stamina

I’m feeling rather like this today:

Just pushing through.

It’s been an extremely bumpy week.

The lows:

Monday is always a difficult day, but especially because it’s my busiest day and a day with some of my worst-behaved classes. It’s particularly frustrating for me, as someone who used to have a teaching role with total authority in the classroom and the ability to appropriately discipline students who were misbehaving, to now have almost zero power in that area. It’s unfortunate that my co-teachers often seem to have a higher tolerance for bad behavior than I do, but because their status in the hierarchy trumps mine, I can’t do anything about it.

On Wednesday I was gifted with a Korean surprise – initially I was told we were having a school-wide “open class” in the afternoon, and I foolishly assumed that meant other teachers in the area or an open house deal for the parents (which wasn’t a crazy thing for me to think since we held that type of thing last year for the parents). A bit stressful, but not that big of a deal.

BUT THEN after lunch on Wednesday I found out that it was actually a school inspection. People from the city’s office of education were coming to check out the quality of our teaching and such. This did make me feel more nervous, because by luck of the draw, the open class period happened to be one where I’d be teaching the lesson for the first time ever (i.e., no “practice” with another class).

And of course, this was the one class this semester that my planned activity totally flopped. I had wanted to just try something different, and usually even when I do try a new idea, it works out okay – but this was just that internal panic mode, rapidly-spiraling-out-of-control situation that every teacher dreads. The kids weren’t into it, they were getting restless, and I realized a couple of the questions I had prepared as part of the game were convoluted, leading them to give the wrong answer.

Thankfully, the class wasn’t filmed, and the inspectors only stayed in the room for a couple of minutes in the beginning, so no one was really witness to said disaster.

Still, it was completely and utterly demoralizing because I knew that that wasn’t my best, and even though no one actually saw the crash and burn (besides my sympathetic co-teacher), I was so disappointed and frustrated that I was near tears afterwards.

I had a double period after-school class today to make up for a missed class 2 weeks ago. The 15 kids in my class (16 yr olds) are such a mixed bag of high and low level, wanting to be there and not wanting to be there. A few of the kids spend half of the class telling me “I no English” while others are getting bored with the simple material. It’s so hard at their age because I want to / sometimes can relate to them as adults, and they have the maturity to grasp and discuss bigger topics than the 14 yr olds, but at the same time they are still kids and they just want to go home.

I’ve honestly had my hands full all semester trying to think of activities that I can modify for different levels or things that will engage all of them, with moderate to weak success. It’s freaking HARD to please a group of teenagers, man.

Today was particularly difficult due to the double period and the fact that while outside is cool, inside is sun-baked like an oven. It was okay in the end, because I purposely saved a K-pop/American pop song game for the end of the second period when I knew their patience would be wearing thin, but overall it was just a draining and soul-sucking experience. (heh heh, kidding, mostly)

The highs:

There are two boys assigned as greeters this semester, so they stand at the gate every morning to say hello to every student and teacher that enters. They are two of my faves for their cheerful attitudes in and out of class (in spite of their English skills being quite low). Every single morning, I turn the corner past the gates and am met with a boisterous “HELLO MADDY TEACHER! WELCOME TO [OUR MIDDLE SCHOOL]!” and occasionally an “I love you.” Today, one of the boys added, “Eat breakfast?” It’s very cute and it means so much to me to be able to start the day like that.

I discovered this note on my desk when I entered my classroom a few minutes before the bell. No clue as to who wrote it, but it made me smile. Also, I should really teach the kids how to spell my name, as so far I’ve only seen “Meddy” and “Mady.”

20161007_180024

(Yes, that is an earthquake disaster information sheet beneath the note. Korea got a bit freaked out by the chain of earthquakes in September.)

 

I played a ‘Family Feud’ style game with the 1st graders, in which they guessed the top survey answers for questions like ‘favorite food,’ ‘favorite movie,’ ‘best drama,’ etc. (Back in August, I think I mentioned I had surveyed all the students at my school with these questions, compiled them, and created this game, because it’s more fun for the kids to guess their peers’ answers than random strangers’ answers.)

