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Mrs. Lee and Eric found a new way to upset the teachers. Last week was a week of making scores of balloon animals and pop-up greeting cards for Children’s Day and Parents’ Day. This week had Teachers’ Day. Ooh wow! We get a break or something! Brant said that the parents gave them lots of great things like whiskey and cologne last year. So I walk in Thursday morning to find Eric sheepishly arguing with Brant and Eddie. Supposedly there was a new school policy against accepting gifts from parents placed just in time for Teachers’ Day. And being in classic communication style, they didn’t make the logical step of telling the foreign teachers before Teachers’ Day. So Eric was telling Eddie and Brant that they had to return the gifts they had just opened.Eric met with me in the computer room later that day. He’s obviously scared of Brant, and was asking my advice on how to deal with him. My advice was “Don’t. Let Trisha talk to him.” He also informed me of the policy and asked if I had received any gifts. I looked down at my bulkier-than-usual backpack and said, “No. The parents don’t like me much, I guess.”

So, it was funny that Thursday no one received any gifts, but they all smelled differently the next day. I myself got a bottle of nice cologne and some socks. I walked in Friday to find Eddie, Brant and Eric battling it out again in the computer room. I guess Eric didn’t heed my advice. We could hear Brant shouting at him from all the way in the teachers room.

We received lots of flowers, real and artificial, from the kids that day. Supposedly we could accept flowers and food. I had told SJ about this policy, and she laughed. Only the public schools follow this rule. It was crazy for the private English schools to do the same thing. Eric had acted like every school did this.

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So what’s the point of Teachers’ Day?

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In an obvious attempt to save face, they said that we only couldn’t receive gifts from kindergarten students. It was okay to receive from elementary students. We were told this just in time before the elementary kids started arriving. Suddenly, everyone’s gifts became elementary gifts. What a silly, silly fiasco. I myself received a few more nice things and some flowers. My conversation class gave me one of those cool little cakes with fresh fruit on top, lit it, sang me this Teachers’ Day song, and popped party crackers.

All-in-all, Friday started out bad and ended up being really good. We received doughnuts and cakes all day long. During lunch three pizzas arrived. One pizza was an obvious new product from Mr. Pizza that had not been tested before release. It had vegetables and some sweet BBQ sauce — and was topped with coconut. No Korean or American liked this pizza.

During the special class, I had been working all week on boiling water experiments. Most of the week I had been blowing up balloons using boiling water. I also wanted to do this project where I’d boil a bottle of salt water, send it through a tube, and have it come out the other end as fresh water. The trouble was that I could never get the bottle hot enough while sitting in a water bath. So Friday, I put the bottle directly on the hot plate. I made the precaution of having the class back their desks away. Good thing. In the middle of lecture, the bottle cracked, and all the water spewed out.

“Fire! Fire!” the kids yelled.

“No, it’s just water.”

I finished class and cleaned up the mess when it cooled. There was salty film everywhere. Only the bottom had broken off the bottle. It was covered in salt. The kids wanted to lick the salt. I let them against my better judgment.

–Better judgment? No, I was outright stupid.

“Michael, you didn’t just lick the broken end of the glass, did you?”

He smiled at me, and I saw a long cut streaking down the tip of his tongue. I’m glad he didn’t cry. He didn’t feel a thing. He only got concerned when he noticed how much blood was coming out. I had him stick his tongue out and put gauze and pressure on it. The bleeding stopped, but that was a very stupid thing for me to do. I guess that’s the end of heat-related science projects. I still don’t know why I was designated the science teacher even though I failed geology twice.

I’m also a drama teacher. We all are, really. All of us is teaching a kindergarten class a play. I’m teaching the Vesta kids “The Enormous Turnip.” There are lots of roles, and the kids love playing different parts. The only line they know, and that they love repeating is, “It is ENORMOUS!”

So I play the tape of the script and have the kids act it out. This old man grows an enormous turnip, and he calls all these people and animals to help him pull it out. It becomes a big train of people and animals at the end pulling. To keep from leaving kids out, I usually place one of them in the role of the turnip. They love this role because at the end we carry the turnip, put it on the table and eat it.

Also, it seems that one of the kids has taught the other kids the chant, “Oh! Oh! Panty show!” They yell this when someone’s underwear is exposed. I’m trying to curb it in my classes by teaching them the classic chant from Pee Wee’s Playhouse, “Mekka Lekka Hi, Mekka Hiney Ho!” It’s starting to catch on. I also just say things to myself in class while the kids are working, and somehow they catch on. Like when I was practicing the Korean word for pork in my head, the kids started repeating me, saying, “Taejigogi, taejigogi, 1, 2, 3! Taejigogi, taejigogi, 1, 2, 3!”

River, Brant and I kept with our Friday night tradition and had kalbi after work. I didn’t have a date that night. We love this place because they serve side dishes that only one of us tends to like. Brant likes his different kimchis. River likes this rice mixed with seaweed and caviar. Actually, I like that too. But my favorite thing are the crabs that are split in half, chilled and served covered in hot sauce. You just suck the meat out of them. Combine that with the marinated pork grilled at our table, and that’s a meal.

We still wanted to drink after dinner. Habana was out of the question. We’re so tired of that place. River suggested we try the Russian hof. Brant and I had eyed it for a while but were nervous about going there. We had this assumption that it’d be filled with the same scary looking Russian men we had seen around there. We also worried that there would be a double language barrier and no legible menu for English speakers. We decided to finally make the leap and try it.

And as always, I wonder why we hadn’t tried it earlier. It was very comfortable there. The workers/owners were a blone Russian woman and a Korean dressed in this black gown. They had a semi-English menu that we browsed through. I had to try the borscht. I don’t think I had ever had Russian food before. The only borscht I had was the pot I had tried to make myself ten years ago. This soup that they served here was fabulous. It came with a basket of crusty bread (a rarity here), and River and Brant were dipping bread in my soup the entire time. It had tons of dill, veggies and tender beef in it with a dollop of sour cream. I think we’ve found our new watering hole. We actually felt welcome there, unlike Habana and other places. They even asked us to tell our friends about them when we left. So I’m definitely going to have to go back and have a full Russian meal sometime. I haven’t been able to get my mind off that borscht all weekend.

The weekend was a lazy weekend. I was too tired to go on any adventures. Nonetheless, I got phone calls waking me up on both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday SJ called me around 8:00 because a friend had already called and woken her up an hour earlier. She was bored or something. Sunday Christina called me at 6:30.

“Hi Sweetie. I’m leaving.”

“Where?”

“Going to Beijing.”

“Oh yeah, you’re going to China for a week.”

“Anything you want me to get you while I’m there?”

“I don’t know. What is there to get?”

“Tea?”

“Don’t they have tea here in Korea?”

“Yeah, but it’s Chinese tea.”

Thank goodness for my sleep mask. I was able to go back to sleep and stay that way until 10:30. For lunch I threw some leftover marinated pork in the wok and wrapped it in a tortilla. A Korean Burrito. Invented something new.

SJ came over in the afternoon. I was waiting for her when the door knocked. There was a mother and her daughter standing there smiling, holding copies of “Watchtower.” Oh geez, Korean Jehovah’s Witnesses! I was polite, and told them I knew the routine and everything. We mostly talked about the U.S. They gave me a copy of “Watchtower” and went away. They passed SJ on her way up while they left. Actually, SJ was waiting in the stairwell for them to leave my door.

We watched movies on TV, and she cooked for me. I introduced her to Cosmopolitans, made with soju instead of vodka. She found a new drink she liked.

 

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