Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I Have Too Many Babies

So if you know me, you probably know that I like babies. Of any species. And midgets. Anything small, really -- but it all stems from an essential part of me that is happiest when there's a baby in my lap.

Since it would be mega-inconvenient to have one of my own for the next few years, I've taken to borrowing babies. Babysitting (you mean they'll pay me to do this?), teaching, volunteering -- just give me something little to snuggle, and I'll show up and do whatever it is that I'm officially there for.

Which is why I was so surprised at how exhausted I was after volunteering yesterday. I've never been so out of it with them before -- usually all of that kid energy buoys me up, but this time I just felt overwhelmed.

I can discern two reasons.
First, this orphanage visit was less organized than usual. Last year, I lucked out by volunteering with 3 Korean speakers. This time, there are only 2 other volunteers, and only Esther speaks Korean -- which means that JJ and I have to call out to her to run around and translate everything. It's stressful for her, for us, and for the kids, who are too little to grasp the concept of languages. I'm pretty sure the kids just think JJ and I are being uncooperative or uncaring when we can't respond to their questions or requests -- they don't understand that we just can't understand the vocabulary they're using, regardless of how loud they repeat it.
Second, this visit is the first since we rescheduled. We had been coming on Thursdays, and now we've switched to Mondays. Add that to the fact that I'm now volunteering in Seoul every other Saturday teaching the rambunctious 5- and 6-year-old children of North Korean refugees ("teaching" is actually a pretty generous word, in reality it's about 40% English instruction and 60% trying to get the kids to stop running to the window and dropping paper and spitting on people walking on the street below). Thanks to a confluence of scheduling stuff, that put me volunteering with children who don't speak English on Thursday, Saturday, and Monday.

It was exhausting.

Because they can't understand me most of the time, I get the frustration of communication challenges and of good old fashioned disobedience.

I think -- I hope -- that there is a cure for this problem. Preparation. Next week, not only will I have a less intense schedule, but I'll also go in better prepared. JJ and I will bring a children's picture book so we can start off the volunteering session with a relatively calm and focused activity.

For a while now, I've wanted to start a mini- English library at the orphanage. If all goes well with the reading time, I'll apply for a small grant from KKOOM to buy some Dr. Seuss, Babar, and other classics that we can read with the kids and then leave at the orphanage.

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