Monday, February 28, 2011

And that's Monday

What do spring break and July, July, and August have in common? For teachers, they mean time away from the kids to self-medicate relax. Unfortunately, K-land doesn't see it that way.

Here, the school year runs from March to February. The school takes a one-week break to reset and prepare for the new students, but the teachers don't actually get a break. The thing is, we don't actually have to work either. The Korean teachers have it rough; they have to tear down all the decorations and start basically from scratch to make sure the class looks "fresh" for all the new students. Although we can help with some of that, the foreign teachers (for the most part) have absolutely nothing to do.

I could rant for days about how locking us in the school without giving us anything to do is horrendous for employee morale, but let's face it, you don't want to read about that. You want to read about all the exciting things I did today!

When I came into school, it finally occurred to me that I'd be switching classrooms and that I should probably make mine presentable for the new teacher. This meant I needed to take down the "Merry Christmas" window clings my darling principal ordered that I hang up back in December. Yes, I recognize that it's the end of February and I should have taken them down months ago - which I would have done, if they had actually been window clings. Apparently "wall hangings" and "window clings" function very differently. While window clings peel right off into your hand and re-stick to the paper they came on, wall hangings make you want to kill yourself. I spent more than an hour scratching at the letters, peeling chunks of evil plastic off in confetti-sized pieces. Tiffany so kindly came into my room and mocked me as I tore my fingernails apart scraping at each individual letter. I finally gave up and just pulled the shade down. When the new Opal Class teacher tries to let the sun in, she'll be greeted with a cheery "Merry mas" (with two used-to-be-snowflakes-but-are-now-just-blobs).

After I finally gave up on the window, I packed up my belongings (a pack of markers and two choco-pies) and headed to my new classroom. I cleaned the desk and threw away all the old papers the teacher before me had left, sporadically checking my email or playing with blocks. Tiffany wandered in and out of the room, and I chatted with her about absolutely nothing until lunchtime came.

Lunch is always a gamble in Korea. Sometimes you get cold spaghetti and sweet garlic bread, but sometimes you get whatever the chef had left over in the kitchen. Since the kids aren't at school (and we're bored out of our minds), you'd think we'd be allowed to head out for lunch as long as we returned within a reasonable timeframe, but that would interfere with the status of "indentured servant" they're trying so hard to uphold. Tiffany and I got our trays and returned to the classroom to eat.

I realize that I willingly chose to move to Korea and thus have to put up with their cuisine, and I'm usually quite a trooper, but today... today Tiff and I just couldn't take it.

When we got in line for lunch, Tiffany mentioned that we were having eggs today. As we went through the line, she piled her tray with a particular Korean pancake that I knew contained vegetables and seafood, and I couldn't figure out where she was getting the eggs she was so excited about. Today's lunch contained the immense blessing of fresh carrots and cucumbers, but there wasn't much else to whet our appetites.

We sat down in my classroom, and Tiffany took a bite of her Korean pancake thing. She made a terrible face and stared at me before whispering, "it's not eggs." Confused, I took a bite of mine and told her it was a pancake with crab in it. We laughed about her mistake and she took to picking the pancakes apart on her tray. After I had eaten most of my food, she held up a piece of white meat. "This isn't crab; it's a tentacle." My turn to gag.

We decided eating the fresh veggies was the only safe way to make it through lunch; that is, until Tiffany decided the bumps on the cucumbers made them look like alligators, and she refused to eat any more of them. We started reminiscing about American cafeteria food: square pizzas, "chicken" patties, sometimes-green-ish hot dogs... all remembered so fondly you'd think we were discussing the finest French cuisine. After an hour of picking apart our food and listing every cafeteria food we could remember (oh, no-bake cookies...), we took our trays back to the lunch room and tried to forget about the tentacles.

The rest of the afternoon was spent warning the new girls about the crazy parents and moving desks around. I found a box of chocolates one of my kids gave me, so I supplemented my lunch with expensive candies (always a healthy option). At five-thirty, we were free to go, but we still have two more days this week of desk-warming before the kids arrive.

Lest you think I'm a mean, hateful person who only complains about my job, here's an adorable picture of Dennis:

I'll endure tentacle pancakes any day of the week if it means I get to hang out with this kid.


  1. Ahh Nikki you are so spot on in all your observations/comments. It's nice to let other people do the work of describing my life of the past year, haha. I have to admit, when I was cleaning up my classroom last week I had to take down some old Thanksgiving decor! :p