Today, I discovered that the fancy bidet toilets actually have heated seats.
In orientation, I couldn’t tell if the seat was just super warm from the line of people that used the toilet before me, or if it was heated. Between 2nd and 3rd period, the truth came out. I wanted to take a nap on the toilet, tbh. So toasty.
On Tuesdays, I take a 20-minute bus ride in the morning to Gurim Middle School. The class sizes are small: from 4-7 students in each of my 3 (40-minute) classes. I really like teaching in this environment because I can easily monitor and adapt to each student’s learning comprehension, and the classroom has all the tools and technology a teacher could want. My co-teacher is an older woman who sits in the back and chimes in when the students really need help through translation. Otherwise, it’s my responsibility to prepare and teach the class. This is the ideal teaching situation because it’s efficient, so I know I’ve gotten lucky.
Around noon, I head over to Sunchang High School to eat lunch and teach 2 more classes. When I arrived today, Mr. Lee told me I was going to “take my time” in the afternoon to get better, despite the fact that I only have the slightest of cough by this point. He said that I shouldn’t start teaching here until next Monday. Okay, I lied earlier… this is the ideal teaching situation – no work! Now, I wish I wish I wasn’t signed up to teach at the elementary schools on Thursdays and Fridays!
This is a learning experience for me just as much as it is a teaching experience. Mr. Lee saw me looking at Hangeul (the Korean alphabet) while I was “taking my time,” so I told him that learning Korean is on my to-do list. I told him that I learned the word “hello” yesterday… after more than 2 weeks of being here. He was pretty proud of me, and that’s not a sarcastic statement. It’s funny how Americans expect foreigners to be English experts when they are in the States, but Koreans are ecstatic if you just try picking up a pair of chopsticks. The key to happiness is low expectations!
Mr. Lee informed me that the word “hello” in Korean has a cultural backstory to it. When King Sejong (The Great) came to power, many of his People (along with other cultures across the world) were suffering. King Sejong suffered with and for the People, and he was truly one of the most admirable leaders in history. He studied linguistics because literacy in Korea was low due to the difficulty of Chinese and other Asian language variations that people used for communication, and they needed better communication to grow as a country. He created Hanguel and the Korean language, which is a logical and relatively simple alphabet/language that any commoner can pick up. Yes, I’m saying that Korean is a pretty easy language in comparison to most others; it was designed for the sole purpose of being easy.
The “hello” phrase in Korean formed when people would wake up in the morning. Well, a lot of people were dying from starvation around this time, so “hello” in Korean actually means “you didn’t die,” or at least that’s what Mr. Lee said. I’m not going to lie, it was so hard to hold back a giggle when he told me this with a somber straight-face.
One of my Korean friends told me that certain words, like computer and Canada, are pretty much the same in English and Korean; you just have to say the English word so that it sounds “super Asian.” She said that it works for a lot of words; if you don’t know how to say something, just say it in English but sound “super Asian,” and people will understand you better. And it seriously works, LOL.
It’s helpful that I’m starting to learn a new language at the same time that I’m teaching a new language to many beginners; it puts things into perspective for me. Even most of the middle schoolers have a really low understanding of English, besides the few that are on the opposite spectrum of fluency. Let me tell you, that makes teaching tough. Keeping everyone in a multi-level class engaged and challenged really takes expertise. I never knew how much skill and creativity was involved in lesson planning and teaching.
I’m grateful for all of the teaching and learning challenges at my feet right now, though. Since I came to South Korea, not a day has gone by that doesn’t feel rewarding.
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.