I’ve known many yard duty’s during a lifetime of public schooling, but when I think of a ‘yard duty,’ there’s just one woman I picture; halo of frizzy grey hair, sunglasses with a leash on them, clipboard full of green detention slips in her hand, and for whatever reason always yelling at me and my comrades.
She was my nemesis** for fourth and fifth grade, Strandwood Elementary, when I was starting my descent into misbehavior. My escapades included organizing secret clubs with passwords and rituals and elected officers, setting ants on fire with magnifying glasses stolen from science lab, and ‘accidentally’ meeting boys from the other class in the hallway so we could shyly look at each other, attempt conversation, and maybe agree to kiss behind the cafeteria during the talent show that Friday night.***
And now I *am* a yard duty. I warn every new class: one should never misbehave in school, because God will remember it, and then one day when you
come home from backpacking Central America because you’ve run out of money and are living with your parents and unemployed in sweatpants eating your weight in Cheezits and making up songs about the dog that you post on Youtube are going through a career change, He will turn you into a teacher, probably of junior high students, so you get what you deserve. And that’s why I mostly answer to “Miss Weight” now.
Living and teaching abroad has taught me a million things and provided countless moments of entertainment and profound awe in this great big world we call home. The lessons that make me heart grow two sizes too big and rethink my plans to leave teaching to pursue a career in baby goat instagram post curating often come in seemingly mundane moments like yard duty. Example:
Today a group of girls approached me and said “Bye.” “Where ya going?” I asked. “Bowhere, Biss Beight. Be bare boing bowhere.”
Ah. A game was afoot. A ‘secret’ language game.
“Bello, badies,” I replied. And then we were a club, a conspiracy, a tickle, and we were dragging as many as we could into it. Then once they’d figured out the ‘secret language’ pattern, we’d trick them by saying something really fast so that they would ask “What?” with a ‘b’ in front of it and say “butt” and we’d all laugh.
Last week was a real feel of 117 degrees Fahrenheit, and I’m obligated to make sure kids are drinking water, talk them through dizzy spells, and brush sweaty hair off their foreheads. Sobbing year five boys dragged me over to the soccer goal and were hiccuping too hard for me to understand what they were upset about, so I just nodded sagely and murmured sympathetically for a few minutes during their wild gesticulating, then suggested we all just sit in the shade and not play soccer anymore if they couldn’t figure out how to get along.
Magically it was suddenly all better and they go out and play again. Hashtag so resilient.
Lately I’ve decided every single student has to give me a high five or I won’t let them leave the playground, even if the teacher is glaring at me furiously. I pretend each high five, no matter the force it is delivered with, warrants Oscar-worthy acting as if my arm is broken and my watch (fitbit) is now cracked (as it has been since i fell out of a lounge chair in July).
The Year ⅚ kids I taught for a few days still crowd around and pester me as to what my first name is and I insist it’s “Miss.” Which is every teacher’s first name, really. It’s a teacher rule.
And I love when pretending to kiss a booboo actually does make them feel better. OR when they say something hurts and I suggest we just cut that body part off so it doesn’t hurt anymore and it’s such a ridiculous suggestion the kid laughs enough to feel better and play.
It’s been nice to realize that kids really are the same everywhere you go. They all want to be loved and paid attention to so desperately. They’re ridiculous with the want of it. No matter what their home country is, they all tell five minute long jokes with no punchline that you quickly realize they’re making up as they go along just to get to talk to you. They still hold hands and run around together and promise to be best friends forever. There’s always one in each class that takes 45 minutes to eat a sandwich.
In the chaos that is the world today, this has been really, really good for my soul.
And the chaos comes and goes in my own wee world . . . a few weeks ago I got to go out on a “junk,” which is what they call nice boats here, despite the lack of confidence this name evokes. Unbeknownst to me, it was a costume exchange party, so I looked great and everyone else looked ridiculous, which was a fun plot twist.
I made what I thought were epic friends, and when the boat disembarked, we decided to go to find a bar or club to hang out at. All good fun. They were still in their floaties and 80s dance outfits, too. We found a club, bought a round and hit the dance floor, and then after a while, I looked around and realized my new best friends had vanished. “How long have I been dancing alone?!” I wondered. But the music was so good I didn’t want to leave, so instead this family of I think Greek people?! pulled me into their circle and we all danced the international language of the shimmy and shake until I decided to walk home because my flip flops had ripped a huge hole in-between my toes.
On my way to the train, I met probably the hottest guy I’d ever seen who did his level best to seduce me into getting some dumplings. We settled for some chips from 7-11 and went to the park to star gaze. He’s from Gambia and learning English to go home and start a touring company and support his mom and brother and sends me the cheesiest Christian memes every few days. I told him that it just wasn’t going to work out, and he texted me “my queen, I truly don’t understand you. Can we meet eyeballs to eyeballs to talk about this?” Some of me thinks he was most attracted to the part of me where I’m an English teacher.
After flirting with the edge of a nervous breakdown due to the many bureaucratic, work, and home related things going wrong for me, my work graciously offered to put me up in a hotel as I transitioned into my new housing situation. This was so huge for me. I just got to be alone, to chill out. To not trip over a dog/roommate/helper/stranger on my way to the bathroom I was sharing with 3-4 adults at a time. To not be barked at every time I stepped out of my room. To not have to swim upstream through a sea of tourists every time I walked home.
