Week 5, Wednesday

S (my coteacher) and I went to the bank again and visited the same beautiful bank lady. It all got sorted and now I have an account and check card. I don’t yet have a Korean number which means I couldn’t sign up for mobile banking BUT I’m 95% of the way there.

After our “business trip” we stopped by a cute café that I pass every day but doesn’t open until noon. We actually saw some of our students in the café with their parents since school lets out early on Wednesdays. At the cafe S told me that areas around better schools have higher housing costs and in turn better students. “And here?”

“Housing is very cheap.”

She added “but the students here aren’t violent”.

That may explain why the foreign teachers in Gangnam have said their students are not challenged by the textbook whereas my students struggle to write words. In fact, Gangnam was a designed part of the city and in order to get people to move south of the river, the government forced the highest performing schools to move there. That’s why Gangnam is now the most affluent part of Seoul.

She also told me that even though I’m very tall the way I speak Korean is very cute. Probably because I have the vocabulary of a kindergartener. Actually, a tiny little first grade girl saw me in the hall and asked very slowly 영국 사람이에요? Are you British? 아니요, 미국 사람이에요. No, I’m American. She said “oh” then went on her merry way.

The office also let me know that I don’t have to pay income tax because of the tax treaty and that my passport should suffice. Welp I already paid the IRS $85 and I’m still waiting for a paper that says I am a citizen of the US and should be exempt from Korean income tax. A classic example of Asia Time. But the office has really been so accommodating and informative about payments and forms and general paperwork that I’m so grateful.

We had another grade 4 crier but from my calmer 4-3 class. This poor little guy sobbed for 20 minutes and explained through tears to S what happened. He missed most of his next class as he sat and calmed down in our empty one. Why?

He didn’t think the sticker reward system was fair. Fourth grade has a sticker system based on teams and the winning team gets to choose a snack, or something along those lines. She said after “I think he has a weak heart” and all I could think was “is this kid me?” Minseok, you’re okay buddy!

I also tackled a gym membership today. The local community center is known to have a fairly cheap gym ($53 per month, gyms usually run $70-80) but the hours are terrible and it’s three metro stops away. So today I nervously investigated a gym two blocks from school. I thought, this isn’t a trendy area so mayhaps it is cheaper.

I wrote a list of questions in Korean but anticipated a gym bro and I having a google-translate facilitated discussion. This gym is in a building basement but you can hear it from the main floor. I was greeted by very trendy lighting and a sleek wooden reception desk. A young woman in stilettos carefully answered my questions and let me look around. “Are there showers?”

“Sure, go ahead”

Well, I only opened the door to the locker for a second before seeing a fully naked women “YEP ok you have showers let’s move on”. Korea is not squeamish about same-sex nudity, and saunas also are a clothing free zone.

I was so relieved to get immediate answers about price instead of the weird sales run around American gyms seem to play. This gym? $33 a month. And if I want to use their clothing service, in which I use gym provided clothing and throw it in a hamper when finished, I can do so for an extra $5. My only concern was the amount of bros I saw at 5pm. If I go after work will I be able to squeeze in the weight section? It’s a small place. Otherwise I might become horror of horrors… a morning exerciser.

I thought could fit one more accomplishment on my list today but alas Emart keeps playing me: I thought now I’ll go get a points card since I have my mystical ARC. Nope! I’m not allowed to have a card unless I have a Korean phone number. Dammit E Mart, foiled again!

In social news, my Canadian friend that I met in Jeju who teaches in China recently alerted me to a new expat dating trend: on a first date or in a bar a man will approach you and ask “what’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you?”

I’m just truly astounded by the rock-bottom EQ one must have to use that as any sort of pick up line. I haven’t heard that, thank goodness, but mostly because I don’t see any expats.

S suggested: “wait… your friend works for a military college, that university is very well known! My husband went there! The men there must all be very good at exercise and smart to get in, ask him to meet the students.”

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