Anyway, we didn’t have time to finish all the questions before the bell rang, but a few boys lingered behind and asked if they could click on all the remaining questions to reveal the answers. It was just a cute moment as one boy clicked away and a few of his friends crowded around the TV, laughing, scoffing, or exclaiming in surprise as the top answers were revealed. Any time one of them gives up their precious break time to linger and interact with me or ask to see what we didn’t have time for in a game is touching to me.

So now here I am, 5:50 p.m., about to leave work and so, so, so thankful that it’s Friday.

Life takes stamina.

Physical stamina, yes, but also mental and emotional and spiritual stamina. It’s certainly important to build those up as much as you would your physical stamina. Push through those hard times the way you would push through a tough workout, and have faith that on the other side, you’ll come out stronger, and things will get better.

I’m not saying my own problems are so horrible; for the most part, I’m just being a baby. But I want to remind myself that all these small hurdles and frustrations and fears are chances to build my stamina, not as a body, but as a human soul.

So, to close out the week, I’ll just leave this here. Song of the week (month? year?).

Don’t give up, I won’t give up

I got stamina

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Reverse SAD

Ever since the weekend, we’ve had the most glorious cool, breezy, overcast weather here in Korea, a sudden and unexpected and very very welcome relief from the relentless sun.

Always, when the first whisper of fall comes, I experience this strange feeling as though I’ve had my head underwater for ages and suddenly I’ve come up gasping and I can finally breathe again. But I didn’t even know my head had been underwater all that time. Like the frog boiling in the pot analogy, summer s l o w l y tries to drown me, so slowly that I don’t even realize it until it’s over.

In the last few years, as I repeat this experience at the start of every fall, I’ve wondered if I have a mild form of reverse SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

Normal SAD means that a person has a tendency to become depressed in winter because they are heavily affected by the cold, the shorter days, and especially the lack of sunlight. Biologically, this happens because of sudden, prolonged changes in melatonin, serotonin, and sleep cycles, but I think it has a deep emotional component as well.

The lesser-known and less common reverse SAD is just what it sounds like (the complete opposite of SAD) – a tendency to become depressed in summer due to heat, longer days, and too much exposure to sunlight.

Again, that’s the biological explanation. Emotionally, for me, it just feels so oppressive and that makes me feel sluggish and exhausted. (I also frequently get heat/sun-related headaches, so that doesn’t help.)

Let’s just say “Summertime Sadness” is my jam from June-August. (Not the poppy, upbeat Cedric Gervais radio edit – but the original, which actually sounds like its title. Sad.)

I wouldn’t characterize what I experience in summer as depression per se, and I wouldn’t necessarily say that I have a deficiency of endorphins in the hot months. To frame it positively, I’d say I just have a proficiency of them once it gets cool and cloudy. My optimism, motivation, and energy levels skyrocket. Gray days, rainy days, and cold days get my blood pumping.

Anyway, that’s enough for now about (reverse) SAD. Maybe someone can recognize this phenomenon in themselves. The most comforting part about it is that you know your season of choice is coming if you just hang in there a little bit longer.

p.s. there may or may not be more blog posts coming this week. i make no promises.

Fresh perspective

I have to remind myself that even though last year I was starstruck and in love with my new life in Korea, there were tough times too. I’ve heard that the 2nd year can be more difficult as life becomes a routine, mundane thing and each day is just there, waiting for you to plow through it… in pursuit of the end of the day, in pursuit of the weekend, in pursuit of the next weekend and the next weekend after that, in pursuit of summer vacation…

Then I sort of internally shake myself because that’s not a good way to look at life. Always living for the next perceived break or the next perceived good thing/reward – which will probably never be as good as you think if you have that mindset anyway. It’s actually quite a depressing way to live because you just trudge along and never appreciate what’s right in front of you.

Last year I was all about appreciating each moment and all the little things.

This school year, I was off to a rough start, mentally and emotionally. Maybe it showed in my blogging as of late. A blackness had sort of settled over my heart in the last month or so as the bleak winter weather dragged on and on, and I’ve been allowing that blackness to stay there and rob me of finding the bright spots in my daily life.

Today, for whatever reason (maybe because it finally feels like spring outside?), I woke up and reminded myself of this. I poked and jabbed my inner joy which has been lazy and dormant for a while now. I yelled at it, “Hey, external situations are not the source of happiness, remember?”

