Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Defensive walking, consumerism, schools

I got this from Cat over at I don't know if people who haven't been to Seoul with think this is funny but it made me laugh to watch. The frustrating thing about walking with a child is that children have no sense of space, they don't anticipate the movements of others and move accordingly. But then again, I often think that other people are the same way, especially groups of people walking together. My pet peeve is people walking in a group who take up the whole sidewalk. Since I tend to walk faster than pretty much everyone else, getting stuck behind a pack of slow walkers drives me nuts. Luckily I have grown accustomed to pushing people out of the way. I wonder if there's a YouTube video of that.

I've been sick for the past few days and holed up at home and finally ventured out this morning to run some errands before going to Shanghai tomorrow. When you've been cooped up for a while, your body is still fuzzy from illness, and you haven't been to a shopping mall for several months, it is very surreal and strange to be out and about again. I found myself getting that itch to buy things, looking at plates and pillows and clothes. Good thing I cannot buy housewares because I know we will move again and I don't want any extra stuff. That consumerist bug lives inside me like a parasite and even when I think I've trained it out of my system it surprises me by manifesting its symptoms of greed and desire for shiny things again.

We had our "big cleaning" over the weekend. I meant to take a camera, but on the way out I realized I had left it at home and didn't want to walk back. While I was balanced on the window ledge cleaning the panes of glass with 2 other moms I mentioned that I had wanted to take pictures and the mom next to me looked at me like I was crazy. I tried to explain that my friends in the US think that this whole moms cleaning thing is strange and I wanted to capture what it was like. She didn't say much but it occurred to me that what I find interesting to record may just be a little embarrassing for them.

So... the big cleaning. We met at 12:10, after school finished (on Saturday they don't have lunch at school so they finish earlier). I had already eaten, it didn't occur to me that we would eat together. One mom brought a huge amount of kimpap, some green tea-type drinks, and instant coffee. We sat and ate and talked for a while and I tried to remember who is who (in Korea, you mostly call people by title or affiliation rather than name, so I call Aiden's classmates' moms "so-and-so's mom" rather than by name. That would actually be easier if I knew the names of the kids in Aiden's class but even he doesn't know them, aside from his few close buddies. He must take after me in that respect.) Anyway, they all know me. Everyone had come with rags, cleaning fluid, rubber gloves, etc. except me because I didn't realize I would need to bring those things... but there was enough to go around. We cleaned the heck out of that classroom. We took apart the fans and cleaned the blades. We dismantled the curtains and sent them to the dry cleaners. The windows, which I spent the most time on (because I figured it would occupy a long time and were fairly self-explanatory) spanned the length of the classroom, 3 panes of glass thick. They took a long time. We dusted everything, washed the walls and doors in the hall outside the class, rearranged the books... It took about 2, 2.5 hours. There was a lot of dust, it did need to be cleaned. The other moms were saying they hadn't even done such a thorough cleaning in their own homes. Ha.

Tuesday was my turn at lunch and daily cleaning duty but I was so sick I had to switch with someone else (really, I was really sick!). So I'll have to save that story for Monday. Sandra sent me this article about moms doing this kind of work in Korea. I can definitely relate. For me, this is a temporary thing, and I attend as much from compulsion as from curiosity. I don't know how I would feel if I knew I would be doing this for the next 12 years. Though as far as I can see, in the upper grades the kids clean the classrooms themselves... when I come to the school in the afternoon the older kids are mopping the floors and washing the blackboards.

While we are in Shanghai this trip we will check out the Korean International School there. It is cheaper than the other international schools and I think it may be easier for Aiden to adjust if I keep him in the same kind of system. Plus I want him to maintain his Korean after we move. They do 4 hours of English a week and 3 hours of Chinese at that school, which I like very much (it is very important to me that he learn Chinese). So perhaps I will be cleaning classrooms for a few more years yet...

1 comment:

oreneta said...

I had to laugh about your day at the school We also frequently arrive without everything we need, like food and cleaning supplies. What is so obvious to the locals that they don't even THINK of telling you, is just not how we thought it would happen.

So glad to know that this will keep on happening indefinately.