1.4 Spring 2020 (COVID Archives)

Spring Semester, First Day, Week 21

And it begins!

Then ends.

At 4:29 today I found out that public school has been delayed by another TWO WEEKS due to virus precautions. That means three foreseeable weeks desk warming assuming no further school delays. How I manage to still be surprised is a testament to my refusal to be indoctrinated in Asia Time. Just accept it. Let it wash over you.

I am going to lose my mind. That will be a total of eight weeks of desk warming this winter. I’m desperately hoping they’ll cancel summer camp so I can actually use my vacation days at the end of my contract.

Listen. I’m trying to stay positive for the sake of my coworkers but the absurdity of my contract is even more glaring in these times.

At least the school computer has a CD drive so I can watch my specially ordered DVD set of the series “Scent of a Woman”. The Korean one, not the Al Pacino one. Other suggestions are welcome.

Considering the news, now also seems like a great time to start my teaching license course. C said I don’t need to prepare anything because the first week of class, if we ever get there, will just be testing and introductions.

The teaching license course I’ve been kicking around for a while advertises “Go at your own pace”. Well, they haven’t seen what a woman strapped to her desk with nothing to do for three weeks can accomplish! I’ll need to finish the course before September so I can take exams once I return to the US for my summer visit.

For the first time in a week, I rolled out of bed before 10AM and took the bus to school. What I had forgotten was after the construction to replace the asbestos ceiling tiles, I was still responsible for unpacking and arranging the classroom. Since my classroom is actually a spare music room, most of the stacks of boxes were musical instruments that needed to be put away.

Does this seem… bigger?

At 8:30, then 9, my new co-teacher was nowhere to be found so I shrugged and started taking apart boxes, after I first stole scissors from the resource room since all our scissors were… in the boxes.

S came in with a new bob haircut to assist and it felt like old times.

New coteach C did arrive, I assume she was in a meeting, and the three of us tackled what felt like a complete room renovation. I eavesdropped on S and C while S asked about her life: C studied in Britain and is not married. At that last answer, S made a wistful huff.

But as we continued to unpack I noticed not a single one of the many boxes was mine. You know, the one that the office manager drunkenly assured me a week ago would make it back to my classroom.

Although my computer made it safely back, it turns out my box of belongings was still in the makeshift office where I had spent five weeks. I could only think “of course”.

Like two stooges, S and I made our way to the gym to get my box and the abandoned winter camp supplies (RIP). The office manager was surprised to see us and I was surprised to see that the office staff was still using the makeshift office; everyone else had moved back to the school building.

“S, why are they still in there?”

“I don’t know, that’s weird.” She answered, which also sums up my general impression of the team at large.

In the gym storage closet I got distracted by a gong while S was nearly crushed by a stack of boxes.

“Why are you so mischievous? Come help me!”

As we rolled the boxes back to their true home, we also passed the other man from that fateful night; I might have imagined that he had difficulty making eye contact.

Didn’t y’all say you were so happy to know me better and that I seemed standoffish? Don’t you think you too, breaking your (albeit drunkenly made) promises or not talking to me at school also contributes to our lack of camaraderie?

They are a bunch of characters and I can do nothing but appreciate their continued oddness.

Nearing lunch C asked if I wanted kimbap with E. Of course! I’m always hungry!

But C came in later and deposited a kimbap roll on my desk. I was hoping to eat together since once again this may be my only time to pick their brains before the school year starts. So I asked C when we should eat. She was surprised, “oh, you want to eat together?”. I nodded. I don’t like eating alone. But she had had a large breakfast and wasn’t planning on eating lunch. The end result was the same, but at least I tried! There will be a full semester for that.

Korea’s sandwich.

S told me that in the morning meeting, the school decided that teachers will work from home this week starting tomorrow. Do I count?

It turns out I do not.

In the afternoon C came back to me with the two options for working this week:

“You can take off Tuesday through Friday but use vacation days or you can come to school and work.”

“Well, both of those options suck.” I laughed, a bit to her shock. I know I shouldn’t be surprised at the big ol’ ASIA TIME siren that rings every other week and yet…

I asked, because this is important and contract teachers are usually forgotten, “Will the school be unlocked? And will anyone else be here?” I wouldn’t be the first teacher to come to school to do the punitive desk warming only to find that the school is locked and no one is there. C checked with the principal to make sure.

This came after a conversation that left my heart feeling strange:

S sat with C in what I suppose is “handing over the reigns” and explained how we ran class in the past, what her responsibilities were, etc.

Then I discovered my Korean has improved enough to eavesdrop. Now that is a real milestone in my progress.

S told C that the way I eat Korean food and side dishes and talk made her think “외국인 아닌데요 she can’t be a foreigner”. S also said that she wanted to spend time with me on the weekends but couldn’t due to her son and family duties. There was some more talk about how well I speak Korean in relation to something about class and students but I lost the thread there. At least I eavesdropped enough to hear only compliments.

It did something strange to my heart, the same way “Teacher you are Korean” made me feel from the daycare kids. A lot of my time is spent alone and logically so: I didn’t grow up here and don’t speak the language so forming friendships takes time. Sometimes I think I’m not social enough, that I don’t understand the culture I live in, that I’m an obvious sore thumb. But to hear things like this? Maybe I’m not so different after all.

I think S also told C that planning around/with a foreign teacher is challenging. For now it seems like C is a solid teacher; she’s already filled a shelf with English magazines and books. I found one dedicated solely to BTS and thought about how my former grade 4 girls are going to lose their mind.

Walking the empty hallways just makes me realize that I miss my kids so much. It has been nearly two months and life is not the same without them.

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