Another day, another awkward off campus lunch. As if the difference between this semester and last needed any more highlighting.
I was seated at the end of the table, next to C and across from E. I asked E briefly if they had vegan options for her and that was about it for our conversation. I should have pulled out my old corporate networking skills but to be honest I haven’t forgotten how little she helped me with the Busan Boy situation and felt not the slightest motivation to move beyond niceties.
After lunch, where I entered a strange daze and awoke to have eaten two fried pork cutlets, the endlessly uncomfortable afternoon was not over as we all got coffee and did not take it to go.
I thought I may have to come up with an elaborate lie about my future but no one asked me, or asked me through C, anything so it all worked out.
I can’t help but feel in my bones that the new cast of subject teachers thinks I’m standoffish and rude. I wish they could understand I’m just uncomfortable and can barely catch on to the bare context of the conversation. When they speak I try to listen but I’m just.
Not there yet.
And while I sometimes look at the person talking, the speaker turns to me for a reaction and I awkwardly have none because I didn’t understand the joke.
Finally, after a very long thirty minutes where I read the coffee menu several times and watched passerby, we exited. I walked behind PE teacher and thought, I really miss part time guitar teacher. Where is that guy? What is he doing? Come back and talk English to me.
I’m less upset about the situation than the perception that I have bad manners. My southern upbringing says “shame!”
After parting ways with the other subject teachers, C turned to me back in our classroom hallway and asked, “Do Americans use umbrellas?”
Luckily my mask was in place or she would have seen my incredulity.
“When it rains lightly like this, do they use umbrellas? I hear they don’t.”
I again wondered where she gets this information and what questions could possibly be next– “Do Americans cry when they’re sad? Do Americans feel pain?”
I tried not to let any of the shock slip through and just mentioned that in particularly rainy places people might be less motivated to use umbrellas in a light sprinkle.
With C I often feel like a human Venn Diagram.
I know I need to continue being patient. She doesn’t have non-Korean friends and has had very little exposure to experiences abroad.
After an awkward lunch like today, though, my reserves were depleted and I missed S and the other subject teachers desperately.
If you’ve kept up with this blog you know, or I hope you know now, that people everywhere are the same. The mother at the airport talking to her young child? She’s not plotting against you, she’s scolding her son. The friends behind you speaking another language? They’re not gossiping about you, but the latest version of their favorite PC game came out and they are disappointed.
Culture is learned. Language is learned.
Human behavior, however, is standard across Earth, for better or worse.