my new school is run by a young guy, by korean hagwon owner standards. it seems that he is very rich and his parents gave him money to start a school, although he is not really experienced in that arena. i find him to be a complicated figure. he went to school in the states, where apparently some asshats in boston pretended to be his friend and used him to make him buy them things. thus, he is a bit embittered when he talks about america.
i sometimes feel like i should say, oh nonono, i would never associate with you just for your money like those mean americans you met! but sadly, it is his money that i must seek in order to buy my daily bap.
so as a boss, he wavers between being like hey, easygoing american friends! we have such a casual workplace that i brought you back some taco bell from when i went there at lunch! to being like, to actually request anything or communicate with me about any workplace problems you must speak to me through three other people and then i will send the message back through those people that you in fact cannot have overtime pay or extra working hours. how were the nachos guys?!!
he is most friendly when he is taking the staff of our school to fancy galbi restaurants and noraebangs and urging all to drink more and more soju. (this is standard behavior for office dinners in korea, although maybe not so customary his unforgettably professional toast “FUCKING (the name of our school, which god willing will not lead any internet searches to this blog)!!!!!!!!!!”).
one time during one of these office functions, professional b-boys came into our fancy noraebang to perform for us. they were climbing on the walls, don’t you know! but then, one of them started performing fellatio on a beer bottle, he kicked them out, and things got deadly silent for a little while. at least until he and my other boss began dancing together on the table.
in any case, this background information is needed to understand something funny that happened to me tonight.
it is monday night. and i recently received a phone call from a number that my phone did not know that went something like this:
boss: (bottles clanking, men’s voices in background) hello.
me: who is this?
boss: it is…boss.
me: oh! hello.
boss: i want to make sure you don’t get hurt.
me: …what [in the name of god] do you mean?
boss: the girl … the …. hurt… korean moms are so crazy.
(this is in reference to my having written a non-positive comment in one of my students’ weekly report books last week. my entry said that that week, she had had trouble paying attention in class and that i was being very encouraging of her when she did a good job, she will surely make great improvements next week! stars and rainbows! optimism and sensitivity! which incredibly euphemistic assessment of this girl’s attention span resulted in her parents getting in a huge fight and her dad sleeping somewhere else because a. his daughter had been found to have a human flaw and b. it was obviously his wife’s fault).
me: oh no, i have lived in korea for a while now and i think that i can understand how the parents feel sometimes. there is a lot of pressure.
boss: it’s a….cultura..(slur)…cultural…difference.
me: yes, those can come up.
boss: i just don’t want your heart….(pause, clank)…to hurt.
me: nope, i am not hurt at all.
boss: (clank! clank! loud male voices) because i am vebby (i’m trying to show the high level of slurring) happy to work with you.
me: i have really enjoyed working at the school, too.
boss: becaushhh. i like you. i think you are a good teacher.
me: it is a very good school indeed.
then he asks if i am hurt several more times…i reply no, still not, and the conversation ends with “see you [but will not acknowledge you if i remember this phone call] at school tomorrow!!!”
sometimes i think that i am coming to understand (or at least less resentfully tolerate) the social hierarchy of korea; the bowing, the sometimes unearned respect given to men in positions of authority, talking to people through chains of other people in the workplace, the need to save face and not talk about the negative.
but tonight’s little phone call was both very confusing and could not really be ignored, so here i am back at square one again.
here is a photo of sinsa, a neighborhood pretty close to mine, by an artist named juliane eirich, who went to hongik university in seoul and took some really really beautiful photos in the time she spent in korea.
i really like them and now i am officially inspired to do more interesting things with my camera.
….as with all things that i am vaguely planning to do, after i take the gre.
anyway, you should go to her website and look at her photos, especially the ones in the series “german village,” which is a real german-style village in southern south korea populated by aging german men and their korean wives.
i am actually seriously tempted to visit because it is so weird, but i think it would be creepy to just show up and gawk at the germans gardening or whatever they are doing down there. it seems like they would probably be lonely, though.
“theme for the han river”…
this dj (dj soulscape) only samples 70s funk music from korea. where is this funk music to be found?? no one knows.