Friday, November 20, 2009

Bits and Pieces: October 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.

*Eggs here are sold from the shelves and not from any refrigerated area. They are still good, though.

*On more than one occasion, I have been wearing a flannel and a hoodie, and someone has said, "Reuben, you so look like you're from Iowa."

*Mr. Williams was walking on his second floor porch and casually looked over to the house next to his, only to see the butt of some old dude who was changing clothes next to the window. Mr. Williams said that while this was already awkward, the situation was made way worse when the old dude's wife saw Mr. Williams' ill-timed glance. All of this occurred "within a two second interval."

*Mr. Williams administered some test to the ninth graders in his fourth hour class. Lunch is after fourth period, so we were standing around after lunch in the school's lobby, waiting for the bell to ring, when a small, serious, completely innocent ninth grade girl came up to Mr. Williams and asked him if the tests were graded yet.

*Mr. Williams was also talking about the wisdom of being here last year and said he figured he’d be okay until “Kim Jong-Il opened up on us and let it rain.”

*One student wrote the following sentence to demonstrate his or her knowledge of the vocabulary word "obese": “He was so obese that he could hardly breathe.” Another student, for the word “sequester,” wrote: “The boy with heavy dandruff was sequestered.” A third student, for the word “elated” (this one is especially for different Minneapolis-dwellers who have a history of mocking my choice in dress shirts): “Mr. Haggar walked into the room, elated because ‘the Twins have just something something something...’ and he had a new checkered suit...”

*My hair was an at unruly length at the end of October. The day on which I got it cut was also a day that my contacts did not cooperate with me at all, so the next day I wore glasses to school and had my hair a good inch and a half shorter than it had been the day before. The wide variety of reactions included the following: "Hi," student bows to me, "Grandfather!"; "You look cute, Mr. Haggar"; "David Letterman, Jr."; "You look like a Brandon, or an Elliot"; "You look like a high school boy"; "You look a good ten to fifteen years older"; and "Grandpa," three times, from a fellow teacher.

*I teach a class that has only four students in it. While we were studying poetry one day, one of the students slipped into a deep sleep, and so the rest of us, who were awake, all stealthily got up and left the room.

*On a different day, all four of these students were writing an essay during class. I went out into the hall to get a drink and saw a twelfth grade student meandering down at the other end of the hall. Not thinking much of it, I got my drink and went back to my room. Later I saw him wander past my door and out into the stairwell that overlooks the playground six stories below. Not thinking much of it, though perhaps at this point my authoritative obligations should have kicked it, I continued whatever I was doing. Soon after this, a loud herd of elementary school-lookin' kids stormed up out of the stairwell and into the hallway by my room. None of them had on anything resembling the CCS school uniform, so I went to see what they were doing. I went out. They looked at me. I looked at them. I told two of my students to come find out what the problem was. My students and these kids exchanged some words in Korean, and then they all went on their merry little way. I was left in the hall, perplexed. The students from my class didn't appear amused or confused at all, so I asked what the deal was. They said these kids had been playing on the playground when an individual had thrown wet, wadded-up balls of paper towels down on them. They had described this individual as a person who was wearing a CCS uniform and who fit the description of the senior I'd seen meandering the halls. The kids had profanely told my students that they had come up to the sixth floor in order to find this individual and fight him.

*When I got here in August, I was carrying all my bags from the bus stop to my new apartment when suddenly the handle to my suitcase broke. Fortunately the principal showed up in a big SUV right then to save me. But ever since that day, not only have I silently cursed myself for bringing many of my possessions to Korea in a used suitcase that I got from Savers, but I also had been wondering about how I'd get some of my schtuff back to America if that time ever comes. My problems were solved recently. A big golf bag had been left out on these stairs that I have to walk up every morning to get to the school; after about a week of negligence, I took the bag.

*We studied Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne in one of the classes I teach. They are both Dark Romantics, and they write about dark things. I knew there'd been at least a moderate degree of success when a student, upon completely his "The Minister's Black Veil" quiz, handed it to me and said, "Take it from me, you fiend!"

*If you are ever wondering how cool the kids I get to teach are, know this: one of them e-mailed me this Colbert video.

*As of November 23, Mr. Williams still does not have enough books for all the students in one of his English classes.

*In the middle of a lecture one fine morning, I saw a kid with his leg on his desk; he had his pant leg rolled up and was cutting hairs off his leg with a pair of scissors. Without ceasing to lecture, I grabbed a camera that someone from the yearbook staff had left lying on a desk in the room (it was Spirit Week, which explains not only the camera lying around but also the flamboyant pink outfit that the boy was wearing) and took a picture of him cutting his leg hair on the desk. We all laughed, but I laughed harder when another kid said, "You should have taken one when he was trying to do it with his mouth."