Make a choice today. To find joy and happiness in whatever happens, or whatever doesn’t happen. Find the richness in life, even in the mundane, the stressful, the dull. Don’t wait for “good” things to come to you, but make the everyday things into the good things.

And even just making that choice, I can feel a little joy bubbling up in my chest. Because even if I’m not where I want to be now, I know I can get there. With God’s help.

Now, enough sentimental navel-gazing and on to updates…

Tomorrow, April 16, marks two years since the horrible Sewol Ferry disaster in Korea (in case you don’t know about it: click). Tons of political, cultural, and moral commentary has already been made about this tragedy, so I won’t say much other than that it was a horrific and 100% preventable tragedy – which is why it’s so infuriating and depressing. Because of the Confucian hierarchy [don’t get me started on Confucius…], horrible decisions, and lack of common sense, among other things, nearly 300 people died that day – the vast majority of whom were children. Children who were just obeying their elders as they’ve been taught to do. It’s unspeakably sad.

Note/Disclaimer: While the Confucian element is certainly specific to Korea / Asian culture, and it did play a role in the events on April 16, of course I’m aware that Western countries have also experienced awful and preventable tragedies due to poor foresight and decision-making. I’m not condemning all of Korea because of the Sewol disaster. I’m expressing outrage and sadness over a terrible chain of events.

Anyway, I was teaching class at 2nd period, when at 10:00 an announcement came over the PA for a moment of silence in remembrance. I was expecting it because I Google Translated the school-wide message about it this morning. As music played over the speakers, my co-teacher made all the kids stand up, and they stood there, eyes closed, heads bowed. At 15 years old, all of them are old enough to remember the day the ferry sank.

Two minutes later, it was over. As they sat down, I felt strange about continuing with the lesson – I’d been about to show them an OK Go music video, and that seemed such a stark contrast. Is it really okay to go back to having fun seconds after remembering how hundreds of children died?

Just so I don’t end on a sad note, something I’ve noticed for a while but particularly today: in my Friday 1st grade class full of 13-year-olds, some of them are noisy. Some of them have not-so-great attitudes. Some don’t want to practice English. Some struggle to write simple words, some use vocabulary beyond a middle school textbook.

There is one boy in this class who is particularly smart. Quiet and shy, but always knows the answers and can read, write, and understand better than most of the others. I’ve noticed him since our first class.

There is also a boy who has a learning disability. He is very friendly, always smiling, always waving extra big when he sees me in the halls with a huge grin. In class, he can’t do much but he doesn’t cause any disruptions. (Sadly, this is often the case with special ed kids in a NET class – the co-teachers often let them be rather than give them extra help. But that’s another issue for another day.)

The smart boy always sits next to this other boy. When we do our textbook work, he checks his partner’s work for him. When we do speaking practice, he writes Korean in his partner’s book under the English sentences and guides him through pronouncing the English words.

Today, I happened to catch Boy 1 raising his head triumphantly after getting Boy 2 to speak the entire dialogue with him. His expression was full of pride, not in himself, but in the fact that his partner had done so well. It was so sweet. He can honestly do more to help Boy 2 than I can, since I can’t speak Korean.

Secondly, I’ve been helping my favorite co-teacher with her English Reading Club. It’s a group of 11 3rd grade girls, 15 yr olds, and they read books and do projects. My role is merely to sit in their bright, airy classroom upstairs (in my experience, the top floor is always nicer than the lower floors), and if they have questions while reading or writing, they come to me. My ct brings me tea. I chat with her and with the girls. It’s absolutely the loveliest and most stress-free thing I’ve ever done in a school in Korea.

And these kind of things are what I want to focus on. A fresh perspective and a fresh season.

Battery: 0%

And it’s only Monday.

Let’s just say Year 2 is throwing me for a loop.

I kind of knew what to expect, having worked at this school twice a week last year, but coming here day after day with no respite (of going to my other school for the rest of the week) is wearing me down.

I’m still unsure whether I’m holding the kids or myself to too high a standard. Or both.

