Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Grinds My Gears

Every day life is different in Korea. Was expected and I like filtering frustrations into learning opportunities. Sometimes I feel that in doing so, I'm molding and broadening my worldview. Other times, it's just the realization that we are different. People and societies and traffic laws are simply different. There's not much more than that hard truth for certain things. 

Still, what really grind my gears: everything and anything I say gets amplified and thrown back at me in some way or other. 

"I like hiking." I am glad I put this out there. It gave me a chance to learn the walking route to school and connect with some of the other teachers. However, it has also resulted in many unexpected and assuming situations, including some very aggressive hand-holding, which as an introvert is difficult. I'm a flexible person but I admit these extra encounters can be exhausting for my social skills. And at least three times a day, I'm asked, "Morning walking?" by various teachers. Yes, I walk to school every day. It's ludicrous what an arbitrary statement, "I like hiking," is back home when compared to how it has fared in Korea.

"My mom's a pastor," when asked if I was a Christian. Religion is not as private a matter as it is in the States I was warned, but I really wish I had known the consequences of my answer. I was open and honest about my religious experiences, and though I understand that its not considered prying in Korea, I was probed. My words opened a flood gate of visits from various people from the Principal's church at school and some guilting tactics including, "Your mom is sad you don't go to church" and "I was like you; I was wild and irresponsible." Nope. 

"I don't have a laptop," when asked why I was staying late to finish a powerpoint. For a while I thought I might score a new computer for my apartment out of this -- my co-teacher said she thought that that was part of the contract: the school would provide a laptop computer. Tie a string on my finger, I should bring that up again. A couple of weeks later I'm opening my bank account, and I tell my co-teacher that I want online or Internet banking so I can transfer money home. "Why do you need that?? You don't have a computer! You don't need Internet banking," my co-teacher shoots back at me. She was visibly annoyed and dramatic, yes, I felt a bit betrayed. She speaks English so well that I had started letting my guard down around her. I still think she thinks it was a waste of time, but I did explain that STUDENT LOANS. 

"I'm from Wisconsin; it's very cold there." This came up just today, which has inspired this post. My co-teacher bursts through the classroom doors and exclaims, "I wish you were from Hawaii." Apparently, the Principal, in coherence with Korea's obsession with conserving energy, argued that we could save energy by not heating the English room, because I don't need it, "I'm from Wisconsin." Foot in my mouth, I've been freezing my ass off for the past month because I said that it's cold in Wisconsin? A couple of things here: first, you could conserve a boat load of energy by keeping the doors to the school closed instead of gaping open for winter to blow through the hallways and classrooms. Second, arrrrggggg. 

I like to say that that's Korea. And it has been but there's a second language at play here. My thoughts are that what can be understood is taken to heart. Everything I say that can be understood even on the smallest level by the teachers and other staff at my school has such importance. Any hint of information is used for every "relevant" matter. And they listen to me. A sure sign that they care about me; I recognize that. Still, heat the English room please.

1 comment:

  1. Just read through your blog - love it! You're hilarious and have a way of conveying all the complicated and manifold facets of a situation really succinctly and expressively. I was open and honest about my religious views (atheist), but that didn't stop some random ahjumma I'd met through a school teacher from coming to my house early every Sunday morning for the first month to try and convince me to go to church. Sometimes there being less of a language barrier makes no difference at all. ^^