*As one of my parent-teacher conferences ended, the kid who the conference had centered around thanked me for not killing him as he and his parent left.

*Prior to parent-teacher conferences, many teachers had their students fill out self-evaluations. There were many reflective questions and reading about what students had to say about themselves was pretty interesting. In response to the question, "What is your biggest strength in school?" one girl wrote, "I don't go to the bathroom many times."

*The teacher next door to me was gone one afternoon, and a different teacher interrupted my fifth period class to see if I’d use my Caribou Coffee gift card to break into his room so his would-be students could be somewhere instead of nowhere during fifth hour.

*Sometimes, to figure out and to better remember vocabulary words, kids partner up and act out a couple different words for the class. One of the nicest girls in the class got assigned the word “heinous,” which is an awesome word alright; she acted it out by pushing another student to the ground and stabbing her. Some kids guessed that “heinous” meant “stabbing two times” or “enjoying damage,” but then she revealed that the true meaning was “shockingly evil,” which is an awesome phrase.

*During a different vocabulary word session, some kid had to depict the word "decipher." He went up to the board and started writing a sentence in Korean, which is in direct violation of CCS's English-only policy. I said, "Dude, what are you doing?" and he pointed out the obvious fact that he was going to use it to demonstrate his word, as you all no doubt figured out immediately. I said, "Okay. But if Mrs. Kim [the principal] walks by [the giant window through which folks in the hallway can see into my room] you're dead. So he continued writing. Then, despite the fact that of all the rooms in the school my classroom is the most inconvenient to get to, as it is located at the end of the hall on the top floor, Mrs. Kim very much did walk by, and everyone in the class laughed hard as the student freaked out and frantically erased all that he'd written with his sleeve. Speak of the devil. No offense, Mrs. Kim.

*There was a day when half of the students in one class were gone, so at the end of class I told those remaining to just teach me a bunch of Korean words. One kid said that if a Korean person ever came up to me on the subway and I didn't want to talk to him, I should tell him this. He wrote down what I was supposed to say and told me that it meant, "I have a gun," and that I would be left alone after that, because Koreans think Americans all have guns.

*Near the end of each month, all the students I mercilessly lord over have to write a book report on a book that they've chosen to read during that month. This book report is known as the letter essay; the previous English teacher wielded this weapon tyrannically, and I hope to follow in his blood-covered footsteps. In October a myriad of sophomore girls read the book "Twilight," which I have never read but which I know is a book that has gone over quite well with that age and gender demographic. After reading several essays on "Twilight," one of which contained the following statement: "In the book Edward is more perfect and hotter and Bella is prettier [than in the movie]," I got to the final paper that I had to grade. The paper's conclusion disclosed that its writer (who I hope does not mind that I share some of her (or his??) words with the public...hopefully she (or he??) realizes that her (or his??) essay made me smile, especially because it started with "Dear Mr. Birthday" instead of "Dear Mr. Haggar") and several classmates wished they could have a boyfriend just like Edward Cullen and then ended with these words of truth: "I know that you do not get us, Mr. Haggar, because you are not a teenage girl, but you should try to. You should also try reading this book just for fun. It might be too easy for you age. Anyways, just try reading when you are bored. You might fall in love with Edward too! Be careful!"

*Mr. Williams sitting up front on the 02 bus. He said it felt awesome up there.

*This one's for you, Wesley. Some lady I saw on Halloween who was proud of where she was from and proud of where she ate. And, yes, I am aware that there is a tramp to one side of this woman and a pint of beer to the other.

*This one's for you, Pastor Dan. Some dude practicing the clarinet in his restaurant late one night.

*This one's for you, Sunshine. Paying my respects to the flag of the homeland on the Yongsan army base.

*"The Shack" in Korean. Count it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

He Who Shall Remain Nameless

This one goes back. Way back. To that summer of 2009 in Niagara Falls, New York. Though part of this will be a bit redundant, I shall recount it nonetheless.

This is also probably the cheesiest thing I've ever written.

At some point last June, Lisa, Wesley, Stockton, and I went parading through the YouthWorks! supplies from the summer prior. After quite a bit of excavating, we stumbled upon a deflated blow-up doll who, somehow, became our champion mascot, at least at certain points. This figure went through a wide range of titles; a final one was not determined but, with the interests of all involved in mind, this dummy was and is to be referred to as "He Who Shall Remain Nameless" on this particular blog. On other blogs there are other names. Figure it out.

