December 6-10, 2010: During the week, I try to expose Alex to Korea as I know it. He can’t believe the genius of the DVD bang, a place where you rent a movie with a room, sit on a comfortable reclining leather couch under a fuzzy blanket with a heat lamp warming you up, and watch a movie on a big screen. A place where you can have a drink, munch on popcorn or ramen noodles. He loves this place and its proprietor so much, he goes to the DVD bang every day while I’m at work. I also introduce him to the PC bang, but he becomes really irritated that he can’t play computer games on it because he’s not a Korean citizen. Apparently you need a Korean ID to be able to log into these communal computer games.
Monday morning, Alex comes along to Chojeon Elementary School, where the students point at him, touch him, grab him. Both the teachers and students continually call him “handsome boy.” Coffee J’s 4th grade class puts on a vaudeville-type show for him, one they had done the previous week for the entire school. This version is minus the costumes. Afterwards, we hand out snacks and the students line up to get Alex’s autograph. For the first time in his life, Alex is unquestionably a star!
That evening, after making a grocery run at Home Plus, we celebrate Alex’s first day of school at the local Aussie pub, Sydney Street, the only Western bar in the neighborhood. We share impressions about Korea over beers and he meets a few of my Korean lady friends, 19-year-0ld university student Holly and flight-attendant wanna-be Becky. Holly adds him the next day on Facebook as a friend. In my apartment later, we relax and watch episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on the computer he brought from home.
Tuesday Alex stays homes and relaxes while I go to work. In the evening, we go to Anna and Seth’s with Myrna and play a fun game of Ticket to Ride and share pizza & chicken. Wednesday he also stays home, but after work we have pizza at Dasarang and then play billiards and watch the movie Sliding Door in the apartment.
Alex comes to Byeokjin Elementary with me on Thursday, but he is bored out of his mind because the principal has forbidden him to be in the classroom “because he has no teaching credentials.” This is crazy as it’s not a requirement to be a certified teacher in one’s home country to be a teacher in Korea (unlike in places like Dubai where this is required). Hell, I’m not even a certified teacher! Despite this prohibition by the principal, Kim Dong Hee’s animal-named first graders bring Alex welcome cards they made for him. My fifth grade class gets to ask him questions for 10 minutes before class begins. They exclaim that he’s a “handsome boy” and want to know if he has a girlfriend.
That night, Kim Dong Hee and Young, two of my co-teachers from Byeokjin, come out to a dinner of shrimp pilaf with us at the Warehouse. After, we make a trip to Home Plus to see if my Vietnam visa is in. It is. I get it and we go to the hat department and try on goofy hats like a bunch of clowns. Young, a brand new and very young teacher, is really cute and often blends in with her 5th grade students at Byeokjin. Alex thinks she’s the cutest thing ever. After they leave, Alex and I head to the DVD bang, where we watch Funny People with Adam Sandler.