Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Making Friends

So, let me tell you about the friends I've made here. The Korean ones.

Actually, let me tell you about the people I met on a whim, the ones whose relationship status I'm quite unsure about.

Let's start with the guy I met at school. His parents were installing blinds in all the classrooms. On this day, he was home from school and helping them with their work. My mentor teacher wasn't in the classroom, so when his father entered and started working, I wasn't sure if I needed to leave. My desk is, after all, next to the window. Then this boy (really, he's about my age) walks in and says, "What's up?" It was funny and surprising at the same time. Yet another reason why you shouldn't judge a person on looks. I totally wasn't expecting to hear such a phrase come from a Korean person. This guy spoke perfect English, and I found out that, yeah, I was in the way. I settled with our initial small talk conversation, but later on as his parents moved on to the classrooms upstairs, I suddently got crazy courage. I went and asked him if he was from Jecheon. Honestly, I just wanted to know someone who could tell me more about the town.  This guy was kind enough to give me his number (I didn't have a phone at the time ahahahah), and he and a friend of his invited me and my friend to eat pizza and walk around downtown. He told my friend and I that he went to school in Daejeon, so he'd be leaving town on the weekend. So, I've only met this guy on two occasions. I messaged him my number once I finally got my phone, and he replied. We're friends on Facebook. That's about it. I figure the university friends that I make will be preoccupied with school unless on break.

Hmm, there's the guy on the train. This grad student ahjussi who spoke English very well and decided to strike up a conversaton with me. He was very much into religion (going to a theological school), and learned several languages. Now, it's a bit scary meeting older people. In an attempt not to be completely rude, but also to calm my nerves, I keep up such casual conversations with these total strangers. Though, I secretly wish that I have a friend with me to help judge the character of every older stranger I meet. This guy was pretty interesting and kind (he bought me a soda from the snack car), and talked mostly about himself. Ok, sounds good, but then we started talking about church and church songs, and I somehow ended up being "forced" to write down the lyrics to a song and sing it with him. It was a bit embarrassing. What's more is he ended up with my number, and I with his. We had to part ways at the train's destination, but he wondered if I'd be catching the same train back as him. I (honestly, not purposely) missed that train and had to take the next. I apologized to him and said maybe one day I would visit his church. At this point, I really wished for a friend to help me deal with this stranger. When the work week started, I talked to my mentor teacher about him. She said it was ok not to talk to him. Another friend, once I told her the story, suggested I not talk to him at all. So, my readers, I completely ignored the next several text messages I received from this man. Honestly, I don't want to meet him again unless I'm with someone else, but I feel weird not being able to make a sound judgement about such matters on my own. He's probably harmless, but easily just the opposite? Who knows?

Last night was writing night, so I walked to the other side of town a bit early and sat in a nearby park, studying Korean. Two high school kids (whose names I cannot remember lol) gained some unforeseen courage to speak to me. Perhaps because they had each other as backup, they started slow. "Hello."  Then, "What are you doing? Do you speak Korean?"  I thought this was great, to be honest. High school kids RARELY talk to me, so I welcomed this opportunity. We ended up having a jolly conversation about learning English, playing Diablo in PC bangs, music, and Korean food. Pretty soon, It was time for me to go, so I apologized to them (they were getting so confident in speaking broken English by this point) and told them I had to go. "Ok, see you later," the boy said. Then, he whispered to his friend (a girl) something in Korean. It sounded like, ...but when will we ever see her? True enough, because I live clear on the other side of town. Does this sound stupid? I gave them my phone number. I wonder if it was a good idea. Today, I woke up and thought, will they text me in English or Korean? Will they feel brave enough to try English? ...Yeah, and will I ever run into them again?

Oh, finally, I should mention the owners of the coffee shop I frequent. Now, I know these owners are not responsible or obligated to become my friend or get to know me. I alone have made an effort to be a frequent customer, ridiculously ordering the same thing every time I go (hot chocolate, minus a few exceptions). One or two times, I got up the courage to ask one of them to help me read Korean, or about what their other customers preferred to order. You know, I may be a little bit frustrated now. They've never made much effort to ask me about where I'm from or what I'm doing here. I get these kinds of questions from many other shopkeepers once they find out I know one or two Korean words. Maybe it's a good things? It makes me think of the bartender in a Western saloon, who sees and knows everything but says nothing.

