My Life is a Sitcom (IV)

My life is a sitcom.

Opening scene to the Winter Special: I just found this morning that I don’t have work until next Monday after staying up doing hours of lesson planning and arranging my schedule to come back to LA instead of San Jose. Who does that?

Play intro sequence.

Episode 1: Surprise, You’re Late!
I have been pretty good about being on time to work since I’ve started. But of course, after a bit of bad planning and underestimation of the amount of work I had before going to Palms Middle School one Monday, I showed up shamefully 20 minutes late. Out of breath and flustered as usual, I stumbled into the classroom dragging the heavy suitcase of equipment and shouting apologies as I walk into the door to my students. And there she was, my supervisor, sitting at a desk among the students with a clipboard and pen for a surprise visit.

The one time I’m late for work I manage to go on the day my supervisor is evaluating my classroom. I kept my cool and began engaging the students as I set up the media for today’s lesson. In the end, everything worked out smoothly as she approved of my presentation and saw how the students immersed themselves in the world of Play-Doh and digital cameras.

But come on, of all the days to be late right? You should have seen my face for the split-second I first saw my supervisor awaiting what seemed to be my doom. Priceless.

Episode 2: Grandma, There’s A Bit More to Marriage
My paternal grandmother is a woman who I both admire and love very dearly, and yet fear and am confused by many times. As my only living grandparent, she loves to hunt wild animals and cook them for us as well as make
racist and sexist comments during meals. She is probably the most intelligent woman I know, and she is living proof that some people are just born smarter. She is a woman so intuitive that I have a theory that she actually speaks English and is just hiding it from us as we almost always fail to hide anything from her.

She has sacrificed so much for our family and continues to provide, as I visit her weekly and she showers me with good food and company (though I can only spend so much time with her before I go crazy to be honest). And in her attempt to provide and share her life experiences, she recently decided to take a part in helping me find a man worth marrying since she told me my lack of romantic activity concerned her. How sad it is for your 80 year-old grandma to take charge in your love life because even she doesn’t think you are capable on your own.

Now, marriage and love in my mind is quite different. The two do not necessarily go with one another as many of us have seen. But in my grandma’s mind, marriage comes first and love will eventually permeate such a bond after a while.

The woman was in an arranged marriage herself, so I understand where such a mindset comes from. So to think that love must come first is silly to her, as she believes it is a given once you are married.

So with such a perspective on a union between two people, she used her natural hunting abilities in seeking a mate for her granddaughter. I, of course, did not take her seriously and how silly I was to not. Little did I know that she teamed up with my Aunt Shirley in seeking such a worthy man–a man from a “good” family who would provide security through a well-paid job. When they told me one night after dinner that they found someone I should meet and get to know, I was filled with a mixture of emotions. Mostly a suffocating feeling of being misunderstood and pressured into a way of life I have never thought I would need to experience.

Let me tell you a little about this man behind door number one. First off, his name is Kingman. Yes, the words king and man put together to create the most powerful fob name in the world. A man with such a name will provide prosperity and status, as he is of royalty in Chinese culture. How badly lost in translation such a name is in English. It’s just terrible. I feel for this guy, and my sympathies go out to him as I can only imagine what the kids at school said. He’s a 30 year-old pharmacist who is actually mentoring my 17 year-old cousin in the world of school and medicine.

Am I expected to even consider someone eight years my senior just because he has a stable job and comes from a good family? Am I overreacting? Perhaps. As my grandma put it, our zodiac signs go well together and eight years is nothing. Maybe I should reconsider and holler with a text: “Sup Kingman. Dim sum at 10am and get married at noon?”

And on top of that, I recently visited my grandma with Richard, one of my friends/students in InterVarsity to pick up some groceries while we were hanging out in the area. Oh the joy in her eyes when I brought a Cantonese-speaking boy from San Gabriel to her house. How so very much I wished I would think before I did things and how also so very wrong on so many levels for me to bring a student to her. It was both an interesting and hilarious experience, and Richard forgave me.

Episode 3: Team Prime Time Prime Moment
Working with junior highers can test not only your patience, but at times, even your self-confidence. I have been reliving my own life as a middle schooler and being reminded of what the world of silly pre-teen drama and too-cool-for-school attitudes were like. And even as just simple after-school program media arts teacher and counselor, the students find any way to rebel and win the battles of students versus teachers, or just youth versus authority.

Now within my own classroom, I have managed to accumulate a good following at each of these preteen jungles. Media arts has grown on many of these students and it is one of the most rewarding experiences I have the opportunity to be a part of. I am able to see that I am making a difference in these students’ lives through something I very passionate about. I have built good relationships with these students, and many see me as “the cool counselor.” How sad my life is to find affirmation from a 12 year-old.

But this educational job can’t all be the second half of Dead Poets Society or Dangerous Minds. I am starring in a sitcom after all, and there have been plenty of interesting moments. From 12 year-old girls asking me what the offensive and quite inappopriate word that rhymes with “blunt” means to them embarrassing me during class about assuming I have had sex or “fertilized” as they chose to call it (I have no idea if that is the new hip word for it), I have had my share of these times. One of these moments was when two young gentlemen decided it would be funny to tell me that one of their names was Alexis. I even caught myself replying with a confirmation question to ensure that this 7th grader was named what I assumed to be a girl’s name. He affirmed and played it off as silly of me to ask. Hey, parents have weird preferences in names and Kingman and Smacker can vouch for that.

When this young man reluctantly checked out my class the following week because of his pushy friend, I was excited to see him join my class. I wanted to encourage him in coming that day, and decided to call out his name. I remembered my encounter last week and called out “Alexis” from across the room to acknowledge his presence. He looked at me with the most offended and appalled face. It went something like this:

Justin: “Alexis?! What? That’s not my name.”
Amy: “Oh what, I’m sorry I thought that’s what…” Class: “His name is Justin! Alexis? That’s a girl’s name!”
Amy: “I’m really sorry Justin. I misheard your name last week and I apologize for that.”
Class: “Hahahaha! Alexis? Oh my god! How could you think that!”