I rode the (negative) emotional waves today, from frustration to anger to annoyance. I obviously need to learn to let go of what I can’t control. If a CT simply isn’t going to support me in the way I’d like to be supported in the classroom, so be it. I have to work around it. (You’d think I’d have learned this last year. Obviously it didn’t sink in well enough.)

As for the kids, for the ones who don’t care about English and for the classes that feel like pulling teeth, I just cry on the inside and smile on the outside and slowly make my way to each table, making sure they practice at least once anyway, trying to help them understand what they’re saying. Even if as soon as I turn my back, they’ll start chatting in Korean again.

My last class today was 2nd grade, one of the most mixed level I have – meaning, some kids are at the top of the A level (could debate large-concept topics), others at the very bottom of the C (can barely read). I tried to balance, tried to have the A level kids help their C level partners, tried to chat a little about other stuff with some of the high level kids so they wouldn’t get bored, tried to encourage the ones who felt lost.

After finally getting to the end of this exhausting routine for the last time today, I sat down at my desk feeling drained in all ways possible.

A CT told me we have hweshik on Wednesday directly after school. Another CT asked me to help her record and be in video lectures for the students to watch at home. None of my CTs are on the same page as to what I’m teaching in each of their classes. A student asked me to help her friend study for midterms. Another group of students are expecting me to hold an English Club with them, and I’m all, hold up kids, I haven’t heard a word about that from any of the other teachers. Don’t you come marching into my office on Friday wondering why I’m not ready for English Club. (They will.)

Then I got a message from a teacher in the 2nd floor office about my health insurance documents, so I stepped outside my office to head down there and pick them up.

And as soon as I opened my office door, I was surrounded by 2nd graders – “Oh, hello teacher! How are you?” “Teacher, [in Korean] my brother found you on Facebook! Please accept my friend request!” “Teacher, you are so beautiful! Wow!” “Teacher,” and this boy offered both his hands to shake mine respectfully, “Teacher, I love you. I love you, Teacher.” “TEACHER I LOVE YOU!” crowed his two friends behind him.

Maybe it seems dumb, but these little moments help me hang in there. It’s something positive to focus on when these difficult, new-school-year, new-coworkers, new-schedule, new-curriculum times come along.

don’t we love surprises

Today has been a series of unfortunate surprises. Thus far:

— Current main coteacher visits my office, informs me that the landlord said I can’t start moving into my new place early. Everything must be moved in and moved out on one day, and that one day is Tuesday. (Earlier I’d been told I had 3 days to move in.)

— My computer is broken and won’t even tu– oh, wait, that’s not a surprise.

(So how am I posting this, you ask? The coteacher who shares the office with me said I could use hers.)

— Current main coteacher revisits my office, informs me that she has bad news. My heart drops because right before the start of a new semester and a move, this is never ever good. She says she can’t be my main co this year because admin changed her position to coordinator of welfare or some crap like that, instead of head of the foreign language department. One of the two new English teachers will be my main.

Outward me: “Oh~~ okay. I understand.” (nodding and smiling)

Inward me:

nooooooo_elf

This is awful news for so many reasons. She and I already have a strong relationship, classroom rapport, and trust. We came in brand new to this school last year at the same time, but now we both know the school well. We know the events that we planned together last year (speech contest, essay contest, speaking tests, global market, etc) and we know what should be done this year. We know our students and the specific areas they need help with.

Why on earth would anyone decide to shake up all the positions just 1 year in? Don’t they realize that people learn and improve on the job through long-term experience? If you move everyone around every single year, no one will ever maximize their potential for a particular position or skill set. I want to pull out my hair. It’s beyond frustrating.

— The two new English teachers who will work here this year arrive (one of whom will be my main). My main coteacher ushers them into my office, and I awkwardly greet them. It’s been a whole year since I had to do this clumsy getting-to-know-you-in-your-2nd-language-but-my-2nd-culture thing.

They seem kind and their English seems pretty good. Thank God.

One says “I heard you were beautiful” and stops there.

Oh.

Sorry to disappoint you.

The one who will be my main co is in her 30s, quieter, solemn, makeup-less. This could be a good thing, maybe. Not sure yet. The other is perhaps slightly older, with a kind round face and cheerful smile. But she’s the one who I disappointed with my looks, so who knows. (kidding kidding)

I sat down with them, mind buzzing with questions for my new main co – are you going to follow my previous main co’s lead? Do I still get to teach the same pages of the textbook? (Dear lord, please don’t make me throw away ALL the work and lesson plans and PPTs I did last year.) Are you going to let me take the lead in class?

