Bustling, Hustling

Tuesday 2/13

There is a whole lot of bustling happening around here.

Among the best-known aspects of Korean culture for anyone who lives in it (right up there next to bowing, kimchi, and skincare) is balli balli (빨리빨리), which essentially means “hurry the heck up” / “move your arse.” Even the word itself conveys the imperative of the meaning – the word “hurry” is actually just 빨리, but it is often used in its double form because goodness knows just one 빨리 is not enough.

This concept contributes to, for example, the super-speedy delivery services available in Korea… but also to a lot of needless stress. Actually, a whole post could be devoted to the various benefits of and damage caused by 빨리빨리 culture (and many articles have been written about this), but that is not the point today.

Simply put, the difference between good 빨리빨리 and bad 빨리빨리 is the difference between hustle and bustle. Hustle is motivating and focused; bustle is nerve-wracking and chaotic. Hustle is productive; bustle is inefficient. Hustle is goal-oriented; bustle is aimless.

Today is the teachers’ meeting for the 2018 school year. All the incoming teachers will gather with all the current teachers to, I assume, introduce themselves and talk about curriculum, school events, paperwork, etc. I was not invited. (This is good.) I was, however, brought a leftover donut and Capri Sun. (This is also good.)

In preparation for the 10 a.m. meeting, the first part of the work day involved* phone calls, printing, copying, new lost and confused teachers poking their heads in to ask where the meeting is, and other miscellaneous running around. Hence the 빨리빨리.

*Not for me, of course, but for the Korean teachers.

After the meeting was over, a steady stream of teachers were coming in and out of the main teachers’ office and it felt like a coworker reunion as I greeted old faces returning after a year’s hiatus from work or transferring back from another school. I met the new vice-principal (very briefly) and the teacher who will share my two-person office with me this year.

The whole staff went out to a 감자탕 (pork bone stew – spicy, very tender pork, enoki mushrooms, assorted leafy greens) restaurant for lunch and I sat with my new office-mate, leading to the usual awkward sussing out of English ability and an exchange of questions like “How long have you been in Korea?” “What school did you work at before?” “What grade will you teach this year?” and other pleasantries.

Back from lunch, 3 hours to quitting time and the bustle in here is CRAZY. Probably there’s some hustle too. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

Currently: 2 teachers on the phone, 1 feverishly shredding documents, and no fewer than 5 crowded around the head teacher’s computer in frenzied conversation, with occasional chiming in from the new VP. Other random teachers running in and out. There is an insane energy in here. Apparently one of the new teachers has announced an inability to be here for the first few days of the semester, sending those in charge of this sort of thing into a tizzy as they frantically call around to find a substitute, and this is contributing to the chaos.

A very different scene than the usual dull, listless mid-vacation atmosphere.

Wednesday 2/14

Sticking with the theme, here is some bustle and hustle I’ve experienced recently.

Bustle: I’ve had issues with the odor of sewer gas wafting through my apartment the last few days. Doesn’t seem to be a drain issue within my room. Possibly coming from the sewer outside my building. I informed my school just in case it is a drain problem, and a couple of admin people + my landlord promptly bustled right into my apartment, while I was at work, to “check the problem.” Erm, guys? Last time I checked y’all weren’t plumbers. At least tell me next time so I can make my bed first. In an even more bustle-y manner, they told me they “couldn’t find any problem.” Well, yeah. Neither could I, that’s why I want a professional.

Hustle: My favorite coworker, with whom I’ve recently reunited since she just came back to school after a year of studying abroad, heard this story and said, “If you smell that again, call me.” (Implied: “I’ll get this crap taken care of.”) She is the greatest.

Bustle: My school/landlord suggested the following upon my continued insistence that there is a smell: “open the window” and “move to a different room in the same building.” (A direct approach to problem solving is not a thing in this culture, which is very much the opposite of American culture.)


Hustle: My favorite coworker swooped in once again to quickly confirm that no, I do not want to drag all my furniture into another room and leave the smell problem for the next unfortunate soul.

