August 12, Small Talk

One of the newer PTs in a purple t shirt checked me in today at the gym. Since we’re still living in COVID times, I’ve had to write my name and other personal information on a sign in sheet since April.

He gestured to a phone on a stand at the desk but I didn’t quite know what he meant. I think there’s an app? I don’t know.

He said something about coronavirus and I said I prefer to sign the paper since I didn’t really understand the phone situation. That was fine with him and as I was filling out the sign in sheet, he read my address upside down and commented in surprise that I lived far so why come here?

I told him I work in this area and he commented that my Korean was really good. Of course, I said no.

“Do you work at a hagwon?” He asked with surety.

Hagwons are after school academies where students cram for exams. There are a lot of English hagwons and a lot of horror stories about working for them.

“No.” I said.

“Oh,” he answered in somewhat surprised awe.

Saying “English teacher” here can sometimes come with the stereotype of being an underqualified backpacker who terrorizes Korean citizens with heavy drinking and promiscuity.

I had a weird moment where I wondered at what point would teaching English be respected.

It’s definitely a strange turn for me coming from an industry with plenty of accolades, pomp, and circumstance. In my past life I could just say “engineer” and people would immediately comment how I must be so bright and accomplished, regardless of if I deserved praise.

I would be lying if I said I don’t feel cognitive dissonance still. And I wish I could care less about other’s respect but that’s a challenge for next year. One step at a time. I still have to get my visa and also learn Korean so I can be featured on local variety shows. Fame pending!

The PT asked how long I’ve been in Korea but he had to repeat himself since I didn’t quite understand his question. I told him a year which surprised him again. He said once more “your Korean is good”.

He was the first person under 50 to make small talk with me and I am very grateful for him. Thank you, young PT sir! You made my day!

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