Friday, March 27, 2009

Throwing in the Towel

To Whom It May Concern:

I have made the executive decision to resign from whatever ELI position I currently hold at the Mok-Dong Poly School campus and fly back to North America on April 29, 2009, in order to attend site director training for YouthWorks! Inc., from May 1 to May 3.

There were several factors. Factor Number One: a few weeks ago I received some documents from YouthWorks! that were from the summer of 2008, which I spent in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, with some of the finest folks in the land. These documents sparked my hazy memory, and I recalled the fun I’d had in The Soo and at the Minneapolis office last fall. Sometimes I think I was stupid to leave such a loving community of people for a completely unknown and precarious setting. But. I feel like YouthWorks! is where God wants me right now, especially when you pour Factors Two and Three into the Jungle Juice that is my life path.

Factor Number Two: Last Wednesday, I left my apartment at 8:31 AM, started work at 9, left at 7:45 PM with a stack of fifty papers to grade, mark, and enter onto an online rubric, and got home at roughly 8:10 PM. Do the math. Within that ten-hour, forty-five minute debacle, there are five forty-minute pre-school classes, 90% of which is classroom management…75% of which is fruitless. There are two fifty-minute classes of new first graders (read: kindergarteners, although they are among my favorites) and four forty-minute classes of third and fifth graders, which I look forward to teaching because they seem super mature compared to the Elmos. Also in there are merely thirty-five minutes to prepare for the five pre-school classes, which is doable, and only fifty-five minutes to prepare for the first- through fifth-grade classes and enter homework, and maybe fill out a conference sheet, do report cards, run to the bank, hit the post office, meet with the superiors, shoot the crap with random students, troubleshoot the printer and/or copier, and breathe. I had to give Ten-Mile-Britt my postcards because I didn’t have time to go get stamps for them. Do the math.

Factor Number Three: Minnesota Twins baseball.

I am processing my decision more and more every day, and will most likely write a longer and more boring post about it as I continue to feel it out. There are more details, some serious, some mundane, but those will be put into print at a later date.


Mr. Hager

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Stupid Days

Friday, March 20, 2009
8:15 AM: I put on a tie, as it is Friday.
8:35 AM: We leave for school.
8:50 AM: We arrive at school.
9:35 AM: A routine Friday begins.
1:15 PM: The last pre-school class, arts and crafts, begins. We are drawing houses.
1:35 PM: Chris starts punching and kicking the wall and does not stop, despite my pleas and threats.
1:37 PM: Tempers flare, tears are shed, and suddenly the owner of Poly School is in my room, telling me that all the parents, who are waiting to pick up their kids, can hear (and, allegedly, see) this fray. He removes said student. A day is ruined.
1:55 PM: Paul tells me the vice-director wants to have a “chat” with me.
1:57 PM: I “chat” with the vice-director. I will be able to take the bandages off in three weeks. A previously-unmarred employment is ruined.
3:00 PM: Typical afternoon classes begin. I feel like I’m walking on the proverbial egg shells.
7:45 PM: Typical afternoon classes end, but not before the kids beg me to see a Mr. T. video. I think the blonde guy looks like Devin Foley.
7:47 PM: Ray and I head to Itaewon to meet with Ten-Mile-Britt and Megan “May the Schwartz Be With You” Schwartz for burgers. I vent.
8:52 PM: Our beefy destination closes at 9 PM; they won’t let us in. We relocate.
10:10 PM: We consume delicious cheeseburgers.
11:40 PM: We arrive back in Mok-Dong.

