Sunday, February 13, 2011

Wagging Tongues (11 January)

The last thing I did before going to bed last night was check my emails and Facebook messages and I’m glad that I did or I would have walked into school this morning with no warning and no understanding of what could possibly be happening.  NZ2 has decided to propose to his Japanese girlfriend whom I met just after Christmas when she visited Korea.  He told us a week ago that he had decided to propose and we’re all thrilled by this news!  The teachers at our school, however, seem to have other ideas…

You Thought What?

NZ2 apparently asked Mr Jeong, one of my co-teachers, about how easy it was for NZ1 to bring his wife to Korea on a spousal visa.  When Mr Jeong asked him why he was asking, NZ2 told him about his prospective wife.  This apparently surprised Mr Jeong who then confessed that he and some of the other teachers had been talking and thought that NZ2 and I should get together as we get along well with one another.  The irony of this message is that, just last night, I’d been telling Catfish that several teachers at my school seemed to suspect that NZ2 and I were involved in more than just a working relationship for several understandable reasons.    

First, we do get along well. He reminds me of my older brother, is able to give good advice on things in Korea, and is just goofy most of the time so it’s fun to hang out with him.  Second, we’ve spent a lot of time together outside of school because we’ve signed up for the same Adventure Korea trips – there were always at least 30 other people with us on each of these trips but no one that the Korean teachers at my school will likely ever hear of.  Third, yes, our holiday time was over the same period but that’s because we both had friends visiting (ironically both from Japan) at Christmas time.  In addition, there are only three possible weeks in which to take our winter vacation so it’s inevitable that the time is going to overlap at some point.  I can understand that from an outsider’s view, it would seem that NZ2 and I are more than just friends but they do only see part of the picture and they’re trying to connect dots that aren’t there.

A Korean Approach

The entire situation is rather comical.  It’s such a Korean approach to be trying to play matchmaker since they all seem to try and get married by the age of 30.  I’ve heard so many people say that Koreans over the age of 30 are almost always dating to marry because there’s so much social pressure on them to get married.  It’s also natural for family and friends to help unmarried people to meet potential spouses in order to expedite their transition from the pathos of being single to being ‘happily married’ – Koreans don’t seem to cope well with being single probably because of their collectivist approach in general.  In Korean age (which is a year older than Western age), I’m already 30 and unmarried; NZ2 is 42 in Korean age and still unmarried so it’s understandable I suppose that our colleagues are approaching this from a Korean perspective while we’re approaching it from our Western perspective.  We love the cultural differences that don’t allow for two single foreigners of a certain age, and opposite sex, to be JUST friends!
Fortunately, NZ2’s message has given me enough warning to be able to identify the reason for today’s gossip – and believe me: that wheel is turning.  Good news travels fast – so fast, in fact, that I’ve barely made it through the front door of my school when I encounter the first curious looks and hushed conversations. 

You English!

I’m grateful for the distraction of my morning classes – particularly when Malicious Boy attempts to answer (correctly) several questions in English much to my surprise!  However, by the time I finish my lesson with 102, I’m exhausted by their incessant and bubbly conversations that never seem to end.  Hyunju makes a quick escape at the end of each lesson with 102 and I find myself increasingly remaining in the classroom just generally chatting with the students by the time the next teacher arrives for the next lesson.  I’m not sure who is more surprised to find me still in the classroom at the start of the next lesson: Me or the Korean teachers who seem flummoxed to find a foreign teacher just chatting with students who never seem to run out of things to say.

Unfortunately, I have no work to do this afternoon which leads me to wander around the school aimlessly looking for things to do.  Mr Jeong seems slightly uncomfortable to see me and somewhat taken aback when I ask if there’s anything with which I can help him since he’s having to take photos and video clips of the winter camp lessons.  He assures me that he has everything under control and that students are helping with the technical things with which he is not as successful – I wouldn’t be any use with that anyway.  He tells me to enjoy my freedom and watch a movie or something which I don’t quite feel comfortable doing at school since I feel that I should be working. However, this is exactly what I end up doing out of sheer boredom.

As I catch up on television programmes I’ve missed, I manage to forget about al the bustle happening around me and the gossip wheel that seems to be spinning frantically.  The sight of large snowflakes outside is magnificent and the first thought that comes to mind as I settle back comfortably to enjoy my movie is It’s like being in a giant snow globe! The only thing missing is a blanket and popcorn….

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