Archive for cool things

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.


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. 🙂


As I finished out my school day, it stared to rain. Now, the weather report had warned about spring showers, but my umbrella was missing from it’s normal place deep in the floor-pile. I was defenseless. Sighing, I zipped up my black fleece hoodie (which, I want to say, I got in 7th grade. It never ceases to amaze me that I remember zipping it up to the prime halfway-up-the-chest point to walk by the guy’s classrooms, carrying laminated hall passes or bones from the science room. This is what I think about while walking to classes as a teacher) and headed out into the rain.
By the gates of the school was one of my 7th graders. At first she didn’t recognize me, and waved hesitantly. As I drew closer, I saw a smile trace across her face.
“Hi teacher!” She asked in Korean, “Do you have an umbrella?”
“Hi!! No. No umbrella.” I answered back in English.
In Korean again, she shot off a list of questions, and confused by her rapid fire, I repeated her question back at her.
Slowly, in Korean, she asked: “Where is your home?”
“I live by Emart. That way~” She nodded, and looked at her own umbrella. I was worried for a second that she would give hers to me, but-
“Bye teacher!” She headed off.
“Study hard!”

Just as I turned my back from her, an ajjuma passed by, slowing to look at me me.
Ajjuma’s (as I might have said before) are women of a certain age (55+) who have kind of a… weird status in Korean culture. They are simultaneous respected and mocked. 😉

[An Ajjuma joke: A woman was pushed off a hill. She died. Ah, the people said, just a woman.
A second woman was pushed off a hill. She got up and brushed herself off.
Ah, the people said, an ajjuma!]

Back to the story: She motioned quickly to me, a little lady, tight perm, shirt flowered. She linked her arm in mine, pulling me close under her umbrella.
She said, in Korean, “Walk with me!”
I let loose some of my broken Korean, using the terms for addressing ones elders to say thank you. Above everything else, I was suspired. It’s rare for Koreans to talk to someone that they haven’t been formally introduced to, let alone a foreigner. As we stamped down the Hyewon-school-hill, arm in arm, bright umbrella protecting us, I felt gratefulness flow warm and deep through me.
She said something else that I didn’t understand.
“Where are you walking? Where are you going? How are you getting there?”
“Oh. Oh. Next to emart, walk.” My Korean is really dreadful.
“No, no! Take the bus!”

I could only laugh.

As we reached the corner she broke our arm-link, and headed into a hair salon. I kept walking through the rain, calling thank you’s behind me.

Even though I ignored her advice and walked all the way home in the rain, it didn’t seem so bad.

There’s always something surprising here. I’m amazed at how much Korean I can understand now. I’m socked whenever people try to talk to me. I’m comforted by the random acts of kindness that I see around me – from the ajjumas to my students talking to me between classes, telling of fathers abroad and their crushes in church.

I just looked under my bed. The umbrella was there all along.

Women’s Film Fest


Last night I went to see a collection of  Shakespeare’s performances at Roofers.  I forgot to bring batteries for my video camera (fail, major fail)  so my few words will have to suffice. It was an excellent collection (preformed in English, Korean and French) of some of my favorite parts of Shakespeare. We had the bumbling Rosenkratz and Guildenstern, the side shattering funny midsummer nights dream, and the soliloquies from Hamlet.  It also had many Acts from plays that I’ve never read (if it wasn’t middle/high school Canon, I didn’t see it) and it was interesting to see them preformed by such a  diverse cast.

An, of course, there where magnificent deaths – mostly in  A Midsummer Nights Dream – where the slain just don’t die. Oh ZOUNDS! 😀 So fantastic!


About once a month, there’s an event called Word Food that goes down in the Seoul expat community. It’s a night of open mic, salm poetry and home grown music. Last month, two of my friends – Rasheeda and Tim – preformed.

Our hero becomes a Korean movie star