Monday, October 18, 2010

[less than forget // but more than begun // these adventures in solitude never done]

Guys, last week was not a good week. I was sick all week. Just a cold, but the sort of sick where I had to pause in the middle of longer sentences because talking hurt too much to finish, and even though I was so tired my eyeballs hurt, I couldn't sleep. Two of the 4th graders who clean my classroom during lunch, including one of the most annoying kids I've ever had the misfortune of dealing with, were terrible all week and by Friday, they were outright disrespectful. One of the first grade teachers decided that since I'm not a "real" teacher, I clearly have nothing better to do in the afternoons than serve as her personal English tutor/editor. I begrudgingly agreed to edit her application for an English academy and she came back the next day to argue about my corrections. Which, woman, in the epic battle of native speaker vs. beginning learner, my English grammar will always trump your English grammar.

The co-teacher drama, which started the week with a bang, also ground on. On Monday, Sue caught the shingles and quit. By Thursday, my school had found a replacement 5th and 6th teacher, who promptly quit two hours into her first day. I never even met her; I teach 4th grade on Thursdays and she was gone long before lunch. I never did get a good explanation for why she quit. Something about the school wanting her to do things besides teach class, like writing student assessments, making tests, dealing with the endless paperwork that fuels the bureaucracy that is a Korean school and just generally being a productive member of the faculty. Which... yes? I'm just the assistant foreign English teacher and even I'm responsible for things beyond my regular classes. It's probably for the best, since she sounds like she would have been a horrible co-teacher, but it did waste three days that could have spent looking for a teacher who isn't either afraid of work or 5th graders.

All in all, by the time I drug myself home Friday afternoon, I was ready to curl up under my blankets and not come out until Monday. Instead, I woke up on Saturday and took a bus to Siheung to help Marie make wedding invitation. I hung out with awesome people all day and was fed excellent Indian food and shameful cocktails and then crashed on Marie and Greg's floor. Marie made me pancakes Sunday morning and Stitch n' Bitch wandered Hongdae in search of a new meeting place. We found an adorable little knitting café with excellent lighting, knitting boys in leather jackets and a conveniently located taco stand down the street. Continuing the theme of excellent food, we ate dinner at Jenny's Cafe and had some of the best western food I've had in Korea. On the walk back to the subway, I looked at Riah and said, "I needed this weekend so, so much." And Lord, I did need this weekend.

I have always been an introvert, but one of the things living in Korea has taught me is that I'm not nearly as introverted as I thought I was. I didn't have any friends when I lived in Rocky Mount. I had friends in Chapel Hill, an hour and a half to the west, and Greenville, an hour to the south, and I visited them often, but I didn't know anyone in Rocky Mount and I was okay with that. I talked to my co-workers and people at the gym and the library. I was working as a tour guide and half my job was talking to people. I was just fine with only being social a couple of weekends a month, so the almost crippling loneliness of my first few weeks in Korea surprised me. I had never realized how much I relied on casual conversations and phone calls to fulfill my need for human interaction, and by the end of my first month in Korea, I was ready to fall upon the first friendly face I saw and beg them to please talk to me, just for a minute. (And that's how I met Tony, who was suck on a bus and couldn't get away from me. Hi Tony!) I'm the only foreigner at my school and I don't know many people in Seongnam and it's still so easy, two years later, to go a week or two without sitting down and having a real conversation with someone. I'm still an introvert, but I need to occasionally seek out weekends where I surround myself with people and revel in their company.

I feel so much better today. My voice was still failing by the end of the day and I still don't have a co-teacher for 5th and 6th grade, but the 5th grade classes went fine today and my school has found yet another substitute co-teacher, although I firmly expect her to catch consumption or find out she's a leper before the end of the week.

Things will going to work out. They're gonna be great.

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