Bustle: Another old coworker who’s coming back to my school this year informed me, beaming, that all the students like me… “because you are young and beautiful.” *sigh* Are my personality, connection with the kids and teaching ability (modest though it may be) worth nothing? Is beauty all that matters to you?

Hustle: I had to do my Korean taxes for the first time (Americans have a 2-year tax exemption in Korea, but this is the 3rd year). I had no idea how to go about this, but one of the English teachers drove me to the tax office to get things set up, then to the bank, then to my house to get my passport, then back to the bank, then back to school – essentially sacrificing her entire morning to help me take care of my own responsibility. For all the idiosyncrasies of culture here, you never know when you’ll have experiences like this that warm your heart (and/or make you feel guilty).

Okay, so this list turned out to be more of a good/bad list than hustle/bustle. Oops. I’m all about misusing lists to make my posts easier to write. Because I am lazy.

The new English textbook for the 1st years has finally arrived. There’s a nationwide mandate this year for all schools to roll out updated textbooks starting in 2018, so Grade 1 is this year, Grade 2 next, and so on.

My school has chosen an appropriately “easier” book (old book totaled almost 300 pgs and the new one is half that, just as an example), and I can see that the key expressions are better suited to our kids’ level and the layout hopefully will be more appealing to them.

However, this also means redoing all my lesson plans around the new book. I’ll be doing quite a lot of frankensteining new lessons together from pieces of my old ones. Why couldn’t the books have arrived last month, when I had hours upon hours of deskwarming with nothing to plan? I have asked myself that many times already, but that’s just the way it goes. Needless to say, I will be hustling.



Another week slips by

I know it’s lazy of me to reuse the format I used in my last post, but it’s such an easy way to sum up moments from the week.


First Korean surprise in a long time. Today is supposed to be the first day of the speaking test for 1st & 2nd graders, as my co-teacher and I discussed and confirmed multiple times last week.

3 minutes before class, I happen to message my co-teacher to make sure she has the score sheets printed (because if she didn’t, I would print them).

2 minutes before class, she replies and says she’s moving the speaking test to next week because the students aren’t prepared.

Thankfully I have next week’s lessons pre-planned and ready to go, even at literally a minute’s notice. Proactive-ness to the rescue.


My 2nd graders are unusually cheerful for a Tuesday morning. For fun, I show them some optical illusions before we start the book. This is one of their favorites: Stare at the image below without moving your eyes. Try not to blink. See what happens.

Image result for picture that disappears when you stare at it

(As you stare, the colors should fade and eventually disappear.)

After the first one or two students react, there’s an outcry of “What? What?? I can’t see it! What is it?” and then someone explains and there’s a renewed staring effort. The chorus of “Ooh! 와~~!” as one kid after another experiences the illusion is so fun.


My 1st period class pushes my patience to the limits. I’m helping two kids in front with the textbook dialogue and there’s a crash in the back. One of the boys has just “accidentally” fallen out of his chair, and this was far from his first disturbance. My co-teacher is in the hallway lecturing a handful of kids that she’s pulled out of class.

Seeing the look on my face, another boy raises both fists and says solemnly, “Teacher, fighting*.” More or less like this:

Source: dramafever

*As I’ve written about previously, the expression “fighting/화이팅” equates to “you can do it” / I know it’s hard but don’t give up.” I found it semi hilarious coming from a student in this situation. Like, “Teacher I know we are being little terrors but I believe in you.”

On the way home, I stop at the local mart and the cashier, who is usually pretty solemn and stone-faced, starts chatting with me in Korean. She asks if I’m from Russia. Erm, no. I tell her I’m American. Then she explains it’s my eyes that look Russian. That’s a new one, but her next question (“are you married?”) is definitely not. She gives me a thumbs up when I reply that I am not. Awkward questions aside, the unexpected friendliness brightens my day.


