4.1 Spring 2022

June 23, 민망

Today was mandatory CPR training. No one else would understand The Office reference so I just laughed to myself, as I usually have to do. I wondered why I was even required to go since the whole presentation was in Korean but then also appreciated that I was considered part of the team.

A funny lady with a strong southern accent kicked off the meeting in a small auditorium I didn’t even know our school had.

I got the gist of most of what she said if I concentrated, and not by virtue of exact internal translation but rather understanding some words and guessing the meaning from context.

Wendy leaned over to me during the intermission and asked what percent I understood. I had already zoned out contemplating this and thus had a ready answer.

“About fifty to sixty percent.”

“Yeah, she uses a lot of dialect.”

I found this curious but not unexpected.

“You mean her accent or her word choice?”

“Both,” she laughed.

I cocked my head to the side. Her southern accent was not the issue. The problem was I don’t know words about cardiac arrest or choking.

The people in the English office somehow think it’s just a non-standard accent that holds me back instead of, you know, not being fluent in Korean???

Jack doesn’t understand much of what I say and I’m quite sure it has nothing to do with my accent and everything to do with him lacking speaking skills.

My officemates talk to each other in Korean almost one hundred percent of the time. It’s simply a cultural difference— my Korean teacher explained that while foreigners might resort to the common language shared by everyone in the group, Koreans will always speak Korean to each other. I’ve long since left the feeling of being upset but it can be isolating at times. I want to be in on the gossip, too!

Wendy did tell me that two of the admin women are quitting and moving to other schools because of the terrible office manager. I wish the vice principal would go give him a stern lecture or something. Why must the man be so unpleasant.

The intermission ended and we had to perform CPR on the dummy.

It was very embarrassing.

We were supposed to ask the dummy if he was okay so I slapped him on the cheeks a few times and asked if he could speak English before compressing his chest.

Some teachers had struggled to push the plastic cavity down but my hands shot straight down and I worried that if I had to do this in real life I’d crush and kill the person I’d be attempting to save.

The instructor came over and corrected my fake mouth to mouth and finally I could leave the whole spectacle behind.

“Good job, Abigail,” said the vice principal. I made eye contact with no one as I returned to the back of the theater.

While adults might be hesitant or shy or simply unaware of me, the kids certainly aren’t.

Last month I ran into two girls just hanging up out in the bathroom.

“What are you doing, having a bathroom party?” I asked.

Being second graders, they laughed as if it was the funniest thing they’d ever heard.

The situation didn’t improve; every time I saw this little duo, they giggled in Korean “bathroom party!”

“Someone is going to overhear that and think something weird,” my mom commented.

I’ve been trying to expand our conversation past this and today I succeeded. My two new little ghosts found me and we walked in the hall together chatting in Korean. Jungbin wanted to know what grades I teach and if I could say their names in English. Dayun turned out to be the less confident of the two despite the fact she loves to knock on the office door then run away.

I think I’ve had more conversations with the third graders and second graders, whom I don’t even teach, than the adults.

That’s why kids are great. And I suppose if I think about it differently, I could say I have 500 eager, outgoing coworkers.

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