How do you say “burns like hell” in Korean?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Do you remember the scene in A Christmas Story when the teacher walks into the classroom and the kids all say “Good Morning Miss Shields!” in unison to reveal matching sets of gnarled plastic teeth?

I had a teacher’s moment like that the other day.  I was setting up for a lesson in my classroom while the students were filing in, and I noticed they were all eating an orange powder from the palms of their hands.  I chalked it up to some strange Korean snack, as I’ve grown accustomed to doing, and went back to my office.  Ten minutes later, I returned to start class and found a dozen kids sitting perfectly in their seats all breathing like dragons and fanning their mouths.  “Teacher, hot, water,” they kept saying.  “Why, what’s going on?” I asked.  Tom, a spastic little thing who sits in the front row then pulled the culprit from his pocket – the seasoning packet from a package of Ramen noodles.  And judging by the way they grade the levels of Ramen spiciness here and the conditioned palates of Korean children, I’m guessing they chose to experiment with the ulcer-inducing level.

It was a hilarious sight, that they thought this would be a good way to start class.  Kids will always find a way to goof off.  I opened the door so they could parade one by one to the water cooler.  They caused such a raucous that Steve came from his classroom next door to witness the spectacle.

I realized in that moment that this has somehow become my life.  Not that long ago, I was caring for “kids” of a different sort – my VIP business men and women of Chicago.  It was a job I loved and, at times, feared with its occasional Devil Wears Prada moments.  Like last Christmas.  While planning a party for one of our top clients, I grossly misinterpreted the budget and spent one long, awkward night slyly checking the tab every 20 minutes to make sure 35 big kahunas weren’t drinking too much.

And here I am, just over a year later, monitoring the Ramen spice intake of a bunch of mischievous 10-year-olds on the other side of the world.  How did this happen?  I don’t always know, but it never makes for a dull moment.