Monday, November 15, 2010

I thought you were dead!

So, today was an interesting day at work. Let me tell you about it.

There's an instant messaging program we use at my school that also serves as an internal email system for memos and such. The memos are almost always in Korean but I usually make an attempt to decode them with Google Translate. Mind you, Google Translate is not very good at translating Korean (not that any other software I've seen is) but it usually helps me get the gist of what's going on.

So I get to school, fire up my computer, and there's a memo. I translate it and all I can really make sense of is the word for "teacher," the date and time for a funeral, and a name in Korean. I don't immediately recognize the name, in part because in Korean it's considered rude to address someone by name so I've never really learned the names of too many of my co-workers. The ones I work with regularly I usually know on a last-name basis: Mr. Park, Mr. Lee, Ms. Kim, what have you. I only know the first names of a handful of my teachers. It's even worse with my students. I don't really know any of their names. Every once in a while they figure that out. Hopefully they're not too offended when they do. Hey, you try to learn three hundred Korean names that you never hear or see and see you well you do.

So anyway, my first thought is, hey, maybe some retired teacher died, that's sad. I move on.

I step out of the 2nd floor office to get some hot water and make a cup of coffee. Everything is instant here. Nothing to be done about it. The hot water from the water cooler on the 2nd floor isn't working, so I go downstairs to the 1st floor teacher's office. When I step in I realize it's time for the weekly teachers' meeting and I'm interrupting. Whoops. I try to slink over to the water cooler with my least distracting slink. Eventually a teacher kindly points out an empty desk (my old desk, strangely enough) and I sit down.

At this point I start thinking about the memo, and it hits me - hold on, what if one of the current teachers died? I start thinking about the initials of the name I saw and realize they match the initials of one of my co-teachers. I look over to his desk. It's empty. I look around the room. Everyone looks kind of sad, but then again it's Monday and four days before the National Exam of Doom so that's not too surprising. Now I am confused and concerned. Is one of my co-teachers dead?

So by the time I get back up to the second floor office I'm not completely sure why no one's told me that one of my co-teachers is dead but things like this tend to slip my other, living co-teachers' minds sometimes. Not that I blame them, exactly. They're all extremely busy and sometimes I don't think they think about the fact that something that was announced to them in Korean - perhaps even with me in the room - is something they need to explain to me in English. (Sometimes I think they subconsciously believe that we foreigners really do understand Korean and we're just acting like we don't. Or something.) I'm not really bold enough to ask them about it because I can't think of any way to phrase the question that isn't going to sound like The Stupidest Question In The World. ("So... I hear Mr. P is dead? Is that right?") I'm kind of irritated that no one's explained to me what's going on, though. Especially since I have a class scheduled with Mr. P as co-teacher. Today. Immediately after lunch.

I go to my first class, teach it (it's a success, I suppose, although it involved a little tooth-pulling to get the kids to speak), then corner my co-teacher Miss K before she leaves. "So," I say, choosing my words carefully, "I saw something about a funeral tomorrow?" "Yes," she replies. Not the information I was looking for. I regroup. "Who died?" I ask boldly. "Mr. P's father." "Ohhhhhhh," I reply, like someone who has just come up with the answer to a trivia question we had all been discussing but none of us could answer, "I thought Mr. P was dead." "No," she replies. "That's a relief," I say.

So that, combined with the Bills beating the Lions early this morning, has made this a decent 33rd birthday for me, all things considered.

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