Week 5, Tuesday

The day began and ended with alley kittens.

Today I had a uniquely horrible experience at the intersection of Asia Time and US tax policy. My miraculous alien registration card arrived today. This is the card that allows me to open a bank account, travel domestically without a passport, and register for a whole host of things.

Today the co-teacher and I went to the bank and I attempted to open an account. All I had was the ARC, the supposed miracle card. The card that required me to go to Japan to get a visa. The card that required me to travel an hour across the city and wait another hour at immigration. The card whose absence has prevented me from receiving any paycheck since I started.

Well.

It was not a cure-all card as advertised. The bank asked if I had my driver’s license and I was extremely confused and shocked that I needed to show US state identification at a Korean bank. I was immediately on edge because like anyone I don’t like giving out personal information for kicks.

The apologetic lady made some calls and said that my passport and Social Security number should suffice instead. Luckily I didn’t have my passport with me and I told my coteacher I don’t want to bank here until I figure out what’s going on. I spent the afternoon talking to other foreign teachers and researching IRS policy online. It turns out that in 2011 a US bill was passed so that all Americans who bank abroad are at the mercy of the US government checking in on their foreign assets at any time. Fun!

USA, please leave me alone.

My American classmate works for a Korean military college and offered to have one of the military TAs call and yell at the bank in Korean if I need it. Yes, these are the kind of friends I need in my life.

It bears mentioning that I was already frazzled from earlier in the day when all the fire alarms went off and I saw students running through the hallways with their mouth covered. I was with the toupe sub at the time and I asked him “are we supposed to leave? why aren’t you leaving? what’s happening?” and he didn’t answer me or couldn’t answer me, just stared out the window. I decided there was no way I was going to die in a fire just because no one would give me information so I left the building.

The students had assembled by the parking garage and some sixth grade girls waved to me “oh hi teacher!” Perfect! The Korean Chorus to my tragedy. My informants told me that this was just practice. I had to crouch for a second to recover from my panic. “So it’s not a real fire??” I headed back inside before any more students could see my shame and I went to my co-teacher to ask what all of this was about. “Oh Abigail I’m sorry! Don’t be worried!” She hugged me.

American + emergency sirens + school = American assumption that something terrible is happening.

But third grade made me feel better with their bloodthirsty desire to win Bingo. As soon as someone got bingo they would run up to me and show me their paper. I had kids five at a time trying to prove to me that they got bingo. Listen, you’re all winners. Because you LEARNED. Ha.

In my last third grade class of the day, I sat at one of the empty desks during break. All the students who arrived early slowly gathered around me like the Pied Piper. Pretty soon I had 15 kids completely encircling me and I really felt that this is what it must like to be popular.

Strong Girl and Weak Boy ran to me and chatted with me for quite some time in the hallway during lunch, partly talking smack about a friend, partly wondering what was in my mug (“alcohol! Ha jk Take a whiff”), and partly explaining what would be served for lunch. “What part of the pig is it?” “Uh…head?”

They flagged down their homeroom teacher who was walking nearby to confirm for me. (Lol if you think any answer deterred me, 보쌈 is great) They are happy to drop a couple English keywords on me and I’m happy to continue in Korean. Symbiotic learning .

So in all I survived a fake fire and I’m almost official. Once I snag my bank account I’ll actually have an income, hurray! Now I hear some banks might not give me a debit card for three months because reasons. Ah, foreign living always keeps me on my toes.

——

Keep reading for language fun:

Remember our numbers lesson recently? Well there are exceptions of course!

Recall that we count objects with Korean numbers (four dogs, ten people) but money, dates, and big numbers are expressed with Chinese-origin numbers.

개 general counter, Korean origin
월 month, Chinese origin
달 month, Korean origin

Let’s play:
한 1, Korean origin
일 1, Chinese origin

So
한 달 (Korean 1 + Korean month) = one month
일 월 (Chinese 1 + Chinese month)= January
(“But Abigail doesn’t 일 then mean first?” Nope, not by itself.)

BUT
Today I learned
개월 month
I thought, that’s weird, why are you combining Korean counter 개 with Chinese month 월? Since we count things with 개 surely we use Korean number with this new weird combo word.

Wrong!

In this scenario “개” is just a phonetic representation of a Chinese character, and completely removed from the Korean character of same spelling (homophones!) So 개월 is just the Chinese-Korean way of saying month. And if the word is of Chinese origin, like “month” or “season” even though we are counting them we use Chinese numbers. Consistency and tradition I suppose.

So
Chinese 1 + Chinese 개month = Korean 1 + Korean month = one month

일 개월 = 한 달 (one month)
=/= 일 월 (January)

Another note: Korean has an alphabet just like English or Russian or Thai. It does not have a never ending index of characters like Chinese. Neither it is a tonal language like Chinese: like English, it lacks tones. Pronounce Korean with Italian intonation and you’ll still be understood. Just maybe not in the countryside.

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