Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Minsoo, Camp Husband Extraordinaire


We were working in a children’s camp. English camps are all the rage during class breaks. A couple of weeks, immersion English…. Every teacher had a teaching assistant. They attempted to set it up so all the women teachers had men TAs while the men teachers had lady TAs. We had one “gay” couple in the batch. Excellent percentages.

“I have to take care of Minsoo,” I tell the folks in charge as I give my TA a cup of tea – oo jah cha tea in case you are wondering. He loves this tea. I make him one in the morning because – well… I need to take care of him so he can take care of me. If he stopped taking care of me, well, that would be a tragedy. He’s hands down the best man to work with me. I’m the teacher, I make the decisions which appeals to my control self, but he has absolute veto power which appeals to my insecurities. If he thinks it’s a bad idea, it doesn’t happen. Why? Because I trust him.

A little girl was crying one day in class, the end of camp. Minsoo took her out of the classroom and asked her what was happening. She thought Miss Pamila wouldn’t like her because she (the girl) didn’t understand everything in the class. She wanted Miss Pamila to like her. The fears in her head were making her sad (awwwwwwww)…

The award ceremonies were the next day, and who would win was a closely guarded secret. Minsoo and I had chosen this little girl to be the top winner in our class. She was not the best at English, but she was darned good. She was not the most expressive, but she could answer questions well. What made her win the award? She was the leader of the class. She made sure that each student had a turn to throw the ball during dodgeball. She made sure all the other children had a Frisbee and a partner before she got her own. She helped the other children when they didn’t understand what was going on in class. In a word, she was benevolent.

“Miss Pamila thinks you are the best in the class. She likes you a lot,” Minsoo told the girl. She didn’t believe him and continued to cry. There was no manipulation. She was sad. She was beating herself up something awful. He then proceeded to take control of the situation. He told this little girl, Sally, that she had won the top award. It was proof that Miss Pamila thought well of her, that Miss Pamila liked her. Sally’s response was “chincha?” – the Korean word for “really?” Minsoo nodded his head, and smiled at her, helped her dry her tears, and escorted her back into the classroom.

Some people would be angry at Minsoo for disclosing that information. Some people would say he should have kept the secret a secret. Children need to learn to deal with their emotions. They do need to learn that, it’s true. But you know what? We have a culture clash that happens between foreigners and native people, and sometimes people don’t understand the signals we give off. For me, whatever Minsoo thought was best in the situation was the thing that was to be done. He saved Little Sally some heartache, and he helped her understand that foreigners (that’d be me) sometimes think in a different way than they do.

At the end of the day, though, there is only one thing that is important. Minsoo decided this was the best course of action. Because I trust his judgment 100%, I will tell you this – it was the best course of action.

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