Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Teaching in Korea is a carnival game. The object of the game is to teach children, seven or eight classes a day, five or six days a week, armed with Not The Best Resources In The World, with no time to sculpt those resources into a distracting never mind educational form, you must improvise; your students have already been in school for ten hours and they have cell phones and their cell phones have games and the kids are fairly ADD as it is; when you're not in school you're outside where the air smells like pitsweat and the water causes hallucinations and the beer turns your brain to petrified wood, and the Korean suburbanites hound you like a C-list celebrity, and your toilet clogs, and the music sucks, and the restaurant next door has gone and dumped clams in your front lawn and clams are not a mollusk that smells better with age, and your toilet clogs, and the music sucks, and every morning the grape vendor comes megaphoning down the block at 8 o'clock sharp, and amidst all this Seinfeldian angst, the cruelest of all cruel Teaching In Korea ironies comes Hammer-dancing into your mind: everywhere you go you will attract attention (stares, leers, gawks; giggles, titters, guffaws) but not at school, i.e. the one place you want people to pay attention to you is precisely the one place where you vanish, fade, become invisible, cease to exist - and it. is. maddening.

So, good luck. A whole year, 365 days. If you survive, you win. If not, _______. The carny eggs you on. You'll never make it, he says, pansy. But he underestimates the shit you can put up with. He doesn't know that you've survived core-level theology classes at a Jesuit University, that you've worked at a non-figurative zoo, that you've spent a week living out of a Dunkin' Donuts in Berlin, that for four months you proofread catalogues in the Oriental Trading Company's Really Dark Basement Where the Dreams of Liberal Arts Majors Go To Die, i.e. you've been through some shit, or just enough petty shit to know that life is just that: going through shit. So the clouds begin to part around month ten when it starts looking like you're going to make it. The carny is rattled and starts throwing out jabs that go beyond mere gamesmanship, talking shit about your haircut, throwing bottlecaps at your head, flirting with your lady friend and that. You keep going, the days keep falling. You're on pace not only to win but to win big, one of those top-shelf stuffed frogs that weighs more than a human corpse. But in the face of triumph you begin to wonder whether this slithery carny is really a man of his word, whether someone who conducts such a corrupt racket with such compunctionless ease can be trusted to deliver the goods even if you win the carnival game fair and square, whether you oughtn't to have avoided the game in the first place and just held onto your money and stayed home and just I don't know and -

and that's where I stand. Whether the metaphor has a happy ending depends on the next 55 days, whether I am handed certain envelopes, whether I am still sane enough to understand what those envelopes are for.

1 comment:

Alexander Ward said...

Pssh, as if a carney could get you down!