Week 2, Wednesday

How proficient am I in Microsoft Suite? I can use it in Korean. Put THAT on my resume.

More fourth graders cried today; I guess puberty makes them overly competitive during class games and the result is a domino effect of tears. I saw Strong Girl, Weak Boy, and their new friend. He has claimed his new name is Tank. We now call him Tank Boy.

Some of the kiddos want to high five me or hold my hand or back hug me. Students continue to Say “hello teacher” in the hallway and if time allows I stop and ask them in English and Korean where they’re going or what they’ll eat. Three of the girls told me today that their classmate has an American mom. I told them in Korean “yes, I met her yesterday.” I then heard them say to each other “wow teacher is good at Korean”. Yes, keep the praise coming!

My co-teacher often comments on my daily make up. She really liked the very basic eyeshadow-as-liner I did today (because I’m lazy) so I promised to show her some tricks. Makeover! This is not a drill, I am bringing makeup to school.

This morning I officially met the part time guitar teacher. He’s very cute and he sat next to me at lunch with the ladies and I wanted to die. Why after all these years am I still so awkward? Maybe the kids can put in a good word for me. I don’t know if he speaks English (he didn’t at lunch) and I felt the gulf in my Korean knowledge. There’s only so far level one can take me. For life, love and liberty, I must study!

The new Vice Principal gave everyone a gift of grapes. (These special grapes taste like the bittersweet of grape juice). Even me. I really hate to keep comparing this to my past position, which was in corporate and toxic with a T, but I’m still flabbergasted that I came 7000 miles to a foreign country where I look and speak differently and I’ve never once been excluded. And nobody bothers me on the subway or the bus or at night on the street.

In fact, I joined tea time again and was invited to go to Costco with two of the subject teachers. They speak very little English and I’m getting frustrated with myself for only being able to say what feels like the same five sentences repeatedly. Sometimes I wonder if everyone feels uncomfortable having me around because I can’t contribute much to the conversation.

As for myself there are so many nuances to every day language that you don’t realize exist until you have to tailor every sentence so that people around you understand. I can’t use phrases like “just in case” or “I mean” or “I’m not sure if” and at times the constant self monitoring is mentally draining. This is what motivates me to learn Korean faster, because I know those around me won’t understand the little things I need to communicate until I do it in Korean. I need to work on my pronunciation too (Korean has two different O’s and three different J’s/P’s/T’s which I often morph into one sound) but… baby steps.

Comfortingly, Costco in Korea is the same as Costco in the states. There’s even Halloween candy on display. And I bought shoes because of course I did.

Coming back I had an error with my subway card but a nice young man gestured for me to come through the turnstile. I made it through but with some difficulty and stood in confusion for a few moments. He turned around and signaled that it was alright so I continued successfully on my way. Thank you sir.

Are my daily attempts at assimilation more or less tiring than foreigners who are completely new to the culture? Or has my dormant perfectionism resurfaced 10 years too late?

Sometimes I still feel like I’m doing everything wrong and that I’ve committed a huge faux pas that all have been too polite to correct. But I’ll just keep trying! It’s all I can do. And I am lucky to be surrounded by people who are patient and forgiving.

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