June 5

This morning our debate class was monitored by someone from the office of education.

I was expecting a strict government official but a well dressed older woman joined us and refreshingly, made small talk during breaks.

She seemed surprised to hear that I teach at an elementary school, though I really felt my roots when I had the high schoolers repeat after me on a few words I had tagged for a pronunciation check.

She grew up in Busan and agreed that driving there is not as terrible as people say.

“Busan and Jinhae are very old cities so the roads are narrow and there is traffic. Changwon has wide streets.”

Aha! My Changwon coworkers with their six lane roads are simply not accustomed to the winding alleys and general chaos of driving in Busan. No wonder they condemn driving there.

Though Jenny had worked hard to ensure all ten students came, just four showed up. Boy 1, Boy 3, the future diplomat, and a girl who aspires to be unemployed (like the title of a YouTube video I saw recently, she “doesn’t aspire to labor” and I appreciate that).

The topic was Myanmar and boy oh boy is that not an easy topic— I used first period to discuss the history of Myanmar and had made worksheets. Unfortunately, it was way too difficult for them, so I had to backtrack and slow things way down. Not a problem, we’re structuring class as we go, but not great when we’re being observed…

Second period went much better as the kids presented their already written stories. I asked lots of clarifying questions and made notes on each of their presentations so at the end of second period I could give them specific compliments (“good transition statements” “nice job answering audience questions” “great literary devices”).

In period 3 they wrote an imaginary dialogue. The girls were more willing to ask questions and even though the boys sighed heavily, all came up with very interesting and thoughtful work.

As they left, Jenny’s bakery treats in hand, Boy 3 stopped in the doorway and told me in earnest that he had graduated from the elementary school I teach at.

So everyone was eavesdropping during small talk! That’s fine, good listening practice for them.

I’m happy that he wanted to share. Boy 3 is especially thoughtful; last session during Would You Rather, he answered that between being a man or woman he’d try being a woman next. No other student gave an answer different than their gender.

He also berated Korea for not coming to Myanmar’s aid during his second period speech, and denounced world leaders for fearing China if they were to get involved.

I think in some ways we have similar characteristics and I hope that he withstands the challenges of life without his thoughtfulness and sensitive being squashed out of him.

Our little rag tag team did great and I’m really so proud of them.

Earlier, Jenny had called me a language genius because I wrote a Korean phrase and translated it for a student and later as I was getting into my car she stopped to ask me a question about grammar.

“I wrote a test question using ‘next generation’ so does that make sense to mean younger people?”

“Yes, it does!”

“Great! Confirmation from a native speaker, woohoo!” She cheered as she padded back to her vehicle for her free afternoon.

It’s nice to be useful.

As is becoming custom, I drove to a nearby brunch place in a part of town so quiet it feels post apocalyptic.

The same four men were working and I enjoyed my first eggs Benedict in Korea.

It feels almost… to healthy. More cream!

Too bad Western food is so expensive here— with a tasty handmade Basil Strawberry Ade my total was 18,000 won or $16. But I was able to finish student reviews (“you should rate them higher, no one has to know,” Jenny said looking at my reviews from last session) before the food arrived.

I saw Boy 1 walking along the street with his mom on my way back home and smiled. They’re good kids and I’m glad to spend my weekends with them.

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