Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Memory Lane (Part IV)

My first year in Korea was probably a lot like your first year in Korea, if indeed you who are reading this actually live or have lived here: everything was new, I felt as though I were living an entirely different life than the one I had, previously, lived for 23 years; I was a complete and utter n00b, failing to notice things -- for example, the spitting and general dirtiness of Seoul -- that I can't help but see nowadays, much to my own chagrin; I fell under the stupid and naive notion that I was considered by many Koreans a sort of celebrity; and I drank. A lot.

But how could I not, being fresh out of university and thrust into a life much similar to that of a college student, only with considerably more funds with which to enjoy myself? Add to this the fact that the school at which I taught, and the neighborhood in which I lived, was almost in the center of Hongdae, that Korean Mecca for zealously imbibing expatriates. Plus, I didn't have to be at work until 2pm.

All of which could have spelled a recipe for disaster, I suppose, were I a different sort of fellow. For while I enjoyed going out and drinking, it never got to the point where it interfered with the job I was contracted to do -- though a couple of Saturday afternoons (I had to work Saturdays then, woe was me) it was close.

It was a fun year, both professionally and socially. I loved teaching and found myself, if I may be so bold, pretty good at it; and as mentioned in the past Memory Lane entry, I was for the most part surrounded by a great group of expat teachers. It's a shame that I don't have the time to recount in detail every single memorable event that happened. Maybe one day. For now, trusting my readers' interest and patience, I shall share one particular story:

One month after I began teaching, our director, who has to be the coolest fucking hagwon director ever, paid for his entire staff -- which amounted to what must have been over 40 people -- to take a trip to the southern city of Tongyeong (that's nothing: the year after I left, he paid for everyone to fly to Jeju!). I normally would have been jazzed (does that make me sound like a character on Saved By The Bell? So be it) at the prospect of a free trip, especially since everything, from copious amounts of booze to expensive dinners, was promised to be paid for, but unfortunately I awoke the Friday morning of the trip with a stomach as agreeable as Bill O'Reilly at the Democratic National Convention. I blame it on the can of Spam I drunkenly consumed the night prior.

I was nauseous all day and could barely make it to 6pm when my final class of the day ended. After that, I headed back to the apartment I shared with two fellow teachers, and crashed.

I was awoken three hours later by my roommate, Ethan, who told me that everyone was on the charter bus waiting for me. Amazingly, the only reason the bus didn't leave without me was because our contemptible roommate, Joyce, had, an hour before departure, gotten into an argument and fled the school, telling one of our academic directors that she was heading back to New Zealand because she hated teaching kindergarten classes, calling the kids "brats." Because I lived in the same apartment, it was remarked by someone that I was missing, and even though I explained to most of my fellow teachers my reason for not wanting to go on the trip, it was made clear, Ethan explained, that I must come. There would be no dissension. That certainly isn't the Korean way.

In retrospect, I'm glad I conceded, though the 8-hour bus ride was torturous, me being sick and sober, forced to listen to my merrily drunken co-workers while all I wanted was some sleep. It didn't help my present condition that, as night slowly became day, Derrick, sitting behind me, who must have had a little too much whisky (the winding roads probably didn't help), threw up a number of times in a plastic bag.

When we finally arrived it was 5am. Most of my comrades were getting a second wind (even Derrick), but I was longing for a bed to lie in. Thankfully and amazingly, my director was able, somehow, to find a 24-hour pharmacy, and he bought me some medicine which he promised would calm my stomach. It worked, and I slowly began to feel better, although I was still deathly tired, having been up for almost 24 hours with no nourishment.

The puffer fish soup provided for breakfast didn't help ease my stomach, but I managed to eat a little, all the while fascinated by the bus drivers' tolerance of soju, which they drank like it was going out of style.

We all assumed that our next destination would be our hotel, but you know what happens when you assume. We were told that in an hour we would take a boat to the "exotic and alluring" island of Oedo. Bring it on, I thought, with the mind of a zombie. My stomach was beginning to feel a little better, and I was slightly reinvigorated by the fact.

Oedo was nice, like a field trip to the botanical gardens, I suppose. What really caught my eye though was Sally (not her real name), one of the school's secretaries. On the bus she sang karaoke with the voice of an angel -- and she had a gorgeous smile and a nice rack.

All of which I feel I'm at liberty to state, because I married her 2 years later.


Anonymous said...

And her real name?

Hooty McBoob

Sparkles*_* said...

Cat's out of the bag.

And my daughter's name is Fallopian Tube. If it was a boy, we were going to name it Flux Capacitor.