Thursday, July 20, 2006

I Said, He Said, She Said.

Did you pee?
I did!
In a squatty toilet, which it seems I may have finally mastered after 4 and a half years. I can most times manage to pee without soaking the top of the back of my pants. I know, that sounds strange, but it's happened, and I think it's a triple whammo of not enough pants-pulling-down, not enough squat, and wrongly positioned pelvis.
This satisfies the TMI requirement of every post, doesn't it?

Back to our story.

We were at, "Lady, don't ask questions you don't want to hear an honest answer to."

I've probably said it before here somewhere, but I suspect that Elizabeth might be manic depressive. Her "highs" are really too high, and if you've read the archives, you'll know her lows are way too low. Lately we're on the upswing so she's all over the place, and it's exhausting. Two days ago she declared (again) her desire to study English. Do I know a foreigner? She wants a woman. She wants foreigner friends. She's super keen. This has been an on and off thing for the two years I've been working here. She gets all super motivated, "Let's (you) order English Bibles from Amazon! Let's (you) put ads on the internet! Let's (you) find free church-based classes! Let's (you) find English news-sites!" And I do, but there's no follow-through on her part. And that's fine by me. Really, if she doesn't want to study English, that's up to her. If I were a super-busy woman (or SuperWoman) I might resent the time spent trying to help her out, but I'm not, and I don't.

Ideally, she wants to study with me for free. I'm not keen. Finally she called me last night and asked for private lessons, but I don't want to do that either. I conceeded, and said maybe we could go eat dinner at my local once a week and study- but she cluck-clucked that, saying then neighbourhood folks would think her English is poor. I find 30 hours a week with her to be exhausting, whether she's up or down. I don't need any more.

The other night we were walking downtown and she suddenly wasn't beside me anymore. I heard, "JEEEENNnnnnyyy looooookkkk at mmmmMMEEEEEE!" She was sitting on some low silver barrier thing that stops cars at crosswalks from driving up on the sidewalk. I looked at her, and she was laughing so hard. I didn't get it.
"Oh!" I thought, "You're using something (a barrier thing) that's not supposed to be a chair, as a seat? It's like me picking up a banana and holding it to my ear, saying 'Hello?' OH!! I get it! Yah that's,.... well, not very funny at all. Nice try."

Fact is, she called me three times last night between 1:30 and 3:00am and said a whole lot of things. Her final call was to ask if she could correspond with my grandmother. Could she correct her English?
"Uhhh, I really don't think you could understand her writing." (She writes letters single spaced curly cursive writing with a shaky hand.)
"NO! I mean by e-mail!"
"(Big laughter!) Elizabeth, she's eighty-three years old. I doubt she knows how to turn on a computer!"
"How about your aunt or your uncle or your brother?"
"Welllll, I don't get e-mails from them, so I doubt they have time to e-mail you."
"Oh. They're not interested in Asian culture?"
"(Stifled laughter.) Ah! Are you the gateway guide to Asian culture?"
"What eez 'gateway?'"

We're back to sleepless nights with her. Grand ideas. Great plans. She's taken up quilting, and whenever she says the word "quilting" it's accompanied with a very dramatic mime (pulling an invisible needle through and pulling it up as high as her arm will go - with pursed serious fish-lips. Wash, rinse, repeat.) She quilts through the dawn and comes to work with her head in a doo-rag and takes her glasses off to fall asleep at her desk. Visiting parents, I'm sure, love to see that!

Tuesday night I taught her final class. They're a nice bunch of kids, but one is unruly and he seems to dislike Elizabeth as much as she loathes him. She has lost control of her emotions quite a number of times in that class and whipped books at him, broken pencils, and thrown sticks. He is a decent kid, very smart but very loud. And he can be very rude. I've tried many different approached with this class, and lately what's worked is about 10 or 15 minutes of free conversation- an then I can settle them into some studying and we play some kind of game if I get what I want done in time. The conversation part works well, and I try to come up with interesting things to talk about. They're young teenagers- 13 or 14, but pretty saavy, so I speak to them fairly frankly.

