Wednesday, December 3, 2008

elusive sleep-balance & ajumma psychoanalysis

it seems like ill never figure out a balanced daily schedule while im working at this academy... for the first 1 1/2 months in korea, i felt pretty much exhausted all the time, and i couldnt break the habit of taking a nap every afternoon in between my morning and evening classes. once i finally did stop taking naps, it was only due to the combined assistance of a daily coffee (which i rarely drink normally) and exercise and a shower in the afternoon. okay, that worked for a while, but i cant live like a robot doing the exact same thing everyday - i need variety and spontaneity. and yet, as soon as i change things up a little, my precarious grip on controlling sleep and energy unravels.

im not normally this out-of-control. this unbalanced lifestyle is entirely the fault of my unbalanced work schedule which has me teaching at 7:30am and finishing at 10pm. okay, i dont work all day by any means. actually, i only teach a total of 6 hours a day. my morning classes finish at noon and evening classes begin again at 7. i have to admit that sometimes this schedule is nice - i have more motivation to do something more productive during those seven hours of break than i would have if my free time followed a full day of work. and the evenings aren't ever lonely since im teaching. but you can imagine how difficult it would be to split your work up like that. the worst part is definitely finding a stable sleeping schedule, but it also really sucks to have that 'oh shit i have to work in one hour'-feeling TWICE a day.

well yesterday i fell asleep at my computer in the afternoon and snored 3 of my afternoon hours away. i woke up like a zombie 1 hour before class, and believe me, i was NOT AT ALL pleased with the situation. screaming out R Kelly's 'i believe i can fly' in the shower helped my mood a bit, but i still had to exercise control on my grumpiness. luckily my evening students are super.

yesterday i also tried an interesting activity with some of my students. at 10am i have a 'free talking' class which i always refer to as my 'ajumma class' since nearly all of them are 30-something to middle-aged house-wives. it's a pretty fun class. on tuesday we talked all about tattoos and body piercings which many of them referred to as 'injuring the body' and a sin. you could say that they have some conservative leanings, but ive also been surprised with some of the stories they've shared from their 'younger days'.

well, yesterday i decided to give them a psychological test.
i asked them to draw a person, and, refusing to give any other instruction, set them to work (i borrowed this from the 'house-tree-person test' which is used to assess children's personalities for presence of abuse or derangement). i'll explain the interpretation through some examples from my class, with, of course, whatever explanations on korean society i can think of.
i also want to make it clear that these interpretations are merely the untrained guesses of a non-korean and so they could completely off.

these two drawings were made by 50-ish student named soon.
the students are supposed to draw one person and then draw another person of the opposite gender. the first picture is typically of the same gender as the artist and reflects a more direct personal perspective on personality. the opposite gender represents also parts of the artist's personality, but aspects that are not directly acknowledged. soon drew a woman sitting down first, then a man standing.
the legs and feet represent the security, strength, and power of the artist, like the trunk and roots of trees, so really weak legs and small feet suggest insecurity (and so do really large feet).
we use our arms to engage the world and our hands to affect it. arms reaching out from the body suggest a willingness to interact with the world and open hands, confidence with such actions. closed arms and hidden or gloved hands could mean defensiveness, a lack of confidence, insecurity. so soon's woman sitting down in profile with one arm outstretched and one held in close gives a sort of mixed message. especially when compared to the man standing with more open arms and facing forward. it seems like soon sees herself as being more reserved with repressed feelings of wanting to engage the world more.
facial expressions suggest what they do on a real person's face. these drawings, and those of most of the other students, feature well-dressed and proper-looking men and women.
the next two drawings were done by a student whose english name is laura.
interestingly, the woman and the man both look nearly identical. i told laura that this might mean that she has fewer repressed feelings. this certainly would fit her personality in class - she often very openly describes her emotions, fears, even insecurities with us. for some people, listening to her talk about how she 'feels depressed today because she doesn't know how to be a mother to her boys who have different perspectives from her - whether she should badger them to study (as most parents are compelled to do in korea) or let them have some fun even though there is a constant stream of test and examinations (more on korean education system later)', they consider laura a confused and worrisome woman. i think this is a healthy way of facing the insecurities that trouble many housewives and it gives laura a unique strength. both of her drawings feature people with their arms open and fingered (a trait absent in all other students' drawings). they are also simple looking and well-dressed with pleasant expressions.
the next student's name is suhee.
despite being in her late twenties, her drawing style is like that of a adolescent girl. i have found this to be typical of most teenage - unmarried-20 year-olds. as details in these drawings are sparse, there's not much to interpret. the neck connects the body (needs and drives) with the head (thoughts - cognitive). no neck would mean no separation, and a really long neck might mean desire for disconnection. everyone drew pretty average-looking necks, and i would say in my opinion, women in korea have more of a balance between those two processes than men.
this last student's english name is grace; she is also 50-ish and quite nervously talkative.
her drawings deviated a little from the norm in some quite interesting ways. first of all, her woman appears by traditional perspectives more masculine and the male more feminine. her woman holds her arms in close and somewhat protectively. the feet are cut off (this could suggest a lack of security or merely that the drawing's size was not correctly anticipated). the woman appears quite formal and reserved. the man, on the other hand, has long hair, casual clothing, and is holding a guitar. i told grace that this perhaps means that she has some latent desire to express more creativity, but it is hard to say why she chose this image.

there's a lot more that i could say about this class, but i'll save that for another day (mostly because im hungry and it's dinnertime). i do want to mention, however, the strong sense of camaraderie that has developed in this class between the students. they often hang around and talk or get lunch together afterwards. i have a fun time playing along with them and i have to say ive made a pretty cool connection with them. maybe it's because of their higher english level, or maybe it's their personalities, but i think i've been able to share more of myself with them than most other students. they're great!

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