Man, lousy day today. Everyone was in a bad mood because they had not recovered from the field trip. Ellen Teacher did show a rare glint of sarcasm by asking me, “So, how was your dinner with Eric last night?”Eric himself was seeming to avoid everyone and was grouchy. I think Mr. Min figured out that Eric screwed up about the dinner, and Eric lost some face over it. I also think that I caught Mr. Min subtly communicating to Eric that Brant, River and I were more valuable to him than he was, so he’d better take care of us.

Since I had a disaster getting to the bank in decent time Thursday, Brant and I talked to Trisha about me getting some break time to take care of the bank today. She had promised it to me in the taxi the night before. She tried to backtrack since Crystal Teacher was out sick, but Brant was volunteering to combine our classes. We were able to agree on me going during lunch, but we warned her to be prepared if it takes longer than lunch to get this done.

I left as soon as I could during lunch. Getting a taxi this time was not a problem. When I got there, though, Mr. Im, the English speaking guy, was not at his desk. I took a number and waited. And waited. While I was waiting, some mothers were egging a toddler on to come over and say “Hello” to me. It’s cute but it’s also annoying, in a way. I sometimes feel like I’m some sideshow freak there for their entertainment. And I have to deal with tykes all day long. Can I have a break from them?

My number was called, and I had a hard time communicating with the poor pregnant woman behind the counter. I showed her Mr. Im’s card and asked in Korea if he was there. You know, I can ask the simple questions. I just am not educated enough for the following response. I couldn’t tell if she told me he was out to lunch or if he was gone for the day. I gave her my card and asked her to ask him to give me a call. She instead started dialing the number on my card. I stopped her, and she then called Mr. Im’s cell phone. She sat me down at his desk, relieved to be through with me.

Mr. Im showed up ten minutes later. I told him I wanted to transfer some money to the U.S. I filled out the paperwork, and he gave me what looked like a receipt. Since I was there, I thought I’d sign up for internet banking too. So I asked him. He stopped a bit, and there was a panicked look on his face. He asked if I had an account there. Yeah, of course I did. It dawned on him that I wanted him to take money out of my account and send it to the U.S. He was originally expecting me to pay him on the spot in cash. So he fixes that quickly and then starts the paperwork for internet banking. I fill it out, and he starts typing it into the computer. This takes a very long time. The computer crashed, and it was a while before he admitted it. I told him that we could do it another time, if it wasn’t any trouble. Considering that he was thumbing through his English dictionary while talking to me, I don’t think he understood me. His response was to get me a paper cup of juice. After much frustration, he took me downstairs to this cute teller girl to finish my work. She didn’t speak any English. Well, I spoke more Korean during our face-to-face than she spoke English. I just signed and signed and signed papers. She typed some stuff out while working on this other woman’s transaction. She had some trouble with telling what letters I put on my application for my account screen name. It ended up getting misspelled anyway, I found out. She had one of the managers looking over her shoulder helping her. This is a phenomenon I have not seen in the U.S. There is like one manager for every two or three tellers, constantly looking over their shoulders or teaming up with them against the customer. They handed me my passport and all that stuff. The manager then handed me this card wrapped in black cellophane.

“Secret card.”

“Oooh… kamsa’mnida! Secret card!”

I was in the bank for an hour and a half. It only took River ten minutes when she went. For some reason, it never goes smoothly with me. The kindies were packing up to leave when I showed back up. Trisha nor Eric said anything to me about being gone. I wasn’t trying to get within talking distance anyway.

The rest of the day was uneventful. The kids were rowdier than usual. My voice was leaving me, and I had a case of sun sickness. You know, that feeling you get when you’ve been swimming all day. It’s a great feeling if you’re chilling out in an air-conditioned cabana with a margarita. Not so great when you’re trying to control hyperactive children in a hot smelly classroom.

I called SJ before my conversation class. She said she was meeting friends at Beomgye Station but wasn’t sure exactly what time it would be. I told her I’d call after class. Class, though, was another tooth-pulling event. It’s just a class of four kids, and they’re smart kids, but they are very hard to control. By the time the class was over, I didn’t want to deal with anyone’s BS, so I left before Eric could have another chat with me. It was when I was at the subway station that I remembered that I was to call SJ. I headed to Beomgye Station. A DVD booth had on sale a DVD I knew she’d be interested in, so I bought it as a gift. I went up to the surface, and Beomgye was again alive on a Friday night. I love just walking around there. And I did I lot of walking, too. There were people selling everything from necklaces to baby rabbits. I came across one shop that would have a totally different meaning in Amsterdam: Coffee & Herb.

I waited an hour for SJ before finding a pay phone and calling her.

“Joe? Where are you?”

“I’m at Beomgye Station.”

“Oh no! I told you to call me.”

“I’m sorry. I had to get out before Eric trapped me.”

“My friends changed plans, and we met at Gangnam Station.”

I was crestfallen. I was very tired and bothered making the journey because she can really lift my spirits. I tucked her gift under my arm and made my way back to the subway.

Since I wasn’t going to have dinner with my girlfriend, my mind was on whether or not I had a packet of ramyon noodles in the apartment when I passed by BBQ. My friend was in there, and I gave him a quick wave. He tossed me a melon soda as I passed. Really good guy. Got me in a better mood and happy that I live in such a neighborhood.

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