It’s the first day of the last part of middle school for the 3rd graders, since they just finished final exams yesterday. I’m holding my breath in fear as I go into my first class with them, dreading an apathetic tooth-pulling experience, but they’re totally cheerful. We’re doing a belated Halloween lesson. They’re more engaged than they have been all semester. One of the low level kids who rarely speaks in class even remembered the name for candy corn from last year.

Later, a 3rd grader comes repentantly to my office to show me that while playing with his friends in the hallway, he somehow knocked off the “O” from the foam letters on the wall outside the classroom that spell “ENGLISH WORLD.”

“He break the world,” his classmate accused.


One of my 1st grade boys who’s usually pretty active in class has his head down on the desk. “What’s wrong?” I ask. “Are you sick? Headache? Or just tired?” (I always ask them this because if they’re sick I let them sleep – kids take way fewer sick days here than we would in the West and if they’re feeling miserable there’s no point in forcing them to study. They’re usually honest with me.)

The student pops his head an inch or two off the desk and says grimly, “I die.” Then he returns his head to the desk. (Translation: just tired. He perked up mighty quick when we started playing a game.)

I hate the sun & other tales from the week


My voice hurts.

It’s been one of those days.

One of my classes got switched over from tomorrow to today, and for some reason the one extra class left my vocal cords aching. I prescribe myself a ban on speaking for the next 18 hours. Works just fine for me because as far as I know, Netflix doesn’t expect you to talk back.


I have officially declared war on the sun. Actually I feel like it declared war on me a long time ago and now I’m finally accepting that I just hate it.

Not only am I at high risk of sunburn because of my severe lack of melanin, but I’m literally allergic to the sun. I break out in hives on my arms and hands when the sun is the strongest, from about April to August.

I hate heat, as has been well-established on this blog. I hate sweating. Summer is a despicable season to me.

But it goes further than that. I just hate how bright the sun is. I hate when it gets in my eyes and makes me squint. I especially hate when it shines directly into my peripheral vision while I’m trying to work, and bakes my small office whose windows so perfectly face west, catching the full strength of the setting sun from 1 p.m. onward.

It’s Just. So. Annoying.

No, I am not a vampire.


Two of my girl students assure me I’m an “angel” (for not losing my mind at their rowdy classmates, I guess).

One of my third grade classes starts super late due to an earthquake evacuation drill in the afternoon. We barely have 20 minutes to squeeze in the textbook pages we absolutely need to cover (since they have final exams on Monday). After we get through it, there’s only 5 minutes left in class. No time for an activity or game, so I ask them what music video they want to watch. (This is an extremely rare treat because usually I make them do a worksheet or something.)

Our class clown shouts “Teacher, MESS! MESS! You know MESS?” I do know Mess, actually. He’s referring to Lionel Messi, the soccer (err, football) player. His friends chime in. I comply. We watch this compilation, and I justify it in my head because there are title cards in English. The boys start reading them out loud, eyes glued to the screen – “The volley pass! Golazo versus Man City! Ooh, Man City! Overhead kick assist!”

My class clown is standing up, riveted, and after each clip he yells “Oh! MESS! Wow, MESS!” Needless to say, he is very very into soccer and Messi is his idol. My co-teacher laughs and says it’s the most focused she’s ever seen him in English class.

(The girls weren’t quite as into it, but they watched too.)


A few minutes before class starts, I’m in my office and hear one of the kids yelling at the top of his lungs, “MADDY TEACHERS! MADDY TEACHEERRRRRS!” (He’s not the greatest at English and sometimes he likes to pluralize things that shouldn’t be.) I popped my head into the classroom and he said, “Oh teacher! 보고 싶었어요 (I just missed you).”

During lunchtime, one of the first grade boys peers through the crack in my office door and says in an exaggeratedly high-pitched voice: “OH MY CANDY!” He does this almost every day, as if somehow one of these days it’s going to make me actually give him candy.


