Thursday, May 28, 2009


The weird part of being in Korea is no longer that I'm in Korea but that there will be a day when I am not. I've decided not to stay past August after all.

My supervisor tells me that there are more adjectives in Korean than in English. They're conjugated like verbs. When she tries to find English equivalents, she says, many of them aren't there.

Yesterday I had parent-teacher conferences, the kind that require a translator. What got me was that my supervisor wasn't translating everything that was said. There were conversations that I wasn't privy to. There were things the mothers (only mothers) weren't being told. Every week we foreign1 teachers have to write comments home to the parents. We've been told to write only positive things. Such a task was easy when I taught Elmo, but with Pluto, it's much more difficult. For example, two Pluto boys stole my iPod out of my coat pocket while I was in the room like a week into class. When I wrote home that week, I couldn't come right out and say that these two boys had stolen from me. I had to use roundabout language.2 As I sat across from each mother, my supervisor between us, I got the feeling that anything negative was being removed from the conversation.

Never mind that I found it totally weird that I was sitting in on a parent-teacher conference in the first place. Of all the things I thought I'd do, teaching kindergarten was not one of them. I remember a time when I first got here and was teaching Elmo and I came to myself in the middle of a sentence: "And the answer is—oh my god, I'm teaching kindergarten." The kids were smart enough to laugh. Weird now to come to and still find myself here. I feel as though I'm already living in my memories.

Today I had a fever and muscle aches. On my break, I slept on the mat in my room. When I went downstairs to grab something quickly before my third-grade class started, a couple people told me I looked horrible. The school asked me to go to the doctor. The first question he asked me was whether I'd been in contact with any foreigners. Sometimes the way swine flu's talked about here, you'd think only foreigners could carry it.3 Turns out I just have some minor bug, the same, most likely, two of my students have. The nurse gave me a shot in the hip, and immediately my fever went away, and I felt a lot better, and I went back and taught.

The other day someone on CNN said that truth is the most important commodity we (sic) have.

* Yeongeo, "English," as in the language.

1 Always "foreign," never "expat," though the Korean word for foreigner, weogukin, doesn't have the negative connotations that its English equivalent does, at least from what I've been told. Then again, can these two words be said to be equivalents if they don't have the same connotations?

2 The mother of one boy wrote back that he didn't know stealing was wrong. The kid's six.

3 The latest issue of Kids Times, the English newspaper the older classes read as part of their homework, says that people who eat kimchi won't catch the swine flu.

Monday, May 25, 2009


According to The New York Times, "North Korea said it had successfully conducted its second nuclear test, raising stakes in the effort to get the nation to give up its nuclear weapons program." More.


According to my supervisor, there are twenty-one reported cases of swine flu in Seoul. Eleven of the people are expats. I was told to stay out of the bars.