Dak galbi. Ondol. Soju. Smoking at the table. I understood/spoke enough Korean to order properly and answer the questions the waitress asked. Even understood when she told us the vegetables were ready to eat, but the meat needed just a little more time, even without the mime. Fucking brilliant.

Dak galbi is our favorite, because it's actually spicy (as compared to all the rest of the food everyone tries to take away from us because we are waegookin and it's too spicy except that it isn't at all) and it doesn't take as much effort as bulgogi, even though you still get the lovely effect of having it cook at the table. Cooking at the table is brilliant. Koreans should win a Nobel prize for doing it so often. Ditto sitting on the floor and taking your shoes off.

Yeah. I'm also drunk blogging again. Hence the enthusiasm.

But it really is brilliant.

I think one of my students may have been seated at the next table while Mike and I capped our meal off with more soju and a series of cigarettes. Can't wait till that gets back to school. I don't know what it is about my school and gossip, but even as I pass students on the street with Mike, or anyone else, they make big "Oh!"s and pull out their cellphones to start texting.

If I'm smoking.

If I'm wearing sunglasses.

Or especially if I'm, God forbid, with a man.

Then the next day at school it's, "Sunsengnim. You. Sunglasses."

Is that really news-worthy?

There just the slightest bit of work talk over dinner, which I had formerly forbidden for this evening. But I think that we are both starting to feel that we have our massive camp projects well in hand (or at least partially in hand) and we will survive, even if we do still have a lot of lesson planning to do in the next week and a half.

Anyway. I got quite a few Merry Christmas's and Happy Holiday's at work today -- enough to make me forgive and almost forget yesterday's school-wide silent treatment. But really what did it was finding out that the whispering and gesturing was apparently about how I shafted Mr. K, and not anything else really. Because I'm an evil bitch. And technically, that makes the gossiping about him. He did a fair job of making a public show of how buddy-buddy we are today though. I wish I could trust that it was just him making sure we're still cool, but I really don't know if it was for my benefit or our coworkers'.

One thing that struck me this week, noteworthy at least in my mind, is how touched every one of my students looked when I ended our class with, "Hey!" And when they turned around expecting instructions of some kind, I simply said, with a big smile, "Merry Christmas, guys." Massive smiles and big, sincere Merry Christmas's in response. It affected several classes to the extent that boys who were out the door turned back around and pushed all the chairs in, picked up all the trash before leaving. It was the same when I told them all good luck for their exams. I even got a round of applause in one class.

I don't know what that's about, other than these were a couple of occasions when I must have seemed really human to some of my classes for the first time. Most of them can't communicate with me in any real way, and I know from experience that when you're speaking another language that you aren't that familiar with, in a strange way it can feel like play-acting a lot of the time. For the other person, when you speak their native language, it feels like very real communication. But for the person on the other side, it feels like -- quite literally -- you're speaking in code. Almost as if you're pushing a button in some sense. If that makes any sense.

So for that split second, it was like I was really directly communicating with them. They weren't just straining to understand my instructions so they could finish their worksheets, or repeating vocabulary out of the book that they may or may not know the meaning of. It seemed to strike a chord with them in the sense that I remembered and cared that they had exams, and that it's Christmas for me too. I don't know.


Nisa said...

merry christmas elizabeth!!!!!!

I'm no Picasso said...

Ah! Merry Christmas Nisa!