Where to Begin?
I’m not sure exactly where to start off this story, but I guess I should give a little background information. I currently live in a very small town in South Korea. There genuinely isn’t much here and our only claim to fame is a filming site for a movie no one watches anymore. Because I’m vegetarian there aren’t many options of places to get food. Surprisingly, pretty much everything at restaurants have meat in it. So, I’ve got about two places I go to and one of them is pizza.
There are a couple places that have pizza here, but my favorite is a place called Pizza Tour. They don’t deliver, so usually I go straight there after work and get myself a potato pizza. I know, potato pizza sounds weird, but don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it! The only two people who work there are the owners, husband and wife. I think the husband does other work during the day since the wife is usually there alone and he gets to the restaurant around 5pm-ish. They are so, so kind and have helped me out a few times. Once it started to pour down rain after I had gotten inside. Before I could leave the wife told me to wait. I watched her go to the back room and come back with an umbrella! She didn’t want me getting wet on the way back to my car.
I have to admit that I get pizza too often. I get it at least once a week (usually on Fridays), but sometimes I get it twice a week if I don’t feel like cooking. It’s at the point where if I was going to move, I would stop and tell them goodbye before doing so. Anyway, I was there on a Friday getting my weekly potato pizza when the husband tried to tell me something.
My Korean level is that of an infant. Their English level is almost non-existent. So, there we were at the counter trying to communicate. He would say a sentence and I would look confused. He tried again and I would repeat back the words I understood so that we could potentially work towards the goal of communication. It was very tedious and it took probably a good 10 minutes. I know this, because I know exactly how long it takes for them to cook my pizza. Eventually we got to the point where I understood that they were trying to tell me. They would be out of town for a week! I was so excited that we finally got the message across, but I was also sad because no pizza for a week. He then proceeded to tell me that they weren’t getting another dough shipment, so they may run out of dough before then.
Disappointment and Embarrassment
After the husband finished telling me what was going on, the wife had come to the counter to talk as well. This is where I started to get embarrassed… The wife proceeds to look at me all concerned and say “Oh, no! What are you going to eat if not pizza??” All I could do was laugh and tell her that I would be fine. But she still seemed very concerned for my well-being. I can cook and I frequently do! I’m just lazy and I really like pizza. So, as I walked out of Pizza Tour with my potato pizza, I immediately called my friend here in Korea to tell her my story. We laughed at my embarrassment together 🙂
Pizza! The next week I drove past the shop and looked to see if they were open. One day I passed to see a sign on the door and workers pulling equipment out of the shop. My heart broke in two. They weren’t closing for a week. I had misunderstood. They were closing FOREVER and moving to ANOTHER TOWN.
It’s been almost a year since they’ve closed and I haven’t had a pizza to match what they cooked. They moved their store about an hour and a half away, and I have to admit that I’ve been tempted to try and find them. One day I will track them down and tell them how much I’ve missed them. Until then, I’ll need to learn to make my own pizza…
Lack of Information
One day last month, all the students and most of the teachers went on a hiking trip! Trips and other school events are shared with the teachers through the weekly meetings and through the school messenger system. I’m at the weekly meetings, but I don’t speak Korean. Similarly, I am not able to have the school messenger system on my computer. Therefore, my co-teacher has the responsibility of sharing such information with me so I can know schedule changes. However, my current co-teacher doesn’t seem to give a crap and continues to not tell me things.
Student Story Time
So, it’s Thursday and I’ve got my after school class with three 1st grade students. Before class starts, one of the students asks me to wait before I start the game so he has time to get back. I agree and one of the other students has conversation with me while we wait. She asks me if I know what the students are doing tomorrow. I tell her that I have no idea and she proceeds to tell me that the whole school is going on a hiking trip.
I’m sitting there like “you’ve got to be f*ckin’ kidding me.” The week before the hiking trip my co-teacher and I were scheduling the student’s speaking test and he tells me, “We can’t have speaking test that day. There is a special event.” That leads me to believe that there will be some sort of assembly in the auditorium. Because surely if the entire school was going on a hiking trip, he would tell me something like that… Nope. He didn’t and I had to find out from another student.
This is a side story and totally unrelated to the hiking day, but it’s really too funny not to share. Remember how I said that one student asked me to not start the game until he came back? I thought that maybe he wanted to go to the bathroom or needed to talk to another teacher or something along those lines. Instead, when my student comes running into class, he’s got chicken. Yes, fried chicken on a stick. This kid sprinted out of school and went to the store to buy himself some chicken and sprinted back to class with chicken. He sits down and he is panting and I’m in utter shock. Then I start laughing, a really good laugh. I haven’t laughed this hard in a really long time.
