November, Moustaches, and The School Bus

This is not MrLogical's moustache.  

In case you weren't aware, we are now almost a week into NaBloPoMo which, for the uninitiated, is an acronym for 'National Blog Posting Challenge Month, in which bloggers across the world accept the challenge of writing a daily post for every day in the month of November.  While I have enjoyed NaBloPoMo as a blog reader, I have to admit that I have no intention of participating.  Since it seems that many of my favorite bloggers are jumping on the bandwagon, I have my hands full just trying to keep up with reading all of their prolific and entertaining posts;  clearly there is no time for me to do something as ambitious as writing a post every day.  Besides, I'm barely keeping my head above water with just a few posts a week.  I shudder to think of what kind of drivel you'd be reading if I tried to come up with something germane to write about every day. I mean, I'm already writing entire posts about my appliances. It's terrifying to think what I could be driven to if I had to come up with something every single day.

Not that we here at Asia Vu don't have a sense of civic duty or engagement with the world at large.  Here under my own apartment roof, MrLogical has enthusiastically jumped on to the 'Movember' bandwagon, in which he, along with men all over the world, is growing a moustache during the month of November in support of men's health initiatives (go to the link above to make a donation, if you're so inclined.  It's an excellent cause.)  At the moment, his moustache is still in its infancy, which means it's not immediately clear that he's growing a moustache and isn't just a wino. Eventually, I suppose, it will be instantly recognizable as a bona fide moustache.  In the meantime, however, one can only hope that his Korean clients are somehow aware of Movember and understand that MrLogical isn't just Letting Himself Go.

Anyway, the point of all this was simply to say that, during my recent November blog-reading glut, I read a really delightful post over at one of my favorite expat blogs, Circles in the Sand, written by a British mum of 2 small boys in Dubai.  The post (and you should really read it) talks about her older son's infatuation with the 'bus nanny,' a sweet lady who sounds like a very nurturing, kindly version of what we in America would probably call a 'bus monitor' - if we had them.  Naturally, this got me thinking about school buses in the US and Son #2's own school bus situation here in Seoul, and it was by this circuitous path that I was reminded of an amusing little happening right here at the Asia Vu house about a month or so after school started.

Son #2 takes a school bus every day to school, which is pretty much par for the course for students at the international schools here in Seoul.  He rode a school bus back in the States, too, but in the States, no monitor was provided.  For whatever reason, the majority of US school districts feel that it is entirely reasonable to put between 25-50 unrestrained children on a 12-ton vehicle with no supervision whatsoever except the lone bus driver, who is responsible for not only the operation of said  vehicle, but also maintaining order among his or her juvenile passengers. (Having almost wrecked the car lost my mind many times while trying to maintain order between only two restrained children while operating nothing larger than a minivan, I have no idea how these people manage to do their jobs without having nervous breakdowns, but perhaps there's a certain sedative personality type involved.)  I have heard that some districts provide monitors, but we have never lived in a district where one was provided, and one can only imagine the Lord of the Flies-type conditions that must have prevailed on board as my boys were transported over the course of their early school years.

In any case, the point is, they both survived, and Son#2 arrived in Korea as a seasoned veteran of years of school bus riding experience.  This turned out to be entirely unnecessary, as the school here provides a bus monitor (not a cuddly 'bus nanny' like Circles' boys), which seems very sensible, since the school here goes from junior kindergarten all the way to the last year of high school, and it would be understandable that the parents of the smaller children would like a certain amount of assurance that their little ones aren't being knocked about by the brooding hulks in Year 10.  (Speaking as the parent of two teenage boys who fall asleep in any vehicle at the exact instant the key turns in the ignition, I could assure the parents of smaller children that the teenagers are not to be feared, but I'm sure that I, too, would have wanted some reassurance when my boys were small.)  The monitor is responsible for keeping track of the children getting on and off the bus, assigning seats (to the great indignation of the teens, who all feel that it's a great affront to their maturity) and generally keeping order, which has (so far) proven to be unnecessary.  Son #2 came home the first day of school and informed us of this assault on his independence, grumbling about his assigned seat (in the front of the bus, oh the indignity!) and his seatmate.  It turns out that the seatmate was a small boy who, completely drained after facing the demands of kindergarten,  regularly fell asleep on Son #2's shoulder each afternoon as soon as the bus started, and dozed peacefully for most of the 45-minute ride home.  Son #2, being a good-natured fellow, didn't have the heart to move his little seatmate or wake him up, but clearly felt that the potential damage to his level of coolness would possibly have long-reaching effects.  This was exacerbated by the fact that most of the other teens had scored seats in the prime real estate zone in the back of the bus.

When we suggested that he simply change seats, he explained that it was not that easy, since everyone had a seat assigned by the bus monitor, a dour Korean fellow called 'Su Pi' (rhymes with 'Rupee') who did not seem to like change of any kind.  Weeks went by as Son #2 resigned himself to being a human pillow in exile at the front of the bus.

At the first of October, he came home one afternoon with great news: Su Pi had been replaced by a cheerier fellow who entertained Son#2's petition for a venue change and graciously granted it.  Son #2 came home in high spirits, stating that Su Pi had let him change seats and that he now rode in casual glory with all of the other teenagers in the back of the bus.

Wait, we said, wasn't the last bus monitor named Su Pi as well? What an extraordinary coincidence!
Son #2 shrugged with elaborate nonchalance.  "Oh, Su Pi's not his name," he explained.  "All the bus monitors are called 'Su Pi'."
"Maybe 'Su Pi' means 'Bus Monitor' in Korean," I suggested.
"No,"  he explained with a touch of impatience,  "'Su Pi' is short for 'Supervisor.'  Didn't you know that?"