I'll write about the people I know well another time.
'Til next time,

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dinner and the After-Party

I bet you're wondering what happened to the rest of the story? I'll tell you!

After the badminton game, there was a teacher's dinner. I wrote this email to my mom about it. Below is a CNN article that further explains my experience.


On Wednesday all the teachers and staff played badminton together. Korean
schools (teachers and staff) like playing sports games together, and many
schools like competing with each other! I don't know if we'll compete with
any schools. After the game, we all went out to dinner. This dinner was just
like the first one at the beginning of the school year, but a little
different. Besides it being a school dinner, we were also welcoming one
teacher and saying goodbye to another. The current second grade teacher was
a substitute (which I hadn't known until the day before this dinner), and
had been hired from the first day of school. The original 2nd grade teacher
was on maternal leave from having a baby.

In Korean culture, drinking is a big part of these dinners. In the past, man
or woman, people couldn't refuse drinks/toasts, etc. from superiors during
these dinners. However, today, it's become more acceptable to turn down a
drink (although men still get pressured to do so). Foreigners are not
completely held to these rules (especially if their religion forbids
drinking), but they are still encouraged to share in this culture. A lot of
the Korean-American male TaLK scholars are treated as locals in this case.

This drink that I'm talking about is usually soju in a shot glass, and
there's a ceremonial way of sharing it. The youngest pours for the oldest
first, and the oldest drinks. Then the oldest pours for the youngest (into
the same cup) and the youngest drinks it. There's even a special way to
drink and pour, which makes it "a korean thing."

So anyway, I feel like I have to explain the whole culture thing to you, but
I will just continue with the story. In the past, I've been able to avoid
these "drinking encounters" with superior staff and other people at dinner
by simply avoiding eye contact, or talking to people whenever it looks like
someone might come over and ask to share the drink. Oh, but this time, the
vice principal called my name when I didn't make eye contact with him. I
ended up having to do this ceremony with him, with guidance from my mentor
teacher. He reluctantly only filled the bottom of the glass because I kept
asking him if he could pour water instead. In an effort to not be completely
rude, I poured for him and drank when he poured for me (it's only done once
between people). Ah, but now I know that if I go to another dinner, he will
try and get me to do the ceremony toast again and drink a little more than
last time. I can't help but think " this is war!" and i have to battle
against or negotiate with this part of Korean culture.

Well! That was the biggest bit of news. After the dinner, we went to a
noraebang (no-reh-bahng....literally "singing room") (a building with many
different sized rooms for people to rent and sing karaoke). I embarrassed
myself singing in front of everyone with a squeaky voice because I was
really nervous and the song was a little too high hahahah. They didn't seem
to care. Everyone took turns singing.


'Til Next Time,



It's very common to see people of the same sex walking hand in hand down the streets of Korea. Not because they love each other romantically, but because this is a strong show of friendship. In my time here, I've seen many "strange" sights.

On the bus, when there's not enough seats, the highschoolers will often let each other sit on their laps during the long ride. Girls... and boys. Some of the seats are so small, that you'd have to be pretty good friends with that person to ride so closely to them for longer than 5 minutes. It looks cute, actually, but a bit surprising and funny all the same. Perhaps it looks funny to other Korean people as well. I once overheard some older high school boys comment about their friends, saying they looked like a couple. One boy sat comfortably in the bus seat, his arm stretched out to grab the seat in front of him. His guy friend sat, cradled, in his lap. There wasn't really any other way for him to sit, and he rested his head against the window as they talked about whatever it was they talked about. The girls do this too.

Then of course, there's the girls who walk arm in arm down the street. The BFFs who are not hard to spot. One usually guides the other down the sidewalk, steering her friend with the arm she's captured. Sometimes, they stroll leisurely arm in arm. I've seen this done with all ages, though usually the younger children are busy running off somewhere and shouting at their friends to follow behind.

