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24 January 2005
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KLB - Lunch Blues

Coming off a pretty uneventful weekend. With this TV-out feature and wireless internet I've been pretty much watching movies whilst downloading new ones. As soon as I'm finished watching one, two more have finished downloading - and the vicious cycle continues. I've also been using Nero to back the ones I like up on disk, using the DVD encoder to make VCDs that will play back on our DVD player. You can even add your own custom menus, which is cool. Before starting Meet the Fockers, which I just burned for example, you see a picture kimchi in the background of the menu screen and chapter options. What a modern-day internet pirate I'm becoming! At least I won't be sued any time soon living in Korea I hope. I still think it's important to buy the movies or music that you really enjoy at least. Software, well - I'm sure I would never buy any software anyway, so I don't feel too badly about that.

Well, today started pretty badly but it turned out OK. I woke up on time, but for some reason it took me longer than usual to get out the door. When I was on the train, knowing I would be late, I got a message from Cathy that some Korean teacher from another program would be there at 10:00 to watch my classes all day. Great. I just love how at any given time, someone can come watch me, be it a parent, Bonnie from the agency, the principal (she comes in once a day!) and/or other teachers from other programs. I'm starting to get used to it though. It's not as bad I once thought.

In fact, it turned out I actually enjoyed showing off for this woman. I have all three long classes down to a science. I enjoy teaching them so much now that I lose track of time and have found myself teaching into break times without caring. The kids even moan and groan when it's time to stop. Even then, it's not much of a break for me. All the little girls swarm around my desk and ask me a zillion questions, or draw me on the board, or give me candy, etc. This is actually very weird for me. I have never had so much attention from kids at any hagwon. That I work in a public school, teach the same kids every day, and have such a good spirit while I teach, these things have made all the difference - though sometimes the constant attention drives me batty.

We've been getting along well, Cathy and I, as I've been saying - so much so that today I just laughed off her antics at lunch time. First of all, I asked her and the woman, Sun, who was watching me, if they wanted to eat lunch together. I didn't really want to (I like to relax quietly at lunchtime) but I thought I should ask. I think nobody understood me because they said yes, but then they kept sitting there. So I waited and then asked again. Cathy acted confused and said they had to stay there and talk. Another awkward moment of miscommunication before I hustled off.

I wandered around and ended up buying a sandwich from a bakery. It was relatively warm outside today so I sat down on a bench to eat. Well, Cathy and Sun had decided to eat out after all and had made their way to the restaurant where I usually eat. They were looking for me. When Cathy spotted me (the bench happened to be across from the restaurant) she came running outside saying I have to join them. "Hurry! It's too cold outside."

"No, no, I'm fine," I chirped. I really did just want to relax and eat alone and read the paper.

"No, you have to come in," she yelled from across the street.

"I'm fine, Cathy. It's no big deal. Enjoy your lunch! I bought a sandwich!"

"Shawn, no. You have to eat with us. Come here, please. We want."

"Um, Cathy, I have this sandwich. I'm fine."

"Please, Shawn, you have to come here." She was just unable to comprehend that I actually preferred to eat alone outside on a bench and maybe thought they had hurt my feelings - though trust me, they didn't.

"I'm fine, Cathy."

"Shawn! Come here, please! Don't do this."

Sigh. So, now I'm inside the restaurant with my thick, freshly made, egg-salad, ham-and-cheese sandwich, milk and newspaper, looking like an idiot to every Korean person inside the small place.

"Can I eat this here?" I said. It looked big and tasty and I was very hungry.

"Oh, no!" piped Cathy. It's cold out. You must to eat the hot food." (Koreans don't consider a sandwhich to be a meal, no matter how big and thick it is. That's why the Subway Sandwhich franchises usually do poorly in Korea).

"Well, I want the sandwhich, but OK, I guess. I looked at the menu and under intense pressure (everyone in the place seemed to be hanging on my order) I finally decided on kal gook su , a kind of tasty, piping hot Korean noodle soup which I had there before. As I waited, I realized it was already 12:15, and that lunch would end at 12:30. I also realized Cathy was eating just a 1,000 won (95 cent) roll of kimbap and nothing else.

"Cathy, you told me I can't eat my sandwich and I have to eat something hot, but you're eating kimbap."

"Yes," she said, not getting the connection. I think Sun did, as she kept chuckling. She was eating spicy tofu soup (sun dubu).

Again, I shrugged this off and chuckled myself. Well, the food didn't come out until 12:20, and it was boiling hot. I tried my best to eat quickly, but it was near impossible. You can see where this is going, right? Cathy starts chomping down the kimbap while checking the clock every 6 seconds. At 12:27 I had eaten about 1/3 of my food, but she and Sun had finished all of theirs. Like a punctual, mechanical robot, Cathy paid for the food and stood up and waited for me and Sun to do the same. Lunch time was over, to be sure. It was time to go teach again. Hut, two, three four. Sun followed suit immediately, of course. She's also Korean. I followed too, but much more reluctantly. What a waste of food! Also, I was damn hungry still. It takes a lot of energy to travel so far and teach all day. Argh I sighed as we left, wishing I had just been able to eat my egg sandwich in peace. The big, thick sandwich and milk went to waste.

Now it gets better. Walking back to the school, Cathy started mumbling in Korean that we have to hurry. Sun and I kept walking a regular pace. Perhaps we would be 15-30 seconds late. Then suddenly Cathy burst into a sprint, leaving us behind. She ran all the way to the building and up to the classroom. I just chuckled again and shook my head. "She's so worried about the time," I said to Sun.

"Almost all Korean teachers are like that," she said. And I guess that's the point of the matter. She's just the way and I have to accept it or drive myself nuts letting it bother me.

Upstairs Cathy was panting and yelling, "Time to study," to the kids, half of which hadn't arrived yet.

Class B was plain awesome. Sun was taken aback by how excited the students were in class. It really is amazing. Almost every kid (especially the girls) wave their arms about wildly in the air no matter what I ask. They are doing so well. About ten minutes before the end of class, one of the girls' parents came in to watch too. She sat in the back and kept laughing out loud as I asked kids questions like, "Do monkies eat kimchi chigae?" (answer "No they don't. They eat bananas.") etc. After class the woman told me in pretty decent English that she was curious why her daughter loves my class so much and that now she knows why. Sun heard this too. I was glad she was there. Now I'm sure she will tell "Bonnie" from the agency all this at the meeting they had to go to later in the day.

Just waiting for Julie to get home now. I've prepapred our dinner: tuna ssam - (tuna, garlic, kimchi, rice, chili pepper sauces and fresh leaves). After we eat, we're going to watch Meet the Fockers and a Sex and the City Season 3 episode.


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