Mimi's dead. The first time the little girls put that tiny sleepy hamster into my hand my second thought was "ohhhhh, how cute!" My first thought was "this thing is gonna die~!" And I didn't mean that in a random accepting means of the non-permanence of life in general. I meant eminently. A thing too small to open it's wee eyes is far too small to have a five year old human as its caretaker.
I was a new teacher in Masan in 2002 when one of my little students came into the staffroom and tugged on my sweater. I was busy e-mailing my friends back home, uhhhh, I mean, preparing my lessons for the day, and said "What, Chloe?"
Chloe tugged on me again, and said "Teacha, samool!" (Yo, teach! I gotz you a present!) I held out my hand, without turning my head, expecting a candy or a note, or a bit of pocket lint. I was surprised to feel something warm and fuzzy and alive.
It was a baby chick. And it was FUCHSIA. And it promptly pooped in my hand.
In the spring, people (farmers?) set up little stands where other people (little kids) can buy brightly dyed chicks for about 50 cents. I was fascinated, wondering what my students' parents were going to do with fully grown chickens in a few months. My boss's son bought two chicks, green and blue, as I found out when I followed the chirping sounds to the school's kitchen with my fuchsia chick (quickly named Ruby) in hand. I laughed and asked the boss's wife what she was going to do with two chickens in her apartment, and she replied:
"Maybe, next week, it will die."
Turn, turn, turn, they did die, as did Ruby, in her little cardboard home with the middle school student I re-gifted her to a few classes after Chloe's. I suppose these chicks are the "runts" whose continued existence is doubtful to begin with. Without heat and food and coddled care, they die quickly. All of my students who bought chicks handled their pet's death very well. I guess that's how life goes here.
Mimi has been replaced by two new hamsters with Korean names I can't pronounce. It's doubtful I'll get to meet them, as the Korean teacher threatened to throw them in the garbage if they came to school. Two thirds of the Korean staff at my school dislike animals so much they wouldn't even look at sleepy baby Mimi.
But I saw her. And today I missed her.