Monday, June 8, 2009


First off, I have to let you know this: the Demonstration class wherein I was to be evaluated today by the head office, get this, did not happen! They changed the procedure at the last possible moment, or even later--the letter was in today's mail, so we did not hear about this change until Miss Lee called to find out why no one had arrived to evaluate my class, as promised. What a bunch of ultra-macaroons, as Bugs Bunny would put it. And if Bugs is making fun of you, how far can you be from Daffy Duck?

Here's the timeline:
Mon, May 27 Initial info sent out about contract renewal
Tues, Jun 2 Final contract renewal submission deadline
Thur, Jun 4 Final day to submit date for Demonstration Class (w/in 2 weeks)
Mon, Jun 8 My date for Demonstration class, as submitted
Mon, Jun 8 Announce (in mail that cannot arrive on Mon) change of renewal process

These people make the Keystone Kops look like the Nobel Committee. To begin with, this process should be taken care of in April, at the latest. The only reason I am not flustered is because, as mentioned previously, I don't plan to break out a hash pipe or rape a student across my desk anytime soon.

However, the timeliness of the procedure is not entirely irrelevant, as my semester break/vacation plans depend on acceptance of the new contract and payment of bonuses, airfare allowances, etc. Let's get with it, SMOE!!

Of course, the fact that no one showed up was no reason, as far as I'm concerned, to cancel the beer and chicken I promised to my co-workers! So, at 5:30 we met at Young Poong Chicken 영풍치킨, a hof in the new Blue Nine building across the street from the Doosan officetel where I live. The weather is quite fine--cool and windy, even--for mid-June, so I opted to sit outside. Frankly I was a little disappointed by the attendance, although it was with only day-of notice: Hwang, Mr Hur (Jerry) and Mr Lee (이금천).

We had a wide ranging conversation; these are literate, intelligent people who think the same of me until it is time to do anything practical--but I'll come to that later. I am still hoping to learn more from them than they learn from me in these episodes, but we're not there yet. I taught them about Christian religion in the West, and they thought they taught me about 눈치 nunchi, but they didn't. I already knew.

Mr Hwang left to go to his son's baseball practice with the words, "I'll be back!" At some point, the idea came up that Hwang would not return, but I assured them he would. Jerry then went into a dissertation on 눈치, which literally means "eye-measure", the subtle art of lying to your friends so you don't destroy the mood or hurt their feelings. Socially adept people can read the hints to determine if their friends are being polite or politic, or if they will really come back.

I agreed with him on the definition, since, after all, I have experienced this phenomenon--what with being in Korea for the better part of a year and all that--but I insisted that Mr Hwang was not being nunchi; if he wasn't coming back, he would say so. Well, about the time I was saying, "No, he'd call if he's going straight home," who did I see coming towards us across the mezzanine? Hwang.

Now, I'm not taking back one word I said in the Orange Drink post below, indeed, I think I'm merely proving it--he is as good a Korean friend as a white guy in Korea could hope for! But the stuff about treating me like a slow ten-year-old remains in force.

To wit: we were together at the cash register when I paid for a single beer, cost: W2,500, with a W10,000 note plus a W500 coin. The correct change should be W8,000. When the cashier gave me W7,000 in return, I looked to the native speakers for help. Both later agreed that they saw the transaction correctly--meaning, my 500 W coin, the 10,000 note and the 7,000 return--but wondered why I hesitated and questioned the cashier.

You know why? I think I do! They AUTOMATICALLY think Koreans are smarter/wiser/more careful/more precise than ANYONE ELSE could possibly be. Which is a very, very dangerous thing to think! No matter what nationality you may be: just look at the NYSE.

In any event, Korean perfection took a big hit just last Thursday when Mr Hwang and a juice box ended up looking pretty silly. I labelled this story as a parable for good reason. Today's episode could be titled "Korean money too confusing for foreigners--I mean Koreans!" I have no hope or expectation of changing Korean culture, I don't really want to, anyway, but what I do want is respect--simple respect. As I've said before, I am respected in the classroom. However, in the rest of the Korean world, I'm Rodney Dangerfield.

Moving on ...

I don't recall exactly how it came about, but I sang a few lines of The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha, the breath-taking musical based on Cervantes' Don Quixote, and Hwang wanted to know more about it. I gave him spellings, names, etc--and am chagrined to learn that Richard Kiley's performance is NOT on YouTube--WTF?

However, some guy named Brian Stokes Mitchell turns out to be incredibly awesome. I looked at five or six different tapings of his rendition in the 2006 revival and he brings tears to my eyes every time. Gotta show this to Hwang tomorrow!

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