Saturday, March 21, 2009
12:05 AM: I go to bed.
4:50 AM: My alarm goes off. I rise, have a drink of water, and take a shot of cortisone.
5:00 AM: I call Tom Parks at YouthWorks! Inc. He interviews me for a site director position with YouthWorks for the summer. It goes well. I feel fatigue.
6:15 AM: I try to go back to sleep but can’t really.
7:50 AM: My alarm goes off again.
8:22 AM: Paul comes by; I tie his tie for him. As a practical joke, I tied it in that certain way that really keeps the ladies away when worn. I wear it like that sometimes, too; so much more work gets done that way.
8:30 AM: Paul, Sam, and I leave for the school.
8:41 AM: Paul, Sam, and I arrive at the school.
9:14 AM: The Poly School bus leaves the Mok-Dong Poly School for the Poly School Teacher Workshop in Ilsan; we were supposed to be at the school at 8:45 and leave at 9. Whatever.
9:36 AM: We arrive at Kintex, the enormous complex where the workshops are to be held. Our picture is immediately taken.
10:00 AM: The first workshop begins. I am in one about pre-school and the curriculum for it. I pick up some possible ideas…for turning base metals into gold.
11:10 AM: The second workshop begins. I am in one about how to teach speaking class. I don’t teach any speaking classes, and don’t plan on ever doing so.
12:10 PM: Lunch. Complaints from everyone about their morning/why we’re here/the fact that they’re not drunk. I see the lame White Sox fan I got trained in with and scoff inwardly.
1:10 PM: The afternoon sessions begin and pass without incident.
5:18 PM: Our reloaded Poly bus heads back to Mok-Dong.
5:54 PM: We arrive back at Poly.
5:59 PM: One of my students comes up and says hi to me! Thanks, Jamie.
6:01 PM: I leave for Gangbyeon to hang out with Ten-Mile-Britt and Megan “Big Bang Fan Number One” Schwartz, even though it is literally the farthest subway stop away for me in the whole world, including Lebanon and the Rosedale Shopping Mall.
6:43 PM: I arrive in Gangbyeon and meet up with the two hunger-crazed Americans who are waiting patiently for me.
6:55 PM: An enormous Greek man tells me that he will make me a very spicy chicken kebab and that I am a V.I.P. at his food establishment.
7:03 PM: I eat said kebab and feel very important while doing it. My bowels grimace, but I ignore them.
8:30 PM: I set out to walk across this bridge that goes over the Han River at a very populated place in town. Two things happen simultaneously. First, Megan “I Told My Students That Americans Can Fly” Schwartz calls and says there is music to be seen in HoungDae. Second- eighth grade readers/Sunshine, this is called foreshadowing…it’s when a writer hints at something that is going to happen later- it starts to lightly rain.
9:00 PM: We leave for the musical venue.
10:15 PM: We arrive at Freebird in the Hongik University area. Music is indeed being played.
10:45 PM: A Beatles cover band starts playing. They do well. I think of Mrs. Joyce Roddy and figure that she’d appreciate this more than I, especially because my weakened sinuses clash bitterly with the fierce, smoky atmosphere.
11:24 PM: I strike out for the subway station in a downpour, hoping to get back to Mok-Dong Station by midnight when the subway shuts down. I get pretty wet.
11:26 PM: I pick up this sopping flyer for something called “Metal Fest 2009.” Count it.
11:30 PM: I arrive at Hongik University Station.
11:49 PM: The train headed toward my home arrives. During that time, three subway trains going the other way came and went. There are usually seven or eight minute intervals between train arrivals. Sigh.
11:58 PM: The train I am on reaches the transfer I need at Yeongdeungpo-gu Office Station (redundant name, I know); i.e. the halfway point of my underground journey. The other train has already stopped running. I recall the last time that I got at this stop: I spent an hour and a half in the rain trying to flag a taxi. I am not worried this time, though; I have learned a lot since then, and it’s pouring tonight, so the cab drivers should be stopping for everyone, right?

“Wrong-o, buck-o.”

