Running on Empty

We’re all exhausted from this week. It’s the end of the month, and all report cards, lesson plans, and phone tests/counseling are to be finished this week. Combine that with our beefed up schedule of classes, and it’s just a lot of work. People are sitting at their desks until 9 PM every day. As for me, I took my work home and got it done quickly. For once, I wasn’t the one procrastinating.I even did the phone tests from home. I was to cook dinner for SJ Tuesday, and at the last minute, the kids’ mothers started screwing with the phone test schedule, making me finish even later. So I just went home and did it from there. It was more convenient for SJ too that I get home earlier. It was also very helpful to have a Korean around in case I get some grandmother or father who has no idea what I’m talking about when I call to test their kid. I did get a few wrong numbers, and it just gets frustrating to get those. I can’t tell if they’re telling me that their kid is asleep or that I got a wrong number. Half the kids I called on Thursday were unavailable. Phone tests are ridiculous.

SJ wanted me to make her something western. I had some ground pork in the freezer, so I thought I’d make a taco salad. She’s not that familiar with Mexican food. Hard to believe, huh. I also planned to make more fried dumplings from my leftover filling. She arrived with a bag of frozen fried squid. Oooh… fried calamari! It turned out that I was totally out of cooking oil, so I went to the ajossi mart and got some while also picking up a jar of marinara sauce for the calamari. She loved everything I cooked. It was a big compliment for me that even after she said she was full, I found her picking at the taco salad some more. She’s starting her new job this week, so it’s going to be harder to see each other for a while.

Little Crystal is still very attached to me. She’s been trying to follow me to all my classes. At lunch I sat beside her, and she insisted on holding my hand while we both ate. I met her mother Thursday, and it was very pleasant.

Management, though, is getting more and more incompetent. It’s really frustrating us, especially on how we discipline the unruly kids. We were told Monday that if we foreigners had bad trouble with certain kids to get a Korean teacher. I walked into a classroom and found three kids taking turns dumping out the contents of a water bottle on the floor. They weren’t thirsty or anything. They were just trashing their classroom. This was a serious enough offense to take them to Trisha or Eric. I couldn’t find Trisha, so I took them to Eric. I got them to explain to him what they did. He laughed, said something to them in Korean, and sent them on their way. No punishment. I don’t think he even told them that what they did was wrong. When we arrived in class, the poor old cleaning lady was mopping up the mess while Trisha watched. I asked her to explain to them that it’s because of their tendency to trash their classroom that they have to wait until after they eat to get water (this isn’t the first time they’ve done this). Instead, Trisha just made excuses for them, saying they’re babies. They’re six years-old! When we were all six, we knew better than to dump a bottle of water on the floor and trash the classroom. Yeah, they’re babies, but they’re not retarded! She frustrated Eddie Teacher too. This was one of the instances where a Korean teacher asked Eddie for some help in discipline. Some of the worst kids in school were trashing their classroom and throwing stuff out the second floor window. Eddie told them that for punishment, they have to stand in the lobby after they eat their lunch and hold their arms over their heads. That’s the standard punishment we had been told to do from the start. So Eddie gets them to stand in the lobby with their arms up, and he goes into the computer room so he can do some work and keep an eye on them. We look up, and we see Trisha telling them to put their arms down and go play with the kids. What are we to do? I hear they’re doing this because they’re too scared of losing more students. But for a society so obsessed with saving face, Trisha and Eric have made both Eddie and me lose face in front of our students.

Thursday was field trip day. As with the usual disorganization of management, none of us knew where we were going until the day of the trip. We piled on the buses with our classes and went to Yongin to the Kyeonggi-do Regional Museum. Cool place. But the kids weren’t there to learn.

They were there for photo opportunities. The school had brought along their photographer, who kept posing us for pictures. By the time we were done with pictures, we had barely fifteen minutes to actually go inside the museum. So we spent much of the day outside under a very bright sun. When we got back, we were all exhausted from too much sun exposure and chasing children. Many still had lesson plans and report cards to finish on top of teaching the elementary classes for the rest of the day.

Brant asked Eric if Mr. Min had come up with a day when he would hold some special dinner for us. He had mentioned it to Brant a few weeks ago. Brant reminded Eric that we need to be told about these things in advance. Eric just mumbled something like he didn’t know when the dinner was. This pissed Brant off.

I finish my classes and my phone test. I say goodbye to everyone, and they all tell me to go home and get some sleep. I was really tired. I went by BBQ and got some fried chicken. Got home, and had chicken and a glass of milk and planned on retiring early. The phone rang. It was Eric. He wanted me to come back to the school because they were having the dinner. I told him that I just ate dinner. He said that was not good and that I needed to go out to dinner with everyone.

“You didn’t know about the dinner?”

“No, otherwise I would not have already eaten dinner.”

“Didn’t you hear me mention it to Brant today?”

“You didn’t give him an answer.”

No one knew about this. It’s the typical deal with Eric and Trisha. They come up with these plans and don’t take the extra step of informing people about these plans. He was also covering his butt because he knew he screwed up and tried to act like he told all of us a week ago about the dinner. What a sleazebag. When I arrived, he was in the computer room telling River it was time to go to the dinner. River said that she had to finish the lesson plans. Eric told her that they needed to go right away. River asked if she could then finish the lesson plans Friday. Eric laughed and said it was not possible. So they talked for a while and negotiated a settlement that River would just show up late. Ellen, who was in the room, said to River something to the effect of, “This is not a cultural thing. He just has a lousy management style.”

So Brant’s pissed. Everyone’s pissed. All the Korean teachers were able to get out of it somehow.

So they took us to a restaurant where they served duck. After a few drinks, the sour mood began to subside. As always, I was sitting next to Mr. Min, and he just loves talking to me and toasting me, calling me Elvis Presrey. And really, the duck was great. I had been looking forward to having duck in Asia. We had it two ways. Pieces of duck were skewered and roasted on spits at the table. They then gave us plates of smoked duck. That was really, really good. So even though we were all angry at Eric’s “management style” and exhausted, we ended up turning it into a good time. Well, even though the foreigners had to pay for a cab after dinner to get back home.

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