Tag Archives: TESOL

2015

I went to Hong Kong last week, and that’s where I rang in the new year. Oh, but it wasn’t glamorous. It was actually me being the fifth wheel, me crying a little, me rushing down 16 flights of stairs to catch the fireworks, me eating (authentic!) Chinese food, me drunkenly calling my aunt to whine.

It was great because it was honest.

You don’t always want to party and go nuts.

I rang in the new year feeling a little….prickly. A little uncomfortable, and a lotta bit in my head.

I’ve been traveling alone recently, but I went to HK with a friend, and I would definitely say that over the past year D has become a close friend, but still this trip taught me a lot about myself because it taught me how much I don’t want to show who I am.

I don’t have a problem with who I am, mind you. I’m me, and I’m a little morose, and I tend to overthink and I feel self conscious about my hair and I like to read a lot and I don’t always (or ever) want to talk, and that’s fine.

Things affect me. Things make me want to cry. Things make me want to hole up in my apartment for days, or at least for the rest of the night, and just sit alone in my own stuff and feel things through until I can face the world again with the face I’m comfortable showing.

But over the week of this trip I was so damned uncomfortable because I was with this girl for an entire week and over the course of that week I had to, inadvertently, unavoidably, honestly and truly show who I am.

I don’t mind being who I am.
And I don’t mind telling who I am–I’ve been doing that for five solid years with this blog.
But I do mind those moments when I’m stressed and overwhelmed and feeling ugly and feeling sad and feeling irrationally scared–I mind showing them. I mind when there’s nowhere for me to retreat, when I have to do the ugly work of knowing that it’s showing on my face, of knowing that there’s nowhere to run and how can I sort this out and will this person accept these feelings that I can’t help and don’t mean to hoist on them?

It all sounds way too intense, but that’s kind of the thing. For the past two years I’ve been playing at who I am, playing at a newer, lighter version of me: BryoneyLite, 2.0. Stay in my square, stay in my safe space. Funny how being in such a foreign environment, a place where everything external is generally uncomfortable, makes it so easy to stay inside my box internally.

I’ve been brave these past two years. I’ve traveled on my own, and I’ve faced down many fears. But inside I’ve stayed squarely in my box, stayed committed to the face I put on in public. BryoneyLite. Not prone to depressions or melancholia of any sort. Reader, “writerLite” (no actual writing done).

But that’s not me. I’m as cheery as I am morose; as motivated as I am depressed.

I want to be me again, and I want out of this square little box.

I think I did well in 2014. I’m drinking less, I’m eating more vegetables, I’m sleeping more. I go to the gym four times per week, I do face masks once or twice each week and I’ve saved a little money. I’ve even managed to get a couple things published that I’m really proud of, though I’m no closer to writing that novel (oh well).

But I’m going numb inside, and I’m losing connection. I’m losing my creativity, and I’m starting to really believe that there’s nothing about me that says my life shouldn’t be ordinary. More and more, I’m feeling like a face in the crowd.

So in 2015, what I really want, is just out of this box. I want to feel again. I want to feel intensely, like I did when I was 18 (but maybe not exactly like that because it was a bit much). I just want to feel. And i want to write. I want to write something for me, something that is beautiful, a story that is moving and touching, that I see through from start to finish. Something I can be proud of.

I want out of this box.

Well-Cared For Kids

I take it back.

I take it all back.

I think the universe is punishing me for ever having dared give up on this whole writing dream of mine. These children are awful. At any given moment at my job, there is the spittle of a student who has just the worst damn lisp in history all over me. On Wednesdays, we eat lunch with the kids and I can see the spit flying from his lips to my salad.

When he’s not spitting he’s screaming, either in outrage or excitement. Either way, it’s blistering to my eardrums.

I hear their voices ringing in my ears on the weekends, these awful children. They have a chant: “My mommy said that jajjangmyeon is not a delicious.” (Jajjangmyeon is korean chinese food, it’s noodles in black bean sauce–MSG loaded and actually quite delicious, but that’s not the point). In the dead of night, when all is silent and I’m drifting off to sleep, their shrill voices float by my ears. “My mommy said that jajjangmyeon is not a delicious. My. MOMMY. SAID. THAT. JAJJANGMYEON. IS NOT A DELICIOUS. YEAH YEAH YEAH.” It’s haunting.

When they’re not spitting on me, screaming at me, or chanting the chants that will imprint my soul and haunt my very being after school has finished, they’re fucking bickering.

Good gawd, I never realized how annoying bickering is. All day it’s TEACHERRR! and I DON’T LIKE JASON! and DON’T DO THAT PLEASE. All. Damn. Day. I remember fighting with my brother when I was a kid, and I remember how angry my mother used to get. I never got it back then, but damned if I don’t get it now–it’s the worst thing ever to be stuck in a room with: the sound, the sight, and the general feel of it all fucking SUCKS. It’s so draining.

