March 14, 2010: Coffee-J: I could write a book about him! He is simply AWESOME! He is my Korean co-teacher and his real name is Kim Jun Hyun. He told me to call him Coffee-J because he LOVES coffee. Finally he admitted most westerners botch his name, calling him “Hun.” He said at school I should call him Hyun; he made me repeat it several times to make sure I got it right. So now, to his face, I call him Hyun. When he’s not around, I call him Coffee-J.
Coffee-J at the school teacher dinner
Like all native English teachers in the Korean public schools, I am paired with Coffee J as my Korean co-teacher; he manages me while I am here. The co-teacher helps me with everything from getting situated in my apartment, to getting the elusive “alien registration card,” to getting internet and phone. He is my main source of communication with everyone who doesn’t speak English. In the elementary schools, this means most of the staff, including the principal and vice-principal. As my co-teacher, Coffee-J gives me my schedule, co-teaches his 4th grade English class with me, provides me my textbooks and other materials, and helps me with basically anything I need help with. Right now I have a toothache, so I’ll need to ask him how to find a dentist.
Coffee-J at Chojeon Elementary
As an English major in college, Coffee-J’s English is very good. He’s been the driving force behind getting English teachers in Seongju. He has been working toward this for three years and I am the culmination of his efforts. I feel a lot of pressure to meet his standards for the vision he has. He loves the English language, loves English literature. And he can spout off more English idioms than any native English speaker I have ever known!
In discussing how many Korean won I should contribute each month to the carpool, he said, “We need to have a heart to heart. Let’s just call a spade a spade.” He asked how much I think is a fair amount. “Fair is fair,” he said. This is how he talks. One idiom after another. This is such a high level of English speaking….unheard of in Korea!
Coffee-J sings “Top of the World” at one of Chojeon Elementary School’s noraebang sessions
I told him that he is the man with the plan! He gets things accomplished in record time. In one Friday afternoon, he found Myrna and me apartments in Daegu. On Saturday, we had all our furniture bought and delivered.
Coffee-J, Myrna’s co-teacher and Myrna buying furniture for our apartments
On Sunday, he took us for a shopping spree in E-mart to purchase necessary household items such as dishes, pots and pans, drying racks, hangers, etc. This is a man with reams of self-confidence and assertiveness; he knows how to get things done.
In gratitude for all the work it took for them to get us settled in, Myra and I treat our wonderful co-teachers to samgyeopsal at What? Samgyeopsal consists of thick, fatty slices of pork belly meat (similar to uncured bacon). The meat, usually neither marinated nor seasoned, is cooked on a grill at the diners’ table. Usually diners grill the meat themselves and eat directly from a grill. It is often dipped into a spicy pepper paste (Wikipedia: Samgyeopsal).
What? ~ a Korean restaurant in our neighborhood
Myrna and I treat our co-teachers to dinner at the restaurant What? after all their hard work.
Coffee-J is married with two children, 6 and 10. He is happily married, but he also has that yearning to be free. He wants both worlds and straddles the two to the best of his ability. He likes to be in the company of westerners, but he has his Korean guy pals with whom he drinks soju frequently. And on weekends, he is faithfully at home, being a good father and husband.
Coffee-J & Sunny: “I don’t think she’s pretty. But I like her.”
At dinner one night, Coffee-J asked our fellow carpooler, Mr. Sun, what he thought of Coffee-J’s wife. Mr. Sun said she is very beautiful. Coffee-J said, “I don’t think she’s pretty. But I like her!”