My resume prior to teaching in Korea was a list of lame pre- and post-collegiate fuckarounds. Aside from having been in school in some capacity for 20 years, I didn’t have much commending me to this position. Not only was I not the most qualified individual in the EPIK applicant pool, but I hadn’t really been exposed to children since…I had been one? Which would explain why more than one person reacted with open horror when they learned I’d be teaching elementary school. (“But you don’t like kids….do you?”) Oh, naysayers. I ADORE kids. In particular, the kids I teach here.
The last few weeks have been an experiment in “what would it have been like to come to Gwangju alone?” The answer is: pretty quiet and oddly productive in the confines of my apartment. But it’s been the random run-ins with students in the wild that fill me up with the warm fuzzies* and give me a sense that I’m actually part of the community here. (Cue this.) Also, no one has ever been so freaking happy to see me as some of these kids. For no reason. I could be walking to the bus stop, heading home, taking garbage out, and then all of a sudden there will be an overjoyed child from out of nowhere beaming up at me. It’s kind of like God parting the clouds, looking directly at you and giving you a thumb’s up. I mean, do you need anymore reason to come and teach in Korea?
And they’re smart. SO SMART. And really funny. And young enough not to have had the personality drilled out of them from intense Korean schooling. And though I want to throw a bajillion examples of their brilliance at you, I won’t. I’ll just give you one.
In some tangent of a 3rd grade lesson, I showed students a picture of an alien. I repeated the word a few times for them. Murmurs from the back. “Eh-leen? Eh-leen?” Pointing at the screen, pointing at me, giggle giggle. Eh-leen might be a shot at pronouncing “a-lee-en”, but it’s also the way my name sounds in the mouth of Korean child. This was awesome because: A) the kids were making a joke/pun in a language they don’t know, and B) they were unintentionally using the word alien (as in, outsider) correctly. I was thus moved to give them candy.
Of course there are good days and bad, but I promise not one day will go by without one kid making you glad you’re here. In conclusion, come to Korea for the good pay, the free apartment, the multicultural experience. But stay for the way hanging out with kids relieves you of your adult cynicism. And the ice skating in helmets.
*blah blah blah yes, Erin’s heart grew three sizes today. Go away. *fart noise*