...abandon all hope ye who enter here...

Sat Jun 21, 2003

…for this is no spicy narrative…I’m sitting here in air-conditioned bliss…it’s swelteringly hot outside, and the sticky monsoon season is upon us. It’s market day in Kumchon and the local vendors have taken over the crooked streets and spread their wares out under colourful beach umbrellas. The smell of raw fish and Kimchi wafts through the streets.

Not much happened this week, but it’s that busy time of the month, when I have to write report cards for my forty-odd students and compile monthly lesson plans. I think the work load at these Hagwans is ridiculous, but nobody at work seems to complain as much as me, so I just do my best and work my butt off like everyone else. Yesterday everyone was fighting for a computer and furiously eating uncooked packets of spicy noodles late into the night in an effort to allay our hunger. Jae-Jung makes us great food on the busy nights, like Kimbap (seaweed rice rolls) and Mandu (noodle dumplings) which are both my favourite. I’m glad that I get to work with such cool people. We do argue at times though, especially when it comes to the way I teach and discipline the children, but I’m learning to resolve problems in a rational manner and I’m trying not to be too defensive, especially when I know I’m wrong. Sometimes it’s hard to be serious in class, some of the kids have a terrific sense of humour, even if it’s often at my expense!

They’re tearing down the building next door with graders and explosives and every now and then the whole school shakes without warning. It feels like a perpetual earthquake, it’s quite disconcerting. This whole town seems to be under continuous construction and is growing at a frenetic rate - a plethora of high-rise cranes constitutes the Kumchon cityscape.

Debbie advised me to switch bank accounts this week because my bank - Chohung bank, went on strike in protest against a merger. Good thing I did because the next day, they closed their doors. Today I read in the paper that Chohung’s computer network was paralyzed and the banks had lost trillions of Won because everyone withdrew their funds. Another incidental (and, I apologize, deathly boring tale) is that when I tried to open an account at the agricultural bank, it was discovered that another foreign customer - a Chinese guy, had exactly the same Alien registration number as me, which meant he had a fake ID. The bank refused to let me open an account, and because the other guy is their customer they won’t even turn him over to the authorities. Bankers are kind of like priests I guess, they can’t divulge personal information.

Tomorrow I’m meeting Sora and her best friend, Jenny - I don’t know her Korean name, and we’re going to check out the K63 building, the tallest building in Korea. Should be good, I’ll let you know about it another time. Take it easy, oh gentle reader.

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