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30 December 2004
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KLB - Sick Assistant

Despite being deathly ill, Cathy dragged herself to work today. She had blisters all over her mouth and looked pale as a ghost. She made it through the first class, then told me she had to leave to go to the hospital.

"Yes, I understand. Get some rest. Have a nice day."

"So, I'm so worried about you and the students."

"No, it's OK. Everything will be fine."

"I called to Bonnie and let her know. She said it's OK."

"Yes, good."

"And I told Mrs. Kwon (head of the English department at the school) that I will be going to the hospital. I'm so sorry to her. We both worried about the classroom. You have to turning off the lights and locking the door."

"Wow, that sounds complicated," I joked. "Go on, it's OK, really. You need a break."

"So, I'm so sorry I can't stay here and help you today and blah blah blah..."

This went on entirely too long. At long last, after an odd, in depth apology to the students in class B (in English) she finally staggered off to the hospital. For those of you who never lived in Korea, Koreans go to the hospital for pretty much everything. Unlike in America, where even if you have insurance a hospital visit can cost you quite a bit, it costs next to nothing in Korea because of the national health insurance system. So, when I say she went to the hospital, it doesn't mean her condition was as serious as you might be thinking. Still, it's obvious she is stressed out and needs a break. She's been sick with something or other since the start of the year, actually.

I hate to say it, well, no I don't because I expected this - but without her in the room the last two classes went extremely well. The entire atmosphere changed, and the kids picked up on it. Not a single student in class C even asked me where she was. We played games and sang songs and I didn't yell, "No Korean!" or "Minus one point," and yet the kids were well behaved. When the last class ended, I didn't have that urge to zip right out the door. I held some kids after class for a little extra study and I did the paper work for the day. I also put on some music and swept the room and reorganized the desks. It was such an odd feeling, like for the first time it was my classroom. I wish I could feel like that everyday.

Maybe you know a person like this too, but she reminds me of my boss (George from my book) when I worked as a mental health counselor. He ran himself ragged. He'd come to work early, stay long into the evening, take on all sorts of extra work. Most of what he did seemed to have no other purpose but than to impress everyone by display of his diligence. He also thoroughly relished in his position as team leader - and seemed especially at his game when the employees would come to him for help.

One night, I had a minor emergency with one of the residents in the program who cut himself with some scissors. I took him to the hospital where he got a few stitches and then brought him back home. I called the assistant supervisor, who was my friend (Rick from in my book) and explained what happened, and he decided not to call George. I did the necessary paper work and filed it. When George found out about how we handled the situation without him, he was schocked. His feelings were plainly hurt. He wanted us to call him. He wanted us to be unable to handle things without him - I guess to give a sense of purpose to his madness, or as I said before, to fill some kind of personal need by being needed.

Someday, if I ever get better at expressing myself, I would like to write a piece about such a character. I've worked for or have know many people like George and Cathy and I'm assuming most others have to. They drive me crazy, but they really make pyschologically interesting subjects.


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