Monday, January 02, 2006

Ironical Pajamas

"Monday, Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way..."
-- The Mamas & the Papas

So it was happy new year and back to school. One of the Canadians has finished his year of indentured servitude and his last teaching day is the day after tomorrow. Ask me if they've hired his replacement yet...

What that means for the four of us (the Canadian marrieds, the Brit, and me) is we'll probably have to cover a dang lot of classes until a replacement is hired. By the way, if any of ye want to get yourself on a plane, say, tomorrow to come teach here, I'll split the referral bonus with you!

Today in my first afternoon class, the Level Three 7-year-olds, our journal writing page was "It's time to get ready for bed!" In this particular book they write sentences and draw pictures about a different personal topic each day. Today's ended up something like this: "First, I brush my teeth. Then I read a book." Or, "First, I wash my face at 8:45. Then, I brush my teeth at 8:50." Therefore, I taught them the word "pajamas." After all, putting on pajamas is a key element of getting ready for bed. I also noted that it was an easy word to teach without translation: "Pajamas are the clothes you sleep in. Not these clothes. At night you take off your shirt and pants and you put on - what? Pajamas! What color are YOUR pajamas?" etc.

After that, the day wore on with few to no aggravating incidents. In the Level One 6-year-olds class I took away Lily's necklace because she wouldn't stop playing with the clasp. I didn't take it off of her neck; she had it on her desk and continued to play with it after a warning, so I took it. I take things from the kids from time to time -- it's amazing how naturally some parts of being a teacher come to you. I usually even remember to give them back at the end of class; I once forgot to return Ben's laser toy and it was still in my pocket that evening, but I returned it to him the next class day. I take something away from Sally in Level Three about once a week. She wasn't there today, though, so she missed our pajamas lesson. Anyway, when I took the necklace from Lily she physically struggled to keep it, quite emphatically. When she reclaimed it after class she rattled off a string of Korean to the KT, who informed me, laughing, "She says it's a $100 necklace!" Well, good for you, Lily. Even more reason not to play with it in class, I'd say.

My last class on Mondays and Wednesdays is the one-on-one conversation tutoring with Bud, the bank branch manager who's there to improve his English since an American company bought his bank. But he didn't show up today, as happens from time to time with the demands of his job. Usually if he doesn't show I have to wait around the whole class period until 8:05 p.m., just in case he is late, but today I found out he had called and just plain wasn't coming. So, there I was, able to leave a bit early, but I decided to first finish up all of my lesson plans for tomorrow so I can disappear after pre-school to have coffee across the street until our ENT (English Native Teachers) meeting. This coffee break is a new ritual I've developed and rather enjoy on Tuesday afternoons. (This new plan also gets me out during pre-school lunch time, always a good thing, as I tend to find the smell of their lunch nauseous, and it's all spread out on a table in our tiny staff room and it's overwhelming and basically god-awful.)

It was as I sat writing lesson plans that director Michelle approached. Hardly anyone else was around (they were all teaching) so I sat alone (blissfully!) at my desk space (such as it is) in the staff room. Now, Michelle is the one who started hating me after all the "trouble" I caused when we moved into our new apartment, but then she bonded with me the other week when she discovered that my roommate "really doesn't get it" about the thermostat (uh, yeah, that's what I'd been trying to tell you people!) A lot of the ENTs aren't fond of her, but I don't much care one way or the other. There are other people there worth disliking, and I don't waste much energy on Michelle when I'm not trying to obtain hot water or something.

Anyway, she came over to talk to me about my clothes. Huh? "Right, maybe you can wear the jeans, but the pants today are maybe not so good." Um, OK? The pants in question, and some of you probably know them, are black with a bright red, yellow, green, and turquoise pattern of big flowers. They are 100% rayon, they were probably cheap, I'm thinking Target? And I've had them for a dozen+ years. At least since BYU days. I have probably four or five pairs of loose, rayon-or-something-like-it, brightly flowered pants. They're totally low maintenance. I'm also wearing a short-sleeved black shirt. "So, maybe it's different culture, but maybe the Korean parents don't like you to wear these pants."

OK, now here's the thing. I don't really care -- at all -- about these pants or whether I can wear them to work. But I was confused. And amused. So I asked why. She started to look a little uncomfortable. "Maybe they don't look like teacher. This is school, right? You in these pants do not look like teacher." But why, Michelle? "Maybe they look too comfortable, like soft? Flowers is OK, or butterflies is OK, but these look maybe like pajamas. You can maybe not wear them." At this point I think she was really not enjoying prolonging the conversation, and she was blinking a lot. I asked her if she would like to touch them. They aren't remotely sweatpant-like. She said in Korea "silky" looks like pajamas, not teacher. I asked her if she can give me a dress code (knowing full well the answer would be no). She said, "Just wear the jeans and the casual pants and the skirt and the short pants but not the soft flowing look like pajamas."

It was so awesome. Who'd a thunk it, right? I probably haven't uttered the word "pajamas" since I got to Korea, and today after teaching about them I was accused of wearing them. Maybe I should teach about "one million dollars" next and see if I can conjure that up! Unless Lily was devastated about the necklace, I'm guessing this one can also be traced back to Winnie, the assistant to the assistant director, my least favorite of them all. She's the passive aggressive one who I suspect may have silently declared war because she can sense my utter disdain for her (which is mutual). Lily's clever, but not that clever. Oh, it was just so funny. I wish you all could have been there.

Frankly this isn't the first time I've wished I brought all of my jeans with me. In my rushed packing for Korea/packing up my life, I was contending with space-in-the-suitcase issues and never dreamed that the more casual clothes I had, the better off I'd be. I also told myself, then, that I should not waste space packing those too-tight jeans you always swear you'll lose five pounds and fit into. And here I've lost not five but fifteen pounds from having nothing to eat, and I could be wearing every pair of jeans I've ever owned, I think, but a bunch of them are languishing in a box upstairs at Grandma's house in western Mass., and director Michelle doesn't like my pants.

Did you know that "ironical" is really a word? It's an archaic but not obsolete synonym of "ironic." It's used a lot in War and Peace.

"Tuesday afternoon, I'm just beginning to see
Now I'm on my way, it doesn't matter to me..."

-- The Moody Blues

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