Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On Work and Play

For the last two months, I feel like all I have been doing is working. I technically only teach in the classroom for about 6 hours a day. That does not sound like all that much, I know. However, then you add in the 3 hours (at minimum) of preparation time that I have to spend for each day. It adds up to about 45 hours of work a week. And, that is on the weeks when I do not have intensive classes, which was the case for part of July and pretty much all of August. So, suffice it to say, it was a busy past few months. On top of all that...I have been planning a vacation that I have wanted to take for quite a long time. And, I had to make all my lesson plans for the teachers who would cover my classes during the vacation.
So, here I sit in a country I have never been to...thinking of what it would be like to teach here and comparing it to back "home" in Korea. I can't describe quite how much I actually miss Korea, but at the same time, I find this place fascinating and appealing in many ways. And, in others ways...not so much.
I miss being able to get a good meal of Nang-myeon. I tried to describe to the taxi driver why cold noodles are much better than hot noodles, but he thought I was very wrong.
I would love to have a good bottle of Soju and Coke, but it just is not common outside of Korea that I can find. When I first tasted Soju, I thought it was about as good as water-down rubbing alcohol, but now...it is a good lubricant for any political discussion.
I hate not being able to read the local language. There is some comfort in being able to see what something says for yourself. Even if it is only every few words that you understand.
But then, walking along a random street. I recognize that face. That unique pose and quirk of the lips. It is the Soju girl! I don't know her name and I don't really think it is necessary. It took me a second to make sure that I was seeing her right.
Yes, yes, it is her.
So, I walk closer to the sign on some nondescript door and taped to the door is a white piece of paper. The first words written on the paper...Anyong-ha-say-yo (in Korean, of course). What have I found? A little piece of home (or second home anyways).
When I walk in, it is just a little noodle shop, but it has one table of Koreans...a good sign. The waitress is a native, but she understands my Korean and I quickly order up some Nang-myeon, a bottle of Soju, and a Coke. Mmm...the noodles taste a little different, but they are decent and...cold. The owner (a Korean ex-pat) comes around and asks some pleasantries (probably just wondering why this non-Korean is talking to his people in Korean). I respond as best I can since it becomes quickly apparent I can only B.S. my way in Korean and then we just talk a bit in English.
This experience enlightens me as to just how much I have acclimated to life in Korea and how I have enjoyed doing so. For bringing me the enjoyment of Korea in a different country, I would like to thank the Soju makers of the world.
And, especially, to Soju girl...thank you.

For those who are interested in where I am or where I have been (depending on when you read this)...I will post something with pictures (!!) after October 5th...sometime.