Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wise Fools

Since Chris and I both teach a lot of sophomores, we like to remind them every year that the definition of sophomore is that they are “wise fools”. It always gets a laugh from the upperclassmen who have very proudly moved on from that foolish age and are now self-proclaimed sages of the school, possessing all knowledge necessary to make it in the “real world”. As we enter our second year here at Seoul Foreign School, we can’t help but identify with these poor limbo-bound sophomores.

Having humbly survived our first year, it is incredibly satisfying to no longer be whispering to the person next to us in a faculty meeting about what the alphabet soup pouring out of our principal’s mouth actually means. We have learned to speak in acronyms and can carry on a conversation about IB, HL’s, IGCSE, IA’s, EE’s, and SYP’s with relative fluency. When a meeting is called in the LC, we know not only what those letters stand for, we actually know where it is located. So, during orientation week, we were feeling pretty competent as we reminisced about how far we had come in a year. Watching some of the new faculty roam mindlessly about with that all-to-familiar deer in the headlights look had us smiling in commiseration as we remembered the “sink or swim” feeling we had a year ago. But, swim we did and here we are with a bit more wisdom about the place we live and work.

However, I learned our second year in Taiwan to be careful during the sophomore stage to not be too overconfident. We no longer have the excuse of saying, “I’m new, that’s why I have no idea what’s going on.” That distinct privilege has now been passed to a new crop of teachers still trying to figure out where the meeting in the LC is. It only takes a small reminder as we leave our school’s campus and venture out into the city to see how truly foolish we still are. While we learned to speak SFS last year, our Korean is still pretty meager. Getting around in a taxi in Korean, we’re not too shabby. Ordering in a restaurant, so-so, as long as we stay within the specific menu that we know. Counting and being able to understand prices, etc.? I’m still terrible. Everyday conversation beyond hello and goodbye? Forget about it. The same is true for knowing our surrounding areas. Our neighborhood, we know pretty well. The foreign district and a nearby artists’ area, not too bad. Pretty much anything beyond that, we are lost, literally and figuratively.

So, here we are in limbo. We have gained wisdom in some areas but still come face-to-face with our foolishness on a daily basis. However, despite our precarious position, we have to agree with my Grandma who used to say, “There are no bad days, just some better than others,”… or maybe that was wine…

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Tale of Two Flights

“It was the best of flights, it was the worst of flights, it was the flight of wisdom, it was the flight of foolishness… it was the flight of Light, it was the flight of Darkness, it was the flight of hope, it was the flight of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all flying direct to Heaven, we were all flying direct the other way.”

Okay, so that may not be exactly the way Dickens wrote it, but I couldn’t have said it better myself. As most of you know, Chris and I had the pleasure of toting the BOGOs to America and showing them off in their first stateside tour this summer. My last blog dealt with some of my concerns about this tour, namely the transportation. Freshly off of our return flight back to Seoul, I thought I would regale you with the tale of our two flights across the Pacific Ocean. In order to fully grasp the contrast of these two experiences, I have pinpointed a few aspects for us to compare.


Flight #1

Chris and I thought that it would be a good idea to bring the babies’ car seats on board to have a place for them to sit without us holding them. We failed to take into consideration the fact that we don’t have a car here and that the babies had been in their car seats a grand total of one time, and that was to come home from the hospital. As it turns out, they didn’t so much like being placed in those contraptions and screamed any time they were in them, including walking down the aisle to find our seats. I watched fellow passengers’ eyes fill with fear as we approached and then sigh with relief as we passed by. Who would have to sit next to the screaming twins for the next 14 hours?

Flight #2

Checked the car seats and therefore we had extra space to maneuver in our seats as well as have a place for the babies to lay down flat to sleep. Babies board the flight in our arms and therefore happy. I watch as peoples’ eyes melt into adoration at the stunning cuteness of our daughters.

In flight

Flight #1

I’m just going to say this: there were tears. Lots of them. And I will admit that they were not all baby tears either. Despite our most desperate efforts, the screaming that began during the boarding process persisted through take-off, the first beverage service, and on through dinner. I had to inhale my food standing in the back of the plane while bouncing a baby up and down in an only mildly successful attempt to calm her down. Finally, we were able to get both babies asleep while we held them. I’m sure that I don’t need to remind you that this was a long flight. A very, very long flight. However, needing to hold the babies the entire time made it difficult to do some things that might have made our journey a bit more pleasant like, oh I don’t know, go to the bathroom maybe? Too afraid that our breathing might shake the fragile sleeping state of the girls, the only conversation that Chris and I shared was of the utmost importance. Mainly it focused on how we would never, ever even think about doing this again.

Flight #2

After finishing a feeding during take-off, we spread blankets on the extra seats and watched contentedly as the babies drifted off to dreamland for their nap. During this time, Chris and I were free to move about, stretch our legs, and even enjoy dinner. I took full advantage of the open season on the restroom and even made a little time to brush my teeth in preparation for the long flight. Chris and I chatted freely in reflection of the summer and our future plans for the upcoming year.


Flight #1

If I am appreciative of one thing about the first flight, it is that there were other families around us who also had babies and therefore didn’t cast as hateful glances at us and our screaming twins as I imagine other people might have done. However, these families’ babies didn’t make a peep during the flight. Not one little sound! While I consoled myself with the thought that they must have sneaked Benadryl into their bottles, I couldn’t help but feeling like a failure for not maintaining order in our little section of the plane. To confirm that my inadequacies were not just in my head, as we deplaned, one young mother handed me a list of parenting books and blogs that she thought I might find helpful in the future. Thanks. We crawled to customs, our defeated heads hanging low.

Flight #2

Deciding to finally wake the babies up from their slumber as we pulled into the gate, passengers around us still looked adoringly at the twins. Rather than receiving pitying advice as we gathered our belongings, flight attendants and travelers still commented on how cute the babies are. As we pranced onto the jet way, Chris and I beamed with pride and triumph. Take that, trans-Pacific! You may have bested us the first time, but we came out on top on the second-go-round.

I’m going to be honest. The success of the second flight hasn’t quite cured me of the trauma from the first flight but I think we will get there in time. This kind of emotional healing doesn’t happen overnight.