When I write, it’s usually inspired. Not inspiring necessarily, just sparked by an event that happened: inspired. I try to hone into the special moments, the ones that make me think, or cry, or smile, or wonder at the absurdity of it all. But I haven’t written in a while (logically reasoning that I haven’t been inspired in a while) because it just seems like nothing is different anymore. Everything’s the same. I walk the same path, and the same boring things go on. At least, that’s what I told myself. But maybe I just got lazy.
Throughout this first school quarter, I ‘co-taught’ English classes twice a week with my English teacher friend at the private school (I say ‘co-taught’ because it’s still her class; I just stand there and smile as I hear, ‘My father name Ganbold. I am… 7… no… 17 years old. I like play basketball. I can… drive a car. I can’t… smoking.’). I can’t say I was ever too eager to do this, but I wanted to help my friend who is overworked and overpressured to have foreign teachers work with her. I am foreign. I am not a teacher. But I help.
So here I am in a 4th grade class, dodging the two-toned ‘HI’s and the gawking stares as we all wait for class to begin, when I see in the far corner in the front row an eternal, tooth-bearing, wide-as-I’ll-get-out grin from one of the students. (I say ‘eternal’ because it was there when I arrived and there when I left, and it was there the whole time in between.) This smile was directed at me, and it had a different quality than the rest. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the smile’s owner greatly enjoyed his lessons and that he had cerebral palsy (or something with similar characteristics). When the teacher asked for volunteers to introduce themselves, his was one of the first hands to go up. When the teacher asked for the whole class to sing songs, he sang out, loud and proud. When he would lose the games and sit down, he would practice his English– singing the ABCs, telling me his father’s name, whatever– and smile. I was so happy that no one made fun of his labored speech, and he did everything so cheerfully that it was hard not to smile with him around.
Already, I was in a good mood. It didn’t matter to me that these kids didn’t remember the English words for ‘age’ or even ‘is.’ They were fun. My face wore a genuine smile the whole time. Even when I saw a couple kids in the back row drawing, I thought, ‘Look how creative this group is! Boy, they are really something.’ And I’d continue to smile. Between activities, one of the doodlers made his way up to me to give me what he’d been working on– a drawing of a Mongolian town with the various buildings labeled– and made his way back to his seat as his peers gave jealous stares. It’s true, I thanked him. And I smiled. But I tried not to make a big deal out of it by setting it on my lap and pretending to pay attention to the task at hand.
Eternal Grin couldn’t bear it. He started flipping furiously through his notebook for a blank page, and when he found a suitable one, he ripped it out and started writing. Because I was watching through my peripheral vision, I couldn’t see what he was writing, but I saw him flip the page over and start over on the opposite side. Then– still smiling– I saw him reach forward. I looked and took what he was offering me: a white page with the word, ‘Hi,’ carefully written on one side and an ‘H’ started on the other. I thanked him quietly, smiled wide, and gave him a thumbs-up as I mouthed the word he wrote. The class went on and ended, and– smiling– I bade farewell to my new friends, sending a special wave to Eternal Grin.
Inspiring, that’s what that was. I had been inspired. It’s not the kind of thing that happens to me everyday. Maybe I should get more classroom time (not likely). Or maybe I should just sit in front of the private school, waiting to make young friends (creepy). Or maybe I should just be more aware and present in the activities I’m already involved in (possible).
Regardless, this moment had broken the usual monotony: I couldn’t stop smiling the rest of the day.