Despite now studying French, I still have the honor of delving into my English-teacher roots by daily tutoring two boys via Skype in English language conversation in South Korea. Due to a guest post on my blog a few months ago, I already had a vague idea about celebrations of Buddha’s birthday (which just passed on May 17) and the traditional game of gonggi. I knew vaguely that South Korea is 13 hours ahead of Pennsylvanian time, although I always forget and cheerfully say “Good morning!” to my two students, who giggle and reply with equal amusement, “Good evening!” I’ve met their parents and their non-English speaking grandmother, who has shown me traditional New Year’s clothing, has promised to buy me Korean ice cream if I visit, and blessed the kimchi that I am making this weekend. All of this is special, but not too shocking; in a virtual world, this is almost to be expected.
But the morning I believed in time travel was when the family pulled back the curtains in the computer room to show me the pitch-black night and the rows of well-lit apartment buildings that stand opposite theirs. “We live on the third floor,” one of the boys pointed out, and I nodded with understanding. (The writer of the blog post on South Korea had including a photo of apartment buildings.) But floating in the window, in the middle of the city lights, was the reflection of my Skyped face, glowing brightly from the computer screen — existing 13 hours ahead of Pennsylvania time and 7000 miles away.