Then there are the emotional issues. X student is friends with Y student, but he’s actually really competitive with Y student so can you manage X student’s emotions so he doesn’t feel bad? (uhh…?). T student wants to be friends with X and Y student and is jealous that X and Y students play so well together but actually T student is the screaming spitter, but still can you make sure they all play together? (uhh….?). Q student is actually cool as hell but the only girl so she’s gonna demand all your attention simply because you’re two girls lost among the madness so can you give your full attention to her whilst managing the three boys? (uhh…?). Ah, and finally, Y student is an overworked six year old who after this will go to piano, art and taekwondo; he’s moody and exhausted because of his grueling schedule, and he’s also a bit of a compulsive liar, so can you get a ton of work done while he’s constantly interrupting you with his swinging moods of extreme silliness and pissed offedness from thinking about his schedule? (uh…sure?).

I only have four students, not 20, so it’s not a lot to complain about really.

But the universe sure showed me for ever thinking of giving up writing.

Still, I can’t help but think, when I see these extremely cute little kids in their burberry coats, with their expensive lessons to which they’re being shuffled back and forth, that they’re so well cared for. And I’d like to have a couple of those well cared for kids for myself one day. Not the brats through.

Find something you love and…

2 hours ago, it was 11 something and I was excited about getting nine hours of sleep. I feel like my body needs it. My schedule has picked up a LOT lately, which is great, because I’m definitely still paying for Bali.

But now it’s 1:17 a.m. in Korea, and I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’m just not that tired after all.

I should be. I woke up early, worked out for an hour, worked a full day, and then did an hour class after that. On the way home, finally, I was thinking about how not tired I am, and how I regret having picked up dinner and depriving myself from the pleasure of cooking for myself.

See, the thing is that even though my days are long, I don’t hate them. And even though I spend my time working, really actually working, not deskwarming but actually interacting with students for 8-9 hours a day, I often find myself feeling energized.

I think I really do love being a teacher. They say find something you love and never work a day in your life, right? I don’t know. This doesn’t really feel like work. I mean, it’s a place I have to go every day, but like you can’t be too serious once you’re there. I laugh, like genuinely laugh, like caught-off-guard LOL because it was actually funny laugh like once an hour. Because these kids are crazy and hilarious. My kindies have gotten into the habit of sniffing me, and so they regularly get up from their seats to grab my arm and take deep inhalations from their little diaphragms. Then they proclaim to me that I smell “a lot good and a little bad.” It’s completely absurd. But it’s really funny.

And I never know where the day’s going to take me. I have two boys that I work with, and even though we have a textbook, a lot of times we stray from the curriculum. One day they broke down for me the politics behind the two-party system in Korea, and the attitudes of the older and younger generations toward Korea’s leaders. The next, they wanted to hear and tell ghost stories, then they ran out to one kid’s mom because they were scared, because they’re only 10 Korean age (which makes them 9).

In contrast to this, I have the fact that I had six solid months free and didn’t write a damn word. I write, but I feel tired afterward. I do it, but I power through it. I think about the environment I would have as a writer. I could work at a newspaper/magazine and be surrounded by sardonic, cynical, world-weary, oh so clever adults. Or I could work at home by my damn self and descend into madness in the dreary and silence of my own mind.

I honestly don’t think this writing thing is for me, not to make a career of. I feel like I made a choice a long time ago that I didn’t want to live in my head. That it was actually really important for me as a stable and happy person to get the hell out of my head. Looking back, that was probably the day I gave up writing as a potential career, realistically. Because where else would I reside, really, but in my head as a writer?

And here I have teaching. And it’s fresh, and new. And i’m up and standing and moving and laughing and sometimes being stern but other times chasing little children around a play gym. And i’m not being read and revered by millions, but I’m teaching a handful of kids how to think critically and express themselves and damnit, that’s fulfilling and satisfying as hell.

I really like what I do right now.

Gray Hair Haiku

Sliver of gray shines

The land of morning calm gray 

This place ages me.

The Boyfriend

Life in South Korea can really put you out of touch with “reality,” as it stands. Since I’ve been here, I’ve experienced so many highs, insane highs, highs like scuba diving in the philippines highs. I’ve also experienced lows, insane lows, lows like “I’m afraid to apply for jobs now because maybe it was me, maybe I’m just truly awful to work with and lazy and mean and that’s why my supervisor hates me.”

But what I hadn’t experienced in most of my time here is groundedness–that “down to earth” feeling that you experience when you’re cooking dinner at home and cleaning your apartment and managing your budget and pursuing activities and interests and thinking about your goals and future plans.

In the past month or two, however, I’ve  started to get glimpses of a more “down to earth” me peeking through. She’s kind of tired of getting wasted and overspending and traveling every weekend. She wants to look up muffin recipes, and she misses writing and editing.

