Friday, January 7, 2011

Second Korean Dinner and a Nickname (24 November)

Introducing Six-pack

Each week, we have to comment on journal entries written by our first grade students.  The classes are rotated each week so we should, in theory, mark a different set of journals each time.  What the students write about each week, is entirely up to them and is, at times, rather amusing.  One such entry this week was about the gorgeous PE teacher at school.  This particular student kept referring to the teacher’s six-pack and how she’s heard that he has a six-pack even though she hasn’t seen it.  NZ2 had the glorious job of responding to this entry.  All he could think of to say: “I’m glad to see you have such a strong interest in Physical Education.”

Now, let’s get one thing straight: this PE teacher is beautiful!  He’s one of the younger teachers at school, very shy and barely acknowledges the foreign teachers although he can speak pretty good English – with flawless pronunciation.  The journal entry has led to an informal nickname between myself and NZ2 who now refer to him as six-pack – not in his presence, of course.
With little actual work to do at school today, it’s a fairly tedious stretch of time at school.  Tonight is the first grade (Grade 10 students) teachers’ dinner.  It’s a great opportunity to kind of socialise with my Korean colleagues who otherwise don’t really talk to the foreign teachers but I’m also aware that we’re being watched very carefully for our reactions to the meal. 

Korean Dinner: Round Two

In true Korean style, the dinner is arranged for 17:30; it would have been logical to set the dinner for 18:15 so that the teachers who still have a class from 17:10 – 18:00 (yes, the high school students’ school day really is that long!) could also have joined us for dinner but 17:30 it is.  This means that both of my co-teachers won’t be at the dinner as they still have classes in this period on a Wednesday evening.  We’re only told this on Wednesday afternoon.  True to Korean hospitality, Mr Jeong (one of my co-teachers) arranges for another colleague to drive both myself and NZ1 to the restaurant and to basically ‘look after us’ while at dinner.  When he phones me to relay this information, he tells me that one of the maths teachers from his office will be looking after us.  I’m told that this particular teacher doesn’t speak much English but NZ1 will be there so I don’t need to worry.  I’m not quite sure what to read into this – if anything.  My first thought – which I somehow manage not to express – is: If it’s the Oh-so-gorgeous maths teacher, I don’t mind!

At 17:00, I’m waiting at my desk as instructed and I’m delighted to discover that it IS the Oh-so-gorgeous maths teacher who is taking care of us.  Unfortunately, as I discover later in the evening, Mr Maths is married – he managed to tell us that his wife is an English teacher at a middle school in Gochang (about 2 hours away from Gunsan – talk about a commute!) and he has a baby boy.  Handsome, a total sweetheart, proud dad and genuinely good person: What a catch! I still need to try and take a photo of him….

Again, we’re the first teachers to arrive at the restaurant so, naturally, we hide at one end of the table.  When the principal, vice-principal and other teachers arrive, they seat themselves away from us so Mr Maths takes it upon himself to not only sit with NZ1 and I at dinner but to communicate with us – much to the amusement of several other teachers. 

At the end of dinner, I remember to acknowledge my principal and vice-principal and thank them for the meal.  Mr Maths drives us back to school where several teachers are returning to continue with marking or prep and admin work.  I can’t help but wonder how they cope with their schedules here!  As I walk across the school grounds towards my apartment, I encounter several of my students heading back to school with snacks from the mini-mart next to my apartment building.  Most of them greet me and a few eagerly stop and thrust some type of food in my direction.  I’ve barely had time to register something brown and tubular in appearance before they attempt to shove it in my mouth with expressions of “Taste, Taste…So Good!”  Fortunately, it’s a sweet candy type snack so I’m safe.  Their offer of food shows that they’re really warming up to me – or trying to poison me but that’s another story altogether….

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