The third graders get their speaking test scores back (the test was last week). One of the boys in this class is a student who I’ve watched grow from a very shy first grader who could barely look up during his speaking test, let alone say a word in English, to a well-prepared third grader who, stuttering a bit but looking me straight in the eye with confidence, told me he wishes he had the power of invisibility so he could play tricks on his family and impress his friends.

Today, he smiles quietly and fist pumps when his perfect score is announced (one of only three in the class).

After lunch, my second graders and I have a laugh because the question I put on the PPT was “What is 이유 in English?” but ALL of them read it out loud as “What is reason in English?” – “reason” being the answer to the question. They hadn’t even realized they were auto-translating the Korean word into English.

As I walk home, I notice a new banner that’s been hung up on one side of the intersection near my house. It reads simply: U.S.-South Korea Alliance – “Let’s Keep Dancing!” in Korean and English.

Let’s keep dancing.

For the most part I’ve obviously focused on the good parts of each day, things that made me smile or laugh. There were not-so-great moments as well, but these are the things I choose to dwell on. (I mean except Monday and Tuesday, which possibly reflects the improvement of my actual mood as the week proceeded.)



I am currently on Stage 4 of an unfortunate seasonal cold – the stages being thus defined by yours truly (you can trust me, I hold an M.D. from the University of Google):

Stage 1. The sore throat

This is the worst. I cannot abide a sore throat of any caliber. Like an itch that can never be scratched – lozenges, honey and warm water, painkillers, nothing can make it go away for long. You just have to deal with it, with every breath and every swallow (which you cannot avoid if you want to stay alive).

Stage 2. The nasal congestion

It is a universal law of viruses that in this stage you will only be able to breathe out of one nostril at a time. And that you’ll get a runny nose at the worst possible moment, like when you’re in the middle of a presentation and you forgot to stuff Kleenex in some discreet pocket.

BONUS! Sweating & aching

If your cold is of a particularly nasty strain, you might develop a light fever and begin sweating profusely even though you’re not doing anything strenuous. Like just sitting down at your desk minding your own business, vaguely aching and wanting to curl up in a limp ball.

Stage 3. The sinuses

Here we introduce pounding headaches and the feeling that your eyeballs will burst out of their sockets at any moment from all the pressure.

Stage 4. The chest congestion and coughing

This lovely stage may last for weeks after the other symptoms have faded out. Isn’t that nice? Your cold wants to leave you a little memento to remember it by. As I’m currently in this stage, I now have a 50-50 chance of choking on phlegm instead of speaking every time I start teaching class. It’s great fun.

This is surely the most dramatic description of a cold you have ever read, brought to you by a person who likes to dramatize all things. Especially illnesses. You’re welcome.

In other news, I was trying to tell my student to add a verb to his sentence: “You need a verb. 동사 (dong-sa).” He looked at me incredulously. “똥싸?” Then I remembered that with just slightly more emphasis on the start of each syllable (which is VERY EASY for a foreign tongue to accidentally do, might I add), the word verb magically transforms into the word shit.

I told my student he needed shit in his sentence.

*pats self on back*

His classmate did understand that I, the English teacher, was in fact asking for a verb and not human waste (flawed pronunciation notwithstanding), and the miscommunication was rapidly cleared up.

I try not to be frustrated with catatonic students, or even students who seem to have an attitude, when they tell me things like “I have academy [private lessons] until 10 p.m. today.” I suppose I wouldn’t be in the cheerfullest mood either, if I was literally in school for 14 hours.

Yesterday I asked the students what was for lunch and one of them said “Pizza hotdog!” I thought he was joking. Nope: one of the lunch items was a hotdog (not a full-size American beef frank, but thinner and shorter) on thick-pizza-crust-type bread with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and some sweet corn and raw garlic thrown in for good measure because this is Korea. Paired, of course, with tuna bibimbap (what pro chef wouldn’t pair these culinary delights together?).

Okay but real talk: I ate it all. Not too shabby.

