On my walk home, I realized if I learn anything from Korea it will be how to entertain a group of people for an hour at a time on the fly. A new season of classes started today. For half of my classes, I knew what I was doing. Basically the same thing I’ve been doing just with new books or new students. A slight variation on the old. The other three classes are totally new and the product of my co-teacher and director. I will call these classes their brainchild. They gave me a few books and said choose some chapters then there will be a followup. So this afternoon was Monday and at 2:53, seven minutes before my first class of the day I was kind of freaking out. It seemed obvious that my director had a certain idea about how she wanted the classes to go. This much talking, this much speaking, this much writing. Asking questions led to being deferred to later after talking with a… someone else. As far as I know, I picked a few chapters and that’s that. I copied a chapter for each class and went to work.
It was a hellacious day; harder than I realized.
At 9:05 I headed home, planning the pasta dinner as I went. I’ve been wearing these adorable Tom wedges and miniskirts to work. I have a lot of fun watching my legs as I walk. I walk toward the street to pass a group of young men. They were saying goodbyes to a woman and three children. One of the kids is very young and grabs at woman’s arm when he sees me. As a foreigner, I have superpowers. I pay pretty close attention to things around me, but I look like I’m busy. This makes it easier for me, especially because children cry when they see me. It’s heartbreaking for me and embarrassing for them. This also helps me avoid troublemakers who are looking for a good time to practice English, specifically older men- you know who you are!
I cross the street getting a chance to see the full moon. It’s bright white and fills the sky. Black clouds linger around it but not obstructing it. How beautiful! How lucky am I! As I get close to my apartment I cross the street again making my way over a speed bump in the road up a little sidewalk that is half covered in cars and turn the corner for my building. Behind me I can hear tiny running footsteps. Children are a common occurrence in Korea. They are usually seen in herds with pockets overflowing with won and fists full of candy. Small footsteps make me smile so after some hesitation I turn to smile at the small creature giving me some happiness at the end of a long day. A skinny and seemingly very fast toddler decked out in an adorable heart tee, a diaper and sandals is excited to see… me?
Longing to put down heavy backpack and cumbersome dishes, I turn back to my path happy to be so close to home. Half way to my building stairs I hear a car. In Korea, I have developed a healthy fear of cars, specifically Jeeps. Why are Korean drivers in the Australian Outback? Are there giant rocks to drive over? Vicious predator animals ready to strike? Maybe they think a rabid croc is after them and that’s why they drive so fast. I turn to look and see the baby in the driveway as the Jeep (of course, it’s a Jeep– a little too fast and a little too tall) shines it’s headlights in my face. Time slows. My brain thinks two things The small child will be fine, It’s not my business. In one short lived moment, I turn back to the building. In all the time my brain took to recognize and weigh the variables my body took over. Before I knew what was happening my hand was stopping the Jeep and grabbing at a very small hand. I imagine myself in a movie, headlights casting me in shadow.
Somehow her mom also recognized what could happen and ran from four times my distance. Korean words poured from her; words of concern and fear then gratitude and love. The child was now terrified and screaming. As the mother grabbed her daughter up into a big worried mom hug, she thanked me and stared, eyes growing bigger at my face. I had no words, tired and emotionally drained. Wanting to get out of this staring contest I mumbled “No problem.” I felt very dazed as I turned back to make my ascent finally home. In the elevator, I recounted the event and thought of all the things I could have said like Omma- mother, I could have shouted across the parking lot to ease her nerves. All the language flowed from my body and I was left with a silly phrase from my youth. Dumbstruck, I stumbled out of the elevator; shuffling to my apartment door. Lights were on and so was the stove top. Oh, man I left on the stove, totally bummed. I didn’t leave the stove on. Wyll was home making boiled water, bless his heart. I collapsed in his arms. Oh, love.