My first weekend, last weekend, in South Korea was fairly low key. Friday was weird at best. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink water for nearly 24 hours. The no food thing was fine, but I was thirsty all day and after talking to students in each class, I was raspy and sounded like I had emphysema. As soon as I was finished, Mrs. Lee and I went out for dinner at Jokumeon, a restaurant that serves traditional Korean food in courses. All I wanted was water. Tea and soup were decent substitutes. Delicious substitutes for water. Come visit me and I’ll take you there and you can eat all the delicious food. So good.
Saturday was a day of intense cleaning and grocery shopping. My cupboards were starting to be bare, so I got groceries which were the cheapest option for everything, but still ridiculously expensive. Thankfully my friends Audra and Clayton gave me basically everything they had left in their kitchen cupboards when they moved out. I guess that’s slight compensation for the fact that my school still hasn’t paid me for my relocation allowance, which would really help with, you know, relocation expenses. That has to wait until I get my Alien Registration Card, which is going to be here nearly a month after said relocation. Can I blame this on it being Asia? Other GEPIK teachers already received theirs, but it seems that my school’s administrators can’t transfer that just yet. Somehow they waste that much in a day in paper that I reuse in my lessons, but I can’t get that in cold, hard, won. I get to wait.
Mychaela and I tried to make plans for Sunday, but since I have no real reliable way of communicating, I went to my school Saturday at about 1 PM to use the internet under the guise of “preparing Monday’s lessons” (printing, etc.) I tried to find her online so I could give directions, and thankfully she showed up on skype. Unfortunately, that was just as all the other teachers were leaving. I had a key, so Mrs. Lee and Esther told me to lock the door on my way out. Administrators were going to be there in a meeting for a couple more hours, so I was safe, in theory. In theory. Twenty minutes later, I was on my way out, locked the office door behind me (for which I didn’t have a key), and headed for the main doors.
Staff parking door. Locked.
Cafeteria door. Locked.
Oh no. I was locked in the school, locked out of my the offices, and had no phone. Oh. No.
I ran back to the administrators office, hoping to find the alleged meeting. Nothing. And the door was locked. Oh no. I ran up and down the halls and the stairs and was almost panicking. I started to feel like I did when Carrie and I were trapped in her room when the bedroom doorknob broke and she failed at throwing the keys over the fence to her co-teacher. (Luckily, her co-teacher was able to climb over the pointy wrought-iron fence like a champ.) Luckily, I found one of the weekend janitors cleaning the floor in a 4th floor classroom. I seriously speak zero Korean. I can read and write more than anything, but that didn’t help me at all at the time. I had to try and visually demonstrate the fact that I was locked in the school. It involved my keys and a lot of head shaking and some movement/terrible dance to indicate that I really wanted to go home. I had plans on Sunday and I didn’t want to stay in my school over night, especially with its constant state of freezing temperatures. Finally he mumbled something and shuffled out the door and down the stairs with me following like a puppy that really needed to go outside. Ahh, freedom.
Before the freakout fiasco of being locked in my school, I made plans with Mychaela to meet at Anguk Station in Seoul near Insadong-gil, a famous street which houses a weekend market and dozens of art galleries. It is home to delicious street food, humorous bilingual demonstrations of how to make honey candy that looks like one of Lady Gaga’s wigs, over-priced oleh-oleh style trinkets and a shop that has the most adorable bags (the designer has a love of red-headed girls and Audrey Hepburn. I feel like we could be BFFs.)
After a fun lunch at a bento joint, we got coffee and mapped out our plans for the rest of the day. Turns out, I really wanted to see Mychaela’s neighborhood and her school… and go to RotiBoy. As it turns out, her apartment is exponentially nicer than mine, and by that I mean it’s clean, has real flooring, and everything works. The one advantage I have is my oven, which I hope to use soon. We walked over to her school, passed a restaurant called “Dino Meat” and nearly got ran over by a motorcycle on the sidewalk. (Seriously, the roadway was free and clear. Why must you ride on the sidewalk made of track materials?) Her understanding when she signed her contract was that she would be teaching 2nd grade. Wrong! She’s teaching 5th and 6th grade. (I’m teaching 2nd grade, which translates to the 2nd grade in the middle school, which is actually 8th grade in the Western world. Flip!) Her apartment may be nicer than mine, but at least I’m teaching kids at an age I was expecting!
After a quick tour, we walked back towards the Daehwa metro stop. We searched for a while but couldn’t seem to find my beloved Malaysian bakery. I smelled it before I saw it. When we got there, we were told the best thing you could possibly be told. “It will be about 5 minutes before they are ready.” Yay! Delicious, buttery, hot-as-hell-but-I-can’t-stop-eating-it, coffee-glazed BUNS. I made a fan out of Mychaela. I got one to go for breakfast the next day, and I was so excited to test out my oven on it.
I hopped onto the Line 3 train headed south to go home. I was so glad that I got on at the end of the line, because just two stops closer to Seoul and the car was packed with chatty, iPhone wielding, Korean people/sardines. I was also really glad that I had my book. (Currently reading “Freakonomics” and finding it to be a really interesting read. Mom should read the chapter about information hoarders!)