One of my co-teachers was in a car accident – she’s in the hospital with some minor injuries, and as a result I get a substitute co for some classes this week. The poor woman seems to have literally been thrown into this situation. In typical Korean fashion, a “teacher friend” (probably someone of higher rank) requested a favor (favor being “come work at this random school for 3 days”) and she had to acquiesce.

Anyway, after observing my class for the first time, as we walked out together she commented: “The students are so noisy!”*

And here I was thinking we were having a pretty good, “quiet” day.

(cue the trombone: wah-wah-wah-waaaaaaaah)

Nah, it’s okay. I already know my kids are a handful.

*She later explained that she works at a middle school with very studious and quiet students. Okay, but are they cute tho???

We were playing a True/False quiz and I asked the teams to hold up their answers (on their mini whiteboards). One of the teams had written “Talse.” Nice try kiddos, nice try. (This is a favorite ploy of many students to try to cover their bases when we play quiz games; if it’s multiple choice, sometimes they’ll write a HUGE letter A and then sneakily write B, C, and D inside the A, hoping that somehow it’ll fool me.) But anyway I love that class and I want to pinch their cute faces because they’re always so cheerful and happy about everything. Even studying.

Four times a week we have guest teachers come in to teach special after-school classes in math and English. A couple of them use “my” classroom, the English room. I’ve seen the English teacher a few times as I’m wrapping up after my last class. We usually just smile and say hi in passing, but today she stopped me and said, “Do you want one?”, holding out one of the snacks she’d brought for her students.

Occasionally weird situations (for a foreigner) come out of Korea’s culture of sharing, but sometimes it can be really sweet.


Just another Friday

Closing out the week with mixed emotions.

We’re now just a couple weeks away from the longest public holiday Korea has seen in ages (possibly ever?) – a 10-day break at the start of October for Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving); the Chuseok holiday is normally only 3 days long, but the government has extended it this year for the mental health of the nation and combined it with Hangul Day (celebrating the birth of the Korean writing system) which fortuitously falls on the following Monday.

But, we’re also seemingly inching closer and closer to Something Happening on this peninsula. Thus the mixed emotions.

I will say that the added fear (or at least concern) has once again put things into perspective, though, and even the hard days at school are, relatively speaking, a joy to experience. Because, y’know, we’re all alive to experience them.

Side note: no one is panicking here (far from it), but I don’t know that that’s comforting. I think South Koreans are basically numb to this threat because they’ve been living with it for so long. Also, there’s very much an attitude of “there’s nothing we can do, so just carry on,” which I sense stems from Korea’s long and at times harrowing history of being controlled (often brutally so) by other, bigger and more powerful nations.*

*DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert in Korean history or culture and this is just my opinion.

It’s an interesting phenomenon that the Koreans in my life are extremely concerned about me being home alone on holidays such as the upcoming Chuseok, but nobody bats an eye when I stay home by myself on American Thanksgiving Day or Christmas day.

I know why this happens, of course. To them, Chuseok and the Lunar New Year are mandatory family days, so anyone who doesn’t have family to be with on those days is in a sad and lonely situation – not realizing that to me these are just another nice set of vacation days with no additional meaning.

It’s just a sort of sad irony that no one will ever come to me a few days before Thanksgiving or Christmas and say, “Are you okay? Aren’t you lonely? Will you talk to your family?” the way they do for Korean family holidays.

Covering advice-giving with my first years. I asked them to each write a problem, real or imaginary, on their paper, put them all in a bucket, then pick a random one and write advice for the anonymous person. And  I got responses like this:


“I want boyfriend… I’m so very lonely…” “You should always live the solo” (a.k.a. be forever alone)


“My problem is school fight… I want to disappear school fight!!” “You should no fight.” Solid advice.


“I have a poop accident to toilet #whatshouldido” “Go to you restroom. OK?” Love the use of a hashtag. Hope this wasn’t a real situation.



Just an average day at a Korean middle school

Walked into my classroom of 15-year-olds to find an anonymous student had spelled “sexy boy f***” on the whiteboard with our alphabet magnets. Promptly wiped the words away in one fell swoop with my arm and continued on my path to the front of the room.

