A Canadian writer teaches English and finds out what it's like to be a foreigner.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Sweetness Follows

Today I was overwhelmed by a surprise gift from Paul.

I think there's a competitive streak in the swell of little novelty pens and things that he and Judy have been giving me this week, but realistically speaking, that's a better kind of rivalry than gnawing at each other in the classroom.

Anyway, this afternoon Paul waltzed into the teacher's room with a broad envelope that had my name on it. Inside was a thick mauve card with a picture of a cartoon bee playing a large pink flower like a flute. At the bottom was a small motivational message translated from *gasp* Japanese: "I want to convey my feelings to you with my voice because I want you to know more about me."

Sounds reasonable.

I expected to open it up and find a steaming rendition of dung world, but instead was a message so thoughtful that I almost teared up.

"To Sam," he wrote at the top:

Sam Teacher Hello. Sam I will study hard forever. Ok. I love you.

Then, underneath that, he wrote "I love you" again, but big enough to cover the bottom half of the card.

It was just one of those moments where all the deaf talk and vacant stares and whining and groaning melt away and it feels like I'm really doing something that touches the lives of these kids.

Of course, this sentimental moment wasn't without its quirk. When you open up the card, there's a small speaker, obviously meant for recording a voice message which plays when you pull a small tab on the side. However since the card is made by "Japan Flora 2000" and the recording directions on the back are written in Japanese, Paul obviously couldn't figure out how to record a message because when I pulled the tab, I heard what was either a Japanese test marketer, or a savvy Korean card shop browser saying "Ah-Ah."

It was still a very sweet sentiment from a boy who later in the day asked me enthusiastically:

"Teacher! Is there a breast that is 9 million millimeter!?"

I almost expected him to follow up with:

"Teacher! Could Jejus microwave a burrito so hot, that he himself could not eat it?"

From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step. Never have I known this to be more true than in Korea.

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