The real sight is watching the grandfathers walk like this down the street. Maybe after sharing several drinks, or just because they have a lot to say to each other, it doesn't matter what time of day, they can be seen. Of course, I think this is more prominent among the elderly once they've had a few drinks. The younger men (off to party or whatever) sometimes lock arms, steer each other, or just jostle about amiably as they hustle down the street.

The thing is, this is normal, but there is also a time and place for it. I'm not trying to say that Korean people only walk around when they are locked arm in arm, or hand in hand. This is not true. What I'm making note of is the strong bond of friendship, the meaning and acceptance of this kind of contact among friends. IT's quite amazing.

In America, I think the closest butch guys would come to showing this kind of affection would be trying to jump each other, wrapping an arm around the other's neck, or just plain being rowdy. People do that here as well, but it seems like there's more ways to express friendship here than I've noticed in the States.

...Or something like that.

'Til next time,

Thursday, May 24, 2012

So, What Do I Think?

Am I ready to be a full-time teacher?

Is teaching the right career for me? No. I think I'm more suited to be a tutor than a homeroom teacher. I say this after a successful day of classes with my students, so it should be a fair evaluation on my part. I really have grown to like these kids. Even the naughty ones. ...Because, even the naughty ones are starting to behave. Even the bright ones who grow tired of me some days come back again to talk to me. Everything takes time. I think I'll feel more comfortable as a tutor, because it's easier to help people with whatever they need help with at that moment. It's easier to help students learn what they want to learn, when they want to learn it. As a part-time teacher here, I have to figure out what interests the kids, what they want to learn at that moment, and what other English teachers are teaching them. It's been a fortunate experience to be a helper in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classes for the last month or two. I can better understand the levels of those who come to my class by seeing what they're learning outside. Then they seem to tune in better when my lessons are about things they're learning elsewhere. They can answer more questions at least.

Even so, I don't feel like teaching would be a great profession for me. I enjoy teaching people, but it's not something I can do full-time for the rest of my life. Saying that, I will continue to do my best with this job to the very end. I will Teach and Learn in Korea.

'Til next time,

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


It seems like all of Jecheon is being rennovated. All the sidewalks in my city are being redone. The wedding hall  down the street has been under rennovation for awhile now. They took out some windows and added an elevator. Now they're fixing up the inside. A new restaraunt opened on the same street, closer to home. ... At least, I think it's a restaurant. It's one of those small rooms, but when I walk by I can see a few tables and chairs. There were ribbons hanging everywhere the day it opened. In the other direction, there's a building that has been under construction (from scratch) since I arrived. For the longest time, it was just a frame. Since I rarely walk that way, it's always a surprise to see what new things have been added to the building. I walked that way last night and discovered a title for the building. It's going to be a coffee shop! Yay, now I don't have to walk so far for hot chocolate!

Of course, South Korea's really good at building things quickly. The country as a whole has grown as much as it has, and successfully,  for many reasons, but they really work hard. So, it's no surprise that my city is going to look brand new again in such a short period of time. Really, I'm thankful about the sidewalks. I have yet to stop complaining about them. The new ones are much nicer, and I can walk straight for a good 30 seconds without looking down to check my path.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pondering Moments

Thanks to the post of a fellow TaLK scholar, I learned that my washing machine has lint pockets. Funny, I still don't know much about the washing machines here in Asia. Once I managed to figure out which buttons would get my clothes cleaned, I stopped inquiring further about it. Now I find out that the washer somehow collects lint as it finishes washing your clothes. Hmm. Well, I noticed those little pockets. Two hanging bags at the rim of the opening. I cleaned them out for the first time. It felt awkward. I really do miss having a dryer, but it's still an interesting experience hanging clothes to dry.  Regarding dishwashers: to this day, I stare at my sink and beg it to become a dishwasher. I can't get into the habit of washing dishes right after using them. Sometimes, I spend so long cooking that the last thing I want to do is wash all those dishes right away. Also, there are so few dishes (one or two of each),  so I MUST clean them in order to use them again... rather than just pull another copy from the cupboard or drawer.

