Sunday, February 13, 2011

Seeking Refuge at Hotel Millar (7 January)

I don’t need to understand much Korean to know that my Japanese class (104) is not happy with me.  As I enter the classroom, the first thing I notice is that the seating arrangements have, as requested, been shuffled.  The students seem rather glum about this and it makes me wonder what else may have been said to them.  Something tells me they’ve been reprimanded more than I’d hoped and I can’t help feeling a little sorry for them – including Malicious Boy.


They all make a genuine effort to participate in today’s lesson and to speak English and I get a little more insight into just how hard it actually is for them to speak in English.  I appreciate the effort and poke fun at myself in an attempt to show them that I also have a hard time communicating in a language that is not my mother tongue.  When Hyunju leaves the classroom unexpectedly, and only for a moment, I feign total distress with a helpless cry of “No, please come back!” which helps to lighten the mood.  When Hyunju returns, I pretend to be even more relieved than I actually am – or perhaps that was all genuine relief that she returned!

By the end of the first week, I’m exhausted.  It’s been an emotional and scholastic rollercoaster over the last four days and I’m eager to just relax this weekend.  However, by procrastinating over my marking, I’m also having to take home 45 journals to mark over the weekend – something that seems to really surprise my Korean colleagues.  The thought of staying late on a Friday afternoon just to finish my marking, however, is worse than the idea of taking it home with me. 

Hotel Millar

Tonight is my night off as Catfish and I have agreed to meet at our Kiwi-mom’s apartment.  They’ve been in New Zealand and Australia for the last two weeks and told us to make use of their apartment and oven (and hopefully take care of their plants) but our Christmas and New Year travels have kept us away from the apartment until now.  The fact that they’re due home tomorrow evening is irrelevant in our decision to hang out at their apartment tonight.  We’ve agreed that we’ll bake some chocolate chip cookies, cook some chicken and maybe watch a movie.

We arrive at their apartment to find little notes taped in strategic places providing instructions for certain appliances and telling us to make ourselves at home.  They’ve also set out extra blankets and towels for us in each of the two bedrooms which gives the apartment a hotel quality.  We find ourselves feeling slightly guilty that we haven’t made more use of the apartment and we claim the second bedroom as 'our' bedroom in this apartment.  Feeling hungry, we're in agreement than an 'easy' dinner is in order and we're in further agreement that that dinner should be pizza so we head downstairs to the local pizzeria that is located just outside of the apartment building - I wish I had a pizzeria just outside of my apartment building!

Our hunger sated, we attempt to cook the chicken wings that have been sitting in my freezer since I purchased the oven that I still don’t know how to work.  After 20 minutes, I still can’t understand why the oven isn’t hot and we realise I have yet to turn on the gas.  Once the chicken starts cooking, Catfish and I decide to mix up the chocolate chip cookie mix that she received from her family in the US – these are proper chocolate chip cookies.  We add the mix and butter only to discover that we should have microwaved the butter first.  No problem – simply stick everything into the microwave and then mix it all together.  Of course, microwaving the entire mixture causes the chocolate chips to melt too.  Although they were now chocolate cookies rather than chocolate chip cookies, they still looked and smelled delicious!

With our baking done, we decide on a movie to watch and attempt to navigate the intricacies of a television and DVD player that are set up in Korean.  In proper waegook style, we decide to simply keep pushing random buttons until we find the right one – we decide to give up and leave a short note apologising for any settings we may have changed when each button now seems to lead to a blank screen.  With not much else to do, we settle in for a long chat about a variety of topics near and dear to us.  Our conversation goes late into the night and we decide that we’re finally warm and comfortable and simply couldn’t be bothered to navigate our way home in the cold midnight hours.  A slumber party seems inevitable as we round up blankets and pillows from the room and settle ourselves in the living room. 

We awake the next morning to the sound of hammering and drilling that appears to be coming from the apartment below us.  It’s 8:30am on a Saturday morning and we can’t sleep in.  However, our rude awakening is balanced when we’re rewarded with the most spectacular view over Eunpa Park!  We decide to leave our own notes of thanks around the apartment and Catfish makes a “Happy New Year” sign for the front door.  After sharing a few funny YouTube videos, we decide we really want to go home since it’s already midday so we pack our things, bid adieu to Hotel Millar and make our way to our respective apartments.  It’s amazing how spending the night at someone else’s apartment can feel like a mini-vacation – if only I didn’t have to encounter so many students and teachers at the store next to my apartment as I exit the taxi clearly wearing the same clothes I wore to school the previous day; a fact that doesn’t seem to have slipped their attention.  I groan inwardly, smile and wave at them all in greeting and know that I’ll be spending the rest of the weekend hiding in my apartment in preparation for the speculation that I know is probably taking place right now….  Are the comings and goings of a foreign teacher really this interesting?

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