Alien Registration Card – Wednesday 8th November (Korean Accounts 2000-2001)
Today, Mr Jo, my boss, took me to the other side of Daegu to get my alien registration card. The journey took us half an hour and I realised that the city meanders through several large valleys and is much larger than I thought. He has just spent the weekend in Jeju-do, a rather beautiful holiday island of the southern most tip of Korea. At the registration office I had to have all of my finger prints taken as well as ink prints of my hands. I arrived back at school late but somebody else had started my classes.
In class, one of the boys kept writing on his desk and I asked him to stop on several occasions. When I went to take the pencil out of his hand he tightly hung on to it so I simply stabbed his hand with the point of a pencil I was holding in my other hand. He shrieked and let his pencil go. ‘Don’t fuck with me,’ I said in English. The Korean teachers often ask me what I do with bad behaviour in an English school. When I tell them there is almost nothing you can do, they are astounded.
Grade six kids had a party in the Lotteria restaurant which is next door to my school but on the ground floor. I should add that Lotteria is a sort of Korean McDonald’s which is very popular. I didn’t know any of the children so I sat at a table of Korean teachers who one by one moved to another table. I have subsequently discovered this is because they are embarrassed by not being proficient at spoken English. Even the teachers who do speak English avoid you. One of them did ask me if I wanted some food and even though I said I didn’t, she nevertheless went and bought me some. When she brought me the food on a tray, she placed it in front of me and went and sat on the table with her colleagues. I then decided to go and sit with the Korean kids but they to moved away from me. Still I persevered and moved onto an adjoining table but they to quickly moved away. Eventually, a couple of brave girls tried to speak to me in English but giggled and ran away before I could respond. I don’t think any of them had ever spoken to a westerner. In the end they began to crowd around me, a few stroked my arms as they are fascinated with hairy arms and one girl sat holding my hand as she talked to her friend about how big it was. Others poked me in the back like I was some simian zoo exhibit. In my paranoia, I felt they were poking me to see if I had pillow padding underneath my shirt. It wasn’t a very pleasant experience.
Winter has suddenly arrived and today there is a distinct chill in the air. Mr Jo told me there is a party for Nana and I on Friday and that we will be going for a meal and then to a noraebang – this is Korean karaoke. I had read all about the Korean obsession with noraebang in travel guide books before I left the UK (because there was nothing on the internet in 2000) and they all advised one to learn a song that can be sung from memory. I have actually been dreading it as I hate such forms of entertainment.