From the BK to the SK
So one day last week, at around 9:00 a.m., the principal of my school came bopping into to my office; he always has a little bounce, a little spring in his step the elevates his height an inch taller than he actually stands. He came over to my desk, as usual, looks at my computer screen and the words trip off his tongue: Teaching Materials?
Truth be told, I could be reading a site that tells me how to make a bomb, and this guy really would have no idea. I tell him I am reading the news, and he says, "Today's topic?" It's news - there are many topics, but his feigned curiousity and interest warm my heart, along with his attempt at english.
Anyway, the secretary then proceeds to ask me, after having a conversation with the principal, if I like Korean pasta and Chinese tea. I knew exactly what this meant. I tell her yes, and next thing I know I have an appointment to get a long overdue lunch with the principal while she serves as our third wheel and translator.
Any type of Korean fare usually turns into a binge eating fest, where people are constantly funneling food down your throat and never take no for an answer. Everything is communal and shared, so I was preparing myself for the big stomach ache that would lay ahead.
I was beyond relieved when we went to a little pasta house in the uni area that I've been to before and I was able to pick my own dish and what I wanted to eat. Ha, he knocked his orange juice over in the first minute or two of our lunch, and the secretary said she thought maybe he was very nervous. She spoke English with me very plainly and openly about him or about the meal or about the day because we both knew he didn't understand, and though it was nothing mean or rude, I just felt rude or disrespectful in a way. (I wonder if they talk about me without me knowing, but Alexandra is a hard name to miss in a conversation.)
I found it surprising that he talked so openly with me about North Korea, what my reaction was to the past situation (I didn't have the heart to tell him I was almost excited about a possible war...) and how many family and friends felt back home. I left out my fascination with North Korea and the people there and their lifestyle, though he does know about it to a degree; I've said that the place I want to most visit in Korea is the DMZ, or the demilitarized zone. Koreans cannot go to this place (Koreans also can't gamble, but there are casinos in Korea...sidenote), and its so ridden with history and current events. I am just terribly intrigued by the enigma that is North Korea.
Anyway, I am rambling a bit. He was saying some of the nicest things about me that anyone has ever said, about how he thinks that I am will be successful in life and he is so incredibly proud of me and my teaching methods. It kind of made me feel guilty about all the times I've slacked off.
I knew going into this day that it wouldn't be a simple rendevouz. My entire day, from lunch on, was no longer in my hands. It was in the hands of my principal. So, after lunch we went to get some tea at a traditional Chinese tea house near this mountain in my city called Palgong Mountain. (Have I mentioned before that Daegu is in the mountains? I've never been to Colorado before, but it reminds me of Boulder or DEnver or something.)
The tea house was enchanting. It was nestled at the base of this mountain, a little ways off the road that is a total secret and a gem. My principal says that he likes to conduct business here, because although the business culture and meetings revolve around drinking and alcohol, he doesn't like to drink. He prefers to drink tea.
It was like drinking tea in a doll's house. The tables were traditional Korean style: low to the ground, so we had to sit on the floor. We were given two teacups, each of which was small enough for me to between my thumb and pointer finger. 
He told me all about the traditional tea etiquette when you're in a formal setting, and we tasted a variety of different teas until my stomach hurt. Literally - we made up for the usual Korean binge eating for binge drinking tea.
The owner is a woman who has a son studying in Beijing, China, and who said that opening a tea shop was her calling in life. She loves learning about tea, the powers behind it and spreading her knowledge to all her guests, and because my principal is a regular, we received the royal treatment. She roasted sweet potatoes for us, which she heated on a portable grill that looked more like a bug zapper for mosquitos. When they were hot enough, she put them on a plate for us and we peeled the skin off and ate the potato.
We talked about different cultural aspects of our lives, and about the things the EPIK program had warned schools about when it comes to the foreign teachers. Rule one was to not take us to too many traditional, Korean restaurants where we sit on the floor. He was told this would be highly uncomfortable for us. I agreed. I lasted about 35 minutes sitting indian style before I felt like pins and needles were attacking my legs and feet. 
I learned that my principal is from a very small, countryside town a little bit outside of Daegu. He told me he thinks that God brought us together: a country boy and a city girl, united in Daegu, Korea (his words, not mine). I just felt really grateful to have a principal who is so thoughtful with his words, genuine and careful with expressing himself and his feelings. The lunch was long overdue, he said, and he apologized for not taking me out sooner when I had first arrived in Korea.
Well, better late than never. I may have left the tea house in a tea coma instead of a food coma, but I definitely came to love the principal of my school more than before. He's beyond cute for words now, and the little pep in his step the next morning made my heart smile more than before.

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