Uh, no.  No, I didn't know that.  You?


Trish said…
I won't be joining in the post-a-day thing either; I think I'd go insane trying to keep up.

Had to giggle at the SuPi story. And very pleased that Son #2 has managed to secure a back seat - thank heavens for that! Life for a teen wouldn't be worth living otherwise ;-)
Thanks so much for the lovely mention! Really enjoyed your school bus story and am glad son#2 is riding happily with the cool gang now - i'm sure he made a lovely pillow and is missed at the front though! I was wondering if there were monitors on the bus in the US ... as nappyvalley girl mentioned, it must be a complete zoo on the bus with only the poor driver in charge! Respect to school-bus drivers in the States (they must have to shout a lot?!)
MsCaroline said…
Circles: You're most welcome! Since your post was the one that got me thinking about the topic, I felt I should pass on the love, so to speak. I did also get tickled about your son's infatuation with his bus nanny, who sounded like such a contrast to the grim 'SuPi!

Trish: Exactly. With all the increased writing out there, I barely have time to read everyone's posts. You can imagine how pleased we are at home that Son#2 is finally in the back with the 'in' crowd. Of course, the irony is that they all seem to just put on their iPods and do homework for the whole ride anyway, so he could have just as profitably remained up at the front!
Very amused by SuPi! Lovely story (although I do feel a bit sorry for the sleepy little seatmate - who will he sleep on now?)

Here, I reckon they should allocate a fifth grader each week to be 'bus monitor' and supervise the younger kids. I think the older ones would like it (I know I loved wearing a 'monitor' badge at school at that age) and it would solve so many problems - such as not being able to find seats in the morning when you get on at the last stop. I might even suggest that to the PTA!
MsCaroline said…
NVG-I don't know who the seatmate is sleeping on these days, but he is still a big fan of Son#2, and waves 'hello' and 'goodbye' at him every day at the bus stop, so there were apparently no hard feelings. ; ) I think the idea of the 5th-grade monitor is great, although you might want to have two co-monitors (just to keep the one from becoming mad with power, you see.) They do take themselves so seriously at that age, I can imagine they'd be very conscientious!
Karen said…
We have bus monitors on every elementary school bus in RI...state law. They not only supervise (supi) but after every child leaves the bus or gets on, they are required to look under the bus, behind the bus, in front of the bus and then under the bus again before reboarding the bus. This after several heartbreaking incidents of small children killed by buses in which the driver did not see them. It's a bit annoying when following the bus, but I don't begrudge the children the safety.
Son #2 is my hero...allowing his little friend to slumber on at the cost of his "cool." Must have been hard. I say he deserves his new seat among the cool kids!
Must write progress don't want to!!!
MsCaroline said…
Ah, once again, New England goes the extra mile! We didn't have anything like that in Texas, but the buses did all come outfitted with a 'STOP' sign that popped out from the side of the bus (to remind people, I guess.) We were also fortunate enough in our neighborhood to have plenty of stay-home-moms who were free to meet the bus and provide some unofficial safety/supervision at the bus stop. However, God only knows what actually went on during the actual bus rides!
I was very pleased with Son#2 as well - and I think that he was surprised to find that some of the young ladies on his bus also thought it was sweet - bonus! ; )
Wilma said…
In our district there are monitors on all the special needs buses and on some of the regular ones, primarily elementary routes. They also have the STOP signs that pop out and they stop at all the RR crossings. Our drivers are over-worked though. Most of them run 3 routes morning and afternoon as our schools have staggered start times. The special needs buses usually run 2 routes morning and afternoon. It's crazy. I don't envy them.
I love this! The tiny linguistic misunderstandings happen all the time here if I am trying to use my fledgling Welsh. The best story I ever heard was today with the endeavour here in Wales to produce bilingual Welsh road signs. This sadly, or hilariously depending on your cast of mind, resulted in a road sign with quite a long message on it. Welsh is quite often longer than English (and sometimes astonishingly shorter). A Welsh speaker wrote to the local council to point out that the meaning of the sign was that the receiver of the email request was on holiday and would return in two weeks' time.
MsCaroline said…
Wilma - our district in TX did 3 runs, too. Seems like a very hard job.

Elizabeth - I'm amazed that ended up on a road sign, although, given the level of strange translations I see here in 'Konglish' it shouldn't surprise me! I've always been stumped by Welsh - both pronunciation and spelling seem very complex. I'm impressed that you're trying to learn it!
katyboo1 said…
Good luck with the Movember tache growing. I love the picture you've chosen. I hope Mr Logical's is just as luxuriant in the end.
MsCaroline said…
Katy: I hope so too, but it's not looking promising...
Karen said…
Meant to say, but forgot...I remember when my man decided to try to grow a goatee. He got tired of it very quickly and also aggravated that it didn't grow as quickly as he would have liked. Couldn't figure out why not since he has quite a heavy beard and 5 o'clock shadow every day. But it got to that point and really wasn't doing much else. I didn't really "like" how it looked but must admit that I found it strangely "exciting" if you know what I mean!
MsCaroline said…
Ha! Karen, I know *exactly* what you mean. Several of us 'mo sistas' were discussing that very topic last night...MrL, unfortunately, has what he terms 'sporadic crop failure' and will never be able to grow a full beard, but he does a respectable goatee..

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