Thursday, April 1, 2010

Misadventures with Korean Children

Its strange how affectionate little Korean kids can be with adults they barely know. Today it seemed like all I did was yell at this one kid - Felix. I told him to be quiet, I told him to stand in the corner, I told him to stop hitting Andy, I told him to pay attention for one freaking second. After the day was over and the kindergarteners were gone I figured I was free of him for a least a couple hours. But, of course, he ended up waiting for his big sister who was in the afternoon classes.

Through a crazy random happenstance, I had a free period and was trying to ignore the fact that Felix existed. For one thing I was sick of yelling at him and for another I was sure he was sick of me yelling. I manage to forget he's there as I become engrossed in the book I was reading and the popcorn I was eating (Korea does popcorn right, nothing but a hint of sugar on it).

Suddenly, I feel something pushing on my arm. I look down in time to see Felix push his head through the gap between my elbow and my side, like a dog. He gives me his cheekiest smile and proceeds to practically climb into my lap.

"Haven't you had enough of me today?" I ask him. Of course, he doesn't respond because he's five and doesn't speak a word of English. But he does make a sound which I interpreted correctly as an 'I'm bored' sound. That's how Felix and I communicate most of time - that is, when I'm not screaming at him - through grunts, charades and facial expressions. He's the smartest kid in Kiwi class and understands a lot more of what I say then the others do. Not like he acts on it or anything but I know he understands. The problem with him is that he's so smart he finished his assignment and gets bored, and when he's bored he likes to cause trouble; hence the yelling.

He continued to lean into me until I relented to his cuteness. I ruffled his hair and gave him some of my popcorn. Stupid Korean kids and their irresistible cuteness.

But thats how most kids act here. You can yell at them all day long but once you are out of the classroom you are their bestest friend.

On an only slightly related note, I was reminded the other day that Koreans actually add a year on to a persons age - or rather they count the time you are in your mother's belly as year one and they go from there. So, the kids I teach in Apricot are actually four years old as opposed to five. Which explains a lot.

Today, one of them, Kevin, started crying for no reason. He wouldn't let me open his lunch box for him and wouldn't do it himself. When I finally got fed up, I opened it for him. Now, the last time Kevin started crying it was because he'd just peed his pants so - having learned my lesson the first time - I was quick to take a step away. But this time he didn't pee his pants and there was nothing visibly wrong with him, only he kept repeating the same thing over and over again in Korean.

This was a job, I figured, for a Korean teacher. But when I tracked one down she just sat there and stared at Kevin for a while as he repeated himself over and over again. I asked her what was wrong, she gave me a bewildered look and shrugged. "I don't understand his Korean."

Here I stop and think to myself "how, exactly, am I supposed to teach him complicated grammar concepts in a foreign language when he doesn't even speak his native language?" All I say out loud is 'oh'.

Luckily, his mother was there (she's like the lunch lady) and she sorted it out. I never did figure out what was wrong, though. Life is a well of tears; its a fountain of despair and turning four is not all its cracked up to be.

I didn't do anything for April Fools day this year. Last year, I posted on Facebook that I was moving to Morocco and what ensued was hilarity times ten. It helped that my roommate (Dani - I miss you!) was helping to egg everyone on. I was considering posting something on here to mess with whoever may be reading but since I'm so far removed that reassurance is more than just a phone call away I will refrain.

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