Upon entering the school yard, the jolly security guard stopped sweeping dropped cherry blossoms and turned fully towards me to say:
I miss you ton!
I was confused at first; the most English I’ve ever heard from him is “morning” and in context it was wholly unexpected. Did he memorize this just for me?
It reminded me of the time S suddenly inserted into our silent working hour “have you heard of subprime loans?” I didn’t know what she was talking about even after I asked her to repeat so flustered she dropped the subject. It wasn’t that her English was bad; it turns out I just didn’t know what a subprime loan was.
I asked, “보고 싶었어요?” You missed me?
Yes! He confirmed. I told him, me too and that my life is quite boring these days. It was quite sweet. He is probably suffering from the lack of little ones, too.
C informed me that yes, starting April 16 we’d have to figure out how to teach online. “But honestly I’m not quite sure how to do that just yet.” She said that since I don’t need to do the Korean online training, the school suggested I use vacation days between now and the 16th.
Figuring that school will go right up until the end of my contract and I won’t have any vacation time to actually use, I told C, “I need to calculate my time left just to make sure. I’d hate to use it all and then surprise! We have a summer break after all.”
“How many days do you have?”
“Ah, twenty six left?”
I almost laughed but managed to tell her, “no, twenty six days total.” Remember that contract employees have less than half the vacation time of full time Korean employees.
We later had an actual conversation, mostly about my family’s health and the coronavirus. I feel that she’s a rather taciturn one and I could easily bowl her over with my steady stream of blabber. Turns out I have a lot to say when I spend weeks talking to no one but myself.
The school day ended and tomorrow is a holiday for me. Unexpected but I’ll take it! Next week I’m taking three days off to get my hair done and freely leave the house during working hours.
So the day ended and I found myself with absolutely nothing to do. No online classes to teach, no tutoring, no homework. I wandered the neighborhood to find the cherry blossoms I spotted from the school’s bathroom window and came across Jaekyung, friends, and all their moms playing in the small urban park. One girl frantically got her mom’s attention to signal I was nearby.
Jaekyung shouted hello! and I said, “Jaekyung! How are you!”
Over the shrubbery I added to the group at large, “너무 보고 싶어요! 생활이 너무 심심해요!” I miss you so much! My life is way too boring! The moms looked on in confusion at this foreign woman shouting in Korean at their daughters.
I also ran into one of my very adorable former grade 6 fanclub girls. We passed each other, both in masks, before stopping and turning a 180 in recognition. She said a happily surprised 안녕하세요! while bowing and I did the same, even though as a kid I technically don’t need to bow to her. It’s a habit now and I’ll probably do it to my American friends when I go visit.
The hype of seeing my students kept me in the neighborhood so I sat and drank an iced mocha at the local coffee shop, people watched, and spotted a cute dress blowing in the breeze at the thrift shop across the way.
Well, seeing as I had no obligations, I made my way over and the owner said a big hello in recognition.
While I didn’t find any new outfits, I did receive a text from the gym that said it will open as planned on Monday. My muscles have been liquefying the last two weeks and I can’t wait to return to a routine.
I’ll need to wear a mask, bring my own clothes, and get my temperature checked upon entering but I am overjoyed to have one small piece of my life back.