Of the many things K-pop has helped me with in this country, from friends to language, one I didn’t expect was memorizing faces.
I have 76 new students. Seventy six. That is not hyperbole that is an exact number.
About 2 years ago, if you had told me that all Asians look the same I would have agreed with you. Then I went to China and saw that no they do not. But it took a while to tell my kids apart—and there were only 31 one of them.
6 months ago I probably would have agreed that they are at least hard to tell apart. But I tried anyway. At first it was difficult to see the differences. As non-Asians, we identify by hair color, eye color, skin color, height, weight, and noticeable features. “Oh yeah the fat guy with the mustache” “oh yeah the ginger with the blue eyes.”
But in a country where, for the most part, those features are all the same if not similar, it’s hard for us to tell Asians apart. Our eyes are not used to picking out the differences between Asian faces.
It was really hard for me to tell SHINee apart at first—and there are only 5 of them. I actually stayed clear of EXO because I thought it’d be too much work to learn all 12 of them. It did take a while, but it was worth it.
Now, these bands are all SO different looking. I think, “how could I have ever mixed them up? THEY’RE ALL SO DIFFERENT”. As different as looking at a line up of my white friends. And I think, coming to Korea, I can easily tell my co-workers apart where I know some other foreign teachers had trouble (at first). And yes, I have 76 students, but they all look so different to me. It’s day three, I had my Monday kids again, and I remembered a lot of them.
This isn’t because I’m a genius or “good with names” or whatever. I think it’s because my eyes have become trained to pay attention to different facial structures. Does that makes sense? No? That’s okay.
Speaking of names, my little fiancee gave me a Korean name today. He said, Mallory teacher, I am going to call you 장미 (jang mi).
Me: What does that mean Mr. E?
Mr. E: “Rose”.
As much as I love the three Ninas, I think my favorite class has to be my Pintas, or “my ladies.” It’s six girls who all speak English on a high level and are all friends. But not in a “I’m going to talk to my friends instead of listening to Mallory Teacher” kind of way. Friends in education—like they all want to learn together. They even have this handclapping game for T/F questions they taught me.
“Mallory Teacher no we do T/F like this” and then they sang this little song and Chaewon goes “1, 2, 3” and they hold up a cross sign with their arms for False and a circle sign for true. I’m standing there with my mouth open like,
I think, I know, my hardest class will be my Compass. There’s 13 kids (there are only supposed to be 12) and there are two good loudmouths, one bad loudmouth, two sets of best friends, and three angels. One of my best friends set is my lovely Eric. Today we were running way behind since it was the class I taught Monday that I knew I had screwed up but not how bad. The answer—really bad. Anyway, Eric could tell I was rushing and was like “Teacher Mallory can I read?” We had to get through a silly story about a beaver eating leaves and I said go ahead. He nodded, as if knowing what I meant by that, and read through much faster than any of the other kids could have (we had been going one by one before). His friend David would correct him with a word or two every once in a while. So even though they chatted a lot—I understand. And they helped.
Anyway, I have my final “new class” tomorrow where I will be teaching science to my intensives. Please, let Gu Jun Pyo and Chris be in attendance.