(Incidentally though, my now-former main coteacher, the awesome one, told me in private that if I feel hesitant to bring up a problem with the new teacher, I can talk to her about it instead. So that’s nice!)

— And you know what we had for lunch together, we English teachers?

Just guess.

..

.

JJIM.

Not just any jjim. As soon as they opened the box, I saw the silvery scales peeping out.

fish jjim.

my nemesis.

I should’ve known when I wrote yesterday’s post that this would happen. It’s Korean karma for speaking ill of spicy fish.

— To finish off this day of surprises (well, hopefully), my coteacher from my other school texted me and said we have hweshik tonight at 5pm, and she’s coming to pick me up at 4:40. heaven help us.

let’s just hope we’re not having jjim.

i’m a sad human icicle

It’s not as if much has happened since yesterday’s post, but it’s not even 11 a.m. yet and I can already tell it’s going to be an unproductive day (so why not pass the time with blogging?).

For one thing, there’s too much commotion going on today. It’s graduation day at my main school, and even though there’s technically class scheduled for 1st and 2nd grade, no one seems to be sticking to it. And in about 10 minutes, the 3rd grade ceremony will start anyway. We don’t have an auditorium here, so they have to graduate in their own classrooms. I don’t think I’ll get to watch. I’m sad about that.

For another thing, it’s basically the same temperature inside as it is outside, which is below freezing. Okay maybe slightly warmer, but it is cold in here. Really really cold. So, I’m sad about that too.

I just had a few 3rd grade visitors, though.

First, the student whose drafted speech I proofread for her a few months ago- she came hurrying in, flushed and breathless, and squatted beside my chair as she always does, as if trying to hide from the other teachers while a stream of fluent but somehow slightly strange English pours from her mouth. She said she wanted to thank me for helping her with the speech, and held out a bag filled with snacks from the convenience store. “It’s too much,” I protested. “No, please, please – please take it! They’re not expensive, really.” She hurried away almost before I could thank her. I wish I could’ve had more time to chat with her this year. Fluency hinges on frequent use of the language, and I don’t think she uses it much at all. (Like most of the fluent or extremely-high-level kids I’ve encountered here, she seems to purposely hide her ability to avoid being seen as a show-off.)

Second, two girls who, very early in the year, demanded that I remember them and their names (and so I did). “Teacher, today is last.” I chatted with them a little about what high schools they’re going to, their graduation ceremony today, etc.

Third, technically not a visit, but one of the boys who wrote me a goodbye Post-It note (specifically this one, bottom left, “from tae mok”) came to get something from the office. I haven’t seen him since, and his face lit up when he saw me – “Oh, hi!”

And now the Korean anthem is being sung, so I guess the ceremony has begun. But I guess I will just stay here and continue to be a sad human icicle.

emotional rollercoasters

*Alert, alert: This post contains sentimental rambling and is outrageously long. If you dislike, please click away now. You have been warned.*

This is the last day of classes for the 2nd semester, 2015.

All my creative and productive juices have been spent.

All my candy has been handed out (except a few stale Twix and MyChews).

All my brain power is fizzling out.

I can’t muster the energy to search for even one more GIF, write even one more lesson plan, create even one more worksheet.

This is not the time to be riding rollercoasters of any kind, especially not emotional ones.

And yet, here I am, heart soaring to the top of joy and plunging down into the depths of sadness, because…

Today is also the last day I will ever teach at my main school.

I’m remembering my first day of teaching at this school just about 10 months ago, and how completely overwhelmed and out-of-place I was that day. How the 3rd graders towered over me like giants. How they cheered and clapped when I walked into their classrooms for the first time. How difficult it was to connect with them beyond just “Hello, I’m the new foreign teacher and you’re my new students.”

I’m remembering the first couple months and how some days felt like pulling teeth and yet some kids were always such day-brighteners, and I would get home sometimes and laugh and cry almost at the same time.

