wrong with me since singing the ABC's a thousand times a day makes me want to punch a wall. I talked with Tiffany about this, and she's been trying to convince me that it's completely okay for this to not be my passion. When I talk about Hamlet and Macbeth, her eyes glaze over, and I'm pretty sure someone would end up in the hospital if you made her teach anyone over the age of seven. Tiffany loves teaching kindergarten, and I really don't, but it's okay. Just like it's okay that I desperately want to be in a high school classroom while Tiff would end up murdering them. If we all wanted to be kindergarten teachers, the world would be an educationally stifled, albeit colorful, place.

One thing I've been enjoying in my new curriculum is the fairy tales. Granted, I've only done one, but it was the most morbidly hilarious fable I've ever presented to a batch of toddlers. While I have your attention, I'd like to retell this story for you. Get some popcorn.

Once upon a time, there was a turtle in the sea. He wanted very much to fly in the air above the trees and houses and people, so he crawled up on shore to find an eagle to help him fly. When he found an eagle, he asked her to please teach him how to fly. The eagle replied that turtles cannot fly and that he should return to the sea, but the turtle would not relent. He wanted to fly. He asked the eagle to carry him in her talons while she flew in the air so he could see the world from the sky. The eagle didn't want to carry him because she was afraid he would fall, but the turtle promised that he would hold on very tight. The eagle, against her better judgment, grabbed hold of the turtle and soared into the air. The flight was exhilarating! The turtle could see for miles and miles, but he wanted to go higher. The eagle told the turtle it would not be safe to fly higher into the clouds, but the turtle was a manipulative little jerk and he convinced the eagle to go higher. As they flew higher and higher, the turtle decided he could probably fly on his own, and he asked the eagle to release him. The eagle refused. Either the turtle was quite persuasive, or the eagle was quite dumb; either way, the turtle assured the eagle he would be fine, so she dropped him. He flapped his little arms for a few seconds before realizing (shocker!) that he was actually just falling. He twisted and turned in the air, but he just couldn't stop the force of gravity. Although they had been flying peacefully above the ocean, the turtle managed to smash into a rock, and his shell exploded into a thousand pieces. He, of course, died.

The moral of our lovely tale? Know your limits.

No, I'm not kidding. Nothing like a little dose of reality to destroy little imaginations. I followed the lesson by telling them that Santa Claus is actually a pedophile because, hey, they needed to have every ounce of joy squeezed out of them.

The best (and when I say "best," I mean "WTF Korea?!") part of this lesson was that after I read them the story in a picture book, they were then blessed with the opportunity to watch the video. My little serial killers thought the graphic death was hysterical both times. Should I be worried?

The three main characters in the story were the turtle, the eagle, and a fish who had the unfortunate luck of witnessing the turtle shattering his shell on the rocks. I asked the kids to copy the animal names into their notebooks then draw a picture of one. Here's Sarah's rendition of (what else?) the death scene.

I can only assume that pink thing is his brain flying out of his head. 
And, yes, I know it says "furfle" but seriously - she's not even four yet.

After they all had drawn pictures, I asked them to come up to the front of the room to explain their drawings to the class. Basically I just said words and they repeated them, but we're learning. I asked them to repeat the names of the animals (turtle - eagle - fish), and Irene, well, kind of did that.

You're not hearing that wrong; she's saying turtle - eagle - bitch. Not quite what I had in mind.

The new littles may not be Brian, but it's looking like I'll still have some great stories to tell.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I think I just miss Brian

I've been horrifically un-fun these past few days. This morning when I went into my vice-principal's office to ask her a question, she immediately asked if I had been crying. I actually hadn't been, but the fact that my expression permanently looks like someone who has been recently sobbing certainly isn't good.

I think it's because I miss Brian.

No really.

