Wednesday afternoons are usually a bit of a drag. I finish teaching at 11:30am, and rarely have more than an hour or two of lesson planning. Normally I manage to keep myself occupied but there are days when I find myself hitting reload over and over again on Facebook just in case someone posted something.
This Wednesday was one of those days. I’d finished lesson planning by noon. By 2pm, I’d replied to all of my email, watched every silly animal video friends had posted on Facebook, read two different online newspapers, and re-organized my desk. (We still aren’t allowed to put anything on it.) I was ready to scream.
Suddenly, I noticed that since lunchtime, everyone in my staffroom had changed into gym clothes. Uh oh.
A few minutes later, co-workers began leaving, carrying their gym shoes. I looked around but all of my co-Ts were already gone. Soon it was just me and the music teacher.
“Where is everyone going?” I asked her.
“Carrie-teacher,” she sounded exasperated. “The Principal’s second son got married!”
Silly Carrie! Obviously when the Principal’s second son gets married you should put your gym clothes on and go somewhere! What was I thinking?!
“Can I go too?” I asked. Perhaps this was some bizarre Korean wedding ritual. If so, I didn’t want to miss it.
She looked doubtfully at my dress clothes but nodded. I followed her to the gymnasium where the entire staff was gathered in gym clothes. There were tables scattered around the edges of the gym, and the air was redolent with the greasy smell of pork. A net had been set up in the middle of the gym, and teachers were clustered in small groups stretching.
“Carrie-teacher!” the Principal greeted me, smiling.
“Oh! Carrie!” said all of my co-Ts in unison, looking surprised to see me.
One of the VPs said something into a microphone and everyone rushed to sit in straight lines on the gym floor. I wasn’t sure which line I belonged in so I sat behind the music teacher I had come with.
The Principal said a few words, and everyone clapped. And then the lunch ladies brought out large trays of greasy pork. Each grade was assigned a table, and on each table was one bottle of orange juice, one bottle of 7Up, 3 warm beers and a bottle of soju. Each table got two trays of pork and fixings. It was all very regulated.
I tried to help but ended up giving the Grade 5 teachers extra pork. The gym teacher gently suggested that I not help anymore.
The people from my staffroom all clustered around our assigned table, happily eating pork. I wished I had stayed in the staffroom and re-re-organized my desk. Being in close proximity to my co-workers makes our height differences very obvious, something which everyone feels the need to point out. People even came over from other tables to tell me.
“Wow Carrie-teacher!! You really are tall!”
“Um… yes. Thank you…”
The fact that we were all crouched around child-sized tables didn’t help.
Nor did the fact that I couldn’t eat anything. I stood awkwardly off to one side nursing a glass of tepid orange juice, in my dress clothes, looking like a giant goober. Everyone kept offering me pork and then remembering I was a veggie.
“Have some pork, Carrie-t-…..oh.”
I wanted to sink into the floor. But there was no escape.
Now some of you may be thinking: “She’s NUTS! Sounds like the best afternoon EVER.” You’d be wrong. It was a particular sort of hell. Crouching self-consciously over a child-sized table in an overheated gym watching co-workers inhale vast quantities of pork, raw garlic and warm beer made me long for the quiet boringness of my desk.
After a while, someone brought out several large watermelon. One of my co-T’s ran over to get some.
“Here Carrie-teacher, you can eat this!” she exclaimed, running back with a large helping.
Her loud announcement notified the other tables that I hadn’t been eating the pork. Everyone was horrified that they had forgotten that I didn’t eat pork, and I was suddenly inundated with watermelon.
I think I ate my own body weight in watermelon. I don’t even really like watermelon but I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. 🙂
Once the food was gone, we all went back to the staffroom. It was mystifying. Why did they have to put their gym clothes on, and what did it have to do with the Prinicpal’s second son’s wedding?