Today is National Exam Day for the high school students here. Coteacher told me I wouldn't have any classes, but if I didn't come into work, it would be taken out of my vacation days. So I went, at regular time, and I was the first one there besides one teacher. Another showed up shortly after, and they had a big discussion in Korean about whether or not I knew it was a holiday. Eventually one tried to tell me in English, and I told her I knew, and the other came up with the phrase "S.A.T" to explain.
And now I'll address all this nonsense on the expat forums about how domineering and gruff all older Korean men are. I'm not going to lie -- my principal scares the shit out of me. He walks and speaks like a man with authority. But he likes me, and is kind and gentle when he speaks to me. Today when he came in and I stood with the other two teachers, he laughed and told me I could sit in Korean. Then, when the vice principal came in, he asked the other two teachers in Korean what I was doing there. When they explained that I knew it was a holiday, he came over to my little cubicle. "Lizuh. Anytime, you go home."
"Yes. You go home, anytime."
He laughed and mimicked me: "Okay!"
Then he gave me a biscuit and two oranges.
Now, Fake Coteacher exhibits all of the stereotypical traits the other expats go on and on about -- that's for sure. When we went to have dinner with all the English teachers, my "welcome party", he sat down at the table across from the VP and swatted me really hard on the thigh, said something in Korean and gestured toward the middle of the table. The man knows I don't speak a lick of Korean and at that point couldn't even understand simple phrases to even attempt to figure out what he was telling me to do.
Now, I know that, as the youngest at the table, I was meant to be serving everyone, but I had never had a traditional Korean meal before and had no fucking clue the soup was to come first, and I should be dishing it out. Mr. Wan rolled his eyes (at Fake Coteacher, not me) and started serving the soup himself. But I've seen that kind of behavior a million times out of American men as well. It might be more pronounced and formalized because of Korean customs, which are generally more prevalent (at least from an outsider's point of view) than in America, but that nasty I'm-a-man-respect-me-goddamnit attitude is nothing new to me. And I have not seen a drop of it from the men who actually have the authority to treat me that way. The truth is, Fake Coteacher is a lousy teacher who no one respects and has probably got a chip on his shoulder because he's nearly the same age as the VP and principal, yet is stuck lolling around with us lowly English teachers instead. Now he needs to make up for it by giving me a fucking bruise on my thigh and hitting the boys with his stick. That, as far as I can tell, is something that extends across cultural boundaries.
Anyway, I have the day off and am home now. I will spend it giving my apartment a much-needed proper scrubdown and listening to music. A few midmorning photos of the neighborhood, then: