Friday, December 09, 2005

Yeah, but you should see the five-year-old!

So another week -- ninth, incidentally -- has come and gone and I'm only a little worse for the wear.

You see, on Tuesday morning I was trying to make it right. Monday had been a particularly irritating day in pre-school. I blame this on the fact that I had not had my usual coffee beforehand. Pressed for time, I skipped the five-minute detour to "my" Dunkin' Donuts, the one on my old route to work that I still frequent because I'm friends with the girls who work there. It's only five minutes longer to go there from my new walk to work (which is a far shorter walk to begin with). Well, Monday I didn't do that and meant to grab coffee at the Dunkin' Donuts next to Ding Ding Dang (or DD next to DDD), but that DD has randomly closed. Bummer! By then I really didn't have enough time, so I had to teach pre-school first and get coffee at noon in the little shopping plaza across the way, at Kaffee Jamaica Bean. Which made for a rough pre-school. They were loud, I was irritable, we were all cranky together, and I didn't really care, but since I hadn't been particularly cheerful about not caring, I figured on Tuesday I should try to make it up to the universe.

I went in the class a few minutes before my start time to be particularly enthusiastic in my greetings and spend a little extra time doing the stupid things that mean so much to them, be it an effusive "Wow, Jinny, you have such bright pink flowers on your pants today!" thus surreptitiously teaching some vocabulary, or picking them up and spinning them around a bit, or whatever random bit of attention-showering they need.

So there's Brian, who is smart and adorably crazy and has come a long way, I feel. He used to cry every day but now that's been taken up by some of the other boys (funny, the girls never cry in pre-school). Brian is one of my favorites, except we're not supposed to have favorites, but I think he's fantastic because he cares and he learns and he pays attention and he sings the songs better than anyone. (He could give some American Sunbeams a run for their money on "We Are a Happy Family," and he occasionally still starts singing some of our made-up Halloween tunes to himself while he's coloring a picture.)

Tuesday he had a 'B' on his shirt. I was crouched down at their level gushing about Wendy's flowers and Jinny's pink pants and Brian's 'B' -- "It's B for Brian," I said, standing up but still talking to him. I bent down at the waist, to maybe a 135 degree angle, smiling down at him. "Yeah!" he shouted, jumping up with all his might as I bent. The top of his head SMACKED so hard into my face I thought my entire head must surely have just shattered.

The crack! sound and a wave of pain jolted through my nose. I saw stars, I saw black, and mostly I just reeled. I instinctively backed away and crouched down, leaning against the wall below the dry-erase (not chalk) board. I wanted to sit, lie down, collapse, but was repeating to myself like a mantra, "Don't pass out. Don't pass out." I said, "Brian, Brian, are you OK?" He looked dazed but surprisingly (and much to my relief) wasn't freaking out. "Yes, yes," he said. "Are you sure?" I demanded. Yikes! I looked at him. He kind of touched his head and then smiled at me, and I saw --again to my utter relief-- that he understood as well as I what a pure accident it was, and that we were still conscious. He sat at his desk ready to begin, and, well, then I had to teach pre-school.

That was not fun.

I started with whatever random warm-up questions I started with, probably, "Are you hungry? Do you want a pizza? 'Yes, I want a pizza.' Does she want a pizza? 'Yes, she wants a pizza'" and so on. We were reviewing foods and requests this week. Then I leaned on the desk for a while. I moved quickly into some activity where they took out their books so that I could get into workbook time, when they write letters and color the "dog, duck, doll," and other d-word pictures, and I can pause for breath.

Brian started to cry at his desk. It was about fifteen minutes in, and my head was frankly starting to hurt more and more as well. I went over and said, "Are you OK? How are you doing? You want to come get a drink of water?" He shrugged, then shook his head no. Just then, the Korean teacher who assists with that hour of that pre-school class came in. I like her, by the way; she's one of my favorites there. I said, "Listen, Brian hit his head earlier and I'm not sure if he's OK; can you take him out and pursue it a little more in Korean?"

Her response? "Oh my, Linda, your head is totally swelling! You have a huge bump!" Well, right, I told her. We sort of collided. "Are you OK?" she asked. Yeah, not so much, but I told her I'm getting through this pre-school here, but worried about him -- we need to call his mother. She attended to him, and he did come back in and make it through class, as did I, with a fair amount of leaning on the desk. It just makes me think that when you watch people get the crap beat out of them in movies, but then they get up to run, dive, leap, shoot a few more bad guys, scale a cliff, jump over a river, climb on a moving train, and save the girl, it's all a bunch of hooey. I mean, maybe some serious adrenaline could kick in, but I was not fit for any action sequence, I'll tell you that. How do you people who get in bar fights do it?

After class I went to my desk in the staff room where there were two packages waiting for me. Usually receiving snail mail is the highlight of my week, but today I ignored my friend (another of the three people there I actually like) who sits next to me as she cooed "Ooh, you have so much mail!" and I collapsed at my desk. The pre-school teacher was explaining what happened, which of course made everyone gather around, and our desk area in the staff room is pretty crowded anyway, with 14 people in a space about the size of a kitchen. Not a large kitchen. I just wanted water and I was like get off me, get away from me, get me to the water cooler, shut up, stop talking to me in English, stop talking about me in Korean. I made a bee-line for the bathroom with my bottled water where I drank, beheld my bump in the mirror, and discovered it was quite a mound.

