Monday, April 18, 2011

The Wedding

The call came at 9:30, Sunday morning.

"Adam, are you bored?" It was my co-teacher, Mr. Lee. "Come to the wedding today!"

I hadn't been awake long enough to determine if I was bored or not but I certainly wasn't going to pass on the opportunity to go to a Korean wedding. Weddings, along with funerals and birthday parties, are the ceremonies that mark important moments in our lives. Every culture has a unique way of going about them. I had yet to experience a Korean wedding, so I got my suit out of the back of the closet, shaved and prepared for what I hoped would be a memorable event.

The wedding was being held in what appeared to be a city building put up in the 1950s. Every floor was packed with men in suits, simultaneously shaking hands and bowing. Older women in hanbok (traditional Korean dress) floated back and forth, while young people in jeans and tracksuits obediently nipped at the heels of their elders.

We followed the flow of people up to the third floor, passing what appeared to be a cafeteria. I had been promised lunch and wondered if this staid place, with its dim lighting and hunched over diners, was going to be it. But no time to ponder, for we were climbing again.

I spotted familiar faces milling around in the foyer and, having already lost my co-teacher, made a beeline for them. All of us teachers and school administrative staff had gathered to witness (or so I thought) the wedding of the daughter of Mr. Kim, the Japanese teacher, who often gave me a ride to school in the morning. After saying hello to everyone, I went over and shook Mr. Kim's hand, and congratulated him in Korean and Japanese, just to be safe.

There was a wedding already in progress on the other side of a glass partition, and I couldn't tell if this was Mr. Kim's party or not. Intriguingly, two majorettes in full uniform and tall hats ran past me and into the hall, taking their places on the red carpet. A guest was standing on the trail of the bride's wedding dress. No one seemed to be moving. I watched some of the other teachers take a few tentative steps into the wedding hall, look around, and then come back out. Apparently this was not Mr. Kim's affair. They were double-booked.

I popped into the bathroom to relieve myself before our ceremony started and when I had come back out, everyone was gone. I panicked momentarily but then caught sight of Mr. Lee, who lead me not into the wedding room but back down the stairs and outside.

"Is that it?" I asked him. "No wedding ceremony?"

"Now we eat," he said by way of explanation.

And so we all got into our cars, having been at the wedding building for a grand total of 10 minutes, and drove to the outskirts of town where we ate beef and drank. The wedding party never even showed.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Schedule

This semester I am decidedly more busy than last semester. It has nothing to do with being used to teaching yet or not (I am). What's making things more busy is I have agreed to teach evening classes. From Monday to Thursday, I teach either a middle school or a high school conversation class at 7:10pm. This means I am at school for pretty much 12 hours a day, four of the five work days a week. Hence, busy.

I am getting paid overtime for these classes, which I appreciate. The other thing I appreciate is how being at school for longer hours makes me feel like I'm more of a real member of staff and not just the foreigner that arrives after everyone later and leaves before everyone else. Now I'm just like them, overworked and tired all the time.

Being at school late also gives me more chances to talk to the students, both in my evening classes and outside. The students are here all the time. Many live in the dorms and so study in class until all hours of the night. The more I'm here, the more comfortable we are around each other, and the more we talk. It's fun getting to know them; they're hilarious.

What I don't like about this schedule, though, which should come as no surprise, is how tired I am all the time. Because of bus schedules I often don't get home until 9pm. Sometimes I walk home for the exercise, as I don't have time for the gym during the week now, and end up home at the same time, but it's hard to walk for 45 minutes after being at work for 12 hours.

After a month of this schedule I'm finally getting used to it, mentally if not yet physically. I'm very overdue for a trip to the gym this weekend. My creative side has been atrophying as well. Hopefully I can do some writing or maybe even work on some music this weekend—anything other than lesson plan. I am very much looking forward to midterms next week. Finally, a break from lesson planning.