Village Voice

Amy Salmon continues teaching English in a school south of Seoul

Things are fine, but I've been incredibly busy with my new slate of classes.  I'm much happier with the schedule but it's a lot of work getting the new semester set up, since I never actually have a break between them for planning.  Last week was the start of the new classes and books, along with some new students, so it was really just a "taking the temperature" kind of thing and trying to get a feel for these new groupings of kids.  

I continue to be fascinated by the fact that one kid can be completely different depending on who is around him (or her, but I'm thinking of one boy in particular).  I've had one boy for the last four months in a class with another boy and a girl, and they've been my best class -- all participating, all doing their homework, all just blooming.  Well, now things have been rearranged, and they're all in different classes.  The first boy is now surrounded by four other boys, three of whom I've also had for a while and a new boy, and is back to where he was months ago: withdrawn, shy, no confidence, and not saying a word.  That's looking to be my toughest class.  I was expecting them to be rowdy, since it's all boys, but instead it was like pulling teeth to get any of them to say anything, except one boy who is more advanced than the others and bored, so chatters all the time in Korean.  Argh.  I lost patience with all of them and the class didn't go at all well, mostly because it caught me off guard; I'd been prepared for a different dynamic.

I've also been sick with some kind of bronchitis thing (my usual ailment...nothing all that serious but a real drag) so I've been involved with figuring out how and where to go to the doctor and get medicine.  There's a clinic at Jeongja Station where the guy went to Baylor Medical School and speaks decent English, so I've been going to him.  He keeps telling me to "take a rest".  I said, “I'm trying.”  I felt awful one day, though, and I had dragged myself back to see him -- he put me on antibiotics for three days and then told me to come back and see him if the symptoms were not better -- and he was very severe with me.  (He's not at all severe but tries really hard.)  "Did you take a rest?  Did you get a humidifier?  Did you hang a towel?"  He told me I had to change the environment in my apartment and make it more humid.  When I told him I didn't have any control over that, he said I should hang a wet towel up to bring some humidity into the room.  I said I hadn't wanted to get water all over my apartment but that I had been trying to rest.  He fussed at me some more and said that if I wanted to stay sick I could keep working and if I wanted to get better I could take a rest.  So I asked him if he would call the school and tell them I had to stay home, because I really did feel pretty bad, and it was the Friday before my classes switched, which was as good a day as I was likely to get to miss.  He called the school and told them, and I went home.  It wasn't quite that easy, because nothing in Korea ever is, but it worked out.  And I slept for the better part of three days.  I still don't feel great and I know I still have an infection, so I really ought to go back and get some more antibiotics.  But I've been doing my best to "take a rest" and I've taken to boiling water in the kitchen and letting it simmer for a while, and then bringing the pot full of it into the living room and letting it bring humidity into the room.  I think it's helping the environment.  It's for sure making it warmer, so that's something.  

I've been listening to a Christian Christmas online radio station most of the month at work to get me into the mood.  Really nice stuff...brass, handbells, woodwinds, choral stuff.  I've heard "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly" a lot, as well as other stuff I've sung.  I've been celebrating in my own way all along.

There are Christmas lights and decorations everywhere, which is nice to see.  We haven't had a lot of snow, but there's a little on the ground here and there to add atmosphere.  There are three Christmas trees in Imae station, which cracks me up...there are two near the middle of the station, with competing colors and lights, and then there is another one sort of off to the side, inside one of the gates where you walk out from the tracks.  The third little tree just looks so lost and forlorn, like someone forgot where they put it!  It doesn't have any lights and it kind of lists to the side.  It's not as bad as the one in "A Charlie Brown Christmas", but it could give it a run for its money.   

There isn't a lot of celebrating going on at work.  One notable exception was this past Friday, when someone brought Su Jong a cake, and she called everyone, including me, over to help her eat it.  That was normal enough until she started handing out chopsticks.  "How do you eat cake with chopsticks?" I said out loud.  I really didn't know.  "I'm going to have to see someone else do it first."  Irene comes over and offers to get me my own piece in a separate cup, which I really didn't want.  If I was going to be included for once, I wanted to be included all the way.  She did it anyway, though, so I accepted the small piece she gave me, but I kept watching.  Mr. Kim, the science teacher, was the first to go in with the chopsticks, and I saw what he did, and went in and got some myself.  Then Mr. Lee swooped in from behind and lifted an entire slice of cake with one deft chopstick maneuver!  It was pretty impressive.  Everyone gathered around, coming in and taking chunks of cake, and we were all laughing, and it was a wonderful moment.  Merry Christmas, with chopsticks. 

 Return to Village Home Page