Saturday, April 9, 2011

Change is Afoot (18 February)

Catfish has recently told me of the staff changes at her school – including the fact that she is getting all new co-teachers since her current co-teachers will be teaching third grade for the 2011 school year.  I hadn’t really considered that my co-teachers may not be my co-teachers for 2011.  In South Africa, you’re a teacher for a particular grade and tend to teach the same grade for several years.   Assumption is always dangerous in Korea and this has once again been proven as I rush to my fantastic co-teacher and ask her if we’ll be teaching with different Korean teachers for 2011. 

I’m devastated when she confirms that this is so and I suddenly realise just how disappointed I am to have spent so much time invested in building relationships with both of my co-teachers over the last three months and will now have to start the entire process all over again.  I feel like I’ve spent the better part of the last four months attempting to prove myself at my school in one way or another: I’ve had to work hard to convince my colleagues that I’m different from the previous foreign teachers who have abandoned their contracts mid-way or sooner, I’ve had to work hard to try and get my co-teachers to trust me and engage with me so that we can be a successful team in the classroom and I’ve worked extremely hard to convince my students that I’m in this for the long run.  I’m now facing the reality of having to start all over again and I realise that I’m extremely anxious with the uncertainty of knowing who the new Korean English teachers are, who will be my new co-teachers and whether or not the last four months I’ve invested in my attempts to establish a relationship with my fantastic co-teacher and Mr Jeong have all been for nought. 

My fantastic co-teacher tells me that there will be a meeting after lunch for all of the Korean teachers to hear what their new responsibilities will be for the new school.  Each teacher apparently submits requests and a plan for what they hope to achieve in the year ahead and what their personal goals and aspirations are with regard to the school.  After the meeting, my fantastic co-teacher tells that she had hoped to be a homeroom teacher for 2011 because she feels that she has a good relationship with the new second grade students but it’s a demanding job and one that her husband and family asked her not to take for fear that it will be too taxing on her.  She does, however, receive all of the things that she’s requested for the new year and, despite knowing that this means I’ll probably be seeing a lot less of her in the year ahead, I resign myself to the fact that I’ll be starting from scratch in establishing relationships with the new teachers and dig deep within myself to the adult buried deep inside of me to congratulate her and wish her much success and happiness for the year ahead. 

Painting the Town Red - Gunsan Style

The rest of the day passes quickly and NZ2 tells me that KiwiKat is on her way down to Gunsan for the weekend.  I’ve already signed up for an Adventure Korea trip for this weekend so I won’t be able to see her over the weekend unfortunately but I’m still excited by the news that she’ll be arriving at the end of the school day.  She arrives shortly after 16:00 and manages to find her way to our office where we chat briefly before my fantastic co-teacher tells us all that we can leave at 16:30. 

We head into Gunsan to run a few errands after school – mine involves recharging the airtime on my cell phone at the Qook store opposite the bank.  I keep returning to this particular store since there is someone who speaks decent English.  Unfortunately, even though I mostly only go to the store in order to recharge the airtime on my phone, most of the staff there seem to panic with a deer-caught-in-headlights reaction every time I walk in – they all insist that I wait for the guy who speaks English no matter how hard I try to convince them that they can help me with such a small thing.  KiwiKat and NZ2 amuse themselves outside of the store by taking photos of each other dancing next to the dancing character that is a signature of the store.  Today, it’s dancing pig and by the time I finally manage to get the airtime on my phone recharged, they try to convince me to pose beside the pig.  I refuse on grounds of dignity and the fact that I actually have to frequent this particular store in order to recharge my phone each month; I already embarrass myself enough without trying to embarrass myself further.  They head back to NZ2’s apartment to a dinner of French toast which I decline since I need to still wrap KiwiKat’s birthday present before we again meet for coffee at Angel-in-us. 

I meet them just over an hour later outside of the store where they have again been entertaining themselves by taking photos of each other dancing next to the new character – the outfit was changed in the 90 minutes we were gone.  Somehow they manage to convince me to pose for a picture while I feel like a complete idiot.  We then head to Lotte mart which, as KiwiKat points out, is how we paint the town red on a Friday night in Gunsan.  Lotte mart is a hub of activity as usual and I head to the pharmacy while the Kiwis head to Skin Food where NZ2 needs to buy a birthday gift for KiwiKat. 


The pharmacist in Lotte mart speaks fairly good English and all I need is Tylenol which is also called Tylenol in Korea.  I approach the counter confidently and the pharmacist smiles as he greets me.  “Hana Tylenol, juseyo,” I say confidently and am greeted with a slightly puzzled look; I try again and smile encouragingly while confident in my Korean pronunciation and proud of the fact that I can form a whole sentence in Korean.  Once more I’m greeted with a slightly puzzled look as the pharmacist asks me to repeat myself again while he listens carefully in an attempt to decipher what I’m trying to purchase.  With slightly less confidence, I narrow my request down to just “Tylenol” which now sounds more like a question than a statement as I try to figure out where I’m going wrong in this exchange.  This time, I’m greeted with a broad smile as he turns away to get a box of Tylenol for me.  I pay quickly, stuff the box into my bag and scurry away hastily to the second floor where the Kiwis have wandered off to.  KiwiKat then explains to me that Tylenol is three syllables in English but four in Korean: my request should actually be Ty-he-le-nol.


After a brief, and rather feeble, attempt to distract KiwiKat in Lotte mart while NZ1 and NZ2 find party paraphernalia for tonight, we head to Angel-in-us where we are meeting two other foreigners whom I haven’t seen since NZ2’s 40th birthday party in early October.  They teach at a hagwon so they’ll only be meeting us after 21:00 which is when we arrive at the coffee shop.  By the time they arrive, we’re all in good spirits and joking around before pulling out party hats and gifts for KiwiKat who’s birthday is actually 1 March.  The party hats turn into a competition of who can wear theirs the longest – naturally KiwiKat wins – and we find ourselves leaving only when Angel-in-us closes for the night; it’s been a surprisingly good evening even though I have yet to pack for my AK trip.

No comments:

Post a Comment