Walked in a few hours later and my much-more-innocent 13-year-olds had spelled “Justin Bieber” and “TWICE Sana” (a K-pop group/name of a girl from the group). I deemed these acceptable to remain unscathed.

In another class we played a question game where teams had to ask me “have you ever” questions and try to make me say “yes, I have” and I received the standard “Have you ever eaten kimchi?” “Have you ever been to America?” Then I flipped it so they’d try to make me answer “no, I haven’t” and was asked, “Have you ever died?” “Have you ever killed someone?” “Have you ever eaten human meat?”

… … … Well, at least they were being creative. And using proper grammar.

Finally, I had one of my very favorite classes today, really sweet and cheerful kids. I went to check on a group and saw one of the girls had tears in her eyes. I asked the other two what happened and they could only try to act it out (rather poorly, might I add), so I hovered nearby to make sure she was okay. [I didn’t immediately go to ask her what was wrong because sometimes teenagers don’t really want to talk to their foreign teacher when they’re crying.]

After a minute she turned to me with slightly drier eyes and this happened:

Girl 1: “Teacher, I’m sad.”

Me: “Why? What happened?”

Girl 1: “My friend [gesturing to Girl 2, at the desk across from her] will change school [transfer]” —

Girl 2: “No, no, not true! It’s a lie!” (begins laughing in a knee-slapping kind of way because apparently she just played a hilarious joke on her bff)

Girl 1 and I looked at each other.

“I’m confused,” she said.

Me too, kiddo. Me too.


It’s Friday

About to clock out on this sunny Friday. Another week completed in our educational marathon towards summer vacation – unfortunately still very far off even though we’ve already had our second wind and are waiting on a third that will probably never come.

Thank goodness for air conditioning.

Next week is the speaking test, and I no longer trick myself into thinking that means a week of taking it easy for me. It means a week of staying extra late to review the audio recordings and check all of the grades and make sure I’m being fair.


A short anecdote for today:

Yesterday I left school a bit late, and our elderly security guard/janitor had just locked up the back exit. He saw me try the door, and I gestured that it was okay, I’d just go around to the front doors.

I turned the corner and heard him yelling frantically “HELLO! HELLO? HELLO!” to make me come back. I went back and he waved me over and showed me, “This. Push,” electronically unlocking the door. I thanked him in Korean. It was quite hilarious and adorable. I’ve greeted him in passing a few times before. He has to be like 70ish years old; who knew he had a couple English words tucked away in there?


It’s *that* time in the semester

…when the kids officially reach the peak of Mount Apathy.

The temperatures are rising, the classrooms are breezeless ovens (we’re not allowed to turn on the ceiling fans until they’re cleaned or something lest they shake dust and dirt all over everything… but I’d rather be sneezing and cool than fine in the rhinal region but oppressively hot), and final exams are just a little too far off to care about.

So it’s that time when I have to work VERY VERY HARD to remember the cute stuff my kids do from time to time. So that I won’t be tempted to start flipping desks and yelling “WAKE UP!”

Several weeks ago, I used a very basic game that lets students practice almost any key expression: put a bunch of words on the PPT, every team chooses a word and makes a sentence using the key expression, then random points are revealed. You can change the design or theme of the PPT to whatever the students are interested in (treasure chests, Mario boxes, K-pop idols’ faces, whatever).

In this case we were practicing “Do you know how to~ ?”, so the words were things like “paper airplane,” “microwave,” “cake,” “soccer.” The kids had to combine the correct verb with the treasure chest word, e.g. “Do you know how to play soccer / use a microwave / make a paper plane?”

One boy could not for the life of him remember the correct verbs, so time and again he would say things like “Do you know how to use ramen? Do you know how to make a guitar? Do you know how to play kimchi?” After about three or four rounds of him doing this completely innocently, I lost it and laughed with the rest of the class (and with him).