I forgot what else I was going to say. One moment please....

Oh yes! It was about learning Korean:

I feel like, by the time I learn enough Korean to have a decent conversation with native Korean speakers, there won't be anyone left to ask my questions. People are asking me who I am, where I'm from, etc. now in this early stage of being here (yes, it's still early). I haven't been studying on a daily basis. While I am picking up words (randomly) each day, it's not enough to answer all the questions Korean people ask me. When I finally have the answers for them, will they still want to know? Right now, I can't answer people. When I'm finally able to, will there still be people asking me about myself? It's almost frustrating, but also motivational. I hope I can continue to see it as motivational.

'Til next time,

준비! Ready!

I wake up this morning and tell myself to have a good day. Let's have a good day.

I'm in the process of teaching my students about schedules. What are you doing right now? What do you like to do? What do you do everyday? Things like that. So, this morning I decided to film myself doing "daily things" like eating food, brushing my teeth, and catching the bus. You never know how well your preparation will work until the minute you begin to teach the lesson. Each day, you can just hope and pray that what you're trying to say will get across well.

Upon arrival at school, I discovered that my school slippers were missing. In Korean schools (and many Asian schools), students, teachers, and staff... everyone working at the school, and people who come to visit, wear slip-on shoes of some sort. These school shoes are only worn in the building, though sometimes people are allowed to travel across the courtyards in them. I find this pointless. If you can wear them outside in the courtyard as you run from one building to the next, how come you can't wear regular shoes in the the classrooms?

Anywho, the slippers they gave me were missing, so I hunted for them momentarily, wondering if I had somehow misplaced them. I was sure I'd put them in my TaLK cubby. Eventually I asked my mentor teacher about it. She said that all the guest slippers were being collected for parents for tomorrow. ... I don't know what's happening tomorrow. I may have to ask, because she didn't go into any more detail about it. I was just happy that I didn't lose the shoes. My mentor teacher secretly made a phone call, and then told me where the shoes were being stored. She told me I could go down and grab a pair for today. I must remember to buy my own pair and bring them to school.

Today, the first graders have a special lesson. Something about animation. Another teacher came in the classroom and wrote many words on the board. She asked them questions about what animation they liked. I recognized some words, and I think she said Totoro. If she did, I can remain happy, haha. I love Totoro! Near the end, she handed them paper, and had them draw many things. Each student had to take the syllables in their name and write them on the paper (spaced out). Then, they had to think of another word that each syllable in their name shared. For example, the syllables in my name are: Sha-nnon. I could write "share" or "shark" "or shape" ... and "nonsense" "cannon" .... Then they draw a picture of the new word. It reminds me of a similar activity people do in the States. Write each letter of your first name down the left side of the paper, then write an adjective that describes yourself using the beginning of each letter.

S hy
H appy
A ntsy
N ice
N atural
O bservant
N ifty

It's always hard for me to think of three positive N adjectives.

'Til next time,

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Classroom Antics

One fourth grade student has taken to pointing to me and saying, "Obama!" after greeting me. I look shocked and ask, "Obama? Me?!" He nods vigorously. I heartily disagree. I tell him I am "Shannon Teacher." He thinks about this quickly, then shouts, "No! Hilary! Hilary!" What???? I point to my skin. I tell him Hilary Clinton is not this skin color. He looks at me and laughs, then goes back to calling me Obama.

Ever since going on that field trip with the kindergarten kids, they openly greet me at lunch time. No, I should say more about this. Imagine you are standing in line at the cafeteria, picking up your tray and utensils, and moving down the line to receive the food that each lunch lady slaps onto your tray. You finally make it to the end of the line, eyeing the delicious (if not a bit strange/questionable) food in front of you, and anticipating tasting it all. At the end of the line, you turn away from the lunch ladies and head to your table...  ...but the room has suddenly changed to a red carpet event in California. There are paparazzi everywhere, and fans being held back by black rope. You seem to be the first star to arrive, and the crowd let's you know how excited they are to see you. They scream, "Hello!!!" as you walk down the aisle, and wave to you excitedly, trying to get your attention. You want to wave back, but you're still holding your lunch tray. So, you try instead to make eye contact with as many people as possible. You smile brightly and shout "Hello!" in a pleasant voice that makes the crowd go wild.  .... This is what it feels like to walk past the kindergartners at lunch nowadays.

