Thursday, September 27, 2007

Happy Chuseok!

It's Chuseok here in Korea. Or to be more accurate, Chuseok has just finished. But for me, since I don't work on Fridays, it is a break of 10 days during which I only have to work one. That day was yesterday. A Thursday. A Thursday after Itaewon Pool League Wednesday, unfortunately. Let me splain.

Chusoek is Korean Thanksgiving. It is the end of summer and usually the weather makes a miraculously sudden change on one day during Chuseok and never is summer heard from again until the following year. I think today is that day. I actually used my blanket while sleeping last night for the first time since last spring. The modifier in the previous sentence is intentionally dangling because for all intents and purposes, I DON'T sleep in the summer in Korea. I just sweat, toss and turn, wake up 10 or 20 times to take on or unload liquid, exchange wet bedding for dry, towel off, or turn on the air con for another hour, get hungrier and grumpier. I hate Korean summer with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns, but it's Chuseok, it's Chuseok, thank God it's Chuseok!

Chuseok is the harvest time celebration for Koreans. They celebrate with family. They usually go away from Seoul and into the "country" to an older relative's house clogging roads and polluting the air with car exhaust so that Korean towns almost resemble large, Chinese cities. But not Seoul. Seoul is awesome during Chuseok! It's relatively empty. No traffic, no line-ups, no hustle, no bustle. Many businesses close and conveniences like transit and taxis are cut back but everything needed, (7-11 and bars), is open during Chuseok. So despite offers to join the mass exodus away from Seoul and visit friends in the nether regions of Korea, (something I swore off after about a 14-hour trip from Kangwha Do to Yong In, normally a 4-hour trip, during Chuseok my first year in Korea), I stayed close to Seoul this Chuseok.

Itaewon, a sort of foreigner district of Seoul, is a lot of fun during Chuseok. I hung out there this year and played pub sports and drank with friends. It was great. The only problem was the one day of work. It happened to be the day after pool night. I take a 2-hour trip into Seoul from Yangju on Wednesday nights so that I can play, (lose), two or three games of pool for my team, (Woodstock Rocks), in the Itaewon Pool League. After the match finishes up, (10:30-11:00 pm), I can hop on the very last subway for a 3-hour trip home. But the prospect of 3 hours on or waiting for subways is far less appealing to me than most tortures. The alternatives, which I usually end up choosing, involve chemical mind alteration, sleep deprivation, dehydration, personal hygiene neglect, forced labour and therefore literally ARE torture.

This past Wednesday Woodstock Rocks played the Wolfhound Pub. After my two hour trip, rushing to the Wolfhound pub to make it exactly at 7:30 I waited an hour for my first game. In my first game I sunk 5 balls in my first shot. The guy I played sunk all HIS balls plus the 8 on his shot. So I lost having only shot once. Then I waited another hour for a game of doubles that was more competitive but which Chris and I lost. That was it. You can understand why I decided that taking a 3-hour trip home after that would have made all my efforts seem not at all worth my while. What the hell, I don't sleep during the summer anyway!

So I went back to Woodstock to play some pool on a familiar table in a familiar bar and vie against, (lose to), familiar people. Since I am a drunken pool master I felt some chemical mind alteration via C.C., Smirnoff and Sambuca was in order. PLENTY of mind alteration. Then some time around the hour of 5 the owner of Woodstock, Mr. Woo, offered me the use of his drunk bunk, which I gratefully accepted considering myself lucky to be getting any sleep at all. Some Wednesday nights, including the previous one, I don't sleep at all. So after closing my eyes for an hour or two I washed my face and hair with cold water, ate a Macdonalds big breakfast and went to work. I taught from 10-6 dehydrated, unshowered, hungover, tired as hell and in the same smoke and alcohol scented clothes I had worn all night.

As luck would have it, one of the workers at H.U.F.S. was going from classroom to classroom with "surveys" for the students to take. I use the quotation marks to imply that these surveys were fake. Chuseok is the biggest holiday of the year in Korea. It was Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this year. Lots of my students had told me that most of their other teachers, (the Korean ones), had cancelled classes on Thursday and Friday. And on Thursday it was obvious to me that this was true. The school was deserted. Nobody with half a brain would choose this day to do any survey. But at the beginning of this term we, (the foreign English teachers), were given a memorandum with instructions not to cancel classes or shorten them in any way. The "surveys" were probably just an excuse to check up on us. And while the "surveyor" was in my classroom looking into my blooshot, hungover eyes and probably smelling my sweaty, smokey stinkiness, one of my dear students came up to me and said, "David! David! Is only one hour class today?"

I have an hour-long class and a two hour class in the morning and the same in the afternoon on Thursdays. I had let the students from my morning two-hour class go home after an hour and was planning to do the same with my two hour afternoon class. Aparently my student, Na Ra had found out from a member of my morning two-hour class. But with the "surveyor" now fully aware of the possibility of my doing this, I had to teach the whole two hours just in case she DID give the survey to my class. You see she WAS in my class but she left without giving the survey, then told me she would be back "later" to give it. She never came back but I taught the full classes in the afternoon.

I have sworn several times to quit the damn pool team. We had too many players last week anyway. Mr. Woo, our best player, only played one game because of it. I'm very close to picking up the phone right now and quitting. But after a nice long weekend and Wednesday off, I'll probably be ready to go through this nonsense again next week. Arrgh! But at least it's finally fall!

Happy Chuseok!

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