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

Monday, March 12, 2007

Love in the Time of Cholera

Wednesday is White Day.

Hooray?

Let me explain. The whole Valentine's concept is segregated by gender in Korea and Japan. On Valentine's Day the girls give chocolate to the boys, then on White Day the tables are turned, and the boys give candy to the girls. It is then followed by the unofficial Black Day where lonely singles eat black bean noodles (Jajangmyeon) alone or in small pity parties.

The kids enthusiastically brought up the coming of White Day in class today, and I mentioned that my sister's birthday also falls on March 14th.

One very curious, but not especially gifted student asked: "Teacher! Sister... ahh... what's your name?"

"What's my sister's name?"

"Unhhh!"

"Claire."

"Co-lera?" she squinted up her face.

To her ears this was a valiant attempt. As for me, I heard it as "Cholera" and promptly broke out laughing.

They always get a kick out of my... let's call it "colourful" laugh. Some refer to it simply as "happy noise." Many hold it as a personal point of pride if they can make me laugh. Others, less game for laurels just ask me if I can laugh on the spot. Another recent request is that I "do shooper mario song!"

It was discovered— I can't remember how— that I could hum and whistle the iconic Super Mario Bros. theme music and it's now much requested. Reaction can be mixed with things of that nature. When Mario was brought up in another class, Joey gasped as if I had said "Jehovah" in The Life of Brian.

"Teacher! Mario is Japan game!"

Horror of horrors!

I can be pretty sensitive about these things. I'll call what I otherwise knew as the "Sea of Japan" the "East Sea" in the company of Koreans, but suppressing my love for the Japanese and their video games is a concession I can't make.

Sorry K-Land.

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