Saturday, December 04, 2004

fooled 'em all

Apparently, I've convinced the Korean faculty and staff of EC that I'm a radical extravert. They assume this because I tend to be rather animated when I teach, and the students-- who are constantly asked by the receptionists about how their classes went-- consistently report that my teaching style is "energetic." This, plus the low-grade flirtation that seems to mark all male expat/female receptionist relationships at every hagwon I've worked in, has created the impression that I'm just a wacky, fun-loving guy. I've even heard teasing speculation that I must be a very good dancer and singer.

Like a farmer staring sadly at a horse with a broken leg, I do my best to put these ideas down when I hear them voiced. I suck at singing and I'm a lousy dancer.

Even J, the teacher with whom I partnered for three months (I'm now partnering with the intrepid D), is convinced I'm an extravert. This boggles my mind, since she's seen how quiet I normally am when not teaching. I told her today that I'm nae-seong-jeok-in, or introverted, but she's not convinced.

Then again, the Korean notion of introversion isn't quite congruent with the American notion (and Americans don't all agree on what introversion is; some associate it rather closely with selfishness or self-absorption, which I think is bullshit: my own introversion is only occasionally introspective; I often find myself absorbed by something outside my skull-- a book, nature, etc.), so this may be contributing to J's confusion.

My Western colleagues know I'm pretty quiet after work. Once I board the subway for the ten-minute ride from Kangnam Station to Nakseongdae Station, I'm usually silent unless someone speaks to me first. I can spend the entire ride just staring into space or reading the ads on the subway's interior walls or observing the folks around me.

But the Koreans, probably because they can't read Westerners as well as other Westerners can, see me through their cultural filter and conclude I must be Joe Sociable. And what a filter it is: J told me that "introverted people can't act." I countered that a lot of actors are introverted, wanting attention but also wanting to be left alone after their performances. I'm not sure this computed with J; despite the fact that she was a psych major, she didn't seem to be thinking of Jung and shadow sides.

My shadow side is what people normally see in public. Teaching is performance for me; I like teaching, and I'm "on" when I do it. This is what the students get: the cheerful, eye-popping, fat version of Jim Carrey-- or an embryonic Rodney Dangerfield, take your pick. When I go home, the shadow side subsides and the real Kevin makes his appearance: quieter, mellower, just wanting to be left alone.

Yup, I fooled 'em all.


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