Friday, May 15, 2009

Happy 스승의 날!

Happy 스승의 날! (There's all sorts of celebrations going on in these parts.) Today is Teacher's Day in Korea. I personally felt like that should result in me NOT having to be a teacher for the day, but that's not how it works in Korea. Instead, I was inundated with gifts (many many fake carnations, two heart-wrenchingly cute and grammatically suspect letters and several boxes of Vitamin C powder; either my kids think I'm looking a bit peaky or they just think that since I don't like kimchi, I must be on verge of death) and after class, all the teachers went on a hike and had dinner. A three hour long hike up a mountain in the rain. I've been cranky and NO NOT WANT about the hike all week. I don't like climbing mountains under the best of circumstances and hikes that don't end in the Great Wall of China are dead to me. Plus, school outings are always really awkward because no one will talk to me. (And yes I know that it's because I'm the foreigner and there's a language barrier and insert anthropological thoughts on insider/outsider culture here and I'm not really offended by it, but the end result is still the same and you never feel as lonely as when you're all by yourself in a big group of people.) Suffice to say, I wasn't exactly a happy camper when I showed up at the base of the mountain this afternoon. Shows you what I know; I ended up having a great time.

Instead of climbing the mountain, I "hiked" to a coffee shop with two of the kindergarten teachers. And by hiked, I mean we walked down the street to the taxi stand, caught a cab to Beomgye and spent the afternoon sitting in a cafe drinking mocha lattes, which is much more my scene. What happened was all the teachers were loitering in the parking lot at the base of the mountain, waiting for the stragglers to arrive. I was standing a bit apart when one of the kindergarten teachers sidled up to me and asked if I wanted to hike. (Her name is Hyun Ji, she's twenty seven, from Busan and until today, I didn't realize she spoke English.) I told her no, not so much, and we tried to avoid being seen. At one point we ducked behind a car. We were eventually caught and shooed down the trail, but Hyun Ji told me to walk very slowly and when the others teachers had industriously trekked out of sight, we abruptly about-faced and "hiked" to the main road, where we hailed a taxi and ten minutes later we were ordering our coffees. Hyun Ji and Joo Mi both teach kindergarten and speak some English and, combined with my Korean, the help of a cell phone dictionary and a LOT of hand motions, we were able to have a nice conversation while we waited for the others to finish their hike. We were even able to have a basic English/Korean lesson, and I know have two napkins of scribbled notes that I need to study. (We also weren't the only teachers to skip out on the hike. On our way to catch a taxi to the restaurant, we ran into one of the 6th grade teachers, who had gone shopping and was waiting for another teacher to come pick her up. And two of the 4th grade teachers were half an hour late to dinner. *g*)

Not only did I score enough Vitamin C to keep me healthy through the summer and manage to avoid getting soaked (I ended up merely damp), now I have some friends my age to talk to at school!

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