Wednesday, December 24

Santa Speaks English?

Monday morning, my kids asked me where Santa goes first on Christmas Eve. I walked to the map on my wall and told them, "well, he lives up here, so..." then I pointed to Russia, then China, then Korea. "Korea is third?" they asked. Umm...yes? "I don't know," I said. "Let's write to him and ask."
I passed out recycled paper and plunked the crayon baskets on the tables. I wrote Dear Santa on the board.
"We will write in English?" they asked.
And that was when I had to explain that Santa speaks English too. And every other language, because he goes all over the world. And then I had to explain that he stops time...
Anyway, these were the letters I came home with:

So. Obviously, I had to write back. I bought a bunch of red paper and wrote to each kid,
메리 크리스마스, which says Merry Christmas in Hangeul on the front. Inside their letters were variations on, I live in the North Pole with my friend Rudolph. This year, we will come to Korea first. Your present is safe with me, but it is a secret.

When they read them this morning, they pointed to Santa's (my) signature in awe, and told me again and again, "he's coming to Korea first!"

Later, we watched a magician/puppet show, and then Santa Hariboji came! Korea's version of Santa is a stooped old man who makes kids accept gifts politely with two hands and then bow. Unfortunately, he picked my crier to tease, and his white polyester curls hung in ridiculous curtains over his eyes and under his mouth. Way to ruin the magic, Santa Hariboji.

Monday, December 8

On the Gravity of Snow

Sunday morning, I awoke to see this out my "kitchen" window:

Wet flakes the size of baeg won laid a sticky coat of white on the paved sections of the park. A collection of puffy-jacketed children scooped it into tiny snowmen, and a couple of high school boys dashed across the street shielding a two-fist snowball that probably took them a good patch of ground to pat together. The father at the grocery store set his baby daughter inside, breathing "cho-uh," a nearly involuntary exhalation of the word "cold."
Some of my students have furry hats with animal faces and ear flaps that hang down onto their chests, or that even blend themselves into scarves with paw-mittens on the end. What's surprising though, is not that eight-year-old boys are okay with wearing them, but that twenty-year-old men are too. And somehow, those high school girls still wear their little uniform skirts and jackets.
I spent the afternoon at a coffee shop, which was flooded with foreigners I'd yet to see in our suburb, but a new school has opened up down the block from where I work, and I've actually lost a couple of older students to them. Anyway, my latte was delicious, and spiced with cinnamon, and I studied the Korean my supervisor has been teaching me. I am beginning to be able to differentiate words within sentences, which may sound like ridiculously little, but Asian languages were just that foreign to me. I can also answer very simple questions about what I ate or where I went or who I saw. So, so far to go, but I've managed to ask for plastic bags without having the clerks repeat my request in English--victory!

Thursday, December 4

This is my refrigerator, covered in my students' artwork. Please notice the plan named "dessert" storm.

This is my cupboard.
Clockwise from top left: cereal, seaweed, saltines, peanuts, tuna, honey, rice.

This is my Kindergarten reading club. Some of them.

This is Ryan pretending to die, caught mid collapse.

These are what I get when I assign descriptive essays.

Tuesday, December 2

It Occurs to Me

It occurs to me that I've not provided any sort of captions for the Halloween pictures. The large group are all my kinders who screamed when I turned around and gave them a grave vampire face. They are still talking about Halloween. Literally, today a little girl was telling me that on Halloween, Emily teacher had a knife on her head and blood here! I was the official blood painting artist. Ah, theatre and the skills I learned there.
The Mario and ghosts are my lovely artistry skills. Mario now sports a santa beard and hat because I couldn't bear removing him from my room, the children (I) adore him so.
The pumpkin is the one my kinders (I) carved, that recieved what I consider the place of honor on what might be some sort of sacrificial altar in the lobby. As I was yanking a butcher knife in and out of its two-inch skin, my girls were screaming and trying to pile themselves, all six, together on one tiny green chair. Only my bravest, Gloria, got up on the table and faithfully helped me scoop all the slimy, gooey pumpkin guts from the beast. Most of the kids ate the seeds raw, even collecting the discarded glops from the trash while I was preoccupied with other things. My supervisor, who had never carved a pumpkin before, asked if she could feel it. She rolled up her sleeve and stuck her hand inside to finger the orange mess. It's incredible, really, watching someone's face, or so many someones' faces, experiencing pumpkin carving for the first time. What an alien thrill, with new words needed to describe it.
The little boys with me are in my PK class. The one with the bowtie is that kid who is constantly up out of his chair and really should be in trouble, but then he just looks at me with this innocently misheivous amusement and I can't do anything but laugh. His laughter is like a seventy year old man reliving childhood in the body of an eight-year-old, his every movement exaggerated and joyous. He pulled that bowtie up over his top lip to impersonate my Mario drawing that day. The one with no front teeth is the incredibly smart boy who has no volume knob. Sometimes I yell at him just to demonstrate how he sounds to me all the time, and he always looks surprised.