remix : genre
again and again and again, the images seem to something we’ve seen before.
At my school, there’s a handful of mainstreamed kids, some who are lucky (supportive classmates and teachers) and some who are not so lucky (merciless teasing, uninvolved teachers). When I first came to the school, it took me awhile to even realize that the classes had such a wide range of abilities – teachers tend to be mum on if there’s something ‘wrong’ with a student. Disability isn’t really a word that used – or understood? I’ve seen a lot go on with the mainstreamed students that have made me uneasy, but today (I say this without hyperbole) I saw the best thing ever.
Last year one of the high needs students (let’s call her Hyewon) had a rough time. I knew that English was her favorite class, but her classmates would almost never work with her, and the Korean co-teacher told me “You know why they won’t [work with her]. Let’s not make them.” She spent class either smiling at me, or with her head down on her desk, embarrassed whenever I made eye contact with her. She’s one of the bubbliest students that I have, but only at a distance. If you get close, she closes up like a cute shy clam. I think things are a little different now, with different classmates and teachers. Kind of… more nurturing?
Today, to prepare for the midterm, we played vocabulary Pictionary. The class of 36 is split into 3 teams, and they each take turns sending up one girl to draw. I choose the vocab pretty randomly out of an envelope, but if I know the students levels I try to adjust. The words are a mix of concepts (extinct, unusual), short sentences (“do you need help?”) and things (panda, pollution, envelope).
On Hyewon’s second turn, the draw-ers got the word “pollution.” It was a little bit more abstract than her first word (panda), but she was totally into the game and excited to just be in class, playing. As they started drawing and the teams started yelling out answers, I didn’t really pay attention to what they were drawing.
As Hyewon’s team called out the winning answer and I clapped and yelled that they had the point, the two other drawers put down their markers and stepped away from the board towards their seats. Hyewon looked at me, and back at her drawing, and back at me and back to the board, unmoving — She had made a car with smoke rising from the back, and a cloud overhead. Then, with incredible deliberation, she drew the Korean character-face ‘woo woo ㅜ.ㅜ’ in the cloud. The crying face.
I think I must have smiled about the biggest cheese ever. The whole class erupted into this wonderful laughter – that Hyewon had clearly made the best drawing about the impact of pollution to ever grace the school – or the world. I just about died. And Hyewon’s face? Like bliss. Everyone clearly loved her drawing, no one was making fun of her… it was just so 180 from when I first met her.
Honestly I’m a little teary writing this. This makes everything worth it. The next time I want to kill my students, I’ll try to think about Hyewon’s sad cloud, and her face as she turned around to look at me, glowing. Seriously.
We’re currently in the big “yaaaaar jewish holiday seasonnnn” that comes around every Fall. Cause Jewish holidays are based on the lunar calendar, the dates fluctuate from year to year. During my first year in Korea, Yom Kippur was on a day when we only had a half day of school and midterms, so I wasn’t even teaching and it was easy to ask for the day off. This year, Rosh Hashana fell smack in the middle of the week. My school (in its infinite kindness) allowed me to take two vacation days to celebrate the holiday in style.
There are essentially 2 synagogues in Seoul (Chabad and the US Army chaplaincy). Ya know the saying, 2 Jews, 3 opinions? Yeah. There’s a lot of that. For the high holidays they merged together to form an uber-metch-synagogue out in the woods. WHAT? Jews in the woods?! Apparently the military has a religious retreat center in this uberforesty part of HanNam-dong with a nice chapel and bunk-bed-filled-communal-bathroom-sporting dorms. Everyone who wanted to got to stay there for free, eat for free and get eaten alive by mosquitoes for the low low cost of nothing! With the weather being an ongoing stream of monsoontyphoon I chose communal bathrooms over my normal hour long commute to temple.
The community brought in two young guys (both with connections to my hometown, which made for some Jewish geography) to help lead services and read torah. I’m gunna say with honesty that normally I don’t do so well on the high holidays. It’s hard to feel kavana (spirit//feeling) when you’re looking at a four hour service+sermons; it can feel more like an obligation to be there than anything else. Go to high holiday services, get ya JewCard(tm) renewed for a new year. This was the first year that I felt the words resonate with me and was able to appreciated the whole experience. When we blew the shofar, the symbolic trembling of our souls, I felt this deep connection to Jews across Asia, all of us celebrating the new year together. The guys also did a great job of leading, especially the Friday night services. There were about 100 people there on the first days, and it tricked down to the twenties as the holiday weathered on.
Being a Jew in Seoul is different from being a Jew in Ann Arbor. Where in the the states ya can say “I’m a Jew” and people have some kinda idea about what your taking about, a lot of Koreans aren’t really sure. I get a lotta –
Are all Jews Israeli? (no) What, there are Jews today? (yes) Do all Jews look white like you? (no)
– which I don’t mind at all. Its kinda sad though that Jewish life in Korea is really all about services and not volunteering or eating or social stuff. I’m sure that there’s more Jews here who’d want to connect, but maybe just not in a go-to-temple kinda way. There’s just not that much in way of options in Korea.
One thing that my thoughts kept drifting to as I was praying was the oft repeated Jewish mantra, ‘next year in Jerusalem.’ I have really complicated feelings about Israel in general, but I’m hoping that that’s where I’ll be next year, studying at Pardes. Maybe, maybe not. It’s what my mosquitoe bitten legs and way too Jewish heart want 😉
Happy New Year everyone! May we all be inscribed for a sweet year!
Last night, for the FIRST TIME after more than a year in Seoul, I got on the wrong bus. In a complete brain-fart moment, I looked at the bus map, didn’t see the stop I was going to listed and still got on the bus based on the fact that it ‘felt’ right and that it was THERE. 30 min later I realized I was going the wrong way. 31min later I realized that the bus was making a loop and I couldn’t just get out and cross the street to pick the bus going to the other side.
One hour later I realized that I should have just taken a taxi when I first recognized my mistake. In all, my very picturesque trip home took two hours and 45min. This is a bus trip that is normally no more than one hour.
I’ve learned about 3 lessons here. Sigh. Never again!
I just watched one of the older, male teacher at my school pluck his eyebrows at his desk. While he talked to the older, male teacher next to him.
This is about 12 different levels of awesomeness. 🙂
After three weeks of teaching English summer camp, my first official school day was yesterday. Some of the kids came back with new eyes (plastic surgery), some with new hair, some slightly taller or tanner frames… and they have that strange mix of excitement and dread for the new semester. And, well, the same is kinda true for teachers too. :p
I’ve been examining my year in Korea, and trying to figure out what I want from this NEW year.
-Shop at the open market more, and EMART less.
-Leave Seoul more. See the countryside. See Jeju-do. See Dokdu!
-Study Korean 2x a week. Go to the Gym 2x a week. Professional development 2x a week (art, volunteering). Synagogue 1x a week. That takes up the whole week. . . hm.
-Drink less (not that I drink a lot)
-I live next to a major express bus terminal, but I’ve never used it – actually, I’ve never gone inside it. I want to take a weekend trip to someplace random from the terminal.
-Exhibit my art. This means I need to be making art. THAT means I need to be about 200x more proactive in finding facilities and getting shit down. This is Seoul – everything you could want is available, for a price.
-Work hard for my students, but don’t get stressed out by work.
-Eat 1,500 Kcal a day (now we’re getting personal, huh?)
Since the A/C isn’t really working in my school, all of the classes have been cut from 45 min to 40~ in an effort to get the kids out earlier. Haha, it’s wonderful.