I wandered straight into a sports camp for second graders. The bathroom is in the gym so I walked through a chorus of “영 선생님!” and “hi! hello!”. I waved two hands like a Korean celebrity. In subsequent trips some kids just stared, so I stared right back.
Upon seeing my spending this month, I decided that most days I should eat at cafe a la 7-11. Today I wandered the backstreets of the neighborhood until I reached the base of Bonghwasan Mountain. I passed “give me candy” and her younger sister at the park and told her to exercise well as she was spinning on some contraption.
At GS25 I finally achieved my bucket list item of eating ramen at a convenience store, a Korean classic. Nearly all convenience stores have some form of indoor and outdoor seating along with hot water and microwaves to prepare your meal. My same student happened to walk by so I waved her in through the window to get her assistance. I asked her in Korean how to make this and she took over. We chatted a few minutes more about what she and her sister were doing (hiking) and her hamster toy.
She left and I dug into my ramen. Fine. I admit. It’s not so bad. Still not something I would order at a restaurant but for 850 won it was a bargain lunch.
I was faced with a new dilemma as I stared into the murky flavored leftover water. Surely this didn’t go into the trash? Luckily there was a young man who had sat down next to me at the bar waiting on his microwave pizza. Before he could retrieve it I asked him where to put the water.
He recovered extremely quickly from what I assume is the shock of a foreign woman on the outskirts of town speaking Korean to him at a convenience store and was able to point out the separate food trash. Atop a flip open trash can was a plastic colander so that I could dump my water while separating out the solid food waste. It was familiar: this morning, in fact, I had opened a similar food waste trash can in an attempt to dispose of my coffee packaging. (So I had two hot meals at convenience stores today).
Later in the day I discovered my period was more aggressive than expected which led me to knocking and entering the upstairs office. If I had to ask for reinforcements, I was going to ask for it from a group of ladies I knew were kind.
The head teacher and another woman were happily interrupted as I apologized and struggled to ask for a pad. This involved me saying “it’s a woman thing” and pointing in increasingly smaller circles at the lower half of my body.
“Ah, ?” the head teacher said.
“그 다너 몰라요… Um. I don’t know that word”
“패드? 정말요?” I face-palmed, because of course the word for pad would be… pad. A loan word. Foiled again!
The head teacher gave me a few big sized pads and then added another stack of small sized pads. She then said aha, bread! and pulled a loaf from a Paris Baguette bag to add to my stack.
She added in Korean, “if you feel bored, come up here and hang out”.
Teachers have been coming in and out this week to fill out online paperwork and each of the subject teachers has been so surprised to see me. I guess they never knew that the previous foreign teacher also worked holiday hours. “Yep”, I wanted to say, “I’m here”.
I have to work the holiday because I’m foreign? I don’t really know why, but I have less vacation than the Korean teachers which is standard for all foreign teachers at Korean public schools.
The afternoon marked possibly the first time I was excited to run into the male music teacher.
“Helloooo everyone! Oh! Abigail!” He gave the same reaction as the other teachers.
We shook hands like old pals.
I don’t know how the office staff reacted but his boisterous behavior was honestly a breath of fresh air.
“Are you over your cold now?”
“Yes it’s finished.”
“Good, good. Happy new year!” He added in English as he left.