It occurred to me on Friday night, as I was removing my make-up, that there was one thing I hadn’t yet done in Korea. Well… to be fair, there are many things I haven’t yet done in Korea, but this was one that I know several other people had already done.
I hadn’t cried.
This hit me like a ton of bricks, after what was a rather tough week. I’d left the office despite promising myself that I would stay until my work was done. I’d gone home and I’d sat down in front of my laptop, intending to continue working, and I burst into tears. When combined with the cough I’ve been (unsuccessfully) combatting for the last two weeks and my tendency to wear too much eyeliner, this was an unsightly, unpleasant affair. Sobbing gave way to fits of coughing, which then gave way to further fits of sobbing until eventually I managed to calm down enough to make some tea, clean up the panda make up on my face, and have IM my mom on Skype.
Now, my mom didn’t have much useful advice, but was (as she often is) ready to tell me to keep my chin up and to carry on. She did the best thing she could have done under the circumstances – she told me to let myself feel what I was feeling, that I was allowed to be upset. She then reminded me (as she so often does) that she would love for me to come home (which is her way, I suspect, of telling me that if I decide to break my contract, it’s okay with her).
Now… last week. Last week was tough. I didn’t get enough sleep. I generally don’t, but I need it now more than ever. One of my classes was being recorded, and all of my anxiety surfaced. I was reminded of the first time I’d taught a class, the first time I had to be evaluated by my students, that one time one of my students decided to be a dick to me in my own lecture, and I had to tell him to leave.
To make matters worse, I’d spent the whole week worrying about the class, only to find out on the day before that four native teachers would be observing my class. I began to doubt my decision to run my class as normal. I avoided the temptation to finish a bottle of wine before going to sleep.
The class went well. I suspect. A proper feedback session is still incoming. The feedback that I was given was largely surrounded by great amounts of praise. One of my students had asked a question I couldn’t answer, and I responded that I would give her the answer when I next saw her. She apologized afterwards for embarrassing me. I suspect it stood somewhat in my favour that I did that. I certainly hope so. Said student then asked me what a trophy wife and a sugar daddy were. And I had to explain these terms while my head teacher (who had witnessed much of my nervousness) was standing next to me.
On Saturday my school runs a programme for gifted students in Incheon. For me, this involves editing students’ assignments, preparing a feedback class on the writing, a class on debate, and doing a class on academic writing (Oh! The flashbacks!) – though I don’t actually have to prep that one.
The weekend programme is what really set me off on Friday. After working on the mid-term exams, doing the recorded class and managing to get all the papers edited, my co-teacher for gifted programme demanded (out of nowhere) to see the presentation for the first lesson of the following day. She said “I want to see it one day before.” Too late for that, by 20:00 on Friday when the first class is at 9:10 on Saturday. Especially when she’d just seen that I’d only just finished editing the papers for which that first class was meant to be feedback.
On Friday night, I decided I couldn’t stay in the office for another second. I packed up and left. And the rest is… well… it’s what I started this post off with.
Now I’m not entirely sure what contributed to the tears. I suppose it was that I’ve been feeling increasingly homesick for the last week. Maybe it’s that Aunt Irma decided to show up. Maybe it was that my nerves from my recorded class had decided to manifest. Maybe it was the fact that, after two weeks of being ill, I was (and am) still ill.
But what I had, most of all, was the urge to walk back into my office and shout “Cut me some fucking slack, will you? No amount of preparing myself before leaving could have come close to preparing me for this place!”
And I cried.
And then I cleaned the make up off my face (which had gone everywhere).
And then I finished my presentation.
Saturday went well.
I’m still tired. But I’m no longer wound up.
I suppose the moral is to not let the stripey bastards eat you. Hide under a colander.
DISCLAIMER: I’m fine guys! I’m fine! Korea is great, my job is good, I’m getting well. Friday just wasn’t a good day for me.