During Prep Week and Early Bird with the staff from Steubenville, He Who Shall Remain Nameless made several appearances. There was also a week during which I thought it would be fun to haul He Who Shall Remain Nameless around with me/us everywhere I/we went. That got sort of old after one night, and one of the staff reported that an adult leader had asked her, "What's with Reuben and that doll?" So I stopped. For that week.

Anyway! Here is a photo documentary of "He Who Shall Remain Nameless '09." If you try hard, you can pick up on other nicknames he may have held. Enjoy/detest:

Early Bird with Steubenville:

Group photo near Niagara Falls. Count it.


Standing...somewhere. Here you can really peer deeply into He Who Shall Remain Nameless's eyes and catch a glimpse into his soul.

My favorite pictures of He Who Shall Remain Nameless (and, really, of anyone) are photos that are completely candid.

Kryn and He Who Shall Remain Nameless and Mark.

Ready to go.

Someone put He Who Shall Remain Nameless outside Kryn's door one morning and he scared her half to death, so she retaliated. Although you'd think she'd have hung whoever put the dummy outside the door, if she really meant business.

Kickin' it.

Steubenville staff and Ben and He Who Shall Remain Nameless.

Stockton introduces He Who Shall Remain Nameless.

Quietly observing the goings-on.

Ordering ice cream at Twist of the Mist.

Kryn's shirt says it best, I think.

Cute. Maybe.

Impromptu YE fashion show Thursday night.

Now, for a guided tour through a week in the life of He Who Shall Remain Nameless:

Waiting for the groups to arrive.

Prepping for the Sunday night meal.

Safety first: closed-foot shoes in the kitchen.

Mixing inordinate amounts of Kool-Aid.

Welcome to the Potter's House! Unless you have one or zero legs, stay out of the wheelchair! Thanks, dude!

Scrapin' paint at Hannah's House.

Where are your goggles, idiot child?

Community member Hannah is a little bit scared of He Who Shall Remain Nameless.

Where should we go next?

Let's paint...a tree!

Waltzing with a participant. Quick quiz: is this a better example of a) relational ministry as a core value at YouthWorks! b) bad touch and inappropriate behavior c) rampant idiocy d) all of the above.

Safety first: always have someone holding your ladder steady.

Alright. Enough fun stuff. It's time for some paper work and business.

1x1 with Lisa at a crappy taco place on Pine Ave.


Even meetings can be fun at crappy taco places on Pine Ave.

Selling some t-shirts between showers (aren't you glad that He Who Shall Remain Nameless never went to the showers?) and supper. The sign in the lower right corner says: "Picture with Lil Reub: $20."

Getting ready to eat.

Off to the falls! Be sure to switch to a YE t-shirt for the evening.

The parking lot.

Atop the hill at Niagara Falls.

Group photo at Niagara Falls.

"What am I supposed to do with this?"

Staff member and He Who Shall Remain Nameless.

Staff member and He Who Shall Remain Nameless.

Staff member and He Who Shall Remain Nameless.

Parading shamelessly around the falls.

Next stop: Twist of the Mist for ice cream.

Very sociable.

He Who Shall Remain Nameless incurred a slight injury at some unknown time in the form of a hole. Thus, he often went limp. I found this to be incredibly annoying.

Here is the place on his plastic body where the hole was located.

However. I got past his flaws. He's only human, after all.

This is arguably the worst picture taken with He Who Shall Remain Nameless.

And this is arguably the best.

Back to the church for foot-washing.

Getting some work done after lights out.

Hanging out in the staff room. With the staff.

Anti-gravity simulator with Wesley. You will have to figure this one out for yourselves, folks.

He Who Shall Remain Nameless! What are you doing in the girls staff room? Shame shame.

Your fate is sealed, you creep.

I threw him down here as the groups were leaving one week, mostly just to get him out of sight. But then later, from all the way down the hall, I saw three older women from the church pointing and looking down speculatively at He Who Shall Remain Nameless. I never heard anything about it and, to this day, I don't know what thoughts went through the heads of those Potter's House women.

Someone in one of the last group at our site (or Stockton) left He Who Shall Remain Nameless up here.

He Who Shall Remain Nameless's final resting place.

The thought here is that he will scare the crap out of a) Deacon Joe, the awesome, innocent custodian of the building who is the person most likely to come across him between last August and next June b) next summer's Niagara Falls YouthWorks! staff, who will, hopefully, be able to clean up their soiled pants and put He Who Shall Remain Nameless to good use in the summer of '10.