I'll have to admit that absolutely everything feels different here. Today was one of the more bizarre days I've had in recent recollect.
After killing a few hours on poached Internet (I was up at 6 a.m for no apparent reason), I looked out of my window to enjoy the wonders that is Masan's city scape to witness a sight for the sorest of eyes; a gym! Even better, this gym was nary a stone throw away. I'm not joking when I say that the building was less than 75 feet away. I quickly strapped into my britches and made my way over there to investigate.
Since the 4th floor was only accessible by elevator, I was greeted by the sounds of Korean Pop and overwhelmingly bright neon lights when the doors opened. The front desk girl was nice enough to show me around, only after I committed the faux paus of wearing shows past the special line, the premises and did here best in broken English to explain the pricing. The membership shakes down to be about 30 dollars a month when paid for in 3 month increments. While there were a plethora of treadmills, their free weight section was severely lacking. I will investigate more tomorrow.
I made it back to the ranch at about 10 a.m were my Korean co-teacher Yuna was waiting for me with a man that coaches Judo. Yuna's English is decent but the Judo coach speaks none. Well he spoke enough to give me the now seemingly mandatory "you very handsome!." From here on out, Judo coach he will be known as only "Coach". Coach escorts Yuna and I stealthily trough the traffic laden street of Masan to the neighboring city of Changwon. In Changwon, I met up with education officials to verify documents and provide additional signatures.
Coach and Yuna then insisted on taking me out to a traditional Korean eatery. There wasn't any complaints from me because I think the last sustenance I had was the dollar banana I bought in Vancouver a day prior. We walked into the establishment and take our shoes off and sit cross legged while Galbi is cooked right in front of us on the grill. Keep in mind that this was my first Korean meal, and coupled with the fact that I enjoy the taste of plain oatmeal, I am clearly no expert in fine cuisine but this food was amazing! We had beef Galbi with a plethora of sides including various types of Kimchee, a bean sauce and a spiced crab called, if I remember correctly, kay-tong. The only thing I didn't care for was, surprisingly enough, the bean soup. I just wasn't prepared to see one of those gigantic sea shrimps with its shriveled eyes looked straight back into my soul.
Coach and Yuna dropped me off at my apartment. Coach came back an hour later unannounced, though I don't necesarily think "unannounced" is the correct term because I can't be reached by traditional methods (land line, cell phone, smoke signals). Coach determined that this would be a good time for me to meet the principal although he didn't exactly say that because, well, he can't. He just rang my doorbell and gestured with his hands that I needed to follow him. This is where things become bizarre. I should have been tipped of by the seemingly innocuous events such as a three little, I'm guessing 6 years old, Korean girls dangling out of the window of a speeding bus to wave and yell emphatically "hi teacher!" Let's not forget that in the thousand or so people I have seen here walking the streets, I have yet to encounter another foreigner. Coach and I proceeded to walk down to the school about a mile away. Keep in mind that there is no English exchanged so I really don't know where I am going or what I am walking into. We walk through town and make our way to a clearing. This clearing, as we approach and it becomes strikingly unmistakable, is none other then a middle school. Masan Seo middle school to be exact.
We walk up on the track where there are P.E classes taking place. One by one students stop running to start staring. Children standing in near proximity nudge other students to sire their attention in my direction. Quickly I become the center of attention.
Coach brings me into the school, sans shoes mind you, to meet with the principal. I sit down from across the table with him, and shit you not the first thing out of his mouth is, "you are very handsome." Of course, the conversation goes other places such as why I chose Korea, where I am from, do I like my apartment and weather I have a girlfriend or not. In between questioning, a women scurries in with a cup of delicious hot tea for me. The principal, whose name I have since forgotten, tells me that I have to come up to the teachers' lounge, he says that he wants to introduce me to some of the staff. I didn't know "some of the staff" meant "all of the staff" because of student recess. So there I am, lead into the teachers lounge with roughly 40 Korean teachers watching me as the principal talks into a microphone. His speech is an introduction of yours truly I know this as I hear the words Montana, United States, and "delicious Korean food (he mentions this because I told him I thought the food was really good moments earlier). Students are congregating outside of the frosted glass to try and get a peak at the "foreigner." It about this time that the principal hands me the microphone. "What do I say?" is what I asked of Yuna. "Just tell them about yourself," she said. So I told them in the most simple English that I was able to muster that I was indeed from Montana, lived in Hawaii and thought Korean food is delicious. Yuna waited until I was finished to translate.
Coach and I walk downstairs to the track field where a fresh session of P.E is taking place. It's the same scenario only this time not only are the P.E students all looking at me, students are hanging out of the windows of the school, from the 4th story in some places, yelling things like "you very handsome!" and "hey teacher!" Coach sires me over to play volleyball and all the kids think it's the greatest thing in the world; a not-fat American. We play Volleyball for the hour and then Coach gesture that I am going to play him in Badminton. We walk out back where Coach enjoys a cigarette while dry mopping the wrestling-matt lined "Badminton court" barely dry. Thinking about it now, with how wet the slippery court was and the fact that Coach and I were in dress shoes, it was recipe for a torn ACL. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Coach and I play for a half hour and then he tags out for another P.E teacher who plays me for another half hour. Both men were extremely complimentary to my athletic prowess (just can't let them see me playing basketball I guess) and Coach, through interpeation, says that he "would like very much to drink with me". In fact, the principal came out to watch us and has also taken a liking to me. It seems that the previous foreign teacher was very quiet and introverted. "I find you quite enjoyable, I'd like to soon take you to my house for dinner soon," said the principal. "Thank you sir, that sounds nice," was my response. We then exchanged bows and parted ways.