In 2006, your dear old dad returned to America after a year of teaching ESL in South Korea. It was a wonderful time. I have so many awesome memories, and when you’re a twenty-something with a freshly minted college degree and want to travel overseas, I recommend Korea. As long as you can stomach spicy food that can melt through your teeth, crowds of people with no sense of personal space who won’t hesitate to rest their head on your shoulders for a quick nap on the subway, and children.
Lots and lots of children.
For a year, I taught kindergartners every morning. At that age, kids brains are language sponges. They absorb EVERYTHING, and the idea was that by hanging out with English speakers every morning, these kids would be nearly fluent in a few years. It worked. My kindergartners could speak English better than almost any kid in the entire school, and this included high schoolers.
I had them for 45 minutes every day. One of my very first lessons, we covered shapes and colors. I devised a game where I put a colored in different shapes on pieces of paper. I put the shapes in various corners of the room, and called out, GREEN TRIANGLE! YELLOW SQUARE! When I got to RED SQUARE!, my students went ballistic, charging at the paper with freshly sharpened pencils and stabbing that paper so full of lead it could have blocked an x-ray.
My mistake? I drew a red circle on a white paper. This is the flag of Japan. I was in Korea. Koreans hate Japan because of their occupation during World War II.
So I was helping fuel long-seeded ethnic hatred as well as teaching shapes and colors. Awesome.
I gained my bearings quickly. I had no idea what I was doing, so naturally, I fell back on my strengths.
I told stories.
One of my favorites was when they asked me about my home. In a deeply serious tone, like I was letting them in on a secret, I told them I was an alien.
“Teacher!” they said. “You’re not an alien!”
“Yes, I am.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Yes, I am. Look at my arms.” I said, proudly brandishing my very white and very hairy forearms.
A kid came up and picked at a few hairs near my wrist. He consulted with his classmates in Korean. This was an important consideration. Their dads didn’t have arm hair. Maybe this crazy English teacher was telling the truth. He gave me a measured stare, ready to squeeze the truth out of me. “How did you get here, teacher?”
“What do you eat?”
“Why do you look like a person?”
“Because people on my planet look the same. That’s how I got the job.”
He stroked the hair on my arm. “I don’t believe you, teacher.”
“Fine,” I replied, and I brought out my trump card. I fished out my wallet, and proudly flashed my Korean id card, with the words ‘National Alien Registration Card’ written prominently across the top in English. Their mouths dropped to the floor.
The best part of this was that they asked me this question during my first week. For the rest of the year, they tried to trip me up and give it up, but I never caved. They never fully believed me, but they never fully didn’t either. It was awesome, and what made it even more awesome was that they actually learned English very well by trying to interrogate me, the resident “alien.”
And just to prove to you that I did in fact go to Korea, here’s some pictures they gave me on my last week. I will treasure these forever.
Here’s me. Apparently, my hair grew so fro-ey that at some point it gained the ability to refract light. Or that could just be the ultraviolet radiation seeping out from my oompa-loompa tan.
Here, I’m able to send psychic messages through rainbows to make girls fall in love with me. Oh, and my left hand is liquid metal and can morph into sharp objects like the t1000 in Terminator 2 in case the rainbow doesn’t do the trick.
The Korean in the middle reads science. The kids loved the days we had science. Who wouldn’t love building paper airplanes, testing out magnets, or roasting small children inside of mushrooms?
That, my boy, is a rocket. Inside is me (complete with unofficial Korean name Cheolsu), rocketing back to my homeworld.
Here’s me again, as Cheolsu, tending to my pet unicorn. Because duh, aliens have unicorns.
I’m just letting you know now, Blue. You’re in for it. I’m telling you about these tall tales now in this blog, but you won’t know this exists until way down the line. Until then, did you know your father is a vampire? I have the degree to prove it.