Saturday, April 24, 2010

Serious, Non-Life Threatening Conditions, Part 9

I have a case of the "Now Disease". From what I've heard, though, I'm in good company. Symptoms include:
~Wanting to know where I'll end up seven months from now... RIGHT NOW.
~Wanting to know what you think of me... RIGHT NOW.
~Wanting this, wanting that... RIGHT NOW!!!

Add this to the list of things about me that I'm actively seeking to change.

~Daily application of faith and prayer. (What???? How LAME is that!-- Lame, but true. Simmer down and give it a try...)
~Communion with others who have this disease and who are also working for a cure.

But to be fair to me...
One thing about me that is actually rather quite lovely:
~I do the dishes immediately. (Yes, that's right: I've gone from being someone who would rather get a root canal than pick up the sponge, to someone who actually doesn't mind doing them at all. Just ask my mother for references...)

And on that note, I am now off to clean my apartment. Or at least make a darn good show of pretending to clean my apartment. Act as if!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


(Jae-Jin covertly scribbling on the desk.)

Me: (busting his bubble) Jae-Jin! Your turn.  Start reading from page 24. 

Jae-Jin: (surprised) What the... (swatting away a fly)... bug!

(entire class erupts in laughter)

Jae-Jin: (proud of his impromptu witticism) Teacher... sound is like a bad say.  Sound is like... 

Me: Yes, thank you, Jae Jin.  

(Enter our new expletive:  "What the bug?")
Sometimes the kids just make my day.  

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Soldier Through

I teach at a private language academy (aka: cram school) where parents send their progeny AFTER regular school hours. Sometimes these children attend to two or three different academies in one day and are (understandably) exhausted by the time they get to us.  Often, though, parents are VERY eager to get their money's worth and insist that their children attend all sessions, even to the point of sending them to class under duress.  

Case in point:

My Korea co-teacher hangs up the phone and turns to me. 

"That was Sung-Hyeok's mother.  He's just had a circumcision and he was in the hospital with food poisoning last night, so she asks that you please don't give him re-test [extra study time, often used as punishment] today."

The poor, miserable lad sat in his seat, with his hood up, and about 5 minutes into the class asked:  "Teacher, may I go home?"

Me: "Yes, yes, go.  Go!"  

Wanting to make his life a little brighter:

Me: "Here, have a sticker." 

Dinghies Bearing Gifts

Dearest Mordantt Gheng: 

Thank you so much for your letter which arrived by post yesterday, or at least it would have if you had mailed it, which you didn't, because letters are such an antiquated form of communication.  You're right: it's so much nicer to get each other wrong face to face.

Along those lines, I bring a quote that immediately made me think of you: 

"You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals, man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them wrong. You might as well have the brain of a tank. You get them wrong before you meet them, while you're anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you're with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion. ... The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It's getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That's how we know we're alive: we're wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that -- well, lucky you. "  (emphasis mine, obviously)

Doesn't that just say it all, really?  (It's from Mr. Philip Roth in his book, American Pastoral, in case you were wondering, which you may well have been.) 

Talking of getting things wrong... Or let's not, because if we were, then the list of things that I've gotten wrong would be really quite long and there's no need to go into that at the moment now, is there?  

Do you believe that people change?  It's part of my credo, you know.  "All people are always changing."  And to give people credit for attempts at progress of which we know nothing.

By way of reciprocation, here's a poem by Abdul Whahb Al-Bayati that I translated in college from the original Arabic, and by "I" I, of course mean Bassam K. Frangieh.  I so admire people who can translate things for real (like you), and not have to pretend (like me).    

Here it is:

The thieves assaulted me in Paris
They took my notebook and with blood dyed
The cubes of light and the asphalt
They left me dead
But I awoke... before dawn
Carrying the lilies of the fields
And the suffering of the words
For my nation open like a grave. 

This particular poem really is special to me because I really did learn it in the original Arabic and later recited (or something very much like it) it in a flower garden in Wisconsin, in front of a kind and warm-hearted audience.  I remember made me think about nations and belonging, and looking for a country of one's own, real or imagined. And how our citizenship in heaven, but what in the world does that look like here on earth.  I vow to thee, my country...

Which also reminds me of my friend, Saint John, who was instructed in Revelation to:
"Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later."
My word, what a daunting task: to write what you have seen.  I expect there would not be books enough in the world to hold it all.

I will say a rosary for us both, or I would, if I were Catholic, which I am not, which is fortunate because we have already determined I would not be very good at it.  But of the few things I am very good at, yelling at God is one of them.  Yelling in general, really, although I'm trying to be better about that. 

So I've reached the end of this communique, only I'm not really talking to you, Mordantt, am I?  Well, I am, really, because you know the code, the score, and the things that I've forgotten. Really, Mordantt, I just want you to know that all my good memories of you outweigh all the tangled memories of you; my Patsy, with your plunger, squeezy cheese, and bottle of perrier, my friend who sent me sand from the Jersey shore and seashells, with your door-like work desk, pens, notebooks, PJs, and cutting class to go make music on the stage.  

Love from across the ocean, 
Marco Polo Monsoon