Monday, December 9, 2013

My Korean Mothers

These are my mothers in Korea.
Granted, one of them is younger than me.
Granted, I'm not actually related to any of them.
But the way these ladies have taken me in makes me feel at home.

If you are an EPIK teacher, you are placed with a Korean co-teacher. It's a great deal (for us!). They help you get set-up in Korea (bank account, cell phone, etc.) and they are the person you primarily teach with. And while my main co-teacher is Mrs. Che (beside me in the gray sweater), all of these women have really made my school life fantastic.

Starting from the left:

Jimmy (in the brown sweater) was the first person I met on the day that I arrived in Cheongju. She's older than the others, a bit reserved, less likely to be the life of the party, but she's calm and kind and helpful. She's studied English for a long time, so she's easy to talk to and she's always willing to help. We teach grade 4 together. A grade known for being...rambunctious. On more occasions than I can count, I've been about to lose my cool with students who are out-of-control, and I'll look over to see her laughing and shrugging her shoulders, as if to say, "Well, we can get angry or we can laugh!" She usually chooses to laugh.

Next is Yuna (in the orange dress). She is probably the kindest, most sincere person I have ever met. I don't actually teach any classes with her, but we share the same office and she regularly helps me with translation and other questions I have. She takes ping-pong classes in the afternoon right along with the elementary school kiddos because she says shes needs to learn a skill. I think she's already pretty great.

Mrs. Che (in the gray sweater) is who I do the most teaching with, so I probably know her the best. She's always willing to learn English and I'm always willing to learn Korean, so most of our conversations resemble a game of Catch Phrase where one of us is desperately trying to describe something to the other person. And when we figure it out, there is much celebration. We laugh a lot. I joke that we are like sisters. "Soul mates," she said today, "because you are the only English-speaker I can understand." I call her Che-Che and she calls me Bo-Bo. We make a good team. 

Lastly, is Minji. She's the youngest. Just graduated from college with her teaching degree. We don't teach together, but my desk is in her classroom and so I know she's a fabulous teacher. She gives out death glares that make kids wanna cry, but she's also very fun and caring. She regularly helps me when I get phone calls from people who don't speak English or when I have a question about culture. 

- - - - - - - - - - 

It's not terribly uncommon to hear foreigners complain about their jobs. And understandably, it can be more-than frustrating to work in a setting where the culture, the norms, the language, and the food are incredibly different. Some days are awesome and some days are really hard. But this is why I feel even more blessed to have the co-teachers (and other co-workers) that I do. They are incredibly patient and warm and generous people. 


Ashley Barber said...

I'm so glad to see them and match them up with what you've said about them. What an incredible gift they are!