last night i was taken out by my korean male co-workers. only 1 speaks any english, and his english is limited. all day i have been wondering what the plan is. they can't tell me. at 4:30, when i leave, i can't find any of the male teachers. finally, one tells me to sit on a bench, another says, 'go to cigarette haus-uh' which is the male teacher's lounge. another stops me at points me somewhere else. its very comical to be the reason for a welcoming party and see disorganization and have no idea where you are supposed to be. eventually they all come running down in waves of two or three, they are all talking, i am sitting on a bench. one of them pulls up, 'KE-bin! get in!'.
there are about 14 of us at a chinese restaurant, and we manage to eat a ton of food (ike 6 courses) in about an hour. before we/they ordered they kept trying to ask me what i like and what i wanted to drink. had no idea how to communicate to them i am not picky. korea, from what i understand, has made it impossible to continue the vegetarian, towards veganism*, path i was on.
'words words words Kevin'
'words words words Thurston'
'words Kevin words Thurston'
'uh...what do we call you?'
at one point one of the korean teachers (hangul teachers) starts speaking very passionately, addressing the entire table. about 6 people get very engaged in this conversation. i am, of course, half-worried that i am the subject matter (the egotistical nature of paranoia), but that eventually subsides. the conversation, however, continues. and it continues. for 15 minutes i have no idea what is being said, but it is either: very important or another dull debate. i giggled as i taught one of the grades a few idioms this week, one of them being 'talk shop' and to explain it i used the sentence:
'She hates it when her husband's co-workers come over, all they do is sit around and talk shop.'
i broke it down to the key word of 'co-workers' to point to the specialized topic of conversation that makes one feel outside. at this point i am analyzing, why did i pick 'her husband'? am i sexist? and now am i in the classic position of the (male) artist who is feminized? i continue to giggle as there is no way i can explain my giggling, just as they couldn't explain even the basics of their conversation to me. i'm sure i could've at least gotten the topic from the one teacher who speaks limited english. he is a p.e. teacher (i like that they dont say gym teacher). finally, the hangul teacher who started the entire conversation says, 'give me cigarette!', i said out loud, but only for my benefit and the p.e. teacher's, 'that's the first thing i've understood in 15 minutes.' it quickly gets translated and we all laugh.
after dinner we kind of all just leave, but in a group. similiar to when we left school for the restaurant. i'm not sure if we are done for the evening or what. some people are leaving leaving. i begin to drift away. 'KEVIN! billiard bah!'
i have never played billiards, only 'pocket pool'. i am not good at this game. i got better as the night went along, but it was another opportunity for me to play 'smiling like a foreigner'. billiards is a big game amongst my co-workers. they are putting english on the ball, fade right, fade left, draws, all of it. i am getting taught by the p.e. teacher.
'what do you call spin on the ball?'
'uh, i'm sorry'
'okay, baseball. fastball (act out the trajectory), curveball (act out the trajectory).'
'ah, in korean?'
'(word is forgotten), but why don't we call it engish?'
i smile. so does he. i am getting the hang of it. its a good game. the difference is in pool you only plan 4 shots ahead, but shoot directly for 1 ball. here you need to hit two balls with the cue ball each time you hit it to get a point. you need to plan 2 things per 1 shot.
one of the teachers is an art teacher. he told me earlier this week, 'Action painter!'. in between shots i ask him, 'action painter?'
'do you have photos, pictures of your work?'
'action painter, no photo-realism'
'i know, do you have picture of your paintings?'
'okay you paint (make gesture) it goes on a wall (gesture post-painting it hangs) then (pull out camera) picture of painting'
'ah (gestures for the p.e. teacher)'
(to p.e. teacher) 'okay, i know he is an action painter. i want to know is if he has photographs (pulls out camera) photographs of his paintings (re-inacts the earlier gesutres)'
'sorry, i don't understand'
i'm thinking about beckett. the layers he wrote about from thought>hand>pen>page>reformatted and published>page>to eye> to brain. that all assumes a common language. i am asking a man to ask another man on my behalf if the original man has photographs of his paintings. that is rather complex.
we switch tables. now i am playing with the art teacher who is a hoot. each time it is my turn, he helps me map it out, and he yells. 'KEVIN! VERY LIGHT! (pointing the trajectory cushion by cushion) BING-BING-BING-POW!' i am nearly on the floor, so are the other teachers. i'm losing about 19-2. he only needs one more point. 'KEVIN! ONE MORE POINT, WINNER!' he raises his arms in exclamation, puts a hole in the ceiling with the cue. all of us spit up pineapple soda, choke on our cigarettes, etc.
the hour ends, we all leave, i get driven home. in silence.
* i have been thinking one of things that allows veganism in the us, canada and the uk are they incredibly cheap prices we pay for imported foods.