Exhaustion and Relief

It’s funny. Yesterday morning I met one of my cool friends downtown for a coffee before work. I normally never meet anyone before lunch, partly because of my work schedule, and partly because nobody ever seems interested in meeting in the morning. So it was something different, anyway. But our conversation is a clue to something: one of the first things we talked about was how we both felt incredibly tired.

Well, after coffee and lunch, I headed to work. Work was alright, I suppose. My classes were mostly okay. The theology/travel-tourism kids tried a little harder this time, and I changed my teaching method with them a little, in a way that seemed to help them get into things. The music students were about the same as usual, which means they were pretty good, albeit with an annoying tendency to yap when they should be listening.

Then I went out for dinner with my LEC class. It was an interesting experience, though fun in the end. Some of the students are really relaxed and cool and just try to make their class situation work, while others seem continually distracted, or continually vigilant against metaphysical corruption by those who do not share in their particular theological outlook. People like that make relaxing and having fun a little difficult, because they really suck at conversations even in their own language. They either spout programmed lines that they’ve heard other adherents say, or they close off and neither listen nor react to what others say. And at my school there are a lot of kids who seem to think Christianity means viewing 95% of the world as sinners by whom they can be corrupted by the contagion of sin and unbelief. It’s saddest for them, since they tend to seem very unhappy, and tend not to learn very well, at least not from what I’ve seen…

But of course the dinner thinned out to a few cool people and they we had a funny, relaxed talk. After that, I headed back to JinLi Hall for my evening class. It’s still, in my opinion, ridiculous that a Friday night class should be held at all, and I think many of these students are doomed to fail this class. They won’t be practicing outside of class, they won’t be speaking any more later than they are now, I predict. And when it takes them 20 minutes to learn how to ask simple questions like “Is my pencil near you?” “Is it under your book?” “Is it on the floor?”—when my other classes get the exercise in about 3 minutes—it doesn’t move me to feel much hope.

After the class, I was dead tired. But could I go home? No.

Why? Well, you see, I like talking with the guy who runs a little coffee shop on campus. He’s a nice guy, and I always enjoy our little 5 minute chats when he makes me coffee. He’s figured out that my Korean is a little better than his English, and lets me speak in Korean to him. So a few weeks ago, he invited me out for a bottle of soju. Due to a miscommunication, he thought that I would be coming for sure on Friday night, though I’d told him we’d only go out if I came in by Thursday and told him that it was on.

He thought it was on no matter what, so on Friday night, while I was elsewhere having a very good conversation, this guy was sitting in the coffeeshop waiting for me. So when I next saw him, he told me in a rather hurt tone that he’d been waiting for me. I therefore made another appointment with him and promised to show up… on Friday night, after class. So dead tired or no, I had to show up. Luckily, he could see how tired I was, and we just had a few beers and some kebabs, and then ended the night. He’s a really nice guy, as I said, but it was less like a conversation and more like a lesson, and after teaching all day on a day when I am already exhausted, the last thing I need is to be giving another 2-hour lesson… least of all on a Friday night. Sometimes I’ve given friends lessons, gratis, or for the price of the coffee we sip as we study, but I’m not this guy’s friend already, and I don’t plan on hanging out every week with him.

Which means, probably, that going to the coffee shop is going to be ever so slightly awkward from now on. Ah, the situations I get into because I’m too friendly and white. I envy Myoung and Thai sometimes, that they can pass for any Cheolsu Lee (the Korean version of John Smith). It’s always to me that the weird gangster at the bank wants to talk to, and it’s always me that people want to extract English lessons from during my free time. I’ll just have to be firm; teaching is not my whole life, and if I spend all my free time doing that, I’ll never write any more novels.

Anyway, this morning is a fine morning. I’m listening to Medieval Baebes, on my friend Lynn‘s recommendation. I was a little worried about the group—an early-music group with the word “babes” in the name? It would have been a bad sign a few years ago, I think—but they’re actually quite good, from what I can tell having only been able to get one track (The Alba is a traditional poetic form used to tell the story of how secret lovers feel about about the coming sunrise which, when it comes, means that the lovers must separate unwillingly for the day… you can read an Alba that I wrote once, here… though this alba of mine has nothing to do with the parting of lovers, but instead is about the parting of a man from his innocence in the face of a coming war.)

This afternoon, I will go to the mountains with another good friend to see the spring blooms (this one’s the same one who was the second to try that April Fool’s trick on me, actually). I’ve been looking forward to this all week, and it’ll be nice to get out of the city, especially with such good company. We’re going to a place that’s apparently famous; a mountain with a Buddhist temple beside it, I assume, from the name. But until then, I’m going to try get my room tidied up, listen to some of these Flaming Lips albums I’ve downloaded, and see if I can make more coffee—the last pot I made, a few minutes ago, I spilled, losing all that precious coffee in a single instant. Ah well, it just means I need to make more.

Well, off I go, to get to it.

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