Sunday, March 22, 2009
12:09 AM: Some considerate Korean chap who speaks English lets me share his umbrella with him for a few minutes. He says he is headed to where I had just come from. Good luck. I haven’t even seen an empty cab yet.
12:36 AM: Another kind-hearted man shares his umbrella for a minute. None of the cabs have even slowed down.
12:45 AM: There are no dry spots on me. I have been up and down the street, trying this corner and that (kinda like Kaycee). No one has even pulled over for me.
12:50 AM: I run into the middle of the street and bang on the door of a bus that I know goes by Mok-Dong Station. The windows on the bus doors were wet and fogged up, but I could still see the bus driver throw his head back and laugh at me.
12:54 AM: A taxi pulls over for me. I tell him where I want to go. He points to the other side of the road, where he thinks I should be standing and trying to hail a cab from.
12:55 AM: I go to the other side of the road.
12:58 AM: A taxi pulls over for me. I tell him where I want to go. He points to my original side of the road, where he thinks I should be standing and trying to hail a cab from.
1:02 AM: A third taxi pulls over; I just get in. We “dialogue” for a couple minutes. None of these drivers seem to notice that I am completely drenched, that I have multiple books with me, or that it is raining violently. I am ready to pay the extra couple thousand for them to go the wrong direction, turn around, and head back the way I need. They aren’t, I guess. This whole time I have been sort of walking in the direction that I think my apartment is, so.
1:10 AM: I spot the Hyperion Tower, which is probably my favorite structure in this city. It’s a landmark, even though it’s not really that close to my actual place of residence. I break into a light jog.
1:31 AM: I arrive at my place in the Taeson complex, completely drenched. I walked the equivalent of three subway stops, which, to the layperson, is about three kilometers total. I also fruitlessly paraded up and down multiple other streets, littering them with spit wads and profanity. A cab ride would have taken no more than ten minutes, guaranteed.
1:40 AM: My water heater refuses to heat water for more than a two-minute shower. I despair and die.
9:30 AM: I get up (the rest of this isn’t very interesting, so consider yourself warned) and hang out.
1:00 PM: I strike out for church, despite the fact that my shoes are still soaked.
2:30 PM: I attend church and am tired.
4:30 PM: I tell a select couple of Korean natives that I am considering leaving S.K. to do YouthWorks!
4:31 PM: They convince me to attend a late-night prayer service to pray about it.
5:30 PM: I leave, knowing more Korean words that when I arrived.
7:30 PM: I get back and read “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” until I fall asleep.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Rat Leaves Sinking Ship, Relocates in Michigan

Please pardon this potentially offensive metaphor, parties in question.

On Wednesday, March 11, I came home draggin’. I had helped cancel a sushi date because the last two nights had not been relaxing enough for my taste. I took a quick taxi home with Bernard; we didn’t wait for anyone else. I went up to my apartment listlessly. I peeked into Sarah’s room to see if she was awake. No lights on. She had taken a sick day, a relatively unheard of practice at our prison school. But. I knew I had zits to pop, so I went back to my place and took off my coat and shoes to see what I could do. However, as I turned on the light to the miniscule loo in my apartment, my attention was diverted.

First, I noticed that the floor was still pretty wet from the shower I’d taken twelve hours earlier. I thought to myself, “Not good.” But soon something much more interesting caught my attention: a Ziploc plastic bag was lying on the floor of my private residence. Inside were keys, a handwritten note, and a set of Korean alphabet flashcards.

I opened the note. It was meant for me but it could easily be read as a Dear John letter to the Poly School Mok-Dong Campus. It was from Sarah, or, as she is more commonly referred to as, Ms. McCarthy…my partner teacher and the first Mok-dong Poly School employee I’d met; she’d shown me how to get my water heater to work upon my arrival. Anyway, the note began: “Reuben, I would have told you that I was leaving, but I didn’t want to put anyone in an awkward situation.”

I said aloud, “No way!” and started laughing. The note went on to explain some finalizing tasks I was being entrusted with (returning keys and books, mending broken hearts, looting her apartment, etc.) and to keep in touch. What she’d left had been perfect! I took one more puzzled look at my moist bathroom floor, which I don’t know what to do about, and went over, smile on face, to her apartment. It was true. All true. She’d pulled out quite efficiently. Some food was still left, a hair dryer, some items to be returned to various owners, but no personal effects: no computer, no books, no clothes, no Sarah. Amazing! I took some pasta and left.

