Sunday, March 1, 2009

Halfway home and we'll be there by morning

...this post's title is from "City of New Orleans". I'm not going "through the Mississippi darkness rolling down to the sea", nor do I expect to come back to the States in September, but today marks exactly halfway through my one-year contract at LIKE, and I love a good blog entry title.

Next year is up in the air. The principal of the school in Seoul says they will have an opening and he's interested in hiring me (although he's not guaranteeing anything). There was a bit of a mixup, in that they've bought a new facility outside the city and will be splitting their operations, and the principal inferred that I'd said I would only agree to teach in the original location. But I've straightened that out (I think) and I hope to get an offer from them by spring. Staying at LIKE is a possibility, but they'd have to inflate my pay quite a bit. There are a thousand other options out there as well; there are always parents who are desperate for their kids to get into a top university, and they need English.

Yesterday, as I was on my way to my last entry level Korean class, somehow I knew that I'd give them the money for the next set of classes, and that I'd regret it. (I also would have regretted it had I not, of course.) When I got to the YMCA, I asked EJ Koo, the program director, if she knew of any cellphone stores where they spoke good English. She said no, but she or a teacher would be glad to go with me, and in a fit of puppylike gratitude, I signed up for the next level of classes, and of course then I was totally bewildered during the class; we were just going over Chinese-derived numbers, which are used for money, room numbers, bus numbers, and so on, as opposed to Korean numbers, which are used for counting and such, which we'd covered last week, and the teacher goes too fast and her English isn't really good, and I got lost and got my back up and my brain shut down, as it always does when I find something hard to learn, especially when that fact is obvious to other people, and oh my God this is a long sentence.

And then we had a wrap party, at which the teachers had one student from each class level speak to the group (which consisted of students from all four levels) in Korean, and I have no idea why they picked me to represent the newbies. It may be because I'd just signed up for the next set of classes, which many hadn't; it certainly wasn't because I was the star pupil. Anyway, I said just about every sentence I knew, something like "Hello. I'm not Korean. I'm American. Thank you." It seems as if every sentence in Korean ends in a four-syllable word that ends in "eyo" or "nida" and all the similar words run together, and it frustrates and embarrasses me to get them so mixed up. But I guess if I'm going to be here awhile, I ought to keep trying.

...so what have I learned in my half-a-stint here? I'm pretty content living alone, but I need somebody to care when I come home, and Tug and Tiki (who themselves marked their quarter-anniversary with me by festively napping) are my anchors. I can say "yes" to a lot of things I would always have said "no" to in the past. It's bearable to be functionally pretty much illiterate, as long as your complexion says, "I'm not an idiot; I'm a foreigner." I can make friends (eventually) with interesting people. My sense of humor travels pretty well, either verbally with the most advanced students or slapstically (shut up, I say it's a word) with the little kids.

And mostly I've learned that I'm going to be okay. That was worth flying 10,000 miles to learn.

1 comment:

r. said...

That's something we all should have and I don't mean pussy or avec une "s" for those more daring. Seriously, don't we all want someone to come home to, someone to notice, even if they don't necessarily give a damn? That's just asking too much ;)

You'll make it after all

If not, you can always come back and begin again. If the classes aren't worth the money, you should shake the web tree and see what falls out. You may just get whacked in the head with a gem of a site that makes it all come together (right now...over me). I'll hunt one down for you. Though I won't be able to assess much, considering I don't know a lick of Korean. Well, actually there was that one time... no wait. She was Filipino.