Friday, November 17, 2006

My Handlers

The term "handler" is used in many contexts--most of them bearing at the very least a feeling of condescension.  With animals, a handler is the person who is charged with keeping the animal under control.

Everywhere I turn, I have handlers who tell me very plainly, "You must do this."  I know that some of their "suggestions" might just be miscommunication into an imperative.  However, many times it is very clear that they fully intend to "handle me."

The other day, I was eating lunch with my co-teacher.  She's a year older than me, and I view her as a peer.  However, she can sometimes take the comfortable role of "handler" over me.  The meal was bimbimbop (that's probably the wrong spelling).  It means "mixed rice."  Basically, its a big bowl of rice with various vegetable dishes on top with some spicy sauce.  You're supposed to mix it up and eat.  Well, I did that, and then was half-way through when my co-teacher noticed I was using my chopsticks to eat.  Oh no!  I was scolded, "Use your spoon, its much more convenient."  Then, she took the chopsticks from my hand!  Then, I was told, "You need to mix up your rice."  I patiently said, "I already did mix it."  She said, "You need to mix it more.  It will be more delicious."  Okay, I am by no means a culinary expert.  However, since my mom first handed me that wooden spoon when making my brothers birthday cake when I was two, I have known how to mix things up.  to appease her, I moved my spoon around the rice a bit me more before I began to eat with it.  Keep in mind that I was using the chopsticks just fine before I was told to use a spoon.

There have been times when I have insisted on breaking free of my handling.  For example, I used to be taken to and from school by a mix of teachers and staff members from my main school.  I got tired of feeling like I was putting people out since it was always a big ordeal to find out who could take me home at the time I was supposed to leave.  So, I asked around and figured out the bus schedule.  Things were a little bumpy at first, but I eventually settled into a routine--until one Wednesday.  Wednesdays are days for staff to play volleyball, and then enjoy a small meal together.  A month ago, as the meal was winding down, I noticed that the next "window" to leave was coming up soon.  The bus leaves every hour in front of the school.  I was told, "Oh, the janitor will take you home."  I said, "Well, I don't want to be a bother. I can take a bus."  Then I was told flatly, "You should go with him."  Fine this was around 6:00pm.  Two hours and two missed buses later, we finally leave.

While this leash is beginning to chafe a bit, I am also meeting more people on the island--including the foreigners through the church and a couple Korean families that have had me over for dinner.  I think that pretty soon, I'll have my bearings enough to where I can cut leash.

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