Schedule

From 6:30AM to 7:30: reading the news, writing, drinking coffee. The baby wakes permanently around 7:40, at which time all of us take turns in the shower. Watching him quiver excitedly in the blasting hot water is heartening. Around 8 we dress the baby, which is a two or three person job, as the baby struggles and screams violently whenever clothes are applied to or unapplied from his body. My wife, A., and I, rush through breakfast in less than five minutes. We have become like marines without the martial muscles; I slurp down every milked-soak grain of muesli in the time it takes to walk from the sink to the table, shoveling the slop down my throat.

Then we head outside, pile into a taxi, and drop the baby off at daycare. The driver always turns into a truefalse cul-de-sac which looks as if it leads onto the highway, even though it is blocked by several pointless boulders.

Speeding along alleys, never checking to see if anyone is coming around numerous blind corners, only slowing down slightly, never stopping to look carefully, and sometimes being chased by wailing ambulances which no one on the road ever acknowledges, we at last come to the apartment complex, and sprint inside, just barely on time. It is 9. Both A. and I teach English to five rambunctious but talented Korean children for three straight hours; permanent hearing loss is the cost, but we’ve earned a fat wad of cash in the delectable process of slowly going deaf. Activities are focused on getting all of them talking, all the time; they only participate if there is a chance that they can shame their opponents in simplistic games, but it’s actually a lot of fun, and all of them are good students. The two girls speak and write with far more poise, but absolutely no creativity; the boys are creative, interesting, amusing (one has nicknamed A. Devilica, if you need a hint about her real English name), but wholly unscrupulous! One has an actual interest that ranges beyond sports, video games, and Korean comedy show: he is fascinated with herpetology. Another wants to be a dentist because this is practical. Korean children either want to be something practical, or veterinarians; no astronauts, no train conductors, no writers, actors, directors, clowns, pilots, have I ever encountered here.

After this “camp” we somehow lose an hour in getting home, even though it takes about ten minutes to get a taxi and ride it back to the apartment. Lunch. Waste time on the internet. Read a little, write a little. Five o’clock comes, and I’m out on a walk to pick up the boy. This is pleasant. It takes approximately one-and-a-third songs to get to daycare. Once I arrive I am greeted by the frizzled ajummas who are receiving less than five dollars an hour (total) to care for our son, though if the fair price is about ten times that amount. He is happy to see me. And I, him. We walk back together alternately laughing and crying. I hold him in a giant pink blanket of sorts, which threatens my masculinity (a redoubtable fortress), because pink is, speaking purely objectively, a woman’s color.

At 5:30 A. says hello to H., our son, for several minutes, and then leaves to teach for over three hours. I care for the boy alone. We play with all kinds of objects, walk around (I hold his hands and he improves noticeably every single day), examine everything, watch a trailer for a documentary about Ayn Rand which appears to suggest that all of her supporters possess a uniquely unattractive cretinousity (H. concurs with my assessment; “Didn’t Nietzsche say the same thing, and wasn’t he a much better writer, to boot?” he asks), watch a few clips from Lagaan (fiercely admiring one man’s massive beard), all while keeping the computer out of the boy’s reach, as he will try to smash it as hard as he can whenever it comes within range. Three hours somehow pass. H. may sleep for a mere five minutes, or for two of these hours. I feed him a banana, which really frustrates him because he just wants to play with it. He yells at me constantly as I spoon banana mush into his mouth, struggling to get a fresh spoonful as quickly as possible while also fearing that he will start choking, which never happens, for the boy’s gullet is positively Gogolian, and innumerable cherry cobblers will surely disappear down his chomping maw as soon as he is old enough to consume them.

The mess he makes with a kiwi is extraordinary. Our students’ diaries are slushed over with seedy green kiwi flesh. His yelling reaches its apex of fury. I am close to screaming at him. But, for once, reason gets the best of passion. I remind myself that screaming will only make things worse. And so we play and play until A. comes home. She eats dinner. It is 10PM. I get ready for bed, go to bed, read for maybe five minutes, and pass out, somewhat content with the knowledge that the next day will be almost exactly the same.

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3 thoughts on “Schedule

  1. the waiting says:

    For some reason it always cracks me up when you say that your son “yells” at you. I think it’s because it’s a nice departure from “the baby was crying.” It also makes him sound like he isn’t necessarily upset but just objectively annoyed. I’m sure it’s not as amusing to you, though 😉

  2. Jennifer says:

    Think of Harry’s fury as the ambition, strength and spirit he has brought to this life. He has a lot to fight with and taking a look at this world, I think he’s going to need it. If it helps, I think his stubbornness will serve him well in this world.

    Also I’ve met a few Korean kids who wanted to be “character designers” or “artists” so there are a few square pegs out there. I also once met a kid who wanted to form his own band, and had already gotten started on it, but I’m not sure if he meant as a career or just on the side.

    It does amuse me how many Korean children claim they want to be dentists. There won’t be enough teeth for all of them to clean!

  3. hiddenconnections says:

    The yelling is my wife’s stylistic innovation, and she may even be translating from Korean when she describes his crying like that. I can’t take credit for yelling; it comes from her, and it’s definitely an amusing, interesting, and useful way of looking at a baby. Someone who’s crying is just crying; someone who’s yelling is yelling at YOU. It does make his screaming more bearable, and more amusing.

    Indeed, Jennifer! Thanks! That’s another nice way of looking at it. He also has a lot of potential to be a movie star because after he cries there are always tears streaming down his cheeks.

    Yeah, not to mock his hopes and dreams or anything, but it does seem ridiculous for someone to be so passionate about dentistry—the boy could be so much more!

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