I’m remembering how I had no clue how to teach Korean students for a good long while. In fact, I’m not so sure I have a clue even now, but I do know that I’ve improved at least.

I’m remembering how deeply I ended up caring about my 3rd graders by the end of the 1st semester, and what great rapport we had (something I haven’t quite been able to replicate with 1st and 2nd). How even now, half a year later, I can recall the faces and personalities from each class. Even now, I miss them and wish I could teach them again.

And I’m remembering how I coasted through the first part of 2nd semester by teaching the amazing 1st graders, who were eager to learn, attentive, smart, sweet, and hilarious – a teacher’s nearly-impossible dream. And how I miss them too, and all the energy they gave me during class.

And now we come to today, when I’ve just finished saying goodbye to my 2nd grade classes. To be honest, we probably have the weakest relationship out of the three grades I taught this year because I only had them for 9ish weeks and 14- or 15-year-olds are tough nuts to crack, but nevertheless a few of my classes were full of groaning and fake crying when I announced my departure, and “Teacher, I will go to [my transfer school] next year!” “Teacher, I’ll miss you!” “Teacher, I won’t forget you!” “Teacher, don’t forget me!”

Oh, believe me kiddos, I won’t forget you.

The adorable chubby boy and sassy girl who always sit together, and she acts the perfect Abbott to his Costello, always (good-naturedly) yelling at him for his hilarious comments and trying to help him with his English attempts.

The boy with the sweetest manners and the extraordinarily strong, deep singing voice who sings in the 2nd graders’ band and told me he loves horror movies.

The girl who sits directly in front of my desk and always looked up at me expectantly with this sweet smile, like she couldn’t wait to see what amazing, inspiring, wise piece of knowledge is going to come out of my mouth (don’t think I lived up to that!).

The boy with the extremely black hair (Koreans actually have a range of natural hair colors, from dark brown to black, and his hair is the darkest black I’ve ever seen) and inquisitive face who was always making sheep’s eyes at me while I taught, and then looking away with a goofy grin if I made eye contact.

The cute girl with the tiny heart-shaped face, huge eyes, and freckles, who always wears her hair in a ballet bun, and who always made intelligent, engaged eye contact with me when I would speak.

The boy who somehow refused to obtain or bring an English textbook to class, ever, but would nevertheless sit there during CD/bookwork time with a random class textbook open in front of him. He also shouts “HELLO!” at the top of his lungs any time he sees me, no matter when or where.

The boy who, without fail, carried my laptop and materials back to my office from the classroom, every single time.

The boy who loves Andromeda (the galaxy) and found a way to bring it into every topic of discussion. “Giving instructions” lesson? “How to go to Andromeda.” “Have you ever?” lesson? “Have you been to Andromeda?” “I hope ____” lesson? “I hope you can go to Andromeda.”

I won’t forget.

fellings

I guess I had the energy to search for another GIF after all. Heck, there’s never a bad time to search for GIFs really.

internet explorer is an abomination

My office computer is awful.

He and I (yes I am personifying my computer) have a cute little morning routine together. And by cute I mean obnoxious.

Me: “Good morning Mr. Computer! Time to wake up!” *power on*

Him: “Okay! Sure thing!”

Him: “Just kidding, I’m gonna freeze up now.”

Me: “No problem, let’s try again.” *reboot*

Him: “Nah, I think this time I just won’t start.”

Me: “Okay. Third time’s a charm?” *reboot*

Him: “Is 30 seconds long enough for you to accomplish something before I freeze again?”

Me: *reboot*

Him: *nope*

Me: *reboot*

Him: *nope*

Me: *mentally banging head against the wall* “FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY WILL YOU JUST START”

Him: “Not unless you call the IT guy in here.”

Me: “FINE! FINE I WILL!”

tumblr_lskru2nj0u1qd7bw2o1_500

I’m hoping if I call the IT guy to fix this thing often enough (like every day), he can put in a good word for getting a new computer in the English office.

And then another tragedy befell today: Chrome no longer works. It crashes upon launch, every single time. The Mozilla Firefox download page is completely blocked from my school’s server or whatever.

This leaves me with one option…

Internet freaking Explorer.

