Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Longest Week

This week shall live in my memory as one of supreme exhaustion and duration.  I am convinced that it has not been a week at all, but rather, a month.  Surely one cannot cram this much into a mere seven-day period!

On Sunday, following an enlightening "book study", I went out to lunch with a friend and her pre-teen daughter.  Her daughter just arrived back from a summer in America, owing to a passport nightmare that left her stranded in the USA for more than a month.  Poor India had quite the rough time!  She's a delightful, mature, and witty girl to be around, so I thoroughly enjoyed getting a chance to know her.  And of course, I really enjoyed getting to have my favorite Korean meal, dak galbi, for lunch!  To make Sunday even better, we stopped at a Korean supermarket, where I was able to get milk that doesn't come in a box on a shelf, reasonably-priced cereal, my favorite Korean pancake mix, and a tasty milkshake.  Then I followed all that with six hours of lesson-planning at home, which made my injured left hand swell up impressively.

On Monday, I had numerous problems with the internet, a common issue here, and thus had a miserable time finishing up my lesson plans for the week during my planning periods.  At my Chinese lesson, I discovered another sound that is extremely hard for me to make correctly.  During my first class, I dealt with two kids who came dangerously close to getting detentions (a rarity in my classes, thankfully).  After school, I had volleyball practice with my JV girls, so I took the late bus home at 5:00.  I then spent five hours grading, a sizable portion of which was spent moaning over a quiz that one class should have done MUCH better on.  I resisted the urge to put either the quizzes or my head in the oven.

Tuesday had two very involved lesson plans, more computer/internet battles, a war with my online gradebook (which it is still sulking over), a high school faculty meeting, and then . . . another late night.  Make that, an exceedingly late night!  We were having College Night at school, an event where parents could come and get all of their questions answered about things like AP classes, transcripts, university requirements, SAT, etc.  Since I am teaching and creating the College Prep class, I was asked to give a presentation about my class and about the SAT.  Since College Night was to start at 6:30 and we live 40 minutes from school, it made no sense to go home.  So, Nitta graciously took those of us who were staying over (herself, me, the director of student services, our Korean liaison, and one of the high school counselors) out to dinner at a wonderful Western restaurant.  

We got back to school just in time to set up, and then it was one looooooooong night!  We had a good turnout of parents, and they were chock full of questions.  Plus, since most of them don't speak English, our liaison Vickie (a dear Korean gal) had to translate everyone else's presentations.  When she got to her own presentation and started trying to go back and forth between languages, Nitta kindly translated for her.  Although exhausted, I did enjoy listening to the translations, as I always do.  Hearing Korean spoken just gives me warm fuzzies inside.  I made the parents really happy by introducing myself in Korean to them and bowing properly -- Nitta and Vickie had egged me on at dinner to do this, saying that the parents would love it.  They were really interested in my presentation, as I had anticipated (Korean parents are very devoted to getting their kids into the best universities).  Many of the parents were dismayed to learn that their children had missed a chance to take my class this semester; I have a feeling that my class-list for next semester is going to grow quite rapidly!  After our successful but wearying evening, we wound up leaving school at 9:30 pm.  On the way home, Nitta made an offer that was intended to be sweet but which was actually a bit ominous:  Knowing that I've had a lot on my mind lately, she told me that if I ever need help keeping busy, I can feel free to come to her.  I replied, "Nitta, did you really just make me that offer after tonight?!"

On Wednesday, my body announced its disappointment in only getting three hours of sleep for the past few days (I've had too much on my mind to be able to sleep).  I ignored it, and taught two very strenuous lessons, then coached another volleyball practice and left at five, yearning to go to sleep.  I ignored the yearning and instead went to dinner at a coworker's place, which turned out to be wonderful therapy.  We had sort of a mini-UN group of three Americans, a Chinese-Canadian, a Malaysian-Indian-Australian, and a South African.  We had fantastic conversations about the worst jobs we've ever had, previous students we've taught, current students and their dramatic lives, and language mishaps we've had here in China.  We also had a really neat discussion about bad words -- now I know that the term "fanny pack" is extremely offensive in several other cultures, and that I need to never again use any of the language that I heard from my British friends in Korea (apparently, many of those words they used were uber-offensive).

I had an "entertaining" taxi ride home.  Despite my practically shouting at the driver in Chinese to stop by the back gate of the apartment complex, he completely ignored me and took me to the front gate, giving me a nice long walk in the rain while carrying both of my computers (I have grading saved on one and need the Mac for creating my lessons).  I really need to ask Jackie to teach me some stronger language so that taxi drivers will take me more seriously!

It's still not over.  Despite taking the early bus today (a bold decision that I resolutely stuck to despite my need to work on things in my classroom), it's been another draining day.  Three hours of sleep yet again last night, loads of material to cover today, lessons for next week to start arranging for (I'm having one of the Chinese staff in as a guest speaker in College Prep), and on top of that, I'm dog-sitting for friends for the next few days, which meant finding time for two decent walks and picking up groceries for while I am staying over here.  

Tomorrow will be exhausting, too.  Quizzes in every class, plus I'm giving an emotional presentation to all of my history classes:  In light of September 11, I've decided to do a special presentation about the events, my memories from the day, and the Al Qaida perspective for why the attacks occurred (I want kids to look at both sides of stories, even if it is really controversial -- that's part of being good historians).  Then in the evening, there will be a birthday dinner for one of my closest friends here.  On Saturday, there's a shopping trip to a massive store (it's sort of like Sam's Club).  In the evening, we're having a massive birthday bonfire on the beach to celebrate about six birthdays and to create a good excuse for lighting things on fire.  Someone has already spoken about having lunch with me on Sunday (I have forgotten whom . . . oops).  Sometime this weekend, I've got to write a test for two classes and get all of my grading done for mid-quarter. 

Whew!  Don't things ever slow down around here?!  Thank goodness we have no school on Monday!  (Naturally, teachers still "get to" go in.)


Yay Duck:  People obviously like me, as they keep inviting me places.  I have the world's best coworkers.  I am never bored.  Also, my principal apparently thinks I am very qualified.

Yuck Duck:  I'm exhausted, but can't sleep.  I'm stressed.  I've had four Renaud's attacks this week.  I have grading out the wazoo (why did I assign all this homework?!).  My hand is still recovering slowly from being injured at Fall Camp.  I'm worried about my mother.  I worry that I'm not good enough to coach a sport (I mean, let's face it -- athletic and I have never been used in the same sentence).

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"