Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Goings on

I still haven't bought the new Coldplay album. New as in, this past Spring. Oops. Any way, I've been enjoying this track from Ghost Stories: A Sky Full of Stars.

I thought it was about time for a little update!
I'm sure you are all dying to know what it's like being an administrative assistant as an NP.
It's like this: you have way more files then is probably necessary because how the heck can you even decide what folder to put something in? If it could go in one of three folders then it gets its own spot. Also what about those little notes to oneself with info that could come in handy one day? I assume there is a better method than a patchwork of sticky notes/ pieces of paper paper clipped together. But I haven't figured that out.
But those are the really the only struggles. I've been so lucky to get to help edit a book, which is one of my favorite things to do, and impress my boss with my "look stuff up on the internet" skills. Bet you didn't know that tracking down info on the web was a life skill, but it certainly makes me look good when I can come up with a phone number deemed lost forever--because like me, my boss writes important information on little pieces of paper. Oh brother ㅋㅋㅋ

I've also gotten the chance to do a little tutoring on the side many days after work with a Korean staff member here. Mostly just conversation based, giving help with pronunciation and article use and such, but it's been so very nice not to give up all my teacher-y doings.

Which brings me to another fun thing I've been up to: being one of the acting coaches for our church's Kids' Club/Christmas play program. I've been dragging my memory for every fun activity I can remember from Voice and Drama camp and Spotlights and Showstoppers and all that. (Some of the games I realized also could be modified for ESL use as well, which is super...always trying to expand the toolbelt!) This week we're holding auditions, and I am super pumped! It is really fun to be around kids again, but I have realized that American kids are more squirrelly than Korean kids...or at least they take a longer time to listen. So I need to practice being a little firmer. I also have been so used to speaking slowly and clearly with young kids that when other more seasoned teacher types get up and give instructions, my first thought is, "Woah slow down no way can they understand!" then, "oh right...native speakers..."

So I'm trying out some new sections, mostly for myself to keep track of stuff, but maybe you'll enjoy it too! The first one is a book review:

September Books (and why you should read them too!)

1. Anne of Green Gables Series by L.M. Montgomery

Beside's Montgomery's delicious descriptions of landscape and her fantastic dialogue, let's talk about the main character. Anne Shirley/Blythe is one of the most glorious characters in fiction--s a woman who is smart, witty, wise, imaginative, ridiculously caring and decidedly not boring. You know how sometimes you read books and there is a character who is flawed, definitely, but who you still want to be like? This is one of those for me. I've dreamed of being a combination of Jo March and Anne Shirley, because both of them grow. They know where they're weak, and the strengthen those areas. And they listen to criticism. The Anne series also is such a lovely picture of growing up, and how each stage of a person's life has its own wonderful people and places. You think no other place but Green Gables and the people of Avonlea could be so wonderful, but then you go to Redmond, and Windy Poplars and the House of Dreams and then Ingleside and each one is full of joy and beauty. A good reminder to me, who so often looks wistfully at the past, that what is to come has its own unknown delights.

2. The Little Book of Restorative Discipline in the Classroom by Lorraine S Amstutz and Judy H Mullet

If I could write a subtitle for this powerful 70ish page book, it would be "How to treat students like they matter a lot--even when they mess up big time." With those not familiar with restorative justice practices, in a nutshell it's looking at justice (and discipline) as primarily an issue of broken relationships, not of broken rules. That means that when misbehavior happens, the focus on discovering what relationships have been broken and how to restore them. That means that victims and offenders both have a voice in the proceedings and Zero-Tolerance strategies that cause more harm than good are done away with. Basically, it's a call to be more creative in discipline so that instead of simply receiving doled out punishment, students receive an education in how healthily resolve conflict and understand their responsibility in the relationships around them. It's a quick read, but I really recommend it, especially to teachers.

