1.4 Spring 2020 (COVID Archives)

April 6

My hair has been extra polite because it knows this week I’m getting a perm.

Too late ma’am!

District elections are in full swing now. I walked past a gauntlet of picketers and happened to cast a glance which landed on the candidate herself who was standing on a trailer. She made eye contact with me and bowed and I felt SEEN.

She didn’t need to acknowledge me, especially since I can’t vote here but wowza electric. I wonder if she’s running on a more conservative platform or if she’s facing her opponents as both a woman and a nonconformist.

Over the weekend C asked if I wanted to order a packed lunch since all the teacher were coming to school to start training for online teaching.

I also received an email asking if I wanted to eat in the cafeteria, with the caveat we must all sit six feet apart. That sounded lamer than just eating at my desk alone so I declined.

This is more rice than I ever make for myself at home but yes, I did eat it all. And I’ll get to eat it tomorrow too!

But after retrieving my lunch, which the female music teacher MJ graciously paid for on my behalf, I passed S in her classroom. She was eating her lunch with four other teachers and I felt caught off guard.

I told myself, you can’t be sad about this. You don’t speak Korean well and it would be uncomfortable for all of us if I were there. My coworkers are not required to be friends with me.

But it stung a little thinking maybe we weren’t as close as I thought, and the context of our relationship is based entirely on our working partnership. Now that’s it’s over, well, things are different.

C and I had a surprising heart to heart later. She asked if I would be renewing and I figured it was more out of curiosity and it’s April already, so it’s about time people knew anyway.

She was surprised since most foreign teachers simply renew with the same school. (And very few people move out of Seoul, it’s incomprehensible to both Koreans and foreigners.)

C told me “the teachers here like you. I think they will be disappointed when you don’t renew.” At first that news made me feel elated.

But then I thought about the moment from earlier or the strange moments with the office staff and I felt a bit deflated. If they feel that way about me, it’s not always abundantly obvious. Nevertheless, I’ll write that compliment down.

She asked where I wanted to go instead and when I told her, she approved. She asked if I would also consider Gangwon or Jeju then admitted that she had gotten a position at an international school in Jeju but turned it turn to remain in public school. If she leaves public school, she loses her pension and would have to retake the teaching exams to reenter.

She said this with the very particular brand of Korean pragmatism that I still can’t wrap my head around even after a year.

It seems we’re weirdly on the same page about international schools and living outside of Seoul. And while she seems taciturn, I think we share that we’re both outsiders to the school.

The best news of the day of course was that the gym has reopened. It was much less comfortable than I imagined wearing a mask while working out but I’ll make the sacrifice so that I can do squats again.

The “what is a sports bra” trainer has gotten cut the days we’ve all been away and all the other gym bros fawned over him today. It was cute. They patted his muscles, clearly visible in what could barely be called a shirt, while excitedly exclaiming their admiration.

We support bros who support bros.

In the locker room there was a sign on the shower doors on which the only word I recognized was “soap”. I hesitantly asked one of the older ladies of it was okay to shower. I must have caught her off guard, what foreigner speaks Korean, and had to repeat myself. She just nodded for which I’m thankful. Sometimes all you need are one word answers.

She then asked if this was my first time which caught me off guard. She repeated “first” and held up one finger.

I told her, no but I didn’t know the words on the sign:

그 사인 단어 모르는데… (I didn’t know the words on the sign so…)

Now, the polite morpheme 요 is always the last thing you say in a sentence. But what happens if you state a clause that doesn’t have an ending? For example: “I don’t know so…. I didn’t but…..”

I didn’t add 요 because I was trying to come up with the independent clause and drew a blank. Story of my life!

I don’t know how common this is in Korean (not needing a polite ending on an unfinished sentence) but I hope she knows I wasn’t intentionally rude. Sorry!


Actually now that I think about it and checked the dictionary, “sign” in Korean actually means signature. Oops. Konglish got me again. That’s probably most of the reason why the lady looked so confused.

Tomorrow is my last day of this two day week and then I’ll be able to meet Busan Boy for our rescheduled dinner, get my hair done, and receive my allergy test results. Finally feeling productive.

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