The other night I taught them the word "cuckoo." I say it often enough, as do I the word "crazy," which is far less provocative back home than it is here.
"That's crazy! Don't be crazy! Why you actin' all crazy-like? I'm crazy about you. We're crazy in love."
You know what I'm talkin' bout, Willis.

But here, "meechin" can be fighting words.

And so I taught my students "cuckoo," because they've heard me say it, and because they asked. So I told them about the bird who sings daily in the forest beside my apartment. (I love that bird most times.) And I told them about the bird who lives in the clocks. And I told them cuckoo's a playful name for crazy. And right after the conversation turned to the reason for Elizabeth's most recent freak out on the class- and I believe I said "that's cuckoo."
Aw shit.
"Teacha, I'm is talking Elizabeth you say she cuckoo."

One kid had slid his borrowed pencil across the table to Elizabeth and it slid right off the table and landed in her coffee which was sitting on a chair. She went (crazy, mental, cuckoo-- pick one, we're speaking English here, afterall) on the kid- and this is the GOOD boy! (The bad one had already been kicked out of class, which is surely why she was so on edge.)
I'm not sure what I said, but "cuckoo," and "Elizabeth" are all mixed in, and so - again, "Teacha, I'm is talking Elizabeth you say she cuckoo."

I chuckled and said, "Don't!"
"Really, don't. That's not what I said, and you will make her very angry. Don't"

I'd since forgotten about it, but tonight, after the bell rang and I had spent my whole last free period talking to my boss about upcoming changes to our school, Victor came bursting out of the classroom and into the staffroom and proudly shouted: "Teacha, I'm is talking Elizabeth you say she cuckoo!"
Awww shit, shit!
Elizabeth also quickly emerged and stood beside me just shaking with angry. No sing-song this time. "Jenny. Did you say I'm cuckoo?"
"No, I didn't."
She stood shaking and staring at me. Koreans have the "angry eyes" completely down pat. Angry shakey stare-down eyes.
"Stop looking at me like that. I didn't say you were cuckoo."
She started to walk away but then decided I needed more angry eyes. "Really."

Victor skip hopped into the TV Room, happy to have lived to torture Elizabeth another day, and she stalked back into the classroom, only to re-appear in the Teachers' Room a couple minutes later, whip her books and pencil onto the table, slam a few other things around, and when asked by Judy what was wrong, she went into a screaming fit about me and cuckoo and whatever else.
My, "Hey, I'm right here and you can talk to me about it," was met with more shrieks in Korean.

I went to the TV room where the boys were huddled and laughing and said "VICTOR! I TOLD you not to say that to Elizabeth. Now she's very angry at me! Go tell her you were lying and you're sorry!"

He did, but by that time Elizabeth was bawling. And my boss was pissed at him (and maybe me) and my co-workers are pissed at me.

(Yo, Liz? Why you acting so cuckoo at being (maybe) called cuckoo?)
Maybe because you're cuckoo?
But I didn't tell the students that.

And me? I'm just TIRED of all the drama.
I don't want to go to work tomorrow.


Kevin said...

Teeeeeaaaaach at a univerrrrrrsity...

Teeeeeaaaaach at a univerrrrrrsity...

Teeeeeaaaaach at a univerrrrrrsity...

Teeeeeaaaaach at a univerrrrrrsity...


Nomad said...

Another day in the life of Jenn!

Who ever said life is boring?

BTW, Kevin's idea is pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good. And his subliminal messaging skillz made me fill out 4 online applications.

It's Me, Maven... said...

Hope this doesn't come off as insensitive... but I always find it's helpful to make friends who have the same level if not lower level of emotional baggage than myself.

Additionally, when folks are in the mental state that Liz is in, sometimes you don't even have to say anything to find yourself, inadvertantly, in hot water.

It gets old quick, doesn't it?

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