Monday, July 18, 2011

Lunchtime Craziness (10 March)

Lunchtime seems to always be something of a crazy event and the crazy and amusing happenings in the school cafeteria are not limited to my school.  Speak to any foreign teacher in Korea and they’ll probably have at least a dozen strange or amusing stories to tell of things that happen in their school’s cafeteria.  My school’s the same. 

Yesterday seemed to have been National Curry for School Lunch Day since many foreign teachers in both Gunsan and Seoul reported having had curry on the menu.  The reason I comment on the curry for lunch is because I’m so used to not being able to eat half the lunches on offer (since there’s usually a lot of shellfish) that I’m always tickled pink when I can actually eat everything on that day’s menu – the curry is one of those days and thus one of my favourites! 

Usually, my lunch consists of rice, kimchi and soup with the possibility of one or two of the other side dishes and occasionally the main dish too.  Mr Jeong regularly asks me if I’m eating enough at school and keeps telling me to take more of the food that I do eat – I keep telling him that I eat more than enough and that everything I eat has to be done with chopsticks which naturally takes me longer to eat.  It’s an ongoing commentary.

In addition to frequently having to avoid half the food at lunch, I’m also accustomed to being ignored by the majority of the staff.  Since so few of the staff are willing to speak English, my conversation partners are rather limited.  My limited attempts at speaking Korean are often received with surprise and claps that make me feel like a performing monkey and so, I’ve accepted that people will mostly ignore me at lunch.  However, there are always exceptions and today seems to be one of them. 

Mr Jo is kind of like a Korean father figure for me.  He’s gone out of his way to chat to me at times in his generally limited English, he regularly tells me that I look beautiful, he’s stood up for me when other teachers have been less than kind to me and he regularly asks me when I’m going to get married because I’m “already 30 years old and time is wasting”.  Today was one of the many conversations he’s had with me about my getting married and it’s too funny not to share:

Mr Jo: "Do you think you'll get married this year?"
Me: "Definitely not!"
Mr Jo: "You don't want to get married?"
Me: "I do but it won't be this year"
Mr Jo: "What's wrong with this year?"
Me: "Nothing. I just don't think I'll be getting married this year."
Mr Jo: "Hmmm...but so many men want to marry you."
Me: [Laugh] "No...No one does"
Mr Jo: "Yes. We have lots of single male teachers at school. What about one of them?"

Allow me to clarify that, at this point in the conversation, the teachers who understand this conversation are happily translating it to everyone else who is watching like it’s a popular drama.  They’re all enjoying the lunchtime entertainment and seem to find the entire conversation amusing.  Even the single teachers to whom Mr Jo is referring seem to be enjoying this conversation.

Me: [Awkward laugh] "I want to get married but I don't have anyone to marry."
Mr Jo: "I'll sort that out! I disappointed if you don't marry this year."
Me: "I'm sorry that I'll be disappointing you then."
Mr Jo: "Why has no one married you yet?"
Me: "Um...I don't know"
Mr Jo: "Young men today, they just talk and talk but don't do anything. It doesn't help to talk about someone - you have to talk to them."
Me: "Um, yeah" (when did his English suddenly get this good?)
Mr Jo: " sure you don't have man to marry?"
Me: "I'm sure!"
Mr Jo: "But Lots of men waiting for Sarah. Just choose one! I'll help you choose right man!"
Me: "Okay Mr Jo. Thank you."
Mr Jo: "You marry this year!"
Me: "Maybe."

As amusing as I myself have found this conversation, I can’t help feeling somewhat nervous as to what, if anything, is going to happen.  My co-teacher simply laughs along with the other teachers and later comments that he’s so nosy even if she did find the conversation rather amusing. 

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