I know my last post was a delightful mess of "woe-is-me" for other reasons, but today it occurred to me that my life simply isn't as good without Brian. Thus, I created excuses to see him, um, all day. The thing I like most about that little bugger is that every time he sees me, he sprints across the room and climbs up me like a little Asian monkey, then he clutches onto me like his life depends on it. He whispers to me about how I'm his favorite teacher and how he wishes he could come be in my new class, and he shouts "MISS NIKKI!" down the hall whenever he catches a glimpse of me walking away. When the busses were loading this afternoon, he grabbed the hands of two of my new students who happen to be on his shuttle, and he guided them around the gym because "they are Miss Nikki's girls, so they are my girls." (He could just be a little ladies' man in training, but I prefer to think he does it because he adores me.) As he and his two girlfriends headed out to the bus, I heard him scream my name down the hall. Our new principal's name is Nicky, so she assumed he was saying goodbye to her. Oh, no. "Not you! Where is my Miss Nikki?! Goodbyeeeeeeeee, Miss Nikki!"

In all seriousness though, I've been particularly whiny these past few days, and I just can't seem to quiet all the hateful sounds in my head. You don't have to worry about sending me to therapy; they're not audible voices. Just your average, run-of-the-mill self-deprecating thoughts. I know I'm not the only one who can't control the onslaught once the floodgates are open, and suddenly I'm convinced I'm a failure at absolutely everything.

You weren't good enough for him, and you'll never be good enough for anyone.
You're an awful kindergarten teacher.
Those pants fit just fine two weeks ago, fatty.
The kids wouldn't be falling asleep if you knew what you were doing.
No one cares if you're sad. Stop whining.
You're a hypocrite. No one's fooled.

Then, of course, I get the one that is the worst kick in the stomach when you're already down:

You really couldn't be any more self-centered. Look at you, only thinking of your own pathetic life.

Fun, right? The thing is, I know all these things are lies. I'm actually a really good kindergarten teacher, I haven't gained any weight, and one guy not wanting to date me doesn't mean I should go out and buy a few dozen cats. Compared to almost every inanimate object, I'm hilarious and charming, and my karaoke skills are probably going to get me a spot on next season's American Idol. There are tons of good things about me (I can think of at least two - no, three! - off the top of my head), but I feel ridiculously vain writing them out.

On a related note, the next article I'm working on for Relevant is about how hating yourself doesn't make you humble, and that it's okay to think you're likable. It's going to basically be a letter to myself, but I'd venture I'm not the only one in the world who struggles with this.

On an unrelated note, my new littles are rough around the edges. I thought the other teachers were exaggerating when they said my babies wouldn't be able to hold pencils or pull their own pants up in the bathroom, but it's all gloriously true. Today while I was reading my kids a story, Rachel burst into tears. She's cried a few times, so I fought rolling my eyes as I jumped out of my chair to console her. I asked what happened, and she showed me her hand. There were tiny teeth prints in it, so I asked who bit her. She pointed to herself. She - bit - herself. Read that again, slowly. She - bit - herself, then sobbed uncontrollably. Uh, what?

Oh and here's a good story: yesterday afternoon, one of the parents brought me a present. This happens a lot; the parents here think you'll like their kids more if they bring you expensive, jewel-filled pens. When the mom handed me the present, though, I realized it said "from Nikki Teacher" on it, instead of "for." I made the politest confused face I could, and she explained that I was to give it to her son as a welcome to the class. Therefore, I had to make a huge scene to present this little boy with some kind of game I couldn't read, which he promptly tossed aside, telepathically telling me to try harder next time. I wonder if there's just no word for "spoiled" in Korean?

Monday, March 7, 2011

There's a baby laughing at the end

I heard once that vulnerability is beautiful. If that's the case, then look out. This is about to be the prettiest blog post you've ever seen.

Saturday morning, I attended a friend's housewarming party. There were tons of people crammed in the living room, and the tables were overflowing with food. Someone brought out Catch Phrase, which is (in my opinion) the devil's favorite game. I mean, come on. Whose disgusting idea was it to put words in a beeping piece of plastic then make a room full of people pass it in a circle like it's about to explode while everyone else in the room shouts words and phrases like a Tourette's support group? That thing is a frickin' anxiety attack with batteries.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Partially to avoid the incessant beeping, I headed to the back patio. A tiny cluster of my friends huddled together under blankets while two or three strummed guitars. Esther and Anne's patio has a really great view of part of the city, and there's not much in the world that's better than singing along to Ke$ha played on the ukelele. There was nowhere else I wanted to be at that moment, and I remember thinking that sometimes, life is so beautiful that it's almost unfair. (Actually, I said that out loud, and promptly got mocked for sounding desperately like a Hallmark card.)

