I know the world is engulfed with COVID-19 right now and it’s really upsetting. Because of that, I’m going to share a simple, non-COVID related moment I had with my youngest host brother a few nights ago.
But I will give a quick update for those who are curious- school has been postponed again until April 6th. Other than that, new cases are continuing to decline and kids are spending time in the warmer weather enjoying the sun since there is no school. Starting to get a bit lonely since I can’t see many of my remaining friends due to playing it safe and not traveling on buses. But we cautiously think Korea has already seen the worst of it.
Moving on. The other night I took a walk with my host brother, as we are now in the habit of doing with each other. I had to do some shopping so we saw others walking and shopping as well. On the way back, he said, “Teacher, why do so many people look at us? You get so shy.” Being stared at day to day is something I’ve come to accept here, but it doesn’t mean that I enjoy it. I told him gently, “People might look at us because we look different. And when I realize I look different, I sometimes get shy.” What he means by “shy” is that when we’re walking around town together and people stare at us, I begin to look down more and talk much less and more quietly. I didn’t realize that he could easily see the difference between fun, loud Teacher at home that participates in Nerf gun wars and self-conscious, silent Teacher when buying groceries. Much less did I expect him to directly ask me about it.
So after explaining that to him, he said, “Teacher, you don’t need to be shy.” And then he was quiet for a bit. After this silence he said, “Teacher, hamsters look different, so people look at them. But people still really like hamsters!” I began tearing up a little bit. I try to act like I’m unfazed by the constant stares and the subtle glint of panic I sometimes see in a cashier’s eyes when I walk into a store. It warms my heart that Hyeongyu cares about me and tried to comfort me in the best way he thought he could. I told him that he made me feel better and he seemed quite satisfied. After that, he pulled out this fake knife that he now takes with him on our walks. He started swinging it around saying, “Teacher, I will protect you!” until we got back to our apartment.
He’s the best.