Thursday, September 23, 2010

I didn't know they needed to keep it warm.

Here is another lesson in Korean culture. It's called deskwarming, and it mostly happens to foreign teachers like me. During vacations, it is not uncommon for the school to request that the English teacher stays at school during the holiday while everyone else is gone home.

Now, on the one hand, I should be content to sit here while I make my hourly wage.

On the other hand, I had to cut my vacation time in half to come home for this day that I'm working unsupervised. If not for my Catholic guilt (or my unwillingness to underestimate the Korean public school system), I could possibly have missed this day entirely and still been paid. Yet there is some strange force that keeps all of us foreign teachers here, at our desks.

All day long.

So, what does one do during a deskwarming shift?

Show up at Yaksa with a backpack full of survival goods (including food, a good book, and much more). Since all of the English teachers are away, I had to use my broken Hanguel/broken English to whatever staff I can find so they will open the padlock to my building (yes, I had to ask to sit at my desk). As soon as I got inside the building, the janitor locked the door from the outside-- no joke! This was my worst fear! My panicked expression must have translated quite nicely because he showed me how to unlock it from the inside. Still, I'm quite literally locked inside the building.

9:05am- Tea made, computer on, and thankfully a friend or two were online.

11:00am- I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to learn more Korean. I can now apologize or console for a variety of circumstances. You know how in English we say "I'm sorry" when things aren't always our fault? Well, they have a solution for that in Korea. They have another saying.

For example:

A: I have to deskwarm during Chuseok.
B: What are you going to do about this? (not "I'm sorry" because this is not your fault)


A: Ouch! You stepped on my spleen!
B: I'm sorry. (because this is totally your fault, you clutz)

I can also ask about food too, which is something I should have learned weeks ago (like, "Is there meat in this?"). Yay, language learning.

12:00PM- I decided to tackle the items on my teacher to-do list with semi-success. Asking teachers for work was hard enough because I can only do so much for them. Actually carrying out the tasks without them present is even harder because color printers and copy machines are locked up and my Korean is still lacking. On the bright side, I'm mastering Powerpoint in Hanguel. There's a transferable skill in there somewhere, right?

1:15PM- Lunchtime. And thanks to Emily I watched Mulan on my laptop. Again I wonder why I'm being paid to watch Disney.

As I sit here now it is just going on 4PM. I have exactly 50 minutes left, during which time I will:

1. Revisit my Korean lessons.
2. Ponder dinner. I'm thinking maybe noodles.
3. Research more K-pop bands so my students think I'm cool.
4. Pray that the janitor hasn't locked this building back up with me still inside.
5. Plan to bring a workout mat to school the next time I have to deskwarm so at
least I'm not sitting here for 8 hours.

Sigh... 38 more minutes.
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  1. Do you think that maybe deskwarming is a joke? Like they are filming you and sitting at home drinking cognac watching you twiddle your thumbs and laughing saying "haha silly Americans fall for it every time!!!" ???? I'm just saying it's a possability

  2. Such a good point! I'm sure somewhere, somebody laughed at me today.

  3. Lol that someone might have been sorry

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