3. Stephen Fry's (In)Complete and Utter History of Classical Music as told to Tim Lihorean

My favorite way to learn stuff is while I'm laughing. Making a joke about something helps you remember right? Gabby was telling me the other day about a joke her class had about a composer, Hildegard of Bingen, and you can bet your socks they aren't going to forget about that feisty nun anytime soon. So besides this being written by Stephen Fry, one of the funniest guys out there, it's actually quite informative and I am learning a lot about music history! Here's one of my favorite bits about composers who were quite popular in their day, but are kind of unknown now:

"Of course, I have a personal theory, which I am willing to share. You see, Gluck...largely out of fashion isn't he? Hmm? And Dittersdorf? Also, more or less forgotten. And now Hummel. Revered by Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Liszt in his day, but now the dodo of classical music. And why? Well, my theory...mildly amusing middle names.
Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf
Cristoph Willibald von Gluck
Johann Nepomuk Hummel
Need I say more? QED, as the French call the famous cruise ship." (pg 114-115)

So happy reading! I hope you enjoy those books as much as I do!
And of course, wouldn't be a proper post without out a few quotes:

Quotes from the Community:

"My whole body is smarting!" --Yoonseo bemoans having to ride his bicycle home after playing soccer.

Gabby: "Do you know why the Wise Men went to see Jesus?"
Nicholas: "To give him some....valuables?"

Gabby: "I spy something red."
Nicholas: "Your cheeks?"

Friday, September 5, 2014

Trying not to "make the best of things."

These days, I've been having more "Missing Korea" moments than I had before in the hustle and bustle of friends and fun events. One CD I've been listening to is a Korean worship album that Yoonseo helped Josiah pick out for my Dad, and which I have been borrowing for a week or so. My favorite track is this one: 소원 (Hope). I really love the melody, and have been trying slowly to work out the meaning of the lyrics. From what I can figure out, it talks about the desire to live like Jesus, walking a road that is narrow, deep and high.

My title seems a little bit of a downer, but it's a description of my deep-down wish that I could get past the ever-clinging feeling that I'm just slogging in the trenches towards some unnamed and unidentified goal or life landmark or something fantastic--the "making the best of things" while you're waiting for something to happen. I really have a tendency to gravitate toward that feeling...the trouble of course is that I never can really figure out what it is I'm waiting for. And that is when melancholy likes to reel you into yourself, making you a navel gazer and a false martyr...something that I have felt happening to myself every now and again.

Part of it has to do with the stress of moving, I know (very glad to be just about finished with that and settled in with darling friends!) but I have a feeling I'm still dealing with some reverse culture shock too. Some of that is that America isn't like Korea. I never thought I would admit it, but I got so use to the 'hurry hurry' culture in Korea, that now I bothers me when problems  or projects can't be taken care of in a day or two. I miss eating rice and eating spicy food. I  miss teaching. I miss being able to get places without a car.

Boy did I really miss that last one this morning, when I locked my keys in the car. I found myself in tears not because I was going to be late, but because I realized that suddenly, needing help was kind of an inconvenience to other people. In my community in Korea, I never once felt that way. We all lived together, it was no problem to ask someone to bring your backpack home from work, or pick up something at Lotte. Now asking for a favor usually means someone has to get into their car, or rearrange their schedule or something like that. I regret not thanking people more for their daily love that way. Thank you my family in Korea (now some of them in America and Canada!) for never letting me be an inconvenience to you! (or at least never letting me know it, hehe) I hope to be able to make others feel that way too. I want to learn to be as generous with my time and money and care as you all were; to not do anything begrudgingly.

So though this morning left me feeling, to quote Anne of Ingleside, "about as brilliant as a piece of grey flannel," it got me thinking about readjustment and things to help in on it's course a little more. Of course, since my brain only seems to start working after I jump start it with some reading, I read some blogs and came away with some good tidbits.

1. I need to find ways to tell stories, and to let people be a part of what I experienced, not just what I "did." It's harder than it sounds, because stories don't bubble out of me like they might have if I was an extrovert. I feel almost connected myself to Evi's trip to Chile, because she let us know all about it, and described "her people" there until I felt like I met them myself. I need to talk about those things
And not just the "captain's log details" please. I've told the 'how long I was there-what I did-how did I like the food-what am I doing now-do I think I'll go back" shpeal enough. 14 months. Taught English to the best students on the planet. Korean Food is magic. I am an administrative assistant. Yes. There are all the answers, for you. Instead, as Nacho once wisely said, "Let's get down to the neety greety."

2. I need to find ways to hear others stories and be a part of what they experienced. I read that on one blog and felt a little sheepish. It's easy to feel like since you were away in a new place that you're the one who had all the adventures and stories, but that's a little big headed and very untrue. In order to feel like you belong again somewhere, you have to learn about your home again, just like you did when you went to a new place. And try not to ask the same sort of not-captain's-log boring questions you don't want to be asked either.

So here's to having a good cry every once and a while, and to not "making the best of things." Most of the best things are here already, if you're willing to look.