Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Katherine the Trooper

March 7, 2007

Katherine has been completely amazing through all the various hassles and stresses we've been undergoing in the last week. She's trudged along on her little legs without complaint, uphill (literally) and down, through bitterly cold weather, with her new best friend 'Backpack' on her shoulders; waited for half-an-hour for her shuttlebus to show up, hopped on said bus with her new classmates without tears; gotten through an eight-hour day of shopping and traveling around Seoul; eaten seaweed, fish, beefknuckle, and other strange broths quite cheerfully; trusted assorted strangers with whom Mommy and Daddy have decided to leave her; put up with head-petting, cheek-pinching, and numerous other types of fawning from the adjummas and adjusshis on a daily basis - apparently the eyelashes are a big hit. She keeps getting 'arumdawayo!' (beautiful) and 'kyowaaaaayo!' (so cute) and 'in-yo!' (like a doll) as a steady diet of compliments.

I must say, she's behaved angelically through it all. A few tears here and there, sure, and perhaps just a bit more whining when she wants something - but for a three-year old in a strange country where none of her language ability does her any good, sans most of her toys, all of her books, videos, furniture, and other familiar things, in a new tiny house, her first daycare (in a strange environment, culture, and language), she has shown remarkable flexibility and even grace. We are frequently amazed at the understanding and perception her comments show, and how maturely she expresses herself.

In the morning she hugs me tightly and says, "I don't want to go to daycare, Mama - I want to go to the office with you. Can I come to the classroom?" Note: she understands that we both have to teach, and she refrains from saying that she doesn't like daycare, which she does. But she misses the intensive time that she has had with both parents since she was born. .. At five-fifteen she springs off the little shuttlebus full of energy and bright-eyed, telling us she had fun.

Yesterday she got off with her new friend Choon-so, the three-year old (well, ok, in Korea apparently both Katherine and Choon-so are actually FIVE years old, but anyhow...) whose grandparents run the Honeybee Shik-dang (restaurant) at the Myongji gates. Bryan and I often go there for dinner and Bry has his favorite dosot pibimbap (rice and veggies in a scorchingly hot dish, with an egg cracked on top and some red pepper paste). Choon-so's mom (who with her husband also works at the Honeybee) and I were waiting together, and after lots of hugs and kisses we were all swept into the restaurant together. I assumed we'd just warm up (it is SO cold here this week!) but before I knew it the two girls were sitting at a table together and Halmoni (Choon-so's grandmother) had whisked two little dishes of food in front of them. Child-size servings of hot rice, some fish broth, some hot fried tubu (tofu) and a fried egg each! It was delightful to see the two rosy little faces tucking into it together.

I picked up a little box of bee-shaped pushpins at the market to say 'thanks' but I think I'll need to come up with something fancier, because the Honeybee folk have been marvelous so far.

This morning, for example. It was NOT a good morning. Katherine came home with a four-page 'newsletter' in her bag yesterday which I stuck in my purse to have our office assistant help me with (because of course it was all in Korean). We left the house together, Kath and I, at eight, in a cold wind, and trotted fairly briskly down the hill to catch the shuttlebus (which has been coming at 8:20 - 8:30 am). We sat by the bus stop for thirty minutes in the increasingly bitter cold, and at quarter to nine, in a panic, I ran up with her to the Honeybee (about thirty feet from the bus stop). Choon-so's dad was 'on duty' and welcomed us to sit down in the warmth. I explained, nearly in tears, and in mixed Korean and English, that I had to teach at nine and was afraid Katherine had missed the shuttlebus.

He picked up the phone, dialed the daycare, and informed me gently that the shuttlebus time had been changed and that from now on it would come at nine. "But I have to be in the classroom at nine," I nearly wailed, looking between my chilled child and the clock. He indicated that he would be happy to take her down ten minutes from now and that I should go. Katherine, not oblivious to this exchange, flung herself into my arms in tears - understandably. Here was her dear mother abandoning her to a stranger, instead of her comparatively familiar shuttlebus driver and teacher.... and why couldn't she come to the office with me, please Mama?

I had a brainwave: pulling my business card from my purse, I got him to phone our apartment. In a few quick words I explained to Bryan and asked him to stay on the phone with Katherine so I could make my escape without hysteria (on whose part I did not specify). He cheerfully talked, sang, and told her a story until it was time for the bus to come, and Choon-so's dad patiently took the phone away and let Bry know he was walking her out. When we called the daycare later to check up on some other information, she was apparently just fine - so most of the trauma was on our part!

I came panting and frazzled into my office at two minutes to nine, threw on makeup, grabbed my books, took a deep breath and marched outwardly serenely into my classroom.... only to belatedly realize that on Monday my schedule (like everyone else's this week) had been changed around and I didn't start teaching till eleven.

I am ashamed to say that I said several unladylike words under my breath at this point and, I suspect, swore. It's all rather unclear. Anyhow, it did all get sorted out, I did get to all my classes, the newsletter got translated (I have to buy a birthday gift under 2000 won - two bucks - for two of Katherine's classmates who are having a birthday this month! And we have to bring in 'beans and dried anchovies' - presumably for a class snack! - on the fifteenth.... Don't you love this country?), and I've finally printed out my FINAL REVISED ULTIMATE SCHEDULE which should be valid for the rest of the semester.

Must go, have a class in five minutes. Love you all!

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Anonymous Artimidor said...

*haha* Really great to read your blog, Judy! These little stories about the hazards and adventures real life brings in another part of the world are always entertaining to follow... Especially this one dealing with little Katherine and the telephone story is quite touching. :) I'm happy though for you both that Katherine can deal with all the changes so well, let's hope it stays that way...

March 9, 2007 at 10:06 a.m.  

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