He proceeds to tell me that he was starving and couldn’t wait 45 minutes for class to end before he got something to eat. The rest of the time he was eating his chicken and playing the game, I would laugh each time I looked at him. I was full of giggles. Finally, he finishes his chicken and I think that’s the end of it. Instead, he starts pulling candy out of his pockets! I started laughing again and I really couldn’t stop. He shared his candy with everyone and honestly he made my day so much better. I was bitter that my co-teacher didn’t bother to tell me about the hiking trip, but this one student managed to end my day on a really great note.
I get to school and practically no one is there. There is the P.E. teacher, art teacher, secretary, and career teacher. I don’t really talk to any of them so I felt a little awkward. Well, I do talk to the career teacher, but she stays in her own room and not the main teachers’ office. After sitting for a bit, one of my students comes into the teachers’ room and turns in some paperwork to me. I find out that there are 4 students who weren’t able to go on the hiking trip and had to stay at school in the library. I felt kind of bad for them, so I decided to give them my computer and let them use my Netflix account to watch a movie. They chose a Korean movie and I checked on them a few times to make sure they were okay.
During the morning I worked on my blog. The students offered for me to watch the movie with them, but I don’t think they noticed that there weren’t English subtitles so I declined. But I wanted to work on my blog. I was really excited to start everything up and was planning on spending the whole day getting lots of work done. A little before lunch time I went to the teachers’ sleeping room and took a nap through lunch time. When I came back from lunch I was the only one in the teachers’ room and had no idea where anyone else was. I figured they were probably still out to lunch.
Soon, the student who turned in her paper this morning came into the teachers’ room and asked to sit and talk to me! She said that she thought I was lonely since she knows that my current co-teacher doesn’t talk to me. Actually, it felt really nice to see that the students noticed how my current co-teacher interacts with me. My last co-teacher and I were really close and talked a lot. She also was responsible and told me all the things that were going on in the school, even things that weren’t important like student gossip. But knowing that other people could see the lack of daily conversation I was getting really made me feel good.
Anyway, she started to talk to me and it was really really nice! Sometimes when I talk to students it can be awkward and fumbling, but she is really great at continuing conversation and it was really smooth. Of course, we had some language issues, but other than that there weren’t any awkward pauses. Soon, the three other students came down and talked to me as well.
Everyone Came Back
Around 2:30pm, the students and teachers came back from the hiking trip. Previously, the girl told me that she had to stay until 3:30pm and that she would stay and talk to me until then. However, once everyone got back, the principal decided that those who went on the hiking trip could leave for the day, and the 4 students who had to stay behind could leave too. She felt guilty leaving, but I told her I would be fine and that she had made me happy.
I was a little disappointed, but decided to get back to work on my blog. Soon, my principal came in and told me about how they were cooking pumpkin pajeon in the Home Economics room. (Pajeon is almost like a vegetable pancake. You take veggies and slice them very thinly and coat them in flour and egg, then fry it in a pan.) At first I said I wasn’t hungry, but I decided I would go check it out anyway. Why be such a downer?
Pumpkin Pajeon and Makgeolli
I go and see who is in the room and I find the shooting coach! Him and I get along really well even though his English is really bad and my Korean is really bad. So, he sat me down put some pajeon in front of me. The career teacher was the one who was cooking and she told me that I should eat a lot because pumpkin was good for a cold and I had a really bad one that had been lingering. She also had the shooting coach pour me some makgeolli (Korean rice wine) because it has probiotics and would also be good for my cold.
They kept pouring makgeolli and putting pajeon in front of me. They wanted to make sure I felt cared for and I did. I could feel their friendship and I wanted to cry because I had been feeling ignored at school. I sat there for an hour and a half eating, drinking, and talking with other teachers. After everything was gone, I offered to help clean, but they pushed me out and wouldn’t let me help.
Time to Go
Finally, it was time to go and I was surprised to find myself happy. I had expected this day to go by so slowly and to have no one talk to me all day. What I found was that other teachers do enjoy my company and do care about me. Plus, students wanted to make sure that I was happy as well! I had no idea that so many people at the school cared about me like that. I had let my co-teacher’s negative attitude infect me. This day really helped to remind me of why I love working here and why I continue to stay.
Now, I try to go into work with a clear head and think “this is going to be a good day,” instead of “I don’t want to go to work today.” Since then, that one student has me sit with her once a week during her free period and talk to her.
Lesson learned: Don’t expect the worst.