Yellow Dust


Today I am told to not go outside or breathe the air because there is a yellow dust alert for today and tomorrow.  Supposedly the wind carries the toxic pollution from China here.  The surgical masks come out or people try and stay in.  Me, I don’t think a surgical mask is going to do much to protect against the smaller particulates.  I figure I’ve injested enough hazardous chemicals at the shipyard to kill a moose, so what difference are a few more from China going to do to me?  I will smoke into the wind and flip it the bird…

I wrote this to Myung Sook:

Today I got in an argument with the English teacher representative at Gyeonggi-do ministry of education.  She tried to paint me as critical of the Korean’s English skills because I said the language of the contract was weak.  She tried to accuse me of not appreciating anything and why did I have a problem with the schools.  She tried to assert her power over me by saying that when she approved me she didn’t realize I would be such a problem.  We were yelling at each other on the phone.  Afterwards, I just wanted to go for a walk and do something destructive like have a cigarette.  Only I have been told I was not allowed to leave the school ever.  So I sat there, trapped and crushed by Gyeonggi-do and Korea and my helplessness here.  And I got a little weepy and some teacher noticed and then I was surrounded by concerned people who couldn’t understand.  And then I was balling.  And now I am not only an ungrateful problem to the people who have the power or not to hire me next year, but I am also a weak pathetic mess to all my co-workers.

Young took me out for a cigarette anyway, and I told her that I was embarassed, because I’m really very strong.  Strong?  You don’t look very strong to me, she said.   She doesn’t know how many trials this person has had.  My middle name should be Atlas, I’ve had to hold up the world so many times.

At least I had one really great class today.   (never mind that the earlier class the video monitor doesn’t work, so there goes half my lesson)   Some of the boys really do get it that I’m giving them really helpful tricks and tips and really do care.  So they have some like jingle they say out loud with counting and at the end, everyone magically shuts up.  So they were like not only giving me respect, but forcing the other kids to respect me too.  And they seemed to be the popular kids doing this too.  It was awesome.  I had them teach me the jingle, but of course with my early onset altzheimers I have forgotten it.  I am finding if I don’t write a Korean word down in romanized letters, it is gone forever.  Later today, the second boy’s class was just horrible.  They just think it’s social hour and I spend half the class trying to get them to shut up while it’s their classmate’s turn to talk.  (You can really tell who have spent their entire childhoods in hagwons and who haven’t)  I told them I don’t have to do any of this and that I can just go back to Seattle and let them continue saying “late-uh” and “English-e.”   There are one or two geeks in class who feel bad for me.  One apologized for everyone after class, even.  God bless geeks.

GOAL is scheduling a volunteer for me this Saturday.  I will call rev. Kim and see if he has any sage advice for me, after having seen so many adoptees come and go through his doors.  I think I’m a little different though.  I’m twice as old as most of the other adoptees.  Most adoptees my age do not stay in Korea to live.  Most adoptees my age are too smart to do something so world shaking.  Most adoptees have more options than I do.  I’m here now.  I’m stuck here.  It will get better.  But fuck, the past month has just been emblematic of my life – way the hell more hellish than it should have been.

You know – one thing I’d love the world to learn from those on the bottom is that “cheer up – stay positive – things will get better.”  REALLY DOESN’T HELP.  How ’bout oh my god that sucks it’s amazing you haven’t slit your wrists you should cry and rant and scream here have a beer and here’s a box of tissue go to town.

What was this post called?  Oh yeah. Yellow Dust.  I don’t know why the fear of that dust amuses me so.  It’s the least people in Korea have to fear.

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2 thoughts on “Yellow Dust

  1. Hey I just came across your blog randomly, you’re writing is very good and meaningful (if not a bit depressing. It seems to be your outlet for negative energy, it can be for me too a lot of the time.

    For a while I was really annoyed with Korean English pronunciation too, until I heard my New Zealander friend say the word “body”. It sounded much closer to how I would pronounce the word buddy. I wouldn’t think to try and tell him that his pronunciation was wrong, and it made me appreciate the fact that there is no one “right” pronunciation of English.

  2. To clarify, I do not criticize different dialects of English. I merely give them tips on how to be perceived as speaking with a higher level of English. Nor am I annoyed by it at all. In one example today, I even commented to the students that their way of saying one sentence was prettier than English. English tends to be very harsh. If I were Korean, I would naturally want to Konglish it as well.

    Their problems with pronunciation of English are not about right and wrong dialects or colloquial usage, which I would not criticize. Their problems are in the transferring of their Korean phonics to English phonics.

    Helping them recognize how to deal with consonants followed by consonants without adding vowel sounds that don’t exist is critical for them to be taken seriously by native English speakers from any region of the world. And the whole reason they are tortured to learn English is to be able to survive study abroad and to improve Korean commerce. ADDED: and to satisfy the President’s strange mandate that Korea become an English speaking country, and because the ability to speak English has effectively replaced the civil servant’s exam in Korean-style Confuscian earned respect.

    They also have problems adding “s” where it is needed. It will take me a good year to figure out where the common patterns of phonics overlay occur, but they are there, and these are just a few that I have heard in the past two weeks. Then there is the problem of there not being two distinct sounds for the letters “r” and “l”, “g” and “k”, and (there were some more – but it’s almost 2 am here)

    Anyway, these are systemic problems – and it can be pointed out, taught, and improved in a systematic way that is not rife with personal predjudice.

    This year I am catching and responding off the cuff. Next year I will really be able to deliver something very clean and hopefully very systematic.

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