Thursday, November 01, 2012

good news and bad news

Well, the good news is that I didn't have to teach Iblis this evening. Unfortunately, his mom was in the hospital for some reason; my supervisor wasn't clear on what had happened. As I told a coworker, the fact that Iblis's mom was in the hospital put a damper on any victory dance I might have wanted to do. So while I file this turn of events under the category of "good news," I do so advisedly: this is the type of good news you'd expect in a story like "The Monkey's Paw." I do sincerely hope Iblis's mom is all right.

The bad news has to do with the staff Christmas party. My new manager, K, told me that she had just gotten off the phone with the regional manager, S, who told K that I had to attend the party-- that attendance was mandatory. This brought back nightmares of 2004, when I used to work at a hagwon called English Channel in downtown Seoul. EC hosted a Christmas party; faculty and staff attendance was mandatory. And yeah, the party sucked leprous donkey scrotums. Ridiculous, thought I this evening, and I doubled down on my initial refusal to attend. Hey, don't try that ethnic pressure bullshit on me, ladies-- I know you're working the Korean angle! This would be a good time to remember I'm only half-Korean.

One of my fully Korean colleagues-- we'll call him Samuel-- wasn't so lucky. Our supervisor walked quietly up to him and said in Korean exactly what she had told me in English: "S says you have to come." I'm sure my colleague, who is, after all, a Korean bruvva, one a' da peeps, felt a ton more pressure than I did. I'm not positive as to what his answer was, but I thought he ended up conceding. Knowing Korean culture as I do, of course, I also know that that's not the end of it: Samuel could simply not show up on the day of the party, and offer an insincere apology the following business day: "Whoops! Sorry! The party was yesterday?" Koreans have trouble saying "no" directly; that cultural quirk is the cause of plenty of interpersonal shenanigans. It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission, right?

I wonder whether my Caucasian coworkers were also approached by K in this way. I never bothered to ask. If K didn't approach my Caucasian colleagues with this demand from the top brass, it goes to show that this mandate is a Korean thang, and that asking the Westerners to attend is considered something of a forgone lost cause. What's funny is that Samuel is very introverted, which makes him rather a black sheep in Korean society; his attitude toward this sort of party may actually be more Western than Korean. In fact, I'm betting he hates parties as much as I do.*

So that's the news, good and bad. Since I didn't teach Iblis tonight, I didn't feel that I deserved to treat myself to Sweetwater Tavern. Instead, I trundled back to the mountains and stopped at a local McDonalds.

...with Big Macs that are my chambermaids.

*I'm not implying that all Westerners hate parties. That's demonstrably false. But the likelihood of a Westerner's not wanting to attend a party that's most likely to be predominantly Korean in makeup is higher than a Korean's desire not to attend. And while I'm busy denying implications, let me say I'm not implying any racism here; it's simply a matter of birds of a (cultural) feather preferring to flock together. No sin in that: it's the sort of self-segregation that happens every Sunday morning at church.


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