Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sarah: Picture Perfect!

Her Korean name, se jin, literally means "comfortable world" and true to its meaning, she is a comforter, a relief to talk to, a source of inspiration, a breath of fresh air.......

There is an almost 20-year age difference between us. As teacher and student, that is expected but the friendship that we have cultivated between us goes beyond the web-based books that we read and discuss together.

When I started teaching ESL online to Korean learners, it felt awkward not being able to see the student on the other end of the line. Whereas, as teachers, we are required to be on cam every class session. Teaching ESL to non-English speakers , though not new to me, is a little different this way because what I did in the past was face to face (as it had been in English camps) and in a classroom set-up (in Samutprakarn, Thailand). Sarah is the only online student I had who, at least, I have seen in a picture.

Her voice sounds like that of a 16 year old-- small and sweet, even when angry! IN the course of our lessons together, we have talked about not only the reading materials in the online resources but their applications in real life. We have touched about what makes her happy, what makes her sad, or upset or what drives her to her goals. She is full of hopes and dreams about life. She has a unique way of looking at things --conservative, yet practical; plain and simple; sometimes wickedly funny.

Her views about marriage, family life and abortion are all conservative but all protective of the right of a woman as a human being. She says "No" to living in without marriage, but she also doesn't want to get married and end up as a divorce statistic. She says "yes" to abortion, but only if the mother's life would be put in extreme danger, not when the fetus is found to have high chances of being born handicapped. She looks at "paying" children to do the housework as a "bribe", not a reward, but would be open to shift between the two as the situation so requires-- great flexibility! When asked about living in an extended family set up, such as when an aging parent should need to move in with the family of a married son or daughter and live with grandchildren, she jokingly said she has an aging grand mother that she is trying to pair up with someone's aging grandfather so they could live together in a place of their own and not have to move in with any married children's family. Clever point.

Sarah's quest to continuously enhance her English -speaking skills is at its peak right now. She has big dreams of becoming a news anchorperson in South Korea someday. She is, right now, a part time student attending various English classes both online and in private academies in her city. She never felt that learning English is just a waste of time, effort and money for her, unlike other Koreans who somehow experience going through doubtful feelings that it is a waste of time to learn something they couldn't yet see any benefit from. She works part time and lives independently in a small apartment she shares with a female best friend.

Sarah's boyfriend is an accomplished, professional photographer--she says her "perfect" picture accompanying this blog article is a product of her boyfriend's photography skills -- but I could guarantee that Sarah is as pretty as her picture here -- inside and out.

Incidentally, her best friend's name is he jin , just one letter different from her name se jin -- wonder what it means-- "comfortable....whatever" ...I hope I don't forget to ask her when I meet her in the Philippines in June.


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