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2 March 2005
South Korean Flag

KLB - No Coffee for You!

Yesterday (Korean Independence from Japan Day) was the first time in ages I didn't touch the computer or Xbox (except to watch a movie off the harddrive). All I did was hang out with Julie. It turns out she had been getting fed up with my new obsession. Apparently my sitting hours unend transfixed in front of the TV smashing a controller and muttering incoherently wasn't as much fun for her as for me - go figure. It's OK though because I had already flung Ninja Gaiden out the window a few days back. I'm not kidding. That is one of the hardest games I've ever played. I was on the second to last chapter and just after an impossible battle (in which I died 100 times) I finally beat the level boss. As I was cheering, the screen went blank and an error message popped up that the disk was dirty. Well, that dirty disk is probably still soaring somewhere over the Korean landscape as I write.

That's the thing I don't understand about games. They make you incredibly frustrated yet you keep playing them. I guess it's just like any other addiction. I'm not downloading Ninja Gaiden again right now, I swear. I'm not going outside to look for the disk either.

Today I went off to work in a good mood that lasted through the first class. Then as I was about to get my usual paper-cup of coffee from the school's office, I was told by Cathy we are no longer allowed to drink the school's coffee.

"What? Why not?"

"The principal told me today."

"Yeah, but what's the reason?"

"Because we don't pay for that."

"Well, that's no problem. I'll be happy to pay."

"No, we can't pay either."

"Why not?"

"She said it's not our right to use the coffee machine."

"Are you kidding? That's ridiculous."

[To understand this reaction, you have to know that the "coffee machine" is an old, usually broken, portable paper-cup/coffee dispensing machine like the ones that charge 100-300 won (10 - 30 cents) per cup in restaurants.]

Though Cathy thought nothing of this, it made me feel very awkward and embarrassed. For the past month I've been going down to the office once/day. For one, I enjoyed the coffee - but that wasn't the main point. I thought of it as a chance to be sociable, a good excuse to pop my face in and say hello to the principal and other teachers every day. I thought they appreciated that. I had no idea that behind their smiles they were secretly annoyed that the foreign guy was drinking their coffee.

To top it off, this situation got worse. Cathy saw my face turn red and thought I was angry because I couldn't drink coffee. In a frustrating display of madness, she zipped about and dug up a package of instant coffee mix and a paper cup. At that point I didn't even want coffee anymore. And so the whole thing put me in a bad mood. Yes, sometimes I'm sensitive - but this (and other things) makes me realize once again that we're outsiders and not a real part of the school. As I said, it's not just the coffee. Many things like this have come up in the past. For example, we can't use the copy machine anymore. Can you imagine being a teacher with no access to a copy machine. Well, if I want anything copied I'm supposed to tell Cathy. Of course I never do because she would have to (on her own time) trek to the agency's office in Gangnam (about an hour away) to make them. I also never said anything about this and tried to understand the school might be on a tight budget.

But then it gets petty.

Last week our pencil sharpener broke. Once the extra pencils couldn't be used anymore, I asked Cathy where I could sharpen them. In fact, I wondered why she hadn't sharpened them herself already. "We can't use the school's pencil sharpener," she said meekly. That time I must have turned red too because the next day I was embarrassed to find she went out and bought a pencil sharpener with her own money (which led to another awkward moment where I wasn't sure if I should offer to pay for it). She said that Bonnie doesn't want to pay for things like that either. I already knew that though. Basically if we don't buy it, we don't get it. I buy the pencils and erasers because if I don't, half of my A class students would be unable to write.

I really don't get this pettiness of the principal/school. They just renewed the contract with Bonnie and obviously they and the parents want us there, so what's with the cold shoulder treatment these days?

So this is my plan. I bought a nice coffee gift set from Walmart and a card. I'm going to write this in English and Korean: "I'm very sorry for drinking the school coffee. Please accept this gift and my apology." I'll sign it: "The Foreign Teacher" and put it in the office. That's going to be funny.


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