What I understand…

It always amuses me to discover what (Korean and Western, particularly European) strangers think about me when they first meet me.

Pretty much every time I’ve been in Europe (and the States, to be fair, but much more in the North than the South, to be honest), a waitress, shop clerk, postal worker, etc. make it a point to speak extra slowly for me, with extremely drawn-out enunciation and accompanied with lots of hand gesturing. And then I open up my mouth and they hear the American accent, which is usually followed by a slightly confused look and then something insulting about Americans or the States.

This past week has had three interesting and slightly funny experiences, at least they are to me:

1. I went to the local FedEx/Kinko’s to mail off some stuff to get transcripts (it’s almost 2010 and I still have to snail mail transcript requests for Alvin Community College and University of Houston-Clear Lake) for the teachers’ program that I’m in the middle of applying for. The form that FedEx Korea uses in basically in English with some Korean translations randomly thrown in, the guy behind the cash register, makes it a point to read each box to me in Korean. By the way, I’m in baggy jeans, tennis shoes, my Texas hoodie, and I’m listening to my iPod…extremely American…and yet he still read every box to me even after I told him that I understood and when I started filling in the boxes in English.

2. I get bored at the teachers’ meetings at the end of Monday afternoons, not because I don’t understand but because pretty much 99% of all information that’s given during the meeting is for homeroom teachers, and not the subject teachers, like me. Honestly there’s been two meetings where there was a short blurb that related to the English teachers, the introduction of the new school district head of English lady and the temporary replacement for one of my co-teachers. This past Monday, the  principal told the English supervisor and the English bojangnim that I should sit by them at the meeting and they should translate everything to me, so that I’m not bored. I talked to the bojangnim and told her all the highlights from the meeting: swine flu information for the homeroom teachers, new school sports challenge information for the homeroom teachers, information about the students and their mothers’ evaluation feedback on their homeroom teachers, which had nothing to do with the English department or me, which is why I’m bored. And she had this look on her face, that basically was: ‘I didn’t realize that you understood that much Korean.”

3. Another yelling conversation with KYY about why did she complain to the English supervisor about wanting me to write CCQs for her to ask in Korean during class that I was forced to spend an extra hour per lesson plan to think up and write these questions, if she wasn’t going to read them or use them. And the same goes for sending her a copy of the English oral exam, if she’s not going to read it, because if she did actually read it and is still asking the questions she just asked me…then the only explanation is that she’s stupid and illiterate. Her response was that I’m kyopo so it’s not like I understand what she says to the students and I know the difference between her translating my instructions into Korean and asking a question in Korean. And after I repeated back some of the things she said, she had the ‘oh shite’ look. By the way last semester, we had conversations in Korean because she wouldn’t speak English to me….???

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