1.4 Spring 2020 (COVID Archives)

June 17

Today was a flurry of teaching courses, lesson planning, and oh yeah dizzying life choices.

In the midst of researching visas and language programs I asked C where I could shred papers and she told me the office staff room or the teacher’s room.

“Oh. Then the teacher’s room.”

“Why?” She nudged

“Um uh I,” I spluttered and added, “give me a minute I’m trying to think of the nicest way to say this,” which made her laugh.

“Is it the makgeolli?” She asked.

Not quite. I unloaded the whole story of my time in the makeshift office, the drunken encounter, the subsequent ignoring.

“And the young woman– she can speak English just fine! But I saw her mouth shaking in fear when she did and she never talked to me again.”

C laughed at my description and explained, “Koreans are afraid of speaking English in front of each other. I’m sure if it was one on one she would talk to you.”

But that’s the thing– there is never a situation in which I am one on one with people, so the end result is always: their pride and my ostracization remain intact. I spent two months talking to no one in the makeshift office, but at least her confidence was spared?

Not a good bargain on my end.

C said the office staff was probably just afraid to talk to me in English.

But at this point I have no more room for forgiveness for sparing people’s English fear. The teacher room staff have always been kind and friendly, in Korean or a handful of words in English. The VP telling me to take a break and offering to treat me to makgeolli, for example. The office woman who came up four flights of stairs just to tell me in person G had tried to call me via the front office. The IT woman who spent an hour fixing the printer for me.

I have endless patience for those that try, those with an accent, those that talk to me gently in Korean, my students, anyone willing to talk to me at all.

I told C the office manager had rushed past me this morning, but didn’t turn around to say hello. She thought that was strange, but overall coming from the Korean perspective, and from what I am gathering is the lacking-foreign-friends perspective, her sympathies lie with those harboring Englishphobia.

However, I am at the point where I cannot tolerate “shyness” as an excuse. Y’all have seen me for a year now. You know I can speak Korean passably. You know I see the kids outside of school and chat with them.

Did you know all Korean elementary teachers are technically certified to teach English?

Do you know how many teachers talk to me at this school? Ha.

Of course, I’m thinking of using their shredder now to make the office staff uncomfortable and exact my favorite form of revenge: GUILT.

I miss my ragtag team of G, H, S, and part time guitar teacher. None were perfect at English and yet we all had a good time communicating in some form or another. I miss our lunches, our field trips, our after-school coffee club.

If the social missteps were once in a blue moon they’d be funny stories; but habitually they become a thorn in my side.

As a consequence of the social 180 from last semester, on the few occasions C wants to talk I absolutely info dump on her. I feel like I lose it a little; she is introverted, and as mentioned assumed to not have non-Korean friends, and as such doesn’t respond so much as occasionally nod to the conversation I have with myself. When I talk to her I feel like I have ridiculously strong opinions in the face of her quiet neutrality.

I have introverted friends, but none like this; I don’t quite know how to talk with (at) someone who doesn’t respond. It makes me feel like that brash, overbearing American stereotype.

Maybe in the face of all this silence, I have become radicalized. Goodness knows I popped off about Korean garlic bread and American crime stats when she just asked if I’m okay with Korean pizza for the little subject teacher party tomorrow.

I am like an unzipped sleeping bag; have fun trying to put me back in the little nylon napsack now.

Maybe I have lost it.

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