Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Day of Awkward

As the title suggests, yesterday was a pretty awkward day. It started with My boss, Mrs. Kim, commenting on my cleavage. She was very nice about it and basically said she understood that America has different standards, which is very true. Women in Korea never wear anything that will show off their collar bones, but they wear what amounts to booty shorts to work. In America, its okay to show a little cleavage but wearing a mini skirt is kind of slutty.

She didn't tell me I couldn't wear that much cleavage to work which is good because I had stocked up on 'nice' shirts back in America specifically to wear to work in Korea and all of them are low cut by Korean standards. I left most of my t-shirts back home thinking I wouldn't be able to wear them. Little did I know that its 100% okay to wear t-shirts to work.

What makes things worse is that my shirts that were previous American-Cultural-Acceptable have stretched out in the wash - because there is no dryers - and are now a little low cut by American standards. But theres really nothing I can do about it. Trying to find something in my size in Korea is near impossible. But I'm going to have to try.

The second incident came when, after school, I had my most hated class of the day. The one with all teenage boys. They were actually surprisingly good that day because I think Mrs. Kim had given them a talking to the day before.

We were playing hangman, which is usually a great way to waste time after they've finished all their assignments, but with this class its almost more trouble than its worth. They get loud and they get rude and they write obscene things on the board in Korean and English. Today, one kid, Luke, thought it would be fun to use the F-word in hangman.

Now, there is nothing a Korean teenage boy likes better than dropping f-bombs in the hearing of his friends and maybe in the hearing of the nearest foreigner. They don't know what it means, they only know that its used in English movies and its probably bad.

So, when one kid started shouting it and I swung back to the board to see Luke's hangman : "F-O-K-_-_" which was eventually going to be "foker" (weirdly, my first instinct was to correct his spelling but, I firmly told myself, that would be counter productive).

The bell rang and I told Luke and the kid who had been shouting to come with me to see Debbie. And she was PISSED. She was screaming at them and throwing books. I've never seen Debbie yell that way at a kid. It seemed a little extreme to me because I just wanted them to understand that it wasn't okay to say those things; I knew they didn't understand what they were saying.

The atmosphere in the office was so tense that when William walked in he looked around and was like 'whoa. who died?'

After the kids were gone, however, Debbie turned to me and explained that they didn't understand what it meant and that they only heard it 'your movies'.

This last part kind of got to me because if she hadn't meant it to be accusatory she wouldn't have said it that way. As if it was my fault they knew those words. I wanted to say "Excuse me? What do you mean, My movies?" but I was too offended to say anything right away. She seemed like she was reprimanding me for punishing them so harshly - but I hadn't been the one throwing books.

I figured there was some cultural thing I was missing because Debbie is really very nice and understanding. Maybe it was that Debbie is like the ultimate boogie man and I should have tried to reprimand them myself first? But this class never listens to a word I say. If I had held them back to explain that they shouldn't use this word I would have had to physically block the door and they would have only nodded their heads until I released them, not hearing a word I said. Or they would have started saying the word over and over just to get a rise out of me or their friends. I don't really know what went on there but I guess I'll have to wait and see what the consequences are.

One thing is for sure; Luke and his friend aren't going to drop anymore f-bombs in my class.

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