July 28, Last Day of Spring Semester (but not my contract)

Not only do the new subject teachers think I’m ill-mannered, they now also think I hate Korea. Things are going great!

At the beginning of our Western meal (aside from one pizza option that had mayonaisse everything else passed the test) the female science teacher, who would later go on to tell C and E they should pick up golf to meet handsome men, asked about me. (Again, people are the same everywhere.)

She turned to C to ask if I had a boyfriend to which C awkwardly replied, “I don’t think so”. I chimed in with a vicious head shake and the male science teacher asked why.

“Why I don’t have a boyfriend?” That’s a long story.

“No,” C explained, “he wants to know why you’re leaving Korea.”

Ah, right. The lie.

I was still off kilter from my confusion and the best I came up with was, “The air is not so good so…” and let my poor Korean trail off to effectively end the questioning. So he now thinks I would rather risk COVID without insurance in the US than stay in Korea because of… pollution.

After a meal that seemed to last hours, C turned to me and asked if she could tell the group about the men who try to hit on me. Uh. I guess? I figured their opinion of me was already low so might as well give them some drama to chew on.

C mentioned a few stories and I mimed the bus incident (the one who asked me to work at his “private karaoke room”) and the station stalker (who told me he followed me from Itaewon and then demanded I hang up my ongoing phone call). The male science teacher said again, “wow, she must have a bad image of Korea”.

I felt bad for perpetuating this myth but at the risk of my flight money, I didn’t correct him. Easier to pretend I understand nothing anyway. And it turns out the PE teacher and I are the same age so I hope he can listen to my horror stories and know that I know about him and his male generation. I know, and I’m watching you. Better buck up.

C leaned over and murmured that she was jealous of these stories.

Jealous? I exclaimed.

I told the table at large every last one of these guys was weird. There’s nothing, truly nothing, of which to be jealous. It’s not like Kim Seo Hyun was politely asking for my number in a meet-cute…

Luckily this turned the discussion to dramas which are my forte and I had free reign to talk about my favorite Kim Sun Ah. It turned things to a good note when suddenly C translated for the female science teacher:

“She said you’re mean.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Me-een. Beautiful.”

“Oh. Uh, thank you.”

I wouldn’t put it past the female science teacher to say I’m mean, though. I can’t say I felt very flattered since I think her general impression of me is not particularly… high.

At the very least, the science teachers said “your pronunciation is so good!”

“I can’t understand anything but…” at least I have that, I countered.

As we had the rest of the day off C graciously offered to drop me off at my apartment.

“There are a lot of rats and cats here. I once tripped over a cooking knife in the street.” I laughed.

She looked at me in horror and said “If you come back, I’ll make sure to get you a better place.”

In the afternoon traffic she had told me again, after calculatingly asking when my language program will end, that if I want to come back to this school, tell her.

I laughed and asked if it’s because it will be boring without me. She laughed too but didn’t explain further. I really want to know why she’s so insistent. Is it my company she enjoys or is the thought of potentially training a newbie exhausting? I wish I knew.

I asked again why we kept up the lie and that I felt like a bad person because now the subject teachers think I hate Korea.

“Yeah,” she agreed. Well then.

While she’s not worried about the school knowing I’ll stay in Korea, she’s concerned the higher ups will find out that I’m not leaving the country and withhold the final exit allowance (the weirdly worded clause of my contract that states I get exit money but doesn’t explain what I have to exit; in English it says I get exit money as soon as I complete employment, regardless of where I go). Frankly, I’m already in the lowest pay tier and to do so would just be cruel.

“Will you ever tell the teachers I didn’t leave?”

“No.”

My reputation is worth exactly 1,300,000 won, then, but I’ll take it.

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