My 6th grade student used the finger puppets I made to tell the class a crazy-long story about:
A homicidal cat doctor; an angry vampire monkey mother; twin brothers who got married and had a child; and a baby monkey who got a really bad runny nose and died, but was brought back to life by a bullet from the doctor's gun.
As scary as this was to hear (the other classmates pulled me close every time I tried to cover my ears in protest at the morbid story), I have to be a little proud of him for telling the entire story in English. 

'Til next time!


R.I.P., Strangers

I was with my mentor teacher and her family at a church retreat on Sunday. The weekend had been full of happiness and fun moments. After being forced to move from our shady spots in the ground's gate entrance, MT, her husband, and I decided to take shelter from the sun in their car. We left the doors open, hearing the happy shouts and laughter from the events going on across the stone wall. We could feel the breeze, chatted and murmured to each other until our eyes got heavy and sleep began to take over. Then, my MT's husband got a phone call. I woke drowsily from a deep daydream. The conversation was in Korean, so I couldn't understand, but suddenly we were leaving.

"Are we leaving?" I asked.
"Ok, you can come with us," my mentor teacher replied.

My MT's husband left the car to go speak to the preacher. He exchanged words with his children on the way. I had left my bag at the tent earlier, so I followed him to go retrieve it. I rushed back to the car with the preacher and the husband. We said our goodbyes, and as the car left the grounds, I asked what had happened. It's sometimes hard to tell when best to ask questions. My MT told me in one sentence that two children from her husband's school had died. She left it at that and continued speaking quickly to her husband.

The drive (under other circumstances) would've been a crazy exciting one. As we drove (maybe 30 minutes) through, around, and down the mountains, my MT's husband made and answered phone calls. He drove quickly around the turns, disregarding the lines drawn on the road but carefully watching out for cars before speeding down both lanes. When cars appeared in front of us, he merely followed at a safe distance behind until it was safe to pass them. Some time during the drive, he spoke up. He told me in his broken English that they were 3rd graders, and that they had been his students last year. My MT added that they had been playing in a river, and both drowned. He left it at that. My MT's husband is a bit of a jokester. Since I'm still getting to know him, I silently wondered how he was taking the news.

I stared out the window at the scenery, thinking unfavorable thoughts about kids drowning. I didn't even know these kids, had never-  would never meet them. Still, somewhere I felt deeply affected by this news. I imagined their parents' reactions and emotions at that moment. I imagined what my friend Lein (who worked at the school as the English teacher) would say when I told her later that night. I would have to tell her so she wouldn't be too surprised Monday morning. Then my thoughts switched to more morbid ones. The kids in my daydream became kids from my school, people I had come to know and care about. Suddenly, my my imagination became my enemy. A torture device that I could not easily escape. Still, I tried thinking of other things. My MT's husband peeked at me from the rear-view mirror. "Shannon... sleep. Sleep," he told me. I looked over to his wife. She had fallen asleep. His request had been part of a joke earlier in the weekend (I wasn't allowed to fall asleep in the car without his permission). Now, he simply wanted me to be comfortable. I just shook my head and stared at the mountains and random buildings passing by. I couldn't close my eyes.

Once we left the mountains and reached the busier roads, I found myself starting to doze. They were their way to Jecheon and would drop me off at home on the way to wherever location they were going. We pulled up to my apartment, and they quickly helped me get my things out of the car. We said our goodbyes and they rushed off. I walked slowly up to my room.

Later on, I learned that these two 3rd graders had been at church with friends and family, but had gone to a nearby river afterwards to play. They were accompanied by some kindergartners (who probably told the adults what had happened). The 3rd graders wanted to catch fish in the water. A deep hole had been dug in some part of the river by a company. Perhaps the company had planned to build something in the river, or alter it in some way. One kid fell into this deep hole, couldn't get out of it, and began to drown. The second 3rd grader tried to safe his/her friend and drowned as well.

