Dear America

Hello friends, Lindsay here.

We had a great day for a Monday. There was only one negative: The school is literally freezing. There is either 1) no heat in the hallways and cafeteria or 2) they are waiting to turn it on until our fingers and noses are too numb to even feel anymore.

But other than mind-numbing temperatures, the day went without a hitch. We haven’t teached a full day in what seems like months since the kids were constantly being pulled from our class to practice for their festival. But now that it has come and gone, all has settled at Songwon and I have my kids back.

I sang “The Wheels on the Bus” with my first graders, did math problems with second graders, illustrated books on pollution with third graders, made maps with fourth graders and studied habitats with fifth graders.

But it was my smart sixth grade classes today that went the best. Thanks to my mom and her co-teacher at Allen Elementary School in Soddy Daisy (WHERE?!? says the kids) Tennessee, my kids will have penpals from America.

We picked out who would write who today after I received a list from the teacher. It was so funny to see a list of American names: Sky, Destiny, Christopher, Ricky, Erica.

“I WANT RICKY!!” “TEACHER!! IS THAT A GIRL OR BOY??!?” “IS SHE PRETTY?” “IS HE HANDSOME?”

We wrote first drafts of the letters today, and just thumbing threw them, I have had my heart won over again and again. I think the American students will love them too, with their broken English and bold assertions of friendship.

“Dear Caroline, my new friend: I hear you are from Soddy Daisy and you are about my age. I want you to come visit here. I love your name.”

The letters evoked such great thoughts and conversation from my students, normally sleepy at the end of their first round of school at 4:30, only to be followed by a second round at 5 p.m.

They want to send souvenirs, and lots of them.

“CAN WE SEND KIMCHI?!? Teacher! OK, no? HOW ABOUT BIPIMBAP!?!?” “No?!?” THEN LET’S SEND HANBOK (very expensive traditional Korean clothing–think Korean version of a kimono.)

“DO THEY LIKE SPICY FOOD, TEACHER?!?”

Needless to say, penpals was a great idea. I remember when I was in elementary school and always wanted a penpal. A few teachers made it happen, but never one of mine.

And I know it might sound simplistic, but I really have hope that Whit and I can cultivate cross-cultural relationships that will last through cultural misunderstandings and the wars that sometimes result.

I just love communication. I really do. Just think: If only George W. Bush and all our congressmen had penpals. How different would our world be today?

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