Part of this is myself, definitely. It’s difficult…because all aspects of life are “real.” I’m really alive; I’m really breathing; I’m really typing on the computer at this moment. But at the same time, a life of partying and shopping and one-year contracts at a time…well it’s not in line with the sense of groundedness that we associate with an actual, “real” life.

So part of this is definitely myself disassociating myself from the waygooks who are either 24 and perfectly within their lane to blow a year or two before setting down, or the dreaded career waygooks who are in their very late 20s or 30s, who have been doing one-year contracts for many years, and who seem to suffer from a bit of a Peter Pan complex.

Part of this is myself, but as you may have guessed from a post titled “the boyfriend”…part of this is the boyfriend.

You guys.

It’s the weirdest thing. I have blogged, talked, tweeted, facebooked, skyped, and texted about previous paramours to no end, but when I start to talk/write about the current Boyfriend, words fail me.

But when I leave his company, I’m more motivated than before.

And Saturday night, we went out together and we danced. And we laughed. And we had so. much. fun.

I was not aware you could have actual fun with your boyfriend.

And when people tell me he’s crazy about me, I tell them right back that it’s definitely mutual; that I’m crazy about him too. And then they look at me in shock, that I would be so open with my feelings.

And when I wasn’t feeling well yesterday, he made me theraflu and came to lay down with me (until he realized that I was in need of actual REM sleep, then he got up and did his thing and let me sleep).

And sometimes I think about how I want to write poems on love and hand-written notes. And how often my friend replies with “that’s ideal” when I tell her about the times we spend together.

And how it’s easy. It’s actually easy. We liked each other and we decided to be together,

then we did.

We’re going night skiing tonight.

How exciting is that?

Some thoughts on happiness

“Do your hangovers ever come with an existential crisis?” my friend G asked me on a Sunday morning on the bus. We were headed home after a night of too much drinking and too little sleep, but I had mainly only drank beer because the other option was Soju, and in my mind that’s basically poison.

“Eh,” I replied. “ISometimes….but not for a while, anyway. I didn’t really drink that much last night.”

Later that day, I sent him a facebook message.

It was after the mild fluttering in my chest had increased; after my slight gasps had graduated to “shortness of breath. “OK…” I wrote. “Maybe a mild existential crisis.”

“HAHAHA,” he replied. 

And then the week passed; another Saturday night of too much drinking and another Sunday morning of waking with my head buried under the pillow, my clothes stripped piece-by-piece on the floor in a direct line from the door to the bed.

“At least I remembered to turn on the heat,” I thought, swallowing my spit to try to ebb the heat-induced thirst.

I glanced at the clock–it was 10:30 a.m. A solid six hours of sleep. Not bad, for the girl who had once partied in Busan for three days straight.

But 10:30 a.m. meant I was two hours behind schedule–at 27, with lectures to prepare for and a boyfriend to visit, 10:30 a.m. meant I wouldn’t be ready to head to Seoul until 5:30 p.m. at least–and this to visit the man I hadn’t seen in a month.

Aggghh. I don’t know how to be a girlfriend, I muttered to myself.

I pulled myself out of bed and pulled on a random assortment of tank tops, leggings, sweaters and boots, so that I could leave the house and find the jimjilbang (spa) in my neighborhood–an ahjumma scrub to take off all of the previous month’s grime and dead skin was what I thought I needed.

But when I arrived, the man in reception asked me something in Korean.

“I don’t know,” I said with a laugh. 

I shrugged my shoulders too, just in case the message–that I’m 100% A-OK with being unable to communicate in even the most simple capacities, wasn’t clear enough.

Then I walked over to the stairs, pointed downward to confirm that the women’s floor was downstairs, waited for the reception folks to nodd their assent, and then gave them the thumbs up.

Cavalier attitude armor achieved.

In the lockers, I stood there, towels in one hand, jimjilbang pajamas in the other. I couldn’t recall–do I strip then put on the pjs then walk into the baths and strip again? Or do I walk out of the lockers bare-assed naked, brazen like my pussy isn’t out for everyone to see?

I walked out in my pajamas,

but everyone was naked, so I stepped on the scale (60.4 kilos), then went back to the lockers to strip. 

But I held my towel in front of me.

I found the ahjumma scrub area, but I couldn’t read any of the services. I stood there for a moment, waiting to be noticed, then I handed the ahjumma my key. She placed it behind a row of others and said something to me in Korean. I let the words wash over me and waited for her to finish, then I asked her how long it would take and she told me “one person.”

I went to the baths and alternately froze and scalded myself for the next hour.

The shortness of breath and fluttering in my chest was building.

I went to the steam room and the salt room.

