Thursday, June 26, 2008

Subway Shushery and the Trichotomy of Absolute Sex

If you look like a menacing sexual predator, the odds of me taking you seriously as a human being decrease exponentially. This is not so much a reflection of my shallowness as it is a reflection of human nature. We tend to have a natural aversion to those things which appear liable to eat us and our babies. Hence, bunnies are cute, cockroaches are ugly, and people who look like menacing sexual predators are deplored. As such, should you have the misfortune of resembling a menacing sexual predator, it’s in your best interest to work against the grain of nature and try to look like less of a creep. This would include such efforts as bathing regularly, not growing a pedostache or unbuttoning the top few buttons of your shirt so that your chest carpet billows out, and not drawing negative attention to yourself by acting like a douche. Cussing out the only foreigners on a subway car while your chest hair meets your neck and the glisten off your pedostache is hardly noticeable under the glimmer of your comb over, is probably not a good start to this journey.

It was probably a Tuesday. Shanna (who missed that day of kindergarten where we learn to use our “indoor voices”) and I were on the subway to somewhere. Probably in search of food. Something or other was being discussed. It was probably about me, and I was more than likely doing most of the talking. A fellow to our left was carrying on a terribly loud phone conversation. He was significantly louder than either of us, though I didn’t particularly mind. Maybe it was important. Or maybe he, like Shanna, missed the lesson on indoor voices. No matter. There were more important things to worry about on the subway car that evening.

A particularly creepy looking man of the “I like ‘em young… real young” persuasion was sitting down the bench from us. Choosing to ignore the loudest man on the train, Surefire Pedophile looked down our way and made a shushing gesture. “Subway! Voices! Shhh!” he advised us, in that creepy my-voice-is-raw-and-I-could-sure-use-some-baby-blood-to-soothe-it voice of his. He then repeated his shushing gesture for good measure, just in case we had failed to catch it the first time. Immediately threatened by his disheveled appearance, this did not sit well with us. And by us, I mean me. Shanna began speaking a touch louder, as I debated what this guy hated more: foreigners, the English language, or women. Surely there had to be some reason for his shushing us but not the louder man, and what fun is it if I don’t assume the absolute worst? I settled on the belief that it was all three: he was clearly a racist, xenophobic misogynist.

Sadly, this trichotomy of Absolute Sex is not found as a preference on most dating sites; further evidence that all the good ones are taken.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Canada Land When, Teacher?!

Every few weeks, somebody from home remembers that I’m alive somewhere in the world and emails me to ask when I’m coming home. I don’t mind one bit; it reminds me that somewhere in the world, to somebody, I’m at least a passing thought. In turn, every few weeks, I spit out a detailed, lengthy response of my plans from here until the end of eternity, because concise has never really been the adjective for me. In spite of some emotional set backs, The Plan has changed minimally since December. Yet, every few weeks a new email rolls in. As my wordiness need not be encouraged, perhaps this will spare the world a few thousand more of my words by decreasing the email flow for just a short while.

My work VISA is due to expire in mid-October. I spoke to The Boss Man today in the hopes of getting the ball rolling on an extension; somewhere between November 1 and December 1 ought to do the trick. For financial reasons, I’m likely to return home immediately following my contract. At this point I expect to be showered with the admiration and copious amounts of beverage that come with having not seen somebody in well over a year. Just shortly before I wear out my welcome and people start to remember me as I am, rather than as the fantastically flawless and worldly friend that they’ve been building up in their minds during my absence, I’ll more than likely return to Korea. I'll seriously consider other spots, such as Taiwan or Vietnam, but am rather fond of familiarity. The time line on this is likely mid January to early February. That ought to give me more than enough time to spread the love at night while spending ridiculous amounts of time in the library during the day.