And of course, Justin formerly-known-as-Alexis-by-his-stupid-counselor left my classroom with an even greater confirmation that media arts was just not the class for him. I felt so embarrassed and asked myself as to why I would ever think Alexis would be a boy’s name. Should have trusted my instincts in junior high pranks.

This does not seem that bad at all does it? Well, the story doesn’t stop there because surely enough, the very next day at another campus, a new student joined my class. And guess what this young man’s name was? Yup, you guessed it. Friggin’ Alexis.

Episode 4: I Love My Car, I Really Do
My Honda Accord is less than a year old, but the realities of living in Westwood and my amateur driving skills has led my car to not feel the love and care it truly deserves. My car is slightly fatter than most sedans, and the terrible conditions of the parking lot in the back of my apartment discriminate against comfortable mobility for my vehicle.

Just a couple of days ago, I managed to peel off some of the skin of my car’s left front side with scratches accumulating to the size of my hand. I now have managed to scratch all four corners of this misfortuned machine. Last week, I was under pressure to speed up my process of getting out of this cramped space as a construction worker was holding a heavy ladder and patiently waiting for me. I backed into a wall and the loud noise scared this poor fella and caused his fingers to go limp and the ladder slipped from his hands. I felt absolutely terrible.

Not only has my car suffered from scratches, it has managed to be attacked by food. Just a little while ago, my cousin bought me dinner at a surprisingly delicious local Korean tofu house in Rosemead and even let me take home the leftovers. Taking home almost an entire order of Spicy Grilled Chicken smothered in chili, Korean-style, had me looking forward to another free and satisfying meal. But on the way home, the chicken refused to stay in its Styrofoam cage and unleashed itself all over my new carpet. If the chicken could have been at least less saucy or pungent, this would have been significantly less problematic. I had to walk into Half n’ Half cafe with Spicy Chicken all over my hands. Joy.

Just last week, I was drinking a diet soda in a styrofoam Chick-Fil-A cup and the straw from my morning Starbucks macchiato pierced the bottom of it as I put it down. The fizzy nutrasweetened liquid spewed out of the nonenvironmentally friendly cup and spread itself all over the place. I stared at the mess horrified, but managed to laugh it off in the end as I soaked up the spreading drink with old receipts and grocery lists. And yes, I eventually realized as I wiped the crevices and cushions that I both was not able to return an item to Marshalls as well as did not know what to buy at Ralph’s soon after.

Episode 5: Locked Out Cold
After work at Webster Middle School one night, I was rushing to get to my church small group’s Christmas party on time. The school is located off of Sawtelle and National Blvd, so it’s conveniently right next to the 405 freeway for me. I was packing up my suitcase and laptop bags in my trunk and decided it’d also be a such a grand idea to take off my jacket as well since I could enjoy the heater of my car without it. I closed my trunk, and was ready to head out. But as I patted down the pockets of my fading jeans while my eyes opened up wider and wider, I realized my car key was not on me. It was in my jacket.

But it dawned on me that I had unlocked also the front door with my remote, and so I leaped toward the front of the car and reached for the handle. At about approximately 4.5 inches away from the handle, my car threw a fit and locked itself. I couldn’t believe it. I was so close. If I had leaped just one second earlier my fate would have changed. But then again, this is the life of Amy Hu and the locking click of death mocked me. And now, I stood out in the cold weather, exhaling my own visible breath in the dim light of the darkened parking lot, both jacketless and keyless.

But such a time was redeemed. Thank God for my roommates, Jess and Kelly. Thank God for community, as one amazing student in our fellowship came to my rescue. Joshua Roose was my hero that day, as he went out of his way to get his car and hand over my key to freedom from the cold and embarrassment. I was able to make it to my small group (though I missed the appetizers portion of our progressive Christmas dinner), and had a wonderful night to remember.

Flashback Worth Sharing: That’s Not Just Any Old Couch
About a year ago, before I actually moved into the current InterVarsity apartment, I was reflecting on the balcony about how God was calling me as a leader to develop other leaders in our fellowship. It was our annual Leaders Developing Leaders conference, and we were doing some personal reflection throughout the apartment in order to bring our focus to the weekend.

I had plopped down on a dirty, ancient looking couch on the balcony and began to just sit and get into a posture of just receiving what the man upstairs would have for me. As I was trying to engage with God, I noticed something didn’t feel right. And as I looked up, I saw Kelly walk over to me to tell me something. I wondered what it possibly could be–was it a need of assistance? A simple question? Or maybe some prayer for me? And when she got to me, she leaned over and whispered to me, as it was completely quiet throughout the apartment:

Kelly: “Amy, that couch has termites in it. I don’t think you should sit on it.”

I didn’t know my eyes could get as wide as they did, and I immediately jumped up. Oh how badly I wanted to scream and jump and down while I shook off the imagined termites that my brain and nerve system had created. But I simply walked back into the apartment and tried my best to not make a scene while others were praying and probably having some significant moments with God. I attempted to control my breathing and whimpering, while crying inside. I felt violated, vulnerable, and all sorts of other words that started with the letter V. Oh how embarrassing that was.

Yup, our apartment has a huge termite problem and because of our stingy apartment owner and manager, treating the problem has become their only solution instead of actually spending the money to tent and be rid of the little pests completely. Termites freak me out along with many other things, especially when you realize there’s a smooshed one on the brim of your cup halfway through your quenching.

This is Amy Hu signing off for January 4th, 2010. Welcome to the new year!

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