I overstayed my welcome at the housewarming party, and by the time I got home, Tiffany was ready to make dinner. There's this little restaurant near my old church that serves my favorite meal in all of Korea, and I've been begging Tiffany to figure out how to make it so I don't have to fly all the way back to Korea when I'm craving it in the States. We ran to the mart for ingredients and wine, and returned to her apartment to experiment. We had a lovely dinner (not quite the same as Cafe Comeon, but still delicious), followed by singing along to youtube videos because we were too lazy to walk to a noraebang. A few glasses of wine later, I headed back upstairs to my apartment, where I should have gone directly to bed.

I've been debating back and forth whether I should actually write this part of the story. For some reason, I feel like if I skip over it, I'll lose faith in my own blog. I started this blog to record who I am while I'm in Korea, and yet I still want to hide behind the facade of "silly storyteller" instead of showing any significant emotion. On top of that, I process the world around me by writing about it, and I know that it'll take me a lot longer to move past this if I ignore how much it hurts. I suppose I could write the post then never actually post it... but I'd really only be doing that because I'm afraid of people knowing I kind of suck. Alright, here it goes.

Without going into, well, any detail, I ended a friendship on Saturday night. In all fairness, I had been clinging to it for all the wrong reasons, and I'm certain my life will be healthier without it. In the vaguest terms I can muster, I finally acknowledged that a specific relationship was not what I had taken it to be, and I was crushed. He doesn't read my blog, so I could probably whine and complain about how much I think he wronged me, but that wouldn't really do any good. Making someone else appear small only ever accomplishes diminishing people's opinion of you.

I guess the reason I want to write about it, then, is because I'm heartbroken. I've never entrusted one person with so many of my hopes before, and being rejected hurts. If you've known me for longer than ten minutes, you likely know that I don't date (and if you don't know me, then this post is probably really awkward for you). I have no idea why I refuse to trust anyone but myself, but I tend to push away anyone who seems even remotely interested in dating me. This guy was different, though, and I fell ridiculously fast. It turns out I need to be a little more careful that someone's ready to catch me before I jump.

I feel like since it wasn't actually a relationship that I don't deserve to hurt. How can you miss something you never actually had? But there's a strange part of me that appreciates the pain. Hurting means that I cared deeply for him, no matter what labels our relationship had. The fact that my heart is broken means that it loved well in the first place, and I can't find it in me to regret that. Perhaps my trust and hope were severely misplaced; but at least I tried. I cared more about someone else than I did about myself, and I think that's pretty good.

The one good thing about not dating is that you never have to go through a break-up. I know this isn't the same thing, but isn't a break-up really just when a relationship that mattered suddenly ends? Unless you count when I was fourteen, I've never gone through a break-up before, and it's honestly quite strange. I feel overwhelmingly disappointed and a little empty, like I set down a part of me and forgot to pick it back up. I can't help but wonder what I could have done differently to change it, but I guess you simply can't make someone love you by sheer willpower.

The crappiest part is that it's making me unbearably homesick. I cried today at CostCo, just because I was in a CostCo. I had to walk away from a bag frozen hamburgers because they reminded me of my Cincinnati friends and all the barbecues I'll be missing once it gets warm. I miss the people I'm used to hugging when life gets hard, and honestly, I miss how much more life made sense before I moved to Korea. I'm hurt and confused and hurt some more, and I don't know what to do to make it go away.

Wow, so um, that was pretty heavy. Here's a video of a baby laughing to lighten the mood:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A new batch of k-babies

Tomorrow morning, I'll be starting a new school year with a new set of students. My kids will still be in the school, but it's going to be so hard to not be teaching these little faces every day:

Last Friday, on our last day as Opal Class, we spent much of the day having a dance party. If you've been around the blog for a while, you'll know I fill a lot of time with dancing. You would, too, if this is the kind of dancing you got to witness:

Jealous? You should be. Here's the link to Dave's ESL Cafe. You'll thank me later.