From the BK to the SK
So when I moved to Korea, I wasn't too alarmed by the medical masks many people wear around the city - they are an accessory, much like a bag or earrings or hot pair of kicks. The medical masks come in different designs and colors, some pink or white or blue, some with the mouth of a pig or a cartoom character where a person's real mouth is.
It was a little bit strange teaching with one or two of my most actiely engaged students wearing them, but that all subsided and I don't think I'd notice if my entire class showed up with them on.
Koreans are very obsessive about staying healthy and not getting sick, which is probably one of the reason why most places in Korea can feel like you've been instantly transported onto an iceberg in the Arctic.
The only place I've been in Korea where I feel like I could pass out from the heat is at my fitness center, but most all places, including my school, leave windows open to clean the air and kill the germs.
My office and the classroom are relatively warm, and when I say that I mean I wear my jacket and scarf inside. It takes about 20 minutes for my hands to reach a freezing point where typing at my computer is painful yet keeps the blood circulating to through my hands. But going to the bathroom is something I absolutely dread, sometimes feeling the need to ready myself with a countdown as if I am about to run a race.
The second I open my office door, my the hair on my arms stand up straight and goose bumps cover my entire body. I don't wear my jacket or scarf to the bathroom because it's squatty potties, and, well, I don't think that really needs an explaination.
The hallways are a tundra, and I absolutely hate when teachers stop me and decide to have a converation with me en route to the bathroom. I stand there, shivering by the wide open windows as the air rushes up and down the halls like a wind tunnel, as they search for the words to have a converation with me. It's kind of the same feeling I get when naked women attack me in the locker room of my fitness center: Can this really not wait five more minutes?
Most of the time I will chatter my teetth loudly enough for the teachers to realize that perhaps this is not the time or the place for a conversation, and I race to the batrhoom, my hands literally frozen to the tips.
And if the hallways are a tundra, then the batrhooms are a war zone. There is no separate bathroom for the teachers, which I do find very strange, and literally the second I step inside my stomach turns and I lose my breath, partly because overwhelming stench and partly because I decide to stop breathing.
The stalls are like walking along the shorelines of a beach - there are puddle of water that start to take form sometime after the first class and get even worse after the men clean the bathrooms. Why? Because they take a mop that seems like they've had submerged in the Atlantic Ocean for a solid three days, spalsh it down on the floor and call it a day. They don't actually "mop" the floors.
Anyway, so I do my business and have since decided to skip the bathroom sink because the soap smells somewhat like corroded animals that have been dead for 20 years. I realized this one day when I yawned and almost vomitted from the smell. But don't worry - I wash my hands at the office sink he second and use sanitizer. (There are many teachers and students who skip the sink, and I just silently hope that they have reached the same conclusion and solution as I have.)
Then I brace myself, walking at the most rapid pace that my legs can carry me at without causing a scene or drawing any more attention to myself than there already is (I still cannot walk down the halls without "HELLO!" or "HI!" coming from every which direction. It's actually caused me to trip).
I am relieved to return back to my office and sit back at me seat only to realize a few minutes later it's not much warmer than the hallways. I learned that there are ways to cope with the situation:
1. A seat warmer: Much like seat warmers in a car, though at times they do tend to get warm enough to lead you to believe you peed your pants. (Sorry, but it's true.)
2. A space heater: I can place one under my desk to avoid frostbite on my toes.
3. Handwarmers and gloves: I need to purchase these immediately, or else I am not sure that I will make it through the winter.
Funny thing is, the temperature outside, more often than not, is about 10 degrees warmer than it is inside of my school.

Leave a Reply.