Thursday, September 10, 2009

All You White People Look the Same, Part 2

The listening class I gripe so much about here has been put on hold for a month. Instead, I spend 45 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday giving an informal conversation class to one of the Korean hagwon teachers. The legality of this is fuzzy, but I'm pretty sure there's no word for "labor law" in Korean.

She didn't give me her real name, just her English name—Christina. She's very sweet and teaches English grammar at the hagwon. I'm 90% sure I have her son in one of my classes (embarrassingly enough, he's a rather poor student of English). It's pretty fun, all told, and while I do kind of miss some of my middle school students, this gig is much easier and much more enjoyable.

I sometimes get the feeling she thinks of me as some kind of...Barbie doll?...a bit. I coined a phrase talking to my friend Jong-min: "OMG White Girl" syndrome, or OMGWGS for short. Mostly it applies to Korean men, but once in a while it works for Korean women as well. Our first lesson she said she thought I was "so cute" and insisted on painting my nails next time. The second lesson she did, indeed, follow through on her promise of nail art and commented on how small my hands are ("like baby hands!"). My third lesson with her was this past Tuesday. We were talking about bacon flu and I did an impression of Mrs. Kim wigging out because another foreign teacher had a bit of a cough. Christina thought this was hilarious and commented that I resembled the girl from Gremlins, Phoebe Cates. A refresher: that we both have brown eyes and brown hair? Yes. But other than that I don't see much resemblance. Koreans don't always have a sense for what passes as resemblance among white people, same as most white people don't have a sense for what passes as resemblance among Koreans (and other East Asians). I'd like to think I've gotten a bit better at it, but they've had a whole lifetime of comparing and contrasting Korean faces. I've only had six months.

Today promises more nail art (yes, I am indeed getting my nails done by a Korean while in Korea) and also some hot tea. Perfect for my sore throat.