Happy Birthday and Other Stories

25 Nov

It’s early evening on a Monday night at English Village.  Monday is basically my “Sunday” as I work Saturdays and am off Sunday and Monday.  There is a new crop of students bustling through English Village this week.  I can hear their enthusiasm and giggles outside my window.  They are likely shopping at the EV Mart located just below my new apartment.

It’s been a simple yet satisfying Monday.  It’s already dark outside and the day has turned into night… and I am still in my pajamas.  It’s been one of those kind of days.  A day where playing around in the kitchen led to cleaning the kitchen which led to making some lentils which led to working on my computer.  This led to chatting with a friend on Facebook which led to a string of many other miscellaneous activities, interests and obligations.  Starring just me… in my pajamas.  In my new apartment.  A while ago my sister saw a skit by a comedian who was cleaning up his office.  This simple act led to a barrage of fun and exciting games in his comic skit, playfully discovering new things in the process.  She said that he reminded her of me as when I was a child cleaning out my closet turned into a playful adventure of discovery and a day long event!  It’s been one of those kind of days.

The weather is turning colder and we are all taking refuge in our warmer coats and scarves.  We even had a few snow flurries earlier this week.  With the cold weather brings fewer little students braving the cold and attending the bookclub program that I teach.  Those that do arrive have cold bodies and runny noses.

This week with the itty bitties has been pretty basic as we investigate the world of reading in English.  I continue to explore new ways to engage them as their energetic bodies enter the classroom not quite yet ready to be seated and listen and read.  Sometimes I play with them a little bit with yoga having some physical fun until they can slowly come to a place of a bit… more… focus.

I tried playing Mad Libs with some of my older students this week.  You remember that, right?  You make a random list of nouns, adjectives and words and then fill in the blanks to reveal your silly story.  At first as we approached this in class, it was an adventure in clarifying what exactly is a verb, and adverb, and adjective.  And once we had traversed that landscape, it was their turn to make their list.  And then, at last when we filled in the words for their silly story, the response was a little bit… unexpected.  While they did chuckle a bit, they were not totally delighted.  In some ways there was some embarrassment and a desire to change the words to make it fit better in the story.  Not quite the Mad Lib joy I remembered.

Sunday I congregated with some friends in my Buddhist SGI group in Seoul.  We met at a local Korean chapter meetings as we were one of the featured entertainers at their annual meeting.  It was quite a hoot as we did a simple Zumba dance with flashing lights making us look fancier than we really were.  Despite my resistance to the whole things it was indeed… fun!

Afterward we were treated to a Korean style pork dinner known as Samgyeopsal.  It is a local favorite and pretty simple really. Tables receive uncooked cuts of pork that you cook on the barbecue on your table.  It’s served with an assortment of sides, most of which were off-limits to me with my sensitivity to sugar, a staple additive to most Korean dishes. Before the meal we were all offered a large plastic bag to put our coats and belongings in.  I was told the purpose of the bags  is to keep your coat and personal items from smelling from the thick aroma of  barbecue.  How is that for service? As the meal arrived, everyone busily prepared the food and cut… using kitchen scissors as it the custom in Korea.  No knives here!  And before you know it, our food was ready to eat.

At the end of the meal was a little  celebration to honor my birthday courtesy of the lovely people in my Seoul SGI district.  The night before I received a cryptic text message asking (knowing that I can’t eat refined sugar)… can I eat honey?  What about maple syrup?… “not really, I replied.”  Alas I dampened an earnest attempt to bake a cake for my birthday I could actually eat.  And so, defeated, they presented me with an ordinary birthday cake, beautiful  in style and intact with a candle to blow out.  It was a lovely gesture even though… I couldn’t eat it…  So I took it in visually, cut it up equally and distributed it to the guests.  And I didn’t even lick the icing off my fingers.

When it was time to leave the weather outside had turned to wind and rain.  As this was unexpected, none of us were armed with an umbrella.  In elegant SGI style, the Korean woman’s district leader who was dining with us had someone go out and fetch umbrellas for all of the over a dozen guests.  Happily we received our new umbrellas and headed out into the rain content to be dry.  Soon after I made my return to Paju.

The weekend is coming to a close and I have a few more hours of play before night turns to day and a new week begin.  Please write if you like and tell me what is up in your world.  It’s always good to hear from you!

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