September 3, 2008
The first full day - Saturday
Here I am with Ms. Park. She's unbelievably sweet. In the morning she took me to Daeshin Middle and High School where I met the two vice-principals (one for each school), other teachers, and even some students. Students come to school on Saturdays for club activities. Everyone went way out of their way to make me feel comfortable and welcome. I actually really like the people I work with, when I can talk to them. We pretty much just went in so I could see the place and the people (and so they could see me) and to take care of a few administrative issues (like getting me on payroll.
Meeting the other teachers was hilarious. When you first meet Koreans, they almost always ask you these questions: are you married/do you have a boyfriend; age; height; are you Christian (meaning Protestant). This information they like to get mostly in order not to offend and because they are just curious. It took a while for the boyfriend question to come up, but when it did it was pretty funny. As soon as I said yes, I have boyfriend, he works at Cheungmeung School, Ms. Park informed me that all the single male teachers were disappointed. Which made both of us giggle. And then they started asking me about him! They wanted to know if he played any sports. I said, "Soccer," and they all cried out! Apparently the Daeshin and Cheungmeung male teachers play each other in soccer a couple times a year. More laughing. Then they wanted to know how tall he was. I told them, but it didn't mean anything to them because they use the metric system. Soon after this I am at my desk and Ms. Park is informing me that Cheungmeung is only 3 km away and that John is actually living in the same building as me!! All the sudden, I am being summoned because someone is on the phone for me. Lo and behold, it's John. He was going through the same motions as I was at the moment, and his co-teacher called my school as soon as she heard about me. Keep in mind, John and I last spoke to each other as we were being whisked away by our co-teachers at 5 PM the night before. We had no idea where the other was living or when we'd be able to even talk to each other, so this is unbelievably exciting for us. We assumed it'd be days before we were able to get in contact with each other.
So then it's time to leave Daeshin and not only do we not go straight home, but we go to Cheungmeung to see John, and then to a traditional Korean restaurant. Cheunmeung was really funny, too. I met John's vice-principal and co-teacher and some other English teachers at the school. Now, Cheungmeung is an all girls school (Daeshin is all boys), so when John walked out of one of school buildings there were droves of girls following him, watching from windows, and then surrounding our little group of teachers. They talked really really fast in Korean in really high pitched voices. I'm telling you, they were positively drooling. Even when they talked to me! When they found out I lived near New York they just about had a fit. And all the girls and all the teachers told us both how beautiful we are. That is a common thing....people here think I'm pretty because I have small face, which is the Korean ideal. In fact, that's how they compliment me. One of the middleschoolers met me, bowed, and said in Korean, "You have a very small face." Ms. Park burst out laughing and explained it to me. After that, John hopped in the car and all three of us went back to Hyun Jin for a quick break and a change of clothes, and then to the traditional Korean restaurant.
At the Korean restaurant, we walked in and up to a large platform (there were a couple) on which there sat a few low tables with cushions on the floor around them. We took off our shoes and stepped up onto it and then plopped down on the floor. (Koreans don't walk into restaurants, temples, or their homes with their shoes on.) Ms. Park said something to the waitress in Korean, and then a few minutes later our table was COVERED in little white dishes, each with something different in it, plus four different kinds of soup and one larger main dish (it was bulgogi). I tried again to use the chopsticks but was still pretty shaky. To be honest, I was kind of a mess. I dropped a piece of kimchi (which is covered in a spicy red sauce, in case you're wondering) and splattered it all over my white shirt. Pretty classic. Oh, the thing about eating Korean food. It's really spicy. You will most likely sweat while you're eating it. And it's rude to blow your nose. Nor do you take beverages with your meal, you just drink a small cup of water afterwards. Crazy, right? And no napkins, either, so try not to eat with your whole face if you find yourself in Korea. It was great fun, though! Ms. Park treated. I cannot say enough about Korean hospitality.