I’ve been having the 2nd graders play a version of “Taboo” or “Hot Seat” where a member of each team comes to the front and faces the class, and their team gives them hints about the secret word on the TV.

(They’re supposed to be practicing “Have you heard about (secret word)?” but usually they get too excited and just blurt out the answer without making a sentence.)

So one of the boys was trying to explain “weather” to his teammate:

“News, uh, 뭐지? Ah! Hot, sunny, weather

Then he clapped both hands over his mouth in classic dismay as he realized he’d just revealed the answer, and the class dissolved into laughter.

Today the 3rd graders were playing a “telepathy” game. I make a statement like “Ice cream is better than cake*: Agree or disagree?” Every team has to choose agree or disagree according to what they think my opinion would be. If they can “read my mind,” they get a point.

One of them was: “Fall is the best season: Agree or disagree?” As usual, the kids were trying to squeeze hints out of me by asking questions like “Teacher, do you like cold or hot? Do you like snow?”

But one team decided this was the all-important question that would allow them to read my mind:

Them: “Teacher, you meet boyfriend?”

Me: “Um, yes…?”

Them: “OKAY! We know, we know! DISAGREE!”

Welp, they were wrong since fall is my favorite season. It was especially funny because they were the only team in the class to get it wrong and they were so confident.

*I also find it hilarious (and also very, very sad) that 99% of my kids know immediately that I like ice cream better than cake (or better than basically anything else). Apparently I’ve really driven that point home in the last 2+ years.

Conclusion: my kids are still sometimes cute although mostly they appear to be brain-dead.

Thankfully the speaking test is coming up soon, which is my one chance per semester to have some impact on their school performance and thus perhaps motivate them to pay attention, dammit.



A little middle school humor

I gave my after-school class this comic template – it’s supposed to be based on the Disney animated short “Paperman,” which we had just watched. Two of my middle school boys decided to take the story into their own hands.



Man 1: Who are you?!

Man 2: I’m a boss

Man 1: [casually smoking a cigarette] Ah… I’m sorry…

Man 2: Not smoking in company… [throws paper plane directly into Man 1’s mouth]

Man 1: [clearly distressed] Ahk!

Woman: Are you crazy? Don’t eat paper airplane!

Yeah, duh guys. Don’t eat paper airplane.

My last class of the day on Fridays is a squirrelly, goofy bunch of 14-year-olds, with whom class feels much more like a rodeo than an educational environment. As is the case with all classes at this point in the semester (1 week away from midterms), their behavior has been on the decline.

Every Friday, the bell rings and I go into the classroom, and one (or more) of them has drawn a goofy cartoon character on the board saying “집가고싶다…”

But today, the cartoon character’s weekly lament had been written in English: “I want to go home.” I would consider that progress. Of a sort.


The comforting things

1.  The sound of someone else vacuuming. This is no doubt due to the countless nights growing up when I was snuggled cozily in bed listening to Mom vacuuming downstairs before I drifted off. Thus I feel irrationally safe and cozy when one of my apartment neighbors starts vacuuming and the sound drifts through the thin walls. (Which also means it doesn’t work when I’m the one who’s vacuuming. Too bad, right?)

2.  The crackles and pops in the quiet moments of an old black-and-white film (1930s-1950s). I just love this sound, again because it brings me back to childhood and weekend evenings spent watching old movies (expertly selected by Dad from his vast mental library of old movies) on the sofa with my family.

You can kind of hear the crackling in the background of this clip – actually, it’s not really the best example of what I mean, but I mostly chose it because it’s funny and I love this movie.

“Something horrible has happened!”

3.  The gentle spread of burning warmth after eating food with just the right level of spiciness. I enjoy eating spicy foods, but unlike the other items on this list, this love developed very recently, only since I came to Korea.

4.  When pain finally starts to subside. When you can feel the headache, the cramps, whatever it is creeping out of your body, the resulting not-pain brings a soothing lightness.

Everyone has their own list. What’s yours?*

*That’s the part where I pretend my blog has an actual following and audience participation. LOL.