not possible


Today I nearly went ballistic on a girl at an espresso shop. I asked for an Americano with cream and receive the crossed forearm “annio.” I asked for milk. and she got confused. She tried to get me to buy a latte and I tried to explain how lattes are all milk and I just want a little milk. She tried to sell me a short latte instead of a tall latte. I explained how I wanted an Americano with chokum milk. After many charades I finally made her figure out what I meant.

I sat outside fuming, wanting to down my drink and smoke a cigarette, but of course it was an Americano and too hot to do that with, so I texted my new neighbor instead. She said to buy a coffee maker. I know. I have one. Sometimes, a girl just wants to sit at a cafe with a good cup of coffee, have a smoke and watch the world walk by…

This is about the fourth time I have tried to just get some freaking coffee with cream in Korea, and each time usually ends up with me hearing, “not possible.” It is “not possible” to get milk in your coffee at a place that sells LATTES in most places in Korea…

How many times have I heard “not possible?” Is it the irritation of the irrational that gets to me most? Or is it the habit of negating everything by preceding it with “not?” Or is it the defeatist attitude Koreans have – the total lack of creativity on their part with anything departing from the norm?

Today I realized it is not possible to have a poet for a Korean boyfriend. Even though it is possible to have meaningful conversations, but because they are not perfect-in-his-mind there is a communication problem. Because he has to stretch himself a little, then there is a communication problem. Never mind that EVERYTHING else works great. Never mind that there’s little else even remotely nurturing in both our lives. Never mind that magic can happen in this harsh place.

Not being able to ask for a freaking cup at the GS25. Even though I ask for it almost daily – now THAT’s a communication problem. Cup cheom jusayo.
Cup? Yea. Cup. Cupp? Yes. cup. Cupi? Yes. CUP. (charades again) cup. drink. (charades) cup. cup! cup!

OH! CUP!

yes.

(sigh)

cup.

Last week in class I told the students I had no idea WHY they had to learn Korean. But the cold reality is that they do. Once I leave, and YES I AM LEAVING because nobody has to take your disrespect as there are other better jobs. Once I’m gone I’ll be replaced by another teacher and yet another. And you’ll still be tested on English, and your college entrance will still depend on it and the pay at your job will still depend on it, so if you don’t really care about your future please be disrespectful and don’t listen in my class.

I then write immersion on the board and tell them that’s the best way to learn. I tell them that’s the way they learned Korean. I tell them it doesn’t matter that they don’t understand most of it: it’s still the best way to know how a language is used. I yell at them that they are only forced to go through this hell one hour every week, but that I am forced to go through it every single hour of every single day, that I am surrounded by a language I don’t understand and am unable to communicate with it at all. I tell them how lucky they are that the government provides this immersion for them. I tell them that at least they’ve had many years of vocabulary and grammar behind them. I tell them to imagine what it’s like to go live in total immersion with NO vocabulary or grammar. I tell them I live in the hell they only visit. 24/7. Have some sympathy, shut up, and let me do my job.

I tell them how the principal asked me to help make the children leaders and global thinkers and how seriously I took that task. I tell them I put a lot of heart into the videos and messages I choose to present to them, because without the western thought behind the English, the words are nothing more than groups of letters. I tell them the rules of my classroom are just words on the board, but they are based upon being considerate to each other and what we have to do, what respect really means. Sung sang nim might be respect language, but the way you treat your teachers is far from respectful. Words without action are meaningless. I require more than words. Words have only as much meaning as we give them. Words are not the only way we communicate.

Mr. S uses his own personal dissatisfaction with his own expectation of himself as an excuse not to try. Because he is stuck in this Korean mind set of “not possible.” For Koreans, everything is difficult. Everything is pain. At least he can ask for a cup when he goes to drown his sorrows.

No matter. This adoptee is finished with Koreans. They swim in the belly of han, but I will not let it swallow me. They wallow in their own self pity. I will not let them bring me down. I also am not their savior. Screw that. I will not let being surrounded by defeatists bring me down. I am the change I want to see. I am the light at the end of my own tunnel.

Everything is possible you lame asses.

EVERYTHING is possible.

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4 thoughts on “not possible

  1. yes. we are the walking mission impossible…

    oh! other examples of “not possible.”
    ordering a salad and being told “not possible” out of salad, then seeing a sandwich with lettuce going past and seeing a huge stack of lettuce in the kitchen…
    asking for a ceasar salad without the cherry tomatoes and being told “not possible.”

    I’m sure if it weren’t so late, I could think of dozens more of these, and maybe I’ll add them.

    Oh, and the biggest one of all:
    Mrs. Seol at Holt Korea, telling me it was “not possible” for them to know which orphanages they worked with which were near Wonju.

    Obviously, “not possible” in Korea = more trouble than I’m willing to do…

  2. I feel guilty that the strain you are under is so interesting.

    I was at a traditional Korean music concert with my boys this past Saturday and the drums hadn’t started and they were fussy. A older Korean woman in front of us turned around at one point and paid attention to him. I immediately thought of you. Not you and your students, but him as you.

    This is the key to why some crazy AP named Ed likes to read your blog.

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