Today was the last day of school. It was also, unbeknownst to me, Grade 6 graduation. My first inkling came as I walked to school and passed students who were all dressed up. My suspicions were confirmed when I arrived at school to discover that a flower vendor had set up shop on the front steps. (Glitter dipped roses of unnatural hues were clearly the Grade six flower of choice.)
Needless to say, I had absolutely nothing to do with the graduation. I’m not even sure when it occurred. I didn’t teach the Grade 6s though so they would have been quite surprised to see had I attended.
At noon, everyone jumped up and started putting on their coats. I watched curiously. Were we going somewhere or was the “heat” about to be turned off?
“We are going out for lunch!” my co-teacher told me excitedly.
I wondered where we were going. The restaurant my school usually frequents was undeserving of the amount of excitement my co-T was expressing.
“I’ll drive,” my lovely co-T, Sunny said. “Carrie-teacher, you come with me.”
Driving with Sunny is always an adventure. I sat in the backseat and dug out the seatbelt from underneath a pile of books and some blankets.
There were 4 of us in the car and for a few minutes we chatted about the new schools the other 3 would be going to in March. As we reached the busy main road, Sunny told us (slightly indignantly) that a friend of hers had laughingly told her that Buddha must be watching over her because she was such an awful driver. It was a miracle she had never had any accidents.
“Do you agree?” she asked, turning around to look at me and pulling out into traffic at the same time.
“Um… well,” I stuttered, unable to form a coherent response as I watched her pull across 4 lanes of traffic, again without looking.
“I don’t know if I agree,” she muttered, pulling to a stop at a green light.
“Why don’t we talk about it at the restaurant?” I suggested, looking nervously at the bus bearing down on us, horn blaring.
“Good idea!” she exclaimed, pulling an illegal U-turn into oncoming traffic, the Buddhist prayer beads around her rearview mirror swinging madly.
We went to a buffet restaurant called D’Maris. We stepped off the elevator and entered absolute mayhem. There had to be 1000-1500 people there. My school alone was 98 people and we were by no means the largest group.
Koreans are quite pushy as a general rule. I suspect it’s because in a nation of almost 50 million people, you probably have to make yourself heard or get lost in the shuffle. Normally I don’t mind. I am so much taller than everyone else, it’s easy to stand back and let them go about their business.
Not at a buffet. I soon discovered that politely waiting for my turn meant imminent starvation. Nobody had any qualms about taking tongs right out of my hand or elbowing me out of the way.
I have a theory that for whatever reason, Koreans (especially little old ladies) have evolved super-pointy elbows. Perhaps it’s because evolution hasn’t seen fit to grace them with increased height. Perhaps it’s some sort of highly evolved defense mechanism. I don’t know. It’s certainly effective though. I suspect I will be quite bruised tomorrow, between my upper thighs and my lower ribs, regions that are especially vulnerable to pointy elbow attacks.
Thankfully being a vegetarian meant that there were portions of the buffet were I could graze unmolested. The salad bar, for example. And the cheese and bread section. I also discovered that if I carried tongs with me and kept an eye out for incoming elbows, I could simply reach over people and snag what I wanted. Go go Gadget arms! 😀
I was seated between a wall and an elderly female teacher. I had seen this lady around but didn’t know what she taught. I thought about attempting to make polite conversation; my Korean isn’t great but it is up to “What grade do you teach?”
And then I realized she was already talking. To herself. Or possibly her lunch. It was unclear. The conversation was muttered under her breath, but it was very clearly a conversation. With her deep-fried calamari rings.
I decided to get some more food.
When I came back, the calamari was gone and she had decided to chat with me. In excellent English and unnecessary detail, she told me all about her nephew who had recently had a finger transplant. And then she jumped to her feet and left, leaving me with my jaw hanging open and cheese dangling from the end of my fork.
And to think when I woke up this morning, I thought it would just another long, boring day sitting at my desk! 🙂