Doing “work,” and shame and honor in Korea

Every teacher has to come in for two days during winter vacation and keep me company.  Thursday and Friday were Gym Teacher’s days.  Which is just all kinds of entertaining.

Three of us–myself, Gym Teacher, Really-Cute-30ish-Year-Old-Lady-Teacher–just hung out all afternoon, using online translators when necessary.

Gym Teacher claims he drew this heart. He also watches K-dramas. I'm really not sure what to do with this information.

I don’t think I’ve ever met such a large ego.

“I am very handsome.”

“I am very famous at this school. I am the only male teacher not married. They love me.” [rolls eyes and sighs, as if exasperated with the paparazzi]

He was crushed when I said a certain Korean actor is more attractive than he is.  Well, crushed might not be the right word.  Scornful, more like.  I don’t think I could damage his view of himself if I took a hammer and chisel to it.

At one point, I typed in the words “modest” and “humble” into a translator.  To which he responded, “I am!  I am very humble!  And very handsome!”

Mhm, sure you are.  Go play birdie in the hallway with the vice-principal.

But not before showcasing pictures from the summer to prove that your job before school teacher was personal trainer.  Which they did, very well.  Didn’t know they built Koreans like that.

Worth mentioning

…on the subject of Korea’s honor code: I asked him why he changed careers, and he said that teachers make more money, and also have more honor.  Equally important?

Why, yes.  On the relatively rare chance you see someone begging for money, they are on their knees prostrate on the ground with a hat or some other container in front of them.  They never cry out or directly ask for money or even make eye contact.  Shame is a big deal.

Also, it’s customary for the older person in a group to “save face” by paying for everyone younger than him, i.e. the rest of the group.  Which means my lunch is usually bought for me by the oldest teacher working that day.  It’s a beautiful thing! (p.s. I’m 24 in Korea–woohoo!)

Back to the story

At one point, our conversation turned to past relationships, so I threw the question out to the VP (who, I might add, reminds me of a George Lucas-inspired teddy bear).

“How many girlfriends did you have before you got married?”

[wide grin, shaking head] “Oh, oh, no no no.”

“Oh come on! How many? Five?”

[wider grin, shaking head] “Oh, no no no.”

“More than five??”

[wider grin, waving of the hands] “Oh, no no no.”

“Less than five?”

[head down, appears to be thinking]

…several seconds pass…

[looks up, grinning and nodding] “Five.  Five.”

I don’t believe you.

Little scoundrel.

Setting off water rockets--VP is second from the right (picture from the festival when I first got here)

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3 responses

  1. Hi Rachel,

    I just wanted to let you know that I have really enjoyed reading your blog and that you’re doing a great job with it. It’s funny and insightful and I’m very happy to see that you’re enjoying Korea so much. You certainly have the right attitude. All the best!

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