Oh, how I miss going to the library. Any library with an abundance of books in a language that I’m literate in, with more words on more pages than I could possibly ever read, would bring me to tears right about now. I miss certain people, too, of course, but if I had to pick just one …

Every now then some of the emails that I receive wondering if I’m still alive in the world somewhere express a similar sentiment: “but you just have to come home, Rebecca Teacher! And stay! What am I going to do with out you?! *sniffle*” It’s cute, really. Melodramatic, but cute. I imagine that those who stop to wonder these things will probably do whatever it was they were doing for the previous 12-14 months that I wasn’t part of their life. Given that some of you have married, popped out babies, and died in this time, I suspect that life will continue to happen without me in arms reach. Now, why it is that I don’t consider a lengthy return home to be the best option is a fair enough question.

When I’m bored and in the dumps, I make a point of perusing the Canada Job Bank. Doing so reminds me of what a good deal I have here. As tempting as it is to return to the world of serving or being a corporate office drone, I think that I’ll stick to kimchi and goobery children, thanks. While there is nothing wrong with being satisfied in either a service or a corporate drone position, I have tried both and know that doing either causes my brain to slowly shrivel until I finally lose almost all will to continue getting out of bed in the morning. In other words, I’m not one of those people. I may not quite know what satisfies me or where to find it, but knowing what doesn’t please my fancy and avoiding those things is as good a place as any to start looking.

One of these days, when I get my thoughts together and can focus on one thing for more than two minutes at a time, I’ll apply to graduate school. Of some sort. I’ve considered law, journalism, education psychology, teaching, advertising, and a number of other things. Life would probably have been much easier had I not been born academically inclined. Options are a peril for the attention challenged among us. Ideally I’ll find this focus sometime around the fall of 2009 or 2010. Until then, I’ll stick with the option that affords me the time and money to live my life rather than hate it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Princess Bitch Problem: Solved?

The Princess Bitch Problem: Solved?

I begin every Monday afternoon by giving the Princess Bitches the benefit of the doubt and treating them like they’ve developed into respectable human beings within the past week. I’m always wrong. It usually takes about 30 seconds before all Hell breaks loose and I’ve lost my smile for the hour. Today, Hell broke loose in the form of wood bugs (woodlouse. Or something appearing as such. Entomology has never really been my thing).

The Bitches danced into the classroom, glaring briefly in my direction before putting on fake grins in the hopes that today might be the day their asshole behaviour earns them a game. They were wrong to hope for this. The plopped into their chairs and immediately broke into conversation in Korean. I was confused as to why they hadn’t bothered to take their books out and take aim at me yet, when I noticed that Bitch, The Younger (BTY) had brought a friend for show-and-tell. Sadly, nobody had informed me that today was show-and-tell, so BTY putting her bug-friend on the table and watching him squirm struck me as random. And obnoxious. I hate bugs. Of course, Bitch, The Older (BTO) didn’t want to be one upped, so she pulled out her bug for comparison.

I hate bugs. I especially hate bugs in the hands of horrible people who are liable to throw them at me when they don’t get their way later. This shit was not going to fly. After being complete ignored when asking The Bitches to put the bugs outside where they belong, I grabbed a tissue so that I could remove them myself. The Bitches either thought I was going to kill their bug friends, or didn’t want to part with their only friends in life, and absolutely lost it. Much screaming and yelling ensued. Finally, BTO put both of the bugs in her backpack, thinking that this was an acceptable solution. She was wrong. I asked her to remove her backpack from the classroom on account of total grossness. Not wanting to give up her title as the most spoiled seven year old ever, she pitched a fit, clutched her bag and curled into fetal position with it. None too amused, I flung open the door of the classroom and told her to get out. For once, she listened. BTY followed, because at some point in life somebody told her the merits of learning from the best (of the worst).

I read a few pages from my book before stepping outside to find out what The Bitches had gotten themselves in to. While I may think they’re horrible, horrible children who will grow up to be terrible, terrible people, I still consider myself responsible for them for 45 minutes per week and don’t wish to see them get hurt on my watch. The Bitches hadn’t gone far before finding The Boss Man, who was already in the loop as to what was going on. He sifted through their backpacks for their books and pencils so that they could return to my classrooms without being gross. I thanked him for his fulfilling his weekly obligation as mediator between The Bitches and Barbie Teacher, and led the girls back to class. I had a plan.

