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The Great American School Bus Conversion: Part 1

One of my favorite movies of all time is Road Trip. It's not exactly the pinnacle of cinematography, and the acting isn't going to win any awards, but it does include a couple of my favorite themes:

1. Ditching school
2. Road tripping

My first experience road tripping was when I graduated from high school. Five friends and I took one of those cool vans ("a REAL van.. this was before all that minivan crap") from Texas to Florida, and then all the way up to Maine. I got off in Massachusetts, but the rest of the crew continued on to Chicago and then back South.

Love to Hate: Working with Jenna

On The Constance Chronicles

Like most Korean women, Jenna was short, wore glasses, and sported a bob hair style. She greeted me with smiles and a positive attitude. "You can do it. We can do it!" Then she'd raise her hand and raise mine for me, slapping the palms together in a forced high five. In the evenings after class, Jenna would walk me home and catch the bus near my apartment complex. We'd talk about the day and I would keep her updated on any student issues. She would nod her head and repeat, "Oh," and "Mmm," which is similar to the English, "Yes, I am hearing all you are saying. We would reach my cross walk and she would swing the right to her bus stop. Jenna would say bye at least four times until finally she would turn around and speed walk away. When I would settle into my apartment and she would settle into the seat on her bus, I would receive a text message that said, "I love you. We can do it. Thank you so much, you are special. Get rest, sleep." Touched by her acknowledgement and expression, I would send one back, "You are a hard worker, thank you for your kindness. See you tomorrow!" Jenna and I had only known each other for about a week but I suppose this was Korean sentiment and although I am Korean, I have never worked with one professionally. Maybe this is how they are? Maybe this is what you do? Maybe I should be more expressive, keep and open mind and accept the love this stranger is willing to offer me through text messages before bed.

I had made plans to visit my grandmother for the first time since moving to Korea but I had yet to figure out the bus system. It wasn't a difficult feat but when I had mentioned it to Jenna, she insisted on walking me to the bus station to show me where and how to purchase a bus ticket. She was very helpful and I would often think to myself, "This is my Korean friend. We will learn so much from each other." During the week, there were times we would take short detours and share dinner at Jenna's favorite restaurants before heading home. Some nights I felt awful explaining to Jenna that I was on a diet and was really trying to lose weight so eating out a lot could be counter productive. So every night before we would part ways if Jenna wanted to ask me to dinner she would first ask, "Did you exercise today?" If I said, YES then that meant we could go eat dinner together but if I said NO we would have to wait another day.

As a brand new teacher, Jenna had interesting teaching methods. She would bring boxes of snack sized chips and candy to give to students after her class. This was to encourage participation and of course made her the most popular teacher in our small private school. There were only four of us so being voted teacher of the year was only bunch of free candy away. Jenna would often express how tired she felt and how much work it was to be with students every minute of the day. I would nod my head in agreement and say, "I just take my own breaks sometimes. Let the students work together to figure out questions instead of constantly doing it for them." She always questioned how that was even possible but I could tell Jenna just didn't know any other way so my idea seemed lazy. We went out to dinner one night and after sharing Korean BBQ we went to Baskin Robbins. We ate ice cream and gossiped about the new hire at the downstairs school. "His teeth are rotted out of his head. I think he used to be a drug addict." Jenna thought this was hysterical because she had no idea why someone's teeth could be so...black.

The next day when I arrived at school Jenna walked passed me without a hello. It was strange and it felt cold. People have their bad days, so I excused it and continued with my normal routine. Jenna didn't speak to me at all the entire day. When it was time to walk home, Jenna left without saying good-bye and I caught her getting on a bus at a different stop. In my mind I thought maybe she had to catch a different bus. I hoped everything was ok. The days continued and Jenna had stopped acknowledging me altogether. Eye contact was even out of the question. If we were walking through the hall nearly bumping into each other, Jenna would look through me, as if I was a ghost. Jenna showed up to school one day with her hair permed, glasses gone, a new dress, and as months passed she had lost a considerable amount of weight. As awkward as this story may read right now, it's exactly what happened. If you don't understand what I just wrote... you weren't supposed to. If you have questions, so do I. I had an awkward Korean coworker. For three months she was my best friend and for the next nine she became the most hated person in the office. Jenna used to send heart warming text messages and after the three months, she couldn't even ride the same elevator with me. One day we ended up on the same bus and to prevent being near me, she got off an earlier stop and walked the rest of the way to school.

In the end, Jenna and I would walk passed each other and communication only happened if completely necessary. She ended up getting promoted at the school as the Head Instructor and I ended up not renewing or extending my contract, not necessarily because of Jenna but you can imagine the relief of not having to endure that kind of office tension again.

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