I felt like I was in a movie. Maybe “Shawshank Redemption.” The last couple days had been very, very hard on Sarah, and I had been feeling pretty dang bad for her. I felt even worse when I’d seen her on Wednesday morning before she went to the doctor. She had looked like she’d wanted to die. All day I had told the kids that she was sick and that I was worried about her. I asked them if they’d come visit her in the hospital with me. I felt like Red, worried about my friend Andy Dufresne (yes, that is how you spell it...I looked it up); she’d been driven to the end of her rope long ago and had been plotting her escape, chipping away at the prison wall that was the Pacific Ocean but hiding her schemes behind a lurid poster of sickness. And then when it all became clear, I was amazed and dumbfounded. I could just picture myself standing in the school director’s office being questioned. I will plead my innocence in the matter, and the director will say, “Lord! It’s a miracle! She up and vanished like a fart in the wind!” And the mail will come, and the doctor’s bill from Sarah’s visit will stick out like a sore thumb, and we will all gaze as it in wonder and with understanding.

I told Paul that she’d left later that night, for many reasons, the first being that he was the poor sap who was going to have go cover all of Sarah’s classes until a more permanent replacement is found. Paul was also a pretty good friend of Sarah’s. Additionally, I figured if she’d left, she was well out of the country by that time, and there was no chance of Poly School goons capturing and tas-ing her in the airport, like last time when a teacher tried to get away. I also figured if I didn’t tell, I’d be somehow accountable and would perhaps be punished myself, probably not with a tasing or a branding, but maybe with some extra classes, or having to teach Sally again, or being forced to listen to The Fray for a long time.

The next morning Ray asked if we knew if Sarah was coming that day, and Paul and I looked at each other, kind of laughed, and told him probably not. Ever. He didn’t believe us. More and more teachers trickled in, more and more teachers enjoyed the news. It was certainly not that we were all glad Sarah was forever absent from the Poly School roster, but I think there was a part of each teacher that silently (or very vocally) cheered her on and was glad that she’d escaped the school and the quite unhappy state of being she’d been in. It was like someone who’d passed away after battling a very harsh and painful disease; after the passing, close friends always say, “Well, she’s in a better place now,” and known enemies maybe even admit, “She is out of her suffering, folks.”

After everyone got through pillaging her desk for teaching supplies, people started remarking on the tell-tale signs that were there but had remained unclear until now. The day that Sarah had pulled out had been March 11; incoincidentally (not a real word), pay day was March 10. Ray pointed out that Sarah had been at the bank that day for a longer-than-average time; he’d also said she was unable to spot him any money for a cab because she said she’d sent it home. Usually teachers sent a good chunk of home (which, after being exchanged, equates out to a teeny chunk) and leave themselves something to live on for the month; Sarah had likely sent it all back to D-town.

Other signs: Last weekend Sarah had asked to borrow Ray’s scale, allegedly to weigh some boxes she’d wanted to send home. And I guess she still maybe weighed and sent them, but I imagine that she’d also wanted to weigh…her suitcases! Holy cats. Even as recently as two weeks ago, I’d helped her take boxes to the post office to send back. Hmm. Furthermore, last week, Ms. McCarthy also slyly asked for a letter of recommendation from our director. I read it; it read well, and well it should. I caught a glimpse of her camera in her teaching basket on Monday or Tuesday, too, and hadn’t thought much of it until another teacher said Sarah’d probably been wrapping up photographically as well as financially.

There may have been more. We’re a dull crew over in Mok-dong, though, having worked these rotten hours for so long, so our senses were not as perceptive as the average assembly of mud slingers. However, despite all these little hints that make so much sense now, Sarah had kept the secret well. No one had known, including her parents and close friends. I can’t help but snicker wickedly when I picture the reactions that she must be getting when she just shows up places in Michigan. She’d also made it public knowledge last weekend that she’d gotten tickets for an April 27 flight. She’d had an active countdown going; I think it was thirty-four working days and forty-nine days total, or something. Less than mine, somewhat. And, thus, her evacuation had hit us like Christina’s foot hits the gas pedal on I-90.

There were various reactions in all the classes. To some, I just said, “Yeah, Ms. McCarthy went home,” and that was that. In others, I gave more details. Some I didn’t tell at all. Some already knew; parents had found out via the internet (how? Who knows…) and had told their third grade offspring. The last class I told, my oldest and “most mature” class, had reacted with this statement: “Ms. McCarthy told us we were going to have a pizza party…so now you have to get us pizza!”

