Smielee and Bear it.

January 19th, 2011
Time: 1:12pm
Location: Coffee Bean

Today started out relatively normal.  The exception being that I wasn’t up ‘til all hours reading so I managed to wake-up without hitting my snooze button about 30 times.  This also meant that I had time to shower and have a cup of tea with toast.  I usually attempt to squeeze every last second I can into staying in bed for as long as possible and this doesn’t leave much time for things like eating . . . or grooming.  Due to the extraneous cold, my hair is always buried beneath a hat anyway, and I’m wearing so many layers any smell I might have is held captive beneath 14 barriers of fleece, cotton, denim, and wool.  Don’t judge me.  

Anyway, today I got-up and showered, braided my hair, put on some make-up, and managed to look half-way respectable.  This entire effect was ruined as soon as I swathed myself in a scarf that’s about 4 feet long, wrapped my white fluffy earmuffs that were a gift from my kindergartners around my head,  and buried my feet in my hideous but highly effective UGGS.  I am so gloriously Chinese – minus the blond hair bit.

An hour and half later I arrived at school looking wind-blown, bedraggled, and wet.  My transport has been cut this week because my principal apparently needs it and they tell me they “knew I wouldn’t mind.”  Mostly, I don’t.  It requires getting up earlier, but it also means I will for sure arrive at school before my lessons, which I infinitely prefer to arriving late and attempting to explain through an act of charades that my driver was late. Again. Plus, when I’m early they give me coffee.  Korean coffee is ah-mazing.  All nutty and rich and perfect.

There was no coffee today, but I got another surprise.  My school likes to do this every once in a while.  Could you please finish this book before the 7-year-olds graduate?  It’s only 16 units and you’ve got 4 weeks left – which equates to 16 days to teach it.  Oh, and this book too. It’s 8 units.  But today can you teach them this song for the presentation on Saturday?  Oh, today the teachers are going to a meeting, so teach the 6ers and 7s together, okay?  And today you will teach a cooking lesson, right?


I walked in this morning and the 7s were all wintered-up and holding bags.  Oh crap.  Are you leaving? I asked.  Of course we are teacher, no one told you? And then the English-speaking teacher came in and said, guess what?  The 7-year-olds don’t have a lesson today.  They are having graduation pictures taken, and guess what else?  Later we will take you to the studio because you’re going to have your picture taken with them!

Right . . .  

So, I had to cobble together a 40-minute lesson for my English-deficient 6ers who I usually have for (an already too long) 20 minutes.  Then down to the 5ers, when half-way through that lesson another teacher came in and said, Oh! You need to go now!  Not in another 30 minutes like we originally told you.  Except that the only English she has goes something like this:  Teacher! Go! Me: Uh? Whaaat? I thought at 11:30? Korean teacher: Finish! Now!  And then I was hustled out the door, sans winter garb, barely managing to stuff my feet back into the hideous UGGS, and into the waiting van.
I arrived at Amore Mio where another Korean teacher was waiting for me.  Up the broken escalator we ran, past an expansive entry, though a room full of bejeweled wedding gowns, and into a photography studio.  In a section devoted to white-washed wood, filmy curtains, and soft lighting sat my little 7s, decked out in full graduation regalia.  I had just enough time to shrug off my jacket before I was plopped between two square hats and some fake roses were thrust into my hands.  I can’t even give an honest assessment of how I looked because I hadn’t been given a chance to look in a mirror.  I’m going to go with comical.  My knees were drawn up around my shoulders, on par with my students’ eyes and while my fellow Korean teachers were in skirts and blouses, I was holding it down in a hoodie and sodden jeans, fancied up with some dusky pink plastic roses. 

Something, something, Chinese! Said our photographer.  That didn’t work.  My kids looked like they were standing in-front of a firing squad.

He tried a new tactic: One, two, three! Smeelie!  


One, two, three! Simileee!

Flash. Click.

One, two, three! Smeeleee!

Koreans, Chinese, and unintelligible English unite!  

I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

Then my kids got up for a costume change and I took individual pictures with all of them.  I tickled, teased, and cajoled and probably managed at least one genuine smile out of each of them, except for Rachel who freezes like a deer in headlights in front of a camera.  

Then I was told I was finished.  I was thinking I was done, done.  As in, done for the day.  See you tomorrow.  This had been the “original” plan.  Original, as in the plan concocted between the Korean principal and the English-speaking teacher.  My original plan consisted of a regular ol’ Wednesday of white board activities and bookwork.

This apparently was no longer the plan.  Or something.  Once again, I was hurried down the escalator to the waiting van – except the van wasn’t waiting.  I attempted to ask whether I was returning to school to teach the 4’s but she clearly had no idea so I pulled out my phone and asked my Korean-American friend, Sue to translate.  Her translation skills got me about as far as I had been before the phone call.  The teacher had no idea who or what I was teaching.  By the time I got back to school I only had 15 minutes left in my teaching time, so I pulled the 4s away from their finger-painting and we sang and danced and ran away from my monkey flashcard. I then re-bundled myself and walked through the snow to the bus stop.  After a soggy, chilling 25 minutes I arrived here, at Coffee Bean – directly across from the photography studio where I just saw the school van pull up.  The van with heat. 

Rosa, one of the Chinese staff, says “take bus can feel local Shanghainess life and also learn more chinese. haha.”  


One, two, three! Smieelee! 

And bear it.

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