My school recently announced that the bathrooms were going to be renovated. As you can imagine, these tidings filled me with great joy. The news that nobody knew if the renovations would include Western toilets or not only dimmed my happiness a little. If the new stalls were slightly wider and had taller door frames, I would be content. (If the new bathrooms had an automatic flush feature, I would be in heaven. But I wasn’t holding my breath for that!)
I had assumed that the renovations would take place over the summer vacation. (It starts July 26th, which is 19 days from now, not that I’m counting! 😀 ) How foolish of me! Apparently, it’s difficult to have renovations done over summer vacation because all of the workers go on holiday.
There are three bathrooms per floor, one at either end and one in the middle. I arrived at school last week to discover that all 5 bathrooms on all 5 floors at my end of the school were being destroyed at once. I assume it has something to do with the pipes and the water supply?
In Canada, the work would have been done either after the students had left, or if this wasn’t possible, with the strictest health and safety measures in place.
Not so in Korea.
At first, the bathroom doors were festooned with yellow tape, rather like a crime scene. The tape said “Asbestos” in large black letters. Considering none of the workers were wearing masks or protective equipment of any sort (not even a hard hat!), I convinced myself that Asbestos was the name of the construction company.
After a while, the yellow asbestos tape disappeared, and these safety measures appeared. This is the bathroom outside my English classroom. You can see a piece of brown packing tape hanging from the door. The workers use the tape to “lock” the door while they’re away. I’m not sure what safety purpose the blanket is meant to serve but the students trip on it on their way in and out of the English classroom. (When I took this picture, there wasn’t a workman in sight, and I had to chase a bunch of boys out of the bathroom.)
The workers are themselves a study in workplace safety. It is HOT in Korea right now, and rainy season has started. Most days the temperature is between 28-33C with a humidity of 80-90%. The workers wear sensible work pants, sturdy-looking boots, a cigarette and a smile. On the rare occasion I see a worker in a shirt, it’s usually a mesh vest.
They are vastly entertained by me (the feeling is mutual; I find them both shocking and hilarious). If I’m in the hallway speaking English to the students, they’ll come out and watch.
The workers took out the bathroom windows so the deconstruction debris could be easily removed. And by removed I mean it was simply chucked out the window. I kid you not. Bricks, tiles, and bits of pipe all came flying out the windows from all 5 bathrooms on all 5 floors. I even saw a sink plummet gracefully to the pavement last week.
Then a few days ago, I noticed this:
The scaffolding comes through the open hallway windows and is attached to the window frames. It is a source of constant interest to the students walking by. I fear it’s only a matter of days until they get up the nerve to shimmy out onto the scaffolding.
The black tubes lead to the parking lot/ debris field below.
I asked my co-T why the tubes had suddenly appeared. The blue roof you can see in the picture is the roof of the room where the recycling is stored. Students and teachers are constantly in and out. Apparently, something heavy had been chucked out of one of the bathrooms and the roof had caved in. The principal had been understandably unimpressed, and the tubes were installed.
“But don’t worry, Carrie-teacher,” my co-T went on. “We can still use the recycling room.”
Hmmm… thanks but no thanks. I’ll take my recycling home with me…