So, to recap in chronological order:

1: I arrive in Seoul, South Korea, and start being pretty reptical friends with fellow teachers Scott and Sarah.
2: Scott leaves for Seattle.
3: Sarah leaves for Detroit.

Sigh. Very disheartening. Now I know how Clayton must feel all the time.

So. This one’s for you, Sarah! It’s been real! It’s been good! It’s been real good! The kids will miss you, and so will I! Keep your stick on the ice!

Teachers who have left Poly since I got here (left, center), and me (right):

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"Dreadful Monday/Tuesday"

I know what you are thinking: "What a stupid name for a blog post! Who uses the word 'dreadful'?"

But in all the English language, even the older versions like Middle English, and the bizarre dialects that they use near London and in West Lyon, or in ASL, there is no better word to describe the two days that have just transpired.

The new semester began on March 2 with some sort of bang. The bang of teachers smacking their foreheads in disgust and incredulity, because the books we needed to teach the first five classes of our day (with completely new students) were nowhere to be found. And even though we had two more classes than usual to prep for, we had fifteen fewer minutes to do it in. But that was okay, because no one prepped, because no one had anything to really teach. Which kind of annoyed me, because we are all profession educators here, yet we rely very much on the [admittedly-lackluster] curriculum that Poly School gives us; could we not think of anything to teach on our own? No. I was mostly shell-shocked and just sat there in some sort of daze.

The first period went well; I put an “a” on the board and solicited words that began with “a,” and then “b,” and so forth, and then we colored. Some kids started calling me “Mr. Dog,” and then some girl called me “Mr. Panty.” Second period we did the same thing, except I didn’t let her call me that. Third period I switched classes and we drew dinosaurs. No one had cried yet. Fourth period we did more letters; one girl started crying. Fifth period we cut out one letter of each of our names. One kid cried, another kid started jumping from desk to desk. I almost put one dude on the wrong bus; one of my partner teachers accidentally put four kids on wrong and separate buses.

Such was the chaos that was the first morning. The insanity that is a roomful of six-year-olds mixed with one fairly clueless new Korean teacher (to balance out the seasoned vet) mixed with nothing to teach was pretty wild. I resigned myself to just laugh.

What struck me aside from all this, however, shocked and horrified me. It was also pleasing on a different level. Throughout the day, I periodically ran into ex-Orcas and ex-Walruses. It. Was. Awesome. To. See. Them. They forgot all the times I’d yelled at them and told them to sit down and to quit speaking in Korean and to stop kicking me. They only remembered…I don’t know what. But Sally (the really bad, unnamed Walrus…see “Educational Self-Evaluation,” Feb. 13) yelled my name and came and hugged my leg. So did Cathy. And Jane and Sunny and Jarry and Dabin and Henny and Andy and Clara all were so excited to see me, even though I was just passing by wherever they were. I saw David walk by, and he didn’t wave or yell or anything, but I saw him and he saw me, and this big smile just came onto his giant face. Ah, it made my day. I will even admit I got a little jealous when I saw Katherine walking to her bus with a different teacher. She’d always walked to the bus with me! It made me miss them a lot. Seeing them was great, and then also there was the unfamiliarity of everything else; none of the new pre-schoolers knew how to stay in line or wash their hands or hold their bladders for more than ten minutes, and all the Walruses and Orcas did. I took it all for granted!

Even when the pre-schoolers left, there were ex-first graders running around, saying “hi” and being very excited for their new classes. I saw Evan the Sock Licker, and Jeremy Whom I Despise; he got excited for a moment when I accidentally walked into his classroom. Sigh. I might add that I walked into his classroom because many, many of the classrooms were mislabeled, and so the first class of the second block was spent taking roll over and over again, exchanging ten students at a time with different teachers, and sporadic visits from the vice-director, director, and owner (a man whose face we rarely see) to sort things out. Anyway. A part of me will always be with those first classes that I had, even if they were wild, unruly creatures. I thought about this all afternoon, but, as if that were not enough, I got home that night and I had an e-mail from some unknown sender, and, upon opening it, I discovered it was from one of the cool third graders I had. What a stud.