The assistant director (the third of the three people there whom I like) came into the restroom and was awesome. She consoled me and helped calm me down. I was kind of shaky. I think I was probably in a state of shock -- medically -- while I taught pre-school. Now, I was cold and just upset and starting to feel pain. She told me about when one of her students accidentally kicked her and gave her a black eye. Good times. When I could breathe a bit better I went into the staff room where one of the Canadians was joking, "Ladies and gentlemen, in this corner, Linda! In this corner, a Korean rugrat!" Ha ha ha.

Being Tuesday, we had a longer break between pre-school and the afternoon classes, but we also had an English teachers' meeting at 2:30 p.m. I sat at my desk eating crackers, drinking water, and writing all my lesson plans. I also looked up the word for "concussion" in Korean (nway-jeen-tang). Around 2:15 I sat down at our computer to check e-mail, and I don't know if staring at the screen played a part, but when I stood up from there I got such a wave of dizziness and nausea as I'd never had. Remember, I don't really ever throw up, just in general, so that worried me, but I slouched into the meeting and when it ended I decided to take my friendly Korean co-workers up on their offer to take me to the doctor.

So, I inaugurated my Korean health insurance card at the clinic down the street with the assistant director whom I like doing the translating, but the doctor looked at my forehead mound and decided to send me to a different clinic for an X-ray. He called over there to set it up, only now it was getting on 3:30, the T-Th class start time, and this woman had to teach a class, so we went back to school and I had to go to the second clinic with the director whom I don't particularly get along with. I don't dislike her (although some other teachers do) but she absolutely hates my roommate and me right now since we've made so many demands with this move to our new apartment (you know, like, to know when we're moving, or to have a pillow on the beds, or to have the washing machine work, stuff like that). It was kind of awkward in her car on the way there. She doesn't speak the best English anyway, but she clearly has nothing to say to me these days.

At this next clinic I was called in after the guy with the bulging, black-and-blue, clearly broken hand, but before many of the assembled old folks who were very entertained in the waiting room by what appeared to be a soap opera set in the Confucian era. This doctor did the whole pen-light-in-the-eyes, reflexes test, and poking my bump (OUCH!) and the area next to it (nothing). (The latter a good sign, I think.) Then I had my X-ray. I did tell them how very many X-rays I've already had this year, but they didn't care. They also didn't cover my chest with a pad. Well, what can you do, really? I asked about it, and had it translated, but it's not standard practice. "I think, no problem," the X-ray tech told me. Well, OK. So, I saw my skull, again, and the doctor looked at the X-rays and then decided to send me on my way, but cautioned me that if I got dizzy or nauseated at night I should come back the next day and get a CT scan.

We went to fill my prescription for some painkiller, which turned out to be four different little white pills, or rather, three and half pills. The doses were pre-divided into packets all nice and neat, and one was cut in half in each dose packet. I couldn't even begin to determine what they all were, and Ms. Thang director was little help, so I just took them that night, and have been taking them (after meals, as instructed) for the last few days. I sleep pretty well with them and the headache that creeped over my entire skull on Tuesday did go away that night. I figure I've probably put worse things in my body at some point than this mysterious Korean medical concoction.

I missed two classes during the excursions to urgent care, and one of them was my absolute favorite, my smart-as-whips level nine 10-year-olds, but I saw them in the hallway when I came back to teach my 5:50 pm class. "Teacher, what happened?" one girl said, motioning to her forehead. "A bug?" I said, "No, a pre-schooler." Some of them had heard I went to the hospital. When I returned to them on Thursday they cheered me for being back in the land of the living.

Yes, I do appreciate the irony of the fact that Brian apparently survived the whole experience better than I, but just think -- doesn't the bullet usually fare pretty well?

A few days later, I still feel quite tender on the actual bump, and god knows what's happened to my brain. I don't think I've lost any memory. On Tuesday my Canadian friend asked, "Linda, what day is it? Who's the president?" and I was able to reply in a quite vulgar fashion, "That !#$%!&* is still president, I know that." I'm still taking my pills (two doses left) and I'm still not doing any jarring activities like jogging, nor drinking alcohol.

Last night I went to a Korean friend's house and met her American army husband and his buddy, and they were highly amused by the story, turning it into a toddler battering ram taking out this poor, defenseless English teacher. They cracked up and said they would keep it in their little collection of happy thoughts to call upon when they have a bad day. I told them, "I think I'm going to hear this story repeated back to ME in a foreigner enclave one day, 'Did you hear about that English teacher who got head-butted by a five-year-old?' and there are going to be all sorts of unrecognizable details in it!" Who knows if I'll be an urban legend among the Daegu expat crowd.

1 comment:

jnap said...

Linda, Tell Brian I am glad you are both okay (I think.) I whacked me head on the trunk of the car at the airport, flying back to Texas on Nov. 29. I minor whack, a small bump, but still tender in that spot!