This afternoon I had just finished my fifth class of the day and I felt like I was almost home free. I had one more class left. I was prepared, my papers were copied, and I knew what I was going to do with those kids. I was almost done, and I could already feel the relief start to take over. That is, until my co-teacher came into the teacher's room and told me "We have a little problem."
Now, this co-teacher is quite a character, so I thought it was probably just some minor thing that wasn't really a problem at all. However his reply went pretty much just like this:
"I heard according to the contract you aren't allowed to leave the country during Chuseok."
It was at this point I wanted to yell and throw things, but I just managed to hold it together enough to tell him that I know I am allowed to leave the country because NETs always travel during this break. If you give foreigners 5 days off in a row, people are going to travel. And they do in huge numbers every year during Chuseok break.
As he sat there reading through the contract, he got called somewhere else and left me with the contract, which I then furiously read through trying to find why he was so confused about this.
About ten minutes later he called my cell phone and asked me to bring the contract to the gym, where there was some sort of presentation going on. I gave him the contact, and although he wanted me to stay, I had to run off to teach my last class of the day.
Obviously it took a little more strength than I had at the moment to put on a smile for those fifth graders, but I think I kind of managed? In the middle of my class, my CT came in again, showing me part of the contract about vacations, at which I point I sternly and just a hair shy of yelling explained that Chuseok isn't part of my vacation, it's a Korean national holiday guaranteed in another part of our contract.
He then left again to call whoever is a supervisor at the office of education, only to barge into the room ten minutes later declaring that "Sorry! It's no problem! You can go!"
As if I were really going to cancel my plans at point anyway?
It takes a lot to get me mad, but this definitely pushed me to my limits. I'm left wondering why he even was looking into this at all (why does it matter what I do on days we don't have school), and why he waited until the very last minute to bring this up?
However, I should note this day totally redeemed itself when I was on my way out from school. I said goodbye to everyone in the teacher's office and was walking towards the bus stop when I was called back to say goodbye to the principal.
This wasn't any typical goodbye though--the principal wanted to give me something. He handed me an envelope, and my CT translated to tell me that he wanted me to have a great time in Japan.
When I walked a safe distance away I opened the envelope to discover a 50,000 won bill. That's about $50 for anyone keeping track.
I've had my share of uniquely Korean moments over the past year, but I have a feeling I am going to have WAY more this year. They warned us about these Korean surprises at orientation last year, but a year later they're keeping me on my toes more than ever.
Korea, you are taking me for the ride of my life. Some days I want to get off this crazy roller coaster, but I'm sure when it's over I'm going to miss the thrill of these experiences that are indescribably frustrating one moment and overwhelmingly kind and heartwarming the next.