A not altogether unpleasant morning. Early, around seven thirty, the city was thick with orange haze, and all the square structures were lost in it, fading into the vapor and the smog slashed through by wide bands of rising sun. Save for two bicyclists (who were wobbling with old age) and a bird I had never seen before, like a small seagull with a black neck and a long cylindrical white beak, my walk to work over the bridge and along the winding road—past patches of fallow, garbage-strewn farmland that will be reduced to cement tenements before the decade is out—was a solitary one.
A rare conjunction of factors produced the peace of this morning. Last night from eight to nine was the hardest lesson of the week, with a young, terribly shy boy, stone-faced and stock-still, who spoke entirely in whispers. After fifteen minutes of sitting down he had still forgotten to remove his large puffy coat. In the beginning he was unable to read the word “Hi”, but after an hour he was writing full sentences and asking and answering questions, which leads me to believe that terror and not inability were what prevented him from reading and talking about a rather simple dialogue with me.
I was glancing at the clock throughout his visit. Four hours of teaching college students does not equal to one hour alone with him, in terms of labor-intensiveness, and after he left I passed out (at nine o’clock!) almost immediately—but not before my wife begged me to help her with her impossible English homework, which I briefly tried and failed to do, before she stormed off in disgust. The question was something like, “Does the universe have an edge, or does it go on forever?”, but you had to replace “or” with a more advanced conjunction like henceforth or therefore, and although there was a list of them right there in her book, I couldn’t find a different way to word the question, and so I collapsed into slumber.
Thus far her professors would appear to be either mean and arbitrary or nice but incompetent. I’ve heard stories of others rambling on in mispronounced ungrammatical English for thirty minutes on the subject of the semantics embedded within a single sentence—has he cooked her goose, or has he cooked her goose?—to a class of fifty Korean students who would have trouble stringing together a single coherent question in this language.
I rose nine hours later and got to reading Sartor Resartus, the most wonderful book—one sees Borges and Nabokov inside it wherever one looks—I want to be a Professor of Things In General, I don’t want to be pigeonholed with a Ph.D in French Literature or East Asian History!—before my son woke up. The peace of the mornings has been shattered for almost ten months now, and Wednesday, today, is usually the worst of the week, when A. and I have to both get to class at 9, while also bringing our son to daycare, all on foot. Because our son despises putting clothes on above all else, and because Koreans cannot let a baby go outside without at least four layers of clothing, plus a blanket, this has meant that our mornings are generally full of screaming and rushing and storms and stress. Last week I had to sprint for about ten or fifteen minutes to get to class on time, in my suit; A. tried to keep up, but her stick-legs don’t have enough meat on them to match my pace for more than a minute or two.
But since I got up so early, and since he went to bed so early—getting in enough sleep to prevent any grumpiness upon waking—I had enough time to get out before the storm swept in. He was still in a very good mood when I was there, playing with his little shoes, and I regretted leaving so soon.