I still don't know the full story. Maybe that's what made me so attached to the kids. I wanted to know the 5 W's and H.

A sad story, yes, but it had to be told.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Badminton Battle

Yesterday turned out to be surprisingly eventful!

At lunch time, my MT (mentor teacher) told me there would be a dinner with all the teachers and asked if I had any plans. I had indeed made plans literally minutes before she'd brought it up, but after some thought, I cancelled the original plans and agreed to join the teachers for the night.

After classes, I walked down the hallways, wondering (sadly) what to do with myself for the next couple of hours. Unless the room with the piano is free of people, I have no good way of entertaining myself in circumstances like these. I can only take so much Facebook and computer screen-staring. I could be studying Korean, but that's another story.

In the gym-a-torium, some of the teachers were gathered. They were dressed in exercise clothes and setting up nets for ... volleyball? Badminton? Ah! It was badminton. I watched as some of the male teachers picked up these large paddles and hit the birdie to each other. The guys seemed really excited. I wasn't sure if I was allowed to watch them, so I peeked from far away for a few minutes, then went for a walk through the school. I actually walked by to peek more than once, secretly wanting to join them.  Each time there was a new teacher in the room. When I finally saw the principal practicing with the paddle and birdie, I came into view. They saw me and called me over.

So began a badminton competition that had probably been planned and announced to ever teacher but me. The  5th grade teacher called me over and asked me to practice with him. Luckily (because I had no idea how it would turn out), I hit the birdie successfully every time. He told me, "Oh, good!" and began hitting harder. I'm so glad my late-coming hand-eye coordination works for this game. Eventually one of the other staff called teams. Teachers and staff played two on two. I can't tell you how badminton is scored. I couldn't even follow along with the score announcements because of all the cheering, jeering, and banter done by the other teachers. Oh, and watching the teachers battle against each other was the best part. On a normal day at school, you rarely see the teachers and staff acting so comfortably with each other. Their professional faces almost always remain unbroken, unless you manage to catch them in the break room whispering to each other. During this game, and the one I was suddenly added to (teamed up with the P.E. teacher), I got to see the "childlike" sides of the teachers I work with.

As stated above, I got teamed up with the P.E. teacher. In all the time I've been here, I've only ever managed to say hi to him in Korean. I think he either doesn't know much English, or is terribly afraid of speaking in English to me. Either way, our teamwork lead to the longest conversation we'd ever had. Of course, it was mostly guestures and a bunch of high-fives, but still, I think another barrier has been overcome. We won the match..... because we are awesome badminton players! :D So if we still say nothing but hello to each other for the rest of this semester, we will at least have this good memory.

The prize for winning the match was ramyun!!! The losers got cups (I think. They were all wrapped up, but they looked like cups).

'Til next time!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

21 Questions

Yesterday, I had quite an unusual experience on the bus ride home. I waited at the bus stop with my headphones on. The sun was being blocked by the clouds today, but there was still a white-gray brightness that made me squint as I looked at the horizon for an approaching bus. When it finally pulled up (on time, I should mention!), I got on and noticed that the bus driver of the day was the really talkative one who tried asking me lots of questions a few days ago. He (of course) recognized me, and I said a quick hello to him, not sliding my headphones off. It's not that I didn't want to talk to him (or any other Korean who decides to strike up a conversation with me); however, my Korean is still limited, and there's only so many things I can say or answer before I start wishing I was an "omniglot".

I pay, say my greetings, and turn away from the bus driver. My eyes connect with the only other person on the bus. An older lady smiles at me and throws her arm out, gesturing to the seat across the aisle from her. I wonder why she should want to choose my seat for me. Still, I oblige and head over to that seat. Looking down at it, I notice that one of the seat cushions is ripped. Oh well. I sit on the undamaged one.

Keep in mind that my headphones are still covering my ears. As I stare at the seat in front of me, then fidgit with my ipod, I realize this lady is speaking to me. I lower the headphones and the rest of the story begins....