Now I’m in the new place, after transporting all my stuff myself up six flights of stairs in the middle of a typhoon. My twin bed touches 3 of 4 of the walls that make up my room, but my roommate is someone I find myself talking to for hours every night about everything under the sun. I can finally sit on the couch in the living room, the hippie traveler decor is completely my aesthetic, and we have a rooftop terrace – good for my soul.
I am there right now, actually. It’s just a bit smaller than our apartment, decorated with fairy lights and broken chairs threatening you with painfully placed splinters and some plants that despite full neglect and typhoons, have survived. We have plans for a barbecue, compost box, herb garden, baby goat. Well, that’s my plan. We shall see. I feel much better now that I can look at the sky every night and be there in it. There’s no wifi up here, a blessing and a curse. Also I’m saving 3000HKD a month, so….
In that spirit, despite still not having a bank account due to constrictions and policies they must follow since I’m an American (extra paperwork, tax forms, time, etc.) I decided to book myself a trip for the week I have off in October.
I’m going to Japan! Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, and Osaka. Of course, I woke up the morning after booking this and North Korea is throwing missiles at Japan and Trump continues to be the emperor with no clothes or good sense and I’m a little worried because buying nuclear war insurance was not an option on these super cheap flights. You actually have to book water and food in advance. You have to pay if you want to pick your seat, even in coach. I’m wondering if there are wings on this plane.
I’ve been in Hong Kong five weeks now. Feels like a short lifetime because of the things that have happened but at least the lifetime has afforded me enough small talk to get through any awkward situation for the rest of my life, as long as the lead is cockroach attacks or ‘dogs I wish I could have loved’ or ‘everyone spoke English, but we still couldn’t understand each other’ or ‘just when I thought things couldn’t get worse . . .’
Filed under “things that I love” – I’ve met up with my beloved Pithers a few times now, and am doing my level best to make the baby fall in love with me, which includes bribing her with puppy videos on my phone during brunch (naughty Auntie!).
I’ve discovered the joy of grocery delivery (goodbye, waistline) and found TOSTITOS WITH HINT OF LIME, frosting, pumpkin bread mix, all kinds of unregulated health foods, and sour cream. You can really have anything delivered. Even candles. Which makes living on the sixth floor a bit easier.
I skyped my old roomie Anysia, who lives in Houston, and heard all about Harvey and am so proud of her for volunteering at a shelter and doing her part to put together a daycare there for the kids displaced by the storm. It was also just so good to catch up with a friend, and we managed to share a cocktail, despite the time difference.
I fly home in 100 days for a very short Christmas break. I am already compiling the list for Target shopping. My friend Spencer is coming for work in a few weeks. My friend Cory might drop in. My friend Krystal is due for a visit. I just found out there is a Harry Potter land in Osaka, where I had a day free on my itinerary and I am DOING IT. Annual reread and rewatch – commence!
I found a restaurant with good carnitas. I’m now friends with the wine shop owners on the corner, and the beer guy at the brewery on other the corner. I picked out some bamboo branches to grow in the corners of my terrace. And I really like my church. The upcoming message about the battlefield of your mind so resonates with me, especially as I just finished that book by Joyce Meyer. Good seasons and lessons coming up for me.
The kids at school are slowly starting to know who I am and wanting to hang out with me. I’m formulating the plan for an ELD program and am so excited to be in charge of it. One of my officemates is the sweetest Brazilian ever and took me out to lunch. One of the Americans at work heard the craziness of my last few weeks here and out of the blue presented me with 5000HKD in cash to get me through since I had no cash and still no bank account. All she wrote on the envelope, which she left on my desk, was “pay it forward” and she insisted the only interest she wanted on the favor was an invitation over for a glass of wine on the terrace. Done and done.
God is in the details of all the people and places and things that have brought me happiness here so far. And if you haven’t heard it yet today, and you need to, His love is in your details, too.
Love you miss you wish you were here,
**For some reason, when I think of this yard duty in particular, I can remember we’d given her an awful nickname, but cannot what it was. And my most vivid memory of her is the sight of her face coming into view over me as I lay on the ground after some kickball injury. Her head momentarily blocked out the sun, and she was leaning over me with such concern, because it must have looked serious. But I mistrusted her and was so scared of her that despite the pain I felt, I scrambled up and away from her questions and called for a friend to escort me to the office for a bag of ice. For some reason, this memory sticks with me, and I wish I could go back in time to apologize to her, poor woman, who had only wanted to make sure I was alright, after years of handing me timeout slips because I’d gotten a little too aggressive at tetherball or four square.
***Pre-cell phone, our communication system was to agree during morning recess to go and sharpen a pencil at the doorway at precisely 10:30, looking down the hall to see if Chris Gonzalez had gotten out of his class, and then I’d ask for the bathroom pass to meet him for mischief. I was so in love with that kid. He’d been bitten by a dog when he was 5 years old and even in the fifth grade I knew that a facial scar was sexy. Hashtag advanced.