I watched as the bronze on the neckace that was given to me in a Hindu religious service in Singapore was purified by the salt. I tried to view this as a metaphor. “This is like my journey–ah fuck it.” I got up and went back to the cold bath. I splashed myself with the 19C water as I’d seen Korean women coming from the steam rooms do.

Sharp needles of cold pierced my body with every splash and for a moment all of the different steams of scattered thoughts and unfocused energy froze.

I got back in the cold bath and glanced at the clock.

“Fuck this,” I thought, and went to the warm bath.

Two small children stared at me. “Hi,” I said. 

“How do you know English?” one little girl asked me in Korean.

“I’m an American,” I replied, in Korean as well.

“Oh!” the two girls exclaimed.

I stared at the clock again.

The panic was rising and I knew I had to leave.

“If they don’t call me in five minutes…” I told my shortness of breath.

But then I got out of the bath and got my key. My breaths were only getting shorter; my heart only pounding faster.

“Why?” the ahjumma asked me in Korean.

“Er….wait….can’t.” I replied in broken Korean. “appointment….promise…there is….”

“Next time,” she said, looking me in my eyes.

“Yes, next time.”

I dressed and left as quickly as I could find the exit, but not before buying an assortment of scrubs,–I would be soft for this man whom I hadn’t seen in a month, rising panic attack be damned.

I paid, and in the next moment I was out of the door. 

It occurred to me that I would have to eat at some point, and so I asked a man for samgyetang–Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup, the closest  I would get to my comfort food without making it myself.

He pointed in a direction and said something in Korean, so I thanked him and walked in the direction he pointed.

The ginseng chicken soup restaurant was not more than three yards away; my tired mind sighed and the tightness in my chest pulled just one thread in the direction toward unknotting itself.

I walked in.

“Samgyetang…is there?” I asked.

“Yes,” the lady replied, along with other things like “are you visiting Korea?”

“English teacher,” I said, pointing to myself. “One please.”

She showed me to a table, but I moved toward the window. I tried to ask her the Korean word for window, but she thought I was asking for the name of the restaurant and told me, chest puffed up, that it was named after her.

I smiled and let the conversation die. Then I sank against the wall.

I pictured myself bursting into tears right there, right in that tiny restaurant, where it was safe and warm and smelled like chicken. I pictured the lady rushing toward me and wondered what she would do.

But I’m not the “bursting into tears in random places type,” so I just sat in silence and stared into space, regretting the fact that there was no book, no smartphone to distract me.

Eventually, she brought me the soup and I took my first bite.

It needed salt, but another string in my chest was pulled loose.

I continued salting and blowing the broth. With every bite,  the knot in my chest unravelled itself.

“I am not depressed,” I told myself. “My sadness is just a mood.”

Happiness is knowing that your sadness is just a mood, I thought. 

Happiness is knowing there is no existential crisis that can’t be met with a good bowl of chicken soup.

Then I thought about how, if my phone were with me, I’d update my facebook status with that thought.

 

 

Applying for the position

I just had an epiphany.

I was standing in the teachers’ office making copies. I was thinking of my work situation, and how important it is to be honest.

Today I had a meeting with the head supervisor for my province because my coteacher and I just can’t work it out y’all. And I was talking to him about it and about my job in general, and I was being very honest. I was doing my best to admit my shortcomings while being gracious about hers.

I try to do that in general anyway–it’s a character thing.

But anyway, we then talked about this placement (I am at a very prestigious school) and how it didn’t quite match my inexperience.

Fast forward to later today, as I’m standing there making copies, thinking so much about honesty.

Was I honest in my cover letter to my company? Did I tell them straight-up that although I have this fancy degree, I had no full-time teaching experience?

Probably not, definitely not in so many words.

And then I thought that at age 27, with my fancy degree and my teensie bit of experience, it’s so important to be honest because I’m vetting them too. At this point, I have an idea of the type of work I’d like to do and the environment in which I’d like to do it.

When I was coming up, and especially now that “jobs are scarce,” I think we get told so much to do and say anything so we can get any job, because any job is better than no job. It’s really entitled of me to challenge that, but in my field (TESOL) it’s different. You can’t operate with that mindset because there are plenty of TESOL jobs overseas but many, many of them are shit. You have to interview them in the same way they interview you because once you’re here with a visa your school is sponsoring and a contract, you’re here. You can walk away from the contract, of course……but then you spent so much money and it reflects poorly on you to break your contract and where are you gonna get a job in the U.S. blah blah blah etc. 

….and then of course because I’m me I immediately turned that to relationships. There are so many potential boyfriends out there, but many, many of them are shit.

And that’s why it’s so important to be honest during the dating process–because you’re vetting them too. It’s not just about fear of rejection, it’s about finding the right fit.

I’m sure if my coteacher and I had met face to face before this contract were signed, I would have sensed right away that our energies didn’t align.