Today confirmed the despondency that will be our semester. It was bedlam. A kid bawled because I didn’t call on her. I had to carry a misbehaver out of class. Some girl threw up an impressive amount in my partner teacher’s class; I knew about it before anyone told me because through my door’s window, I saw three different teachers/administrators, all armed with paper towels and cleaning supplies, head down that way. And there was the wet trail of a mop going from the bathroom to that classroom. Hauling the kids through the rain sucked. None of them responded to my voice at all. In the middle of all that, Scott dropped by for lunch. I gave him a quick hug afterward and rushed back to class, trying not to weep both for the loss of him from our roster and the state of affairs I knew I was returning to.

Thus concludes “Dreadful Monday/Tuesday” (no one e-mailed me any better title suggestions except T-Duck, and his idea was “Sign Up for Summer Fest Now!” and I didn’t think that that really conveyed how bad Monday and Tuesday were going to be at all). I think both days were worse than I thought they were going to be. Everything moves faster. Our breaks are shorter. The classes are longer. The tension is higher. The swear words are frequenter (Microsoft Word is letting the word “frequenter” slide…interesting). There is more laughing, I think, but it is that laughter that we’ve all heard before, that laughter that says, “This is too awful…how can it be this bad?” There are grim smiles, shakes of the head, extra force used when setting down books and shutting doors and hitting students. Will it get better? That, hallowed reader, remains to be seen.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bits and Pieces: February Edition


The following is reminiscent of the stories I think I tell quite frequently. You may recognize similarities between this post and my reports on the day if you've had the misfortune to have hung out with me before. By that I mean that most of them are funny in context, to me, and I feel obligated to try to share them, but I know that most of them probably aren't funny to anyone except me.

*Scott, Sarah, and I put down two whole fried chickens. Sarah ate four pieces, so Scott and I ate twenty-six between the two of us; we lost count in the delusion and sick state that we reached when there were five pieces left. We then proceeded to bring it up anytime we could. His Facebook status afterward read: “Scott is on the verge of a quadruple bypass after the unwise decision to consume a ridiculously absurd amount of fried bird.”

*Are you kidding me with this Devin Harris shot? Try to keep it calm over there, you guys. Seriously.

*In the middle of an already chaotic class, pre-schooler Tornado Steve put the entire garbage can onto his head. I started laughing and told him to stop, so he took his cue, put the can down, and climbed in with both legs.

*Cathy was reading aloud very quietly, and from the back of the room, I heard Dabin say to no one in particular, “Cathy is like mouse.”

*I told the class to write a sentence using a word that ended in –ss. Jarry wrote, “i like cass [sic].” Cass is a one of the two brands of beer I’ve heard of here. I’ve also never really gotten to use the “sic” thing before. Thanks, Jarr.

*On the last day of the semester, I brought this little notebook to every class and had the kids write down Korean words for me. This kid Scott raised his hand at the end and told me that he’d written three bad Korean words in the notebook (a fact my fifth grade geniuses later confirmed). I laughed and asked him why, and he said, “Sometimes you have to learn bad words, too.”

*One Sunday this month happened to be the Orcas’ Korean teacher’s birthday, so Monday morning (after I found out), all the Orcas and I made birthday cards for Joanne Teacher. I was writing the word “beautiful” in Microsoft Paint, and Dabin said, “Mr. Reuben, your handwriting is not beautiful.” And then we all hid behind the computer podium and under the desks, and when Joanne came in we jumped out and yelled surprise and gave her the cards. It was sweet.

*I was helping pre-schooler Clara with a question, and she looked up and started rubbing my face and said, “Beard!” I hadn’t shaved in like four days. She kept rubbing my “beard” and then she said, “You have beard in your nose, too.” Dad, can you send me those nose-hair clippers we got you for Christmas a couple years back?

*I don’t remember what the prompt for the writing section of the test was exactly, but in the middle of it, a third grade girl wrote this. It says a lot about how education and childhood work function in this country, I think: “So I can get good score, I will don’t hit and kick from my mom, so I can get prize, and I can go high class, and my mom will love me more.”