She wants to if I speak Korean. I tell her I speak very little, and try emphasizing the fact with my hands. She smiles and nods, but still has more questions. She wants to know where I'm from. America, miguk, I tell her. She continues smiling and seems encouraged by my responses. Oh, but then she pauses for a bit so I slide my headphones on. Moments later, she's facing me and talking again. I pull the headphones down again. I've missed her question, but the bus driver seems to have been listening the entire time. He tells her something about me working at the school as an English teacher. She confirms this with me, and I nod. She says some things I don't catch and then says thank you. I assume she's thanking me for teaching English. Now she wants to know where I live. The bus driver has an answer for this, too. He tells her what stop I get off at.  How nice of him, I think with mixed feelings. I tell her the school that I live near and she nods knowingly. The next 5 minutes are filled with more difficult conversation. I think she's asking me about how long I'm staying in Korea... or how long I have stayed here. I try remembering the last Korean lesson I listened to, where it described how to say months. Sadly, I can't remember, and as she's repeating various words from her earlier sentence, I am struggling to think about the correct response. She's talking about numbers. I end up asking her to wait a moment while I look something up, and I pull out my e-book with the lesson.

Even though I asked her to wait, she decides to ask me a different question. Who do I live with? ... I think she was asking this. About five sentences later, she says words I recognize. Mother? Oh, no, my mother's not here. Oh, father then? No. Grandparents? No, they're not here. Sister, brother? Nope. 업써요. She looks shocked. Just you? I imagine this her asking this as she holds up her thumb to signify the number one. Yes, I nod, and she heaves a deep sigh and mumbles things in Korean. Then she turns to me, smiling again and asks me about food. Do I like Korean food? Yes. I try to name some foods. I start with kimchi. I tell her I like it, but then decide to add that it's really spicy. I fan my mouth and say the word kimchi again. She says, oh kimchi is hot? Yes, but.... ...And then she goes to explain (probably) some way that that you can eat the kimchi to make it less spicy. Her gestures and demonstration have me imagining rolling it up with something... maybe rice... and eating it that way. I nod vigorously. At this point, we've come to the bus stop where all the middle school girls get on.

These middle school girls usually refuse to sit by or talk to me(for various unknown reasons), but today as they make their way to the seats just behind me and the talkative lady, they seem to notice our ongoing conversation. This lady is getting answers out of me, and that makes them curious. Then, the lady asks me a question I absolutely can't figure out. There are numbers involved and the word kimchi, and many more gestures that have nothing to do with either of those previous clues. I'm stumped, and tell her I don't understand. Finally, she turns to one of the girls sitting behind her and talks to her for a bit. She's probably asking the girl to speak to me in English. I know those girls know SOME English. If I'm teaching elementary school kids... The girl starts talking... "uhh.." but then looks to her friends for help. Someone else sitting behind me takes over. "Do you take this bus every day... same time?"

Oooooh! Yes, I say in Korean. The girls gasp and can't seem to believe that I've understood their English, or that I've responded in Korean. They start whispering fast among themselves. The lady, encouraged by this success, asks them to translate some more. The first girl tells me that the lady wants to bring me some kimchi, wants to know where I live, or if she will see me again on this bus at this time. I've already told this lady where I live... sort of, but now she wants my exact address? That would require me to reach in my backpack and search through my notebook. I'm still not even sure it's the correct address. I haven't received any post cards at that address yet. I'm thinking this all over in my head, when one of the girls as the lady where she lives. The lady is telling her this when I look up and notice that my destination is approaching. I get her attention and try my best to tell her that this is my stop. After a moment, she nods. I wait, because I haven't given her my address, but she tells me to go ahead. I tell her goodbye, nod to the bus driver, and get off the bus.

On the walk home, I wonder if I'll see her on the bus tomorrow. I wonder if she'll ask me for my address again. Assuming I don't miss the bus, and assuming she brings the kimchi, and assuming she isn't annoyed by my inability to answer all her questions in perfect Korean, I may get an adopted Korean aunt. I also wonder if those middle school girls will be brave enough to talk to me in the future.

'Til next time,