I got to school at my normal time today (thirty minutes early) only to find a cold, empty, dark building with doors locked left and right. I went up to my classroom and got dug in, hoping someone would show up eventually....
Around nine, I went down to check, hearing noises in the building. The VP and four other teachers (including Mr. C) were in the office. When I came through the door carrying files and obviously already working, the VP busted a gut and said something in Korean to the other teachers. Basically, he thinks it's pretty funny that I come in early and stay late like the other teachers, and that I was there on the holiday. But the thing is, my coteacher doesn't tell me when I don't have to come in. In fact, sometimes she tells me that I do have to even when I don't. I really don't think she likes me. She seems to have it in for me on some level, and I don't know why. But anyway. I had a feeling I wasn't supposed to be there today, but what am I supposed to do about it? I have no way of confirming that. So I showed up. At my usual time.
Mr. C was lurking around my desk for a bit this morning and I was doing my best not to appear to notice. He finally rested his arms on my computer tower and said, "Ah... did you.... go home.... safely last night?"
Fucking. Adorable. It really is a shame he's leaving before we even have a chance to get over our initial awkwardness.
He then proceeded to chat it up for quite a while. Thing is, there were no other English speakers (that I know of... I've suspected for a long time -- and last night confirmed it -- that just because someone doesn't readily speak English doesn't mean they can't) around. If we had more chances to talk without Mr. K, the peanut gallery, hanging around.....
Anyway, it's pointless now, since he's going back to his home town soon. Way to go, Mr. C. So much for you learning English for me.
It wasn't long before the VP piped up with his, "Lee-juh. You anytime go home."
I think I'm almost ready for this camp, so after lunch, I did.
Ah. Now's a good time to drone on about how nice it is sometimes to be the foreign girl 'round these here parts. There are a lot of downsides to being a foreigner, but, here in the ROK at least and as a young white female, there are perks as well. God knows it's superficial, and quite awkward as a girl who's always been considered as and treated like (quite happily) one of the guys. But to have the best looking men in the group crowd around fighting to pour drinks, open doors, carry things....
I open doors. I carry things. I pour drinks....
I've always prided myself on being a gentleman, but these guys put me to shame. Mr. C won't let me make my own coffee, and last night on the bus the young PE teacher opened a bottle of water, held it out to me and said, "Ladies first." I said, no. You opened it -- you go first. He shrugged and acted as though he were about to take a drink, and then gave a big smile and held it out to me again: "No. Ladies first."
Me? A lady? Alright...
Then there was all the commotion last night as the other teachers looked on while I found my rightful place out of Mr. K's stewardship and into the company of my destiny, the handsome young PE teacher. He even dedicated his noraebang song on the bus to me and did a dance and everything. I merely mentioned in passing that I preferred the wine we had in the restaurant to the wine we were drinking on the bus. The PE teacher disappeared for a minute to the front of the bus and somehow magically returned with three bottles of the other kind. Then it was, "I kind of have to pee..." Disappeared again, only to have the bus pull over at a rest stop moments later.
Gold star treatment.
It's not a bad situation. Until you scratch the surface and find out there's not much underneath. And it took me a while to catch on that part of why Mr. K was hanging on so tightly at school was that there was some esteem for him in that with the other male teachers. I'm pretty curious to see how things will play out now that he won't be around anymore -- if the PE teachers really will take me into the fold, or if everything will just go back to normal and I'll sit quietly eating alone at lunch. Somehow I'm fairly certain the latter is the most likely. No one likes speaking English in front of everyone else, unless they're too drunk to care.
One thing I do have to say is that I'm not a fan of the habit of men snatching your cell phone out of your hand and then attempting to read the entire content and check the call records. Last night when the PE teacher did so, he mistook "Wan" for "Kwan" in the message logs, made a shocked face and pointed to Mr. K, saying, "Oh! He! Many messages...."
"No no no no...." I said, trying to explain that they weren't from Mr. K. And there aren't that many of them -- it just looks like there are, since Wan's basically the only person I contact with the phone.
He thought the "no no no no" was a chastisement for reading the logs and got embarrassed, turning his face away and saying, "Oh, sorry. I'm very sorry."
He's got this fucking baby face -- it does my head in. I couldn't stop thinking of my students at times while we were talking last night. And particularly at that moment, I was expecting, "I'm very sorry, Teacher." He assumed the same posture and facial expression they do when I'm getting on to them.
He's four years older than me, just to clarify. He's just go these big, innocent eyes.
Anyway, the point is, all of the expat men who love to drone on and on about what rough and tumble, misogynistic wife-beaters Korean men are can shove it. I'm sure they exist. They fucking well exist back home, and there are bad apples in any good sized bushel. But I don't want to fucking hear it. These same tortured, bitter assholes also like to drone on about how "whipped" Korean men are at the same time -- how they cow tow to their girlfriends' every wish and carry their bags. Fuck you. You don't get to have it both ways. And maybe if you would have treated the women back home with a little kindness and respect, you wouldn't be here chasing the fucking disgusting myth that Asian women are naturally submissive and getting your asses kicked by the reality that they won't put up with your shit either.
Anyway, the point is, I'm enjoying my meaningless single mingling, even if there are tinges of wife-hunting and an abundance of superficiality around the edges. I've fought hard in life to be treated like one of the guys -- it affects every aspect of my presentation, and I've done well there. But it's nice to have that completely ignored sometimes and, for reasons completely unknown to me, be treated with complete chivalry.