Work It

by Jinryu

I was supposed to be taking the knowledge test for my car and motorcycle permits on the 29th.

I only realized this about 1 hour after the test was over and I was about halfway through watching Bangkok Dangerous, which, really, wasn’t that great a movie.  If I was granted three wishes, one of them might be for a secretary.

Rewind: July 2007.  I’m on the 범게 strip with T-Bird (Trevor) and Holmes (Nick Holmberg, a.k.a. 니고라스홈버그) at the Atlanta Bar.

“See, Jed used to just barge into my class.  No knocking.  Fucking guy,” lipped Holmes.  “You know why?”

“It’s just rude, that’s just crass, no class,” T-Bird suggested.

“Well, yeah, that’s it. Too.  But that’s not it, mainly.”  Holmes shook his head.  “No, it’s that when I’m teaching, I am not just throwing words out there.  I am about an environment.  I maintain something that is a state, a status,  a condition– the whole class is in it.  And I put in a lot of work to do that, to make the room the book, to make the book the lesson.  That is my magic, and that magic is my job,” he said, slamming his mug down on the table.  “And that prick was messing with my magic.  That’s no respect.  You don’t fuck with the man’s magic!”

And despite that T-Bird was already so plastered that he’d already taken off his shirt (he was topless) and I had knocked back a few myself, the message got across: Holmes valued his magic.

And he wasn’t boasting.  Holmes was, is, an excellent teacher.  And it’s not just because of any talent or whatever– his magic was that he cared about his job.  His magic was his passion for it.

Unlike most ESL teachers (at this point, including myself), Holmes is probably in the business for life.  He started off in cram-schools and private gigs, and has recently gotten a post in a major university in Bussan (부산?).  He’s been in the industry for years.  And he’s put up with a lot of shit– all that stuff you can read about during my own work as a teacher for instance: the bureaucracy, the parents, and of course, the students.  He’s been there and done that, for years on end unlike my single year. They’re all hit or miss and really, the challenge of teaching abroad isn’t just the teaching itself– it’s the learning.

Finding ways to adapt to a culture that isn’t your own.  Finding a place.  Finding love.  Finding respect.  And while it may be no easier to do these things in our native countries, it’s just that we see so many people like us in our native countries that we can feel so comfortable and immersed, might I even suggest swaddled, to the point of thinking that we don’t need to seek things out– it’ll probably fall in our laps.  Or we can procrastinate.  In a foreign country, all his acutely hidden.

When someone has a passion though, all things prerequisite just sorta fall into place– you learn all those other minute details about this or that corner, however obscure in relation to the passion itself, just because you want to get better at that thing.

And he’s found that– he knows what he wants.  He has his magic.  And nobody messes with it.

“So he think’s he’s making a cameo in my class, and I told him that that’s not cool… but he kept on doing it.  So one day, instead of reminding him outside of class,” explained Holmes, “I just called him out.  In front of my class.  I told him: get out of my class.  You didn’t knock.  And you are disturbing my magic place.”

“Serves him right,” said T-Bird.

The thing about people like Holmes that gets my respect is that he values what it is that he’s doing.  He takes it seriously beyond simply thinking that it’s a way to put bread on the table.

Too many people simply don’t.  Take pride in their jobs, I mean.

And I realize: perhaps our passions in life are something, and the jobs really are just the means to that end– but I just figure, y’know, maybe because we spend so much of our life working, perhaps finding a job that suits us, or finding something about our jobs to truly appreciate, might be a good idea.

Do you like your job?