He holds his coffee as if it is a gift from God. This gift was never extended to me or any of the other foreign teachers. But watching him wait patiently for the coffee to drip slowly into his cup, like a child supervising their mother baking cupcakes, I felt like I too was able to drink the coffee. Of course, I can’t drink the coffee. The nice old man didn’t even offer us a cup when he installed it. The nice old man just came in one day with it and showed only them, not us. We are the neglected children toys of the office, only sought out when they realize we are worth thousands on E-Bay auctions.
But tomorrow is my last day so I must find a way to say goodbye to people I have studied for one year when they called me simply, “foreign teacher,” the entire time. But now, they probably won’t even notice the new person at my desk. My replacement has the same color hair as me so they will never know. I like to think he will notice. Of all the others, he will miss my invisible presence, like when people miss their moles after they are removed.
As for my goal of talking to the Anchovy for an entire conversation, I failed. I didn’t know what to say. The only thing I know we have in common is we get water at the same time, and we both believe in ghosts, I assume. I have no idea. I have a new goal of getting a selfie with him on my last day of work, I’m not sure how that will go.
Yeah, that goal failed, too.
The Anchovy has a kid. I have said this before, but I just want to remind you. That kid is 100 days old today. In Korea, this is an important day which is celebrated with gifts of food and drink. So let’s all take a moment to say congrats to the Balding Anchovy and his unknown wife about their 100 day old baby. Based on the name of the child, I cannot tell if it is a boy or a girl. In Korea, boy and girl names are completely interchangeable. Isn’t that cool and super trendy now?
Today’s it. Today’s the day I say goodbye. I don’t know what is going to happen, but I did my hair and makeup for real today. So anything goes really. I will have many hours to think about as I have nothing to do at work today.
There will be a party, I will have to say something to all of them as parting words. I don’t know anything I want to say; I mostly just want to take a picture to prove they all exist, especially Anchovy and Loud Chewer. Loud Chewer chews so loud. There are no words to express how loud it is, except excessive smacking noises. Some people think I make them up. I can’t make this up. For one year, I’ve been starred at while also being ignored at the same time. Like a homeless man selling cans. I suppose the weirdest thing about leaving is becoming visible again. Fully visible, not just a zoo animal to be watched be never approached.
In the moment I decided to say, very uncomfortably, “This year has been fun. Let’s eat.” This was coupled with nervous gesturing towards the snacks they bought for me. The perfect way to end this experience. I ate the snacks and smiled politely so I could leave and never come back. I said goodnight as I was leaving, but they still said nothing to me. Sounds about right, eh?
Other than that, I’ve just been reflecting on all that I’ve done this year. And it wasn’t a lot. Sure, I did a lot of travelling, and I’m about to go to India (this part was written before I went India), but I still don’t know how to pay bills or balance a checkbook. But what 23 year old really knows how to do that stuff anyway. And what does it mean to even balance a checkbook? When is it unbalanced? Why does balancing help your financial situation anymore?
There are some things that living here has taught me. For example, I want to be an elderly Korean woman. They have so much confidence. They will do or say anything they want. That is the way to live. (Unless you are a man talking about reproductive rights. You shut up.) So every day we should all say to ourselves, we deserve as much as an elderly Korean woman does. (Again, unless you are a man talking about reproductive rights.) That means you deserve the seat on the subway, and you deserve to push anyone down that gets in your way, even a nice younger woman carrying many bags. You deserve to put your stuff down at the checkout counter first, even before the people behind you. You deserve the best.
You deserve to harass people on the street until they take your Jesus tissues. Or force them to grope you for some reason. Nevermind, please don’t do that. That is not okay. An old lady did that to me. It was not okay. But you deserve to enter the many women-over-60 beauty contests and win. You deserve it all.
Now we know we all deserve the best. I will apologize for the lateness of this post. I started it a long time ago, but couldn’t finish it. I didn’t feel like the experience was over yet. But when I finally got my license renewed, I realized that my year in Korea is over. The experience has changed, and everyone wants me to reflect on it now. That means I must officially say goodbye to the Balding Anchovy. This was difficult. What made it the most difficult was learning that the foreign teachers are now required to talk to the Korean teachers for 30 minutes twice a week. I want to know if he wonders if the tongue or the lips get in the way more for a dentist.
I must accept that he is a mystery I will never fully know. Because I don’t speak Korean and he doesn’t speak English well. He is probably just a normal dude that is shy. But in the words of Wonder Woman, “It’s about what you believe” (read in bad Gal