The Bitches had made it very clear in previous weeks with me and the other teachers that they have minimal interest in learning from us. Countless complaints to The Boss Man have led to countless calls home to their mother, which has resulted in no positive behavioural modification whatsoever; if anything, they’re acting worse. I’ll be the first person to admit when I screw up. Nobody loves riding The Train of Self Loathing more than I do. Sadly, in this case, I’m clearly not the cause of the problem; I simply can’t find reason to beat myself up over it. While I’ve done little in recent weeks to improve things, it’s unlikely that children who can’t muster up a modicum of respect for any other present elders are going to suddenly have a change of heart and think that it’s due time they start listening to Barbie Teacher. Hence, my solution is to give up on them.

When they returned to the classroom, without their bug friends, I opened their student books to the correct page and turned on the accompanying CD. Intermittently throughout the lesson I would change the track on the CD and check that they were still on the correct page. Once this was complete, I put some worksheets in front of them. All the while, I enjoyed listening to my MP3 player and reading a book. Sometimes one of them would look my way and say something in Korean, which was barely audible over my tunes, and I would grunt in response. Oddly, they actually seemed to work better when I completely ignored them. Perhaps being obnoxious is less fun when they don’t have an attentive audience.

I imagine that some people may find my behaviour terribly unprofessional. I’m not going to disagree. In fact, I’m open to suggestions as to what might suffice as a viable alternative to barely falling short of refusing to teach them. Just keep in mind that the other two teachers that deal with The Bitches have the same issue; the only difference is that I now refuse to waste my energy getting upset with them when I could use it during the hours of time after this class spent with students who actually want to learn.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Cane My Bottom, Please.

One of my co teachers stopped me in between classes last week to ask permission to ask me a question. Every now and then I like to respond to this silliness by telling him that he can’t, and it’s totally lost on him that I’m just kidding. After yanking his chain, I eventually field his questions because that’s what they pay me for. I tell him as much, and he fails to be as amused by me as I am. This particular teacher tends to ask lots of questions, which is fantastic. I spend many an hour at work in disbelief that I’m getting paid to do next to nothing; helping my coworkers teach English makes me feel like I actually have utility.

This is what they pay me for:

Tony Teacher: Rebecca, can I ask question of you? What is ‘cane bottoms’?
Barbie Teacher: Errrr?
Tony Teacher: Cane bottoms.
Barbie Teacher: Come again?
Tony Teacher: Cane bottoms!

Either because I’m slow or because I’m still not accustomed to deciphering the awkward language that litters our hagwon’s texts, I didn’t have the faintest idea what he was going on about.

Barbie Teacher: You mean… the bottom of a cane? *makes gesture as if holding a cane*

Yes, I actually responded like that. To be fair, his English is somewhat broken. It was entirely possible that he was speaking of the parts of a cane. That’s honestly the first place that my mind went on this one. I might be at least part idiot.

Tony Teacher: No, no, no. *makes a gesture as if to hit somebody in the ass with a stick* Cane bottoms!
Barbie Teacher: *horrified face, quickly wiped away by denial* Errr… can you show me the phrase in context?

I was at a loss as to 1) why he was asking me about caning and 2) why he was wording it as “cane bottoms”. More so, I was still hanging on to the hope that he was looking for a word for the bottom of a cane.

Tony Teacher: *opens his book to a lesson about rewards and punishments*

I realized at this point that I had no choice but to accept what most people would have deduced several minutes earlier: that “cane bottoms” was, in fact, being used to refer to the act of caning. Given that caning isn’t something that I’ve been exposed to in my lifetime, I prefer to think of my delayed understanding as naivety rather than stupidity.

I’m probably wrong.