*The Orcas told me that they are going to cook me and eat me, and Ms. McCarthy, too. She doesn’t know yet.

*There are several copies of “War and Peace” in the library at our school, a school which teaches only as late as fifth grade. Whenever the pre-schoolers and I go to the library to check out books, I always try to get one of them to check out “War and Peace” so that the librarian can have a laugh. No one has bitten yet.

*I wore the same shirt three days in a row one week. I know I’ve become completely and utterly self-centered because I couldn’t smell it due to be sinus infection, and that’s all that mattered to me.

*I had a short-sleeved shirt on one day, and I was raising my hand or something, and a first grade girl saw the armpit hair that grows in my…armpit, and she was just shocked; she quietly said, “Oh…oh!” and didn’t laugh or anything. It was funny, to me at least.

*Some kindergartener went to the hospital and was diagnosed with mumps; her mom still made her come to school.

*I wish I were not such a weiner when it came to whipping out my camera and photographing whatever strange things I might witness. One night I was coming back from somewhere on the subway; while I waited, I noticed this dude completely conked out on a bench near me. I didn’t take a picture. A little while later, some dude standing in the corner of the subway car threw up the last three meals he’d eaten. I guarantee he had goulash. The worst part is that I didn’t really see him do it, but I sure heard him do it. It’s so quiet on the subway. I texted Megan about it, but as I was doing so, I received one from her that said, “Dude. There is a couple wearing matching bunny ears next to me.” That is what goes on here.

*We got our new schedules for March/Semester 1 of the 2009 Season. I am with the supervisor of the pre-school teachers; my theory is that I am a terrible pre-school teacher and they hope to alleviate my problematic teaching style with a trained professional.

*On the second to last day of kindergarten, some parents brought a giant cake into Scott’s class. I saw it as his door and my door were closing; our rooms were right across from each other. What I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing was when Tony kicked Clara, so Clara slammed a handful of cake onto Tony’s head, which he responded to by smashing more cake into her face. I did, however, hear her sobbing out in the hall after it happened.

*Everyone still spells my name wrong. My kids spell it “Mr. Hagger,” the church bulletin spelled it “Roeben,” and one of our academic coordinators got sick of people asking who I was, so he made me a nametag that said “Ruben.”

*During the last week of February, this first grade girl decided that I was pregnant with twenty twins. She brought it up every day for a week; she would put her ear against my stomach and give some diagnosis each day. I was not supposed to yell or anything, lest I upset the fetal development. I was also chastised several times for playing the drums on my torso, which I am wont to do. The day came where I was supposed to give birth. Before class, I was at a computer, and a different girl from the class came by and I shot the crap with her a bit (we talked about the Twins’ addition of Crede; she thinks he’s probably just going to get hurt again) and then I said, “I haven’t had my baby yet, like Eunice said I would.” And this girl looked me dead in the eye and said in a very serious tone, “Your baby will come out today.” And then she walked away.

*There is this class of six third graders that Bernard and I teach. Apparently when he’d come to class three of the girls had been talking with the school counselor or something, so Bernard and the other guys in the class had put a sign up on the board that said “Class is canceled” and hid themselves in the room.

*Bernard also started singing the theme from Fresh Prince on the elevator ride down from the tenth floor, and the other four teachers soon chimed in for five or six floors. I do not know what the two Korean eighth graders who were stuck in there with us thought.

