It’s a quiet rainy Sunday at English Village. I am sneaking in a little time to write my blog before I head off to Seoul. There is a district meeting today for my SGI Buddhist group. Our meeting is at 1pm but I generally allow about two hours for the journey. This includes waiting for bus 2200 traveling directly to Seoul, the 50 minutes bus-ride, then catching the subway and any miscellaneous walking involved. I spent part of my morning today preparing a simple dish for the potluck lunch after the meeting. It was a good reminder to me how grounding it is to spend a little simple time preparing food. Cutting vegetables, adding seasonings, mixing ingredients and preparing it to share with others is a simple ceremony that feels like it honors my soul.
I am glad for the rainy weather this weekend. It somehow gives me permission to have a quiet steady pace after the preceding hectic workweek. This weekend has been a gentle rhythm of spending time on my own reading and tidying up a bit, traveling to Seoul for a chiropractor appointment and doing a little grocery shopping. Then yesterday afternoon there was a staff barbecue at English Village. And last night, I made some homemade tomato soup. I have never done this before. It was just wonderful and seemed to feed something in me deeply in need of nourishment and comfort. Here is the recipe I used!
My second visit to the chiropractor continues the journey of healing my left ankle from my fall in France. As he works on it, with his friendly and comical “bedside manner” he gently scolds me as he points out the many different places and ways that my ankle is in need of adjusting. I have also talked with him a bit about my persistent back and neck pain. He has concluded that this problem is a hereditary thing and suggest that I sue my parents and we split it 70% for me 30% for me. Then, he says, I can quit my job and sit at the beach and drink beer.
This past work week was a different rhythm from the sometimes frantic pace of teaching busloads of visiting middle school children. I worked Monday – Wednesday with a group of college students here from Japan. It was fun to connect with them and explore the distinctness of being Japanese, the different sounds of their language and names. I was grateful for some of the simple benefits of teaching college students. You don’t have to collect them or herd them like disgruntled cats to get them to class. Generally in class they are well-behaved. And you don’t have to worry that they might randomly run out of class or hit their friend if you don’t have your eye on them. That said, upon returning to my regular middle school appointment on Thursday, I was genuinely happy to reconnect with the younger students. Although challenging at times, it is fun for me to be around their lightness, sometimes shenanigans, and fun spirit.
The greatest challenge lately and this past week has been… how to teach English to students who speak very little if any English. As I have mentioned before, English Village is a teach English in English organization. Even the Korean teachers here are encouraged to teach only in English. English Village even trains teachers how to teach English in English. And as I continue to develop this skill and refine how to simplify a lesson or express something in its most simplest terms, sometimes I am at a loss of what to do.
Earlier this week I had a class of Japanese college students who spoke and understood only the simplest of English. My class to teach them was Idioms. An idiom, if you’ve forgotten, is a phrase commonly used that has its own distinct meaning that is often very different from what the words literally mean. An example is ” a chip on your shoulder” or “high as a kite”. Quite difficult to explain to students who don’t have a grasp on the basics of the English language. But I went into the class with good intentions and did my best to explore it and simply. After about five minutes as I looked out into a class of totally blank faces, I stopped and said “just one minute!”. I snuck out of the classroom and quickly made my way to my supervisors down the hall. I desperately told them my situation and we quickly decided to change the lesson to a word game using English called “Stop the Bus”. In this game each team has to think of words for different categories beginning with whatever letter is offered for that round…. B, S, T. When their team has written words for all categories they have to shout “Stop the Bus!”, hence the name. I returned to the class and smiled and announced that we will do a new lesson. They smiled and laughed and then were fully engaged in the game.
This coming week I will work again with a special visiting group. They are high school students from a language school. It is likely that their English level will be high and their behavior a bit more mature as they are in high school. I am looking forward to it and we will see how it goes!
I must depart now as the bus to Seoul is calling my name. The bus driver is unforgiving if you are even a few seconds late and will not stop the bus… Enjoy your weekend! And of course, feel free to write and share what’s up in your world or even just say hello. It’s always good to hear from you!
Photo at top, another view of the hills and land surrounding English Village. Those stone pillars you see on the right… yes those are the giant replica of Stonehenge that greets you as enter English Village.