When we’re not enjoying a couple days off a week, we’re fairly busy at the church. We’re still both helping the church staff practice their English: Eric see the male staff for an hour in the morning, and I see the female staff at the same time, then again after lunch for a more basic beginner’s session, where instead of conversational stuff we go over the alphabet and easy vocabulary. The female staff’s abilities in English are completely across the board: there are some women who I can hold in-depth conversations with (minus a minor grammar issue here and there) all the way to a couple women who didn’t even know how to say hello when I first met them.
I do have a favorite (that’s ok, right? It’s not like they’re my children or anything): a Chinese woman in her 40’s named Rose (Koreans often give themselves English names, it makes things a little easier on us non-Koreans. It’s really difficult for me to remember unfamiliar names). Rose was exceptionally difficult during the first few meetings I had with her. She wouldn’t corporate and would interrupt me mid-sentence to criticize how I was going about helping the other women. I was ready to give her attitude right back, but instead took a few days to reevaluate her position. I found a basic picture dictionary and at her suggestion, began scheduling the after-lunch session to start with the very basics. I talked with another English-speaker at the church, our friend Jacob from India, and he told me that she’s always been rude and stubborn with him too. But slowly and carefully, like coaxing a pissed-off alley cat out from under a car, Rose has begun to warm up to me. After only a week of working with her, she’s started taking big chances with trying to speak in English, she’s asking questions when she doesn’t understand, she’s even volunteering to demonstrate speaking for other women. It’s been amazing. When I saw her last, she gave me a small gift (a little package of sunflower seeds from China), she told me she would work very hard to practice, and thanked me over and over again for being willing to help her. I told her I expect to be able to have a full conversation together by the time I head home in September.