*One of my favorite things about teaching English to the students here, or even just conversing with those whose second language is English, is the way they use certain words. It’s not that no native English speakers use these particular words. But certain things just strike me as funny when they are coming from a Korean eight-year-old. I think I have only heard some of these types of phrases from older people, and the coming generation of Americans uses a different style of English, a newer version, if you will. Some examples: Acorn (it’s a boy’s name…there are also kids named Fizz, Jupiter, and Jeus, which is pronounced “juice”) said, “Your drawing is awful.” Another: “Mr. Haggar keeps a cat.” A third: “Mr. Haggar is thin.” These lines also struck me as funny, but I heard them in church: "He worked at such and such a university, where he taught as a genius," "Helen Keller could not hear or see...she behaved like a beast." There was also this instance that struck me as peculiar, and it happens every once in a while and it makes me think. This bar we go to (the bar where I met the guy Dave, the one I went to church with) has cute bartenders who sometimes know a lil’ bit of English and are there simply and completely to shoot the breeze/flirt with clientele. One night we were talking to one (a particularly cute one, I might add) and she asked us what a certain English word meant, and Scott repeated it questioningly (Microsoft word says “questioningly” is a word, so…count it) and she rechecked her phone dictionary and looked up into his eyes and said “yes” as sincerely as I’ve ever heard anyone speak that word. What a stupid bit of information of me to share. But, anyway, I sometimes stop and think about how much slang and youthful jargon (I call many, many of my students “dude,” “son,” or “buckaroo”) I use and how much they don’t. When I hear the word “yes” pronounced so crisply, it sounds weird to me. I am so used to saying “yeah” that I don’t ever think about it. Completely bizarre, I tell ya. Seeing your native language so technically is unsettling and intriguing to me. About as intriguing as trying to figure out why you are still bothering to read all this.

*Every month all the pre-schoolers are brought into the library and we celebrate the birthdays from that month. Every month a different teacher is supposed to emcee the event by announcing the birthday havers from that month and lead a “song ‘n’ dance.” Every month someone gets chosen at the last minute, i.e. on the bus ride to school that morning. January I drew the proverbial short straw. My mind immediately turned to Shannon “The Mixer Queen” Schlick, a brilliant individual I worked with last summer in Sault Ste. Marie. One quaint evening at a joint staff meeting in Benton Harbor, Shannon had disclosed to the other eight YouthWorkers! a piece of ingenuity known as simply “The Moose Song.” If you know it, you are in a particularly blessed demographic of the world’s population. Anyway, after stumbling through the declaration of each student’s birthday and getting audibly laughed at by Paul and Stefan, I had the horde of six-year-olds stand up and accompany me in the aforementioned hymn. It went well, but that is not the point of this whole blurb; “The Moose Song” alone is not trivial enough to make it into these annals. Here is the part that I got a kick out of: we had this ceremony for the pre-schoolers on their last day of pre-school. I was sitting there next to like seventy pre-school kids, and I looked at one kid and asked him, “What are your thoughts?” He was like, “Huh?” So I said, “What are you thinking about right now?” And he said, “Your song.” I laughed and said, “The moose song?” And he said, “Yes…how can moose drink so much juice?”

*We were going somewhere and saw this big chair on the side of the road, so when we came back, I grabbed it and hauled it up. It looked cool on the street, but when we finally got it into my place, it seemed really big. And really comfortable. Also, two old women talked to us about the chair while I was carrying it. One showed me how to carry it more efficiently (I didn’t learn as much as I thought I did while on the Moving Crew three summers ago, apparently) and one just kept looking back at us and then finally came over and told us something in Korean. Who knows. Here is a picture of it, with Scott in it. Paul is observing the picture of me pretending to defecate in Luke Skywalker's aquarium (Confused? Call 1-651-815-7258 for an explanation!).

*Dabin’s mom got a giant pizza for the teachers on the last day of pre-school. This is Scott “mowin’”on it. And Sarah, too.

*These are the beloved Orcas. When Joanne was about to take this first picture, she counted, “One, two…” and then David said, “Three” and tickled her armpit.

Here they all are, making thank you cards and doing wordsearches.

This is Joanne and I. She left Poly. I assume it was my fault.

These are the yahoos from my better first grade class (take offense, S1-2...I mean every word I type, all day, every day). The lass in the light blue is the girl who thinks I'm going to give birth.

Second grade yahoos. There are boys in the class, and we surely had some cool poses where I had them all tackling me and throwing me to the ground, but whoever was "taking" the pictures failed to actually take any. No hard feelings...ya'll have been good to me.

Tie-Day Friday, the South Korean Chapter.

Sarah helping haul 5th grade snacks. If you look closely, you can see liters of Cola stuffed into her pocket. This is not uncommon for her, or for anyone here. Thanks for the help, homes.

Waiting for the bus. Note the enthusiasm that is scrawled on both of our mugs, ugly as they may be.

Thanks for readin'.