I’m sure I need not list all the reasons why this browser is 100% terrible. But just as a reminder… somehow the security settings have blocked every potentially useful site on the internet, including GOOGLE.COM. GOOGLE. They do realize that this in no way makes me inclined to use Bing, and instead sends me into a fit of rage, right?

I had to click a million links and permissions and other crap just to get to my WordPress site to type this blog post.

Also, everything is in Korean (computer interface, Microsoft Office interface, browser interface, all of it).

Also, I hate Internet Explorer’s guts.

beating-head-against-the-wall

 

 

In other (but also depressing?)  news, I was talking about Christmas with some 3rd graders (15 yr olds), and asked them if they will exchange gifts with family/friends on Christmas day.

“No! Teacher, we are not children,” said one girl in mild shock and disdain.

Apparently teenagehood/adulthood = no presents at Christmas. From anyone. Come on, Korea, that’s just sad. You need to up your Christmas game.

change is hard

original title: change sucks

but then i felt weird using the word “sucks” in a title, as if that’s somehow worse or different than using it in my actual post (it’s not)

i decline to say too much in this post

other than that change is really difficult for many of us, but particularly for someone as stubborn and “color within the lines”-oriented as me, and that i am facing a lot of it right now

and also

e e cummings must’ve had a great deal of fun typing like this

and putting line breaks any

where he pleased

poetic license

must be nice

if i ever become a poet i think i’ll give

up on the flowery stuff and

just emulate e e cummings

or perhaps

this is really more an

archy and mehitabel thing

firstarchy

who wouldn’t want to read the poetic thoughts of a cockroach. that’s my question

A heart divided

Have you ever felt this way?

Half of your heart in one place, half in another.

I didn’t have this problem until… now. I mean, when I was living in America, through my plane ride to Korea and my EPIK orientation, and up until my first week in the classroom, my heart was fully in America. After I started teaching here, I put my heart and soul 100% into my teaching, my students, my coworkers, my new life here. I think it’s the best way to make yourself happy, whatever your situation. If you’re going to transplant your heart, so to speak, do it right and do it completely.

And by that I don’t mean to forget the people, places, and things you love back home, or whatever you’re leaving behind – I just mean that you can’t really be happy if you’re living with your body in one place and your heart/mind in another.

So, I turned my full attention, my focus, and my love towards Korea because I want to have a lovely, love-filled year here, even though I know things aren’t/won’t be perfect.

But now…

The semester has come to an end. I’ve had to say goodbye (prematurely) to some of the sweetest, funniest, most wonderful kids I’ve ever met. Big changes and much stress loom in my future (next semester: new kids, new co-teachers, new curriculum, and the crazy flurry of lesson planning that comes with the start of a new semester – oh boy, it’ll be like starting from scratch again). And quite suddenly the wind seems to have been taken out of my sails. I’m working with a tiny breeze here.

And yesterday I started listening to Bastille’s “Bad Blood” album again for the first time since March. (Sorry, T-Swift, Bastille took that title first.) I was listening to it almost nonstop in the months leading up to my departure (fantastic album by the way), and so, in the way that music has of transporting one’s soul back to a place or time or even just an uncapturable feeling, I am now feeling a strong longing for home and family and friends.

Nostalgia possesses a dangerous and addicting kind of beauty. I feel I’m particularly susceptible to it, being a lifetime diary-keeper who stores up memories like a hoarder stores up newspapers and cats. It’s quite nice to pull up old memories, whether through photos, writing, music, or conversation, and feel all cozy and nostalgic about them and remind yourself of what a great time that was… but it’s so easy, from there, to slip into loving what has already come and gone too much and forgetting to love the now.

Yesterday was the first time since coming here that nostalgia reached out to me, drew me into its tantalizing depths with that almost-here-but-not-quite feeling – like the way you can see a bright object in a dark room out of the corner of your eye, but when you look straight at it, it disappears into the darkness.

The thing about that is, it can leave you chasing a tangibility that can never be there. It can also set you up for disappointment when you return to that place/time/situation/whatever and things are just not the same as they were in your idyllic nostalgic memory.

So, just a little more indulgence in these feelings, and then it’s time to rein that other half of my heart back in, bring myself back to the present, and prepare to find as much joy and love in the second half of my year as I did in the first.