Wednesday, September 3, 2008

First day

Back in Florida, I wondered why my employer was called “LIKE school”. Did it imply “I like school”, or that it’s just like school, or what? Turns out it’s an acronym for Language International Kim Enterprises. It’s run by a couple about my age named the Kims, along with their four sons. The one who runs the office at which I work, Hee-duk, is a graduate of Boston University, as fluent in English as any American with a doctorate in education, and so far, my best friend.

He’s the one person I’ve met whose English is so good that he understands everything I ask and who also knows how to do everything here and where everything is. Thus far, he’s been remarkably considerate. On my first day, Monday, he had me take an online proficiency test they give the kids, then packed me off with George and one of the school’s managers to drive crosstown to get my photo taken. (The teachers’ pictures, with their alma maters, are up on the wall and apparently sometimes on posters.) After the fifteen-second photo session, George and the manager dropped me off at a local restaurant while they ran an errand.

It seems as if there are three or four nearly identical little family-run restaurants on every block. Apparently 67 percent of all Koreans own restaurants. This particular one was one of those where you leave your shoes at the door, sit on a cushion on the floor, and eat with metal chopsticks. George told them in Korean to make me some bibimbap with no animals in it. It was great. I’d been in Korea for 18 hours, was still tremendously jetlagged, and sat there shoveling rice in and wondering if this was really happening. But the food was exotic, good, and spicy. I could eat bibimbap every day, if I could tell them to make it herbiverously

Anyway, back to Hee-duk and to school. He asked me if I wanted to take a nap, or get a massage or a sauna, both of which are available in the building, and then observe a class or two. I could barely stand at this point and blurted out that I really just wanted to sleep. So Hee-duk cheerfully sent me home, predicted I’d wake up in the middle of the night.

And I did.

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