It’s another slow day at school but thankfully my last day before my winter vacation. My co-teacher is on vacation for the next two weeks and most of the teachers in my office seem to be working flexi-time at the moment so it’s very isolating sitting at my desk at the moment. NZ1 has just returned from a month long vacation period so I head upstairs to the International Office where I spend several hours chatting to the Kiwis in an attempt to pass the morning more quickly.
Did You Know...
By lunchtime, I’m starving but I haven’t brought any lunch with me. As ridiculous as it sounds, I’m too shy to go to the school cafeteria alone so yesterday, with my co-teacher not at school, I actually went back to my apartment during lunch instead of facing the cafeteria alone. Today, I’m determined to have lunch in the cafeteria again since simply eating school lunches has already significantly improved my relationship with several Korean teachers already. I muster the courage to invite another English teacher, Jean, to join me for lunch; she tells me she’s busy working on something. I must look as rejected as I feel because a few minutes later, she says that she just needs a few more minutes to finish the document she’s working on and then we can go to lunch. Now I feel guilty for making her apparently feel obliged to accept the lunch invitation but so be it.
We chat freely as we head to the cafeteria and she tells me about herself and a couple of the other teachers at school. As we chat, I realise that I don’t know much about her aside from the fact that she studied in Toronto for two years and is the same age as me – her birthday is actually two weeks before mine. Over lunch, she also volunteers a lot of information about Six-pack. From her, I learn that they both attended Jeonbuk National University – where a lot of teachers seem to have studied – and that he was two years ahead of her. I also learn that he had a reputation at university for being a bit of a player, is currently single, 32 years old and looking to settle down. Considering the cheeky and flirtatious expression that he usually wears around school, I find most of this very easy to believe. I text Catfish with this latest update and we immediately agree to meet for dinner. Jean also tells me about spas and resorts and gives me a list of websites to look through for places that she thinks I might enjoy in both this province and the one above Jeollabuk-do.
Guess What Happened
Traffic across town is a nightmare and it takes me 40 minutes to get from Soryong-dong to Lotte mart instead of the usual 15 minutes. As a result, Catfish is already at the Italian restaurant we’ve decided on for dinner and texts me with a teasing message about having “lots to report”. It’s clear that we both have exciting news to share and we take turns talking about everything that’s happened today. Catfish then tells me about her latest experience. While walking past the OZ cellphone store tonight on her way to the restaurant, one of the staff members spoke to her in English. Since it’s so unusual to have Korean people outside of school speak to us in English, she immediately went over to him to chat. He then introduced her to another person working in the store and told her that he is only 27 years old and single and apparently tried to convince them to exchange telephone numbers which Catfish declined in embarrassment.
You Will Go Back For That Number!
We chat at length about this latest encounter and something tells me that she wishes she had had taken his number. We silently contemplate the situation for a few minutes before I tell her that she’s an idiot – she simply laughs. I then tell her that straight after dinner, we’re going to go to the store and she’s going to ask for the number of the 27 year old whom she’s admitted is cute. After dinner, this is exactly what we do: I talk her up to going to the store and we enter the store together. The moment everyone realises that Catfish has returned to the store, there’s a buzz of chatter. JH immediately comes over to her and asks what she wants and how he can help her. He seems as tongue-tied as Catfish who is quietly and demurely attempting to ask for his telephone number while I stand awkwardly at the door and watch the show. They exchange numbers, Catfish flirts a little and then we’re on our way again laughing about what has just happened. Catfish is quieter than usual and looks simultaneously shocked, embarrassed and happy with what has just happened.
We’re heading to Doctor’s Coffee which is just around the corner when Catfish does an emergency stop in her step: She’s just realised that she forgot to tell him her name! If she doesn’t turn around right now and go back to the store to tell him her name, he might never call and then the evening’s events would all have been for nought. She does a 180 degree turn and determinedly starts walking back to the store where, this time, I stand outside and watch the proceedings through the window. Upon seeing her re-enter the store a second time, the person who instigated this exchange of numbers originally steps forward to ensure no further mistakes are made as Catfish heads over to JH to tell him her name. He takes both phones, checks that the information is completely and correctly entered and then tries to tell them to for a drink then and there. Catfish re-emerges and we’re once again on our way with her looking more bashful than I’ve ever seen her.
Setting the Scene For a Date
We finally reach Doctor’s Coffee where we are still debating the matter. I convince her to text him then and there and invite him to coffee tonight since we’re just around the corner from where they met. I’m feeling more mischievous than usual so I grab the phone from her and type in a text message while she procrastinates. I send off a message before she has a change to veto it and the response is almost immediate. Korean dating rules states that women should always be accompanied by their best friend on a first date; if she is alone on a first date, it suggests that she is easy. We’re in the perfect set-up for a first date: We’re nearby, Catfish is not alone for the date and it’s a coffee shop – she couldn’t ask for a more perfect moment than this. JH, it seems, is just as keen as can be seen in the following text conversation:
Catfish’s phone: My friend and I are at Doctor’s Coffee if you’d like to join us.
JH: OK! But, I’ll finish 9:00PM A U OK??
Catfish’s phone: Not a problem. We’ll be here for a while ^^
JH: OK!! SEE U THEN~~^^
We start preparing Catfish for JH’s arrival. She’s a little nervous but also excited it seems ; my role tonight is simply that of chaperone in accordance with Korean dating customs. At 20:30, however, JH texts her: NOW I’ll go there^^. Since he’s 30 minutes early, it’s obvious that he’s been let off work early in order to meet Catfish for coffee. That he alternates between upper and lower case and the amount of punctuation that he uses in each message also suggests that he is rather excited and that his English is fairly good. When he arrives, Catfish is still in the restroom so I greet him and we chat briefly until Catfish returns and the ‘date’ begins. Conversation between the two flows easily and I simply sit back and observe the two of them interact with one another. It’s an entertaining evening that, unfortunately, lasts only an hour but ends on a positive note. JH is witty and fairly fluent in English considering that he is able to hold a conversation with us in a language that is not his home language.
He seems a bit reluctant to leave but has family obligations to fulfil. They bid each other goodbye and I take out my camera to capture the image of Catfish looking more and more like the Cheshire Cat! Within five minutes of his departure, he texts her once more: Today, I’m very happy to see U^^. Catfish still looks like she’s in a bit of a dreamlike state so I text a reply on her behalf. I have a feeling this is only the beginning of a very interesting story….