This post was originally going to be called ‘When everything that can go wrong, does go wrong’, but in light of recent events I’ve decided on something a little brighter.
This week started out like most of the others, with one notable exception. On Monday I was due to open my new bank account. I got up at the usual time, got ready for work, glanced around for my passport and… where’s my passport? I spent about five or ten minutes searching before I had to leave or risk missing breakfast, which is just plain unthinkable. Later that day the Financial Director (FD) told me that the next day would be the best time to open the account anyway, so no biggie.
When I got home I looked again, checked my room, under the sofa, in my bin, everywhere I thought it might be, plus everywhere else I could think of in the house. No luck. I thought back, I knew I had it leaving a club in Itaewon so that just left the taxi. That must have been where it fell out of my pocket. I found some numbers for the taxi cooperatives that serve Seoul and on Tuesday the Academic Director (AD) called them. They told her to ring another number and check out a few websites. We did this and found nothing.
This is probably a good time to tell you a little more about what I’ve seen and heard about Korean people. They are incredibly honest. I’ve heard numerous stories about laptops, phones and wallets that have been found here and handed in. A friend told me that she left 5000won in a subway card top-up machine and the teenager who found it ran after her to return it. In one pub we got to, bottles of beer are stored on the customer side of the bar, next to the toilets. Whereas this would be considered a free bar in the UK, here it’s fairly normal, as it seems Koreans categorically do not steal. I’ve seen a photo of a stall on the subway, selling sweets and newspapers, with the owner fast asleep next to it. If someone wants to buy something they’ll simply wake him up, and he has no worries about people stealing his stock, it just doesn’t happen. With this in mind I was fairly sure that if my passport was found it would be handed in somewhere, and hopefully find its way back to me. This also informed my decision not to report it lost or stolen to the British Embassy in Korea, at least not straight away.
I started collecting together the forms and documents I’d need to get a new one however, and spent most of the last few days thinking about all the headaches that losing it would cause. I need it to open a bank account, get a phone, the FD needs it to submit some documents to the Korean Education Board (or something like that). Luckily I had already applied for my Alien Registration Card (ARC), which I was given on Thursday, with strict instructions not to lose. For that I decided to submit an ID photo of myself at the end of Movember (a charity event in the UK where, for the month of November, men grow out their Tache), I think it was a good decision. I’m hoping someone official asks to see it at some point. Losing my passport also means I have to pay for a new one, which is another 300,000won (£180) out of my paycheque, which also just had to shell out 200,000won (£120) for bills. So you can see why I’m kicking myself for losing it.
And the drama doesn’t stop there, oh no. Friday was a special kind of horrible. My first mistake was pointed out first thing, I had forgotten to hand in a weekly teaching plan for one of my classes. Handed that in, all good, carried on with my day. Second mistake, having marked all my students diaries (they write about a topic every week as homework) on Monday they were all ready to be handed back to students on Wednesday, which they were. One wasn’t as the student was absent. I’ll admit I forgot about it on Thursday, one diary is not high on my list of priorities and I have until Friday to hand them all out. So on Friday I asked my colleague to give it to the student, and I got a little earful off her for not doing it yesterday, just a little one. The student was absent again on Friday though, so he didn’t get his diary back. No a big deal you might think, not really my fault if he’s absent you might say, but no, this was mistake number two. The third mistake. I have some time to prepare for my lessons before they start, and after they start they don’t stop till the end of the day. With about 20 minutes to go the AD comes up to me and asks me what the grammar topic is, it’s a tricky one so she tells me to spend extra time explaining it and not to go straight to the worksheet. No problem, except it turns out she was asking me to make another sheet explain the grammar, where I usually just explain it myself on the board. After the lesson I collect in the worksheets used in class and we finished (one minute early, another mistake). The AD starts shouting at me and the kids for finishing early and she drags all the students into her office, apparently to quiz them on the grammar topic. They come for their sheets (which I was later told I should have stuck in their books and not collected in) and are dismissed after a few minutes. Then it’s my turn. I go into the office with one of the Korean English teachers. The shouting continues.
I get railed for all the little mistakes that day, each one made to sound like a capital offense. I wasn’t too bothered about the shouting, mainly because I thought that in most other places I wouldn’t get more than a ‘don’t do that next time’. When I tried to suggest a solution to the third mistake, changing next week’s timetable to have another look at the grammar point, she looked like I’d just suggested we throw kids off the roof or something and starts the shouting even more (an impressive accomplishment). All of this shouting is for me, but the Korean teacher is taking the brunt of it as the AD can’t speak more than broken English. She’s translating, and probably censoring, what is being shouted. I felt pretty bad about that and couldn’t help thinking that the whole situation was completely unnecessary. After about 5 minutes we were pretty much going in circles and I was already late for my next class. I brought this up and we were swiftly dismissed to go to class. Thankfully the next lesson was my last of the day, I hung around for a while to finish some work I needed to do and then left with Joe. Not a great day but the evening/night/next morning was spent in Little Woodstock. Beer is good.
As I said at the beginning though, things got a little better. This afternoon, head still throbbing a little from last night, I got a message from Joe. He’s in the coffee shop around the corner, the same one I was in last Sunday. He just found my passport. Result!
So overall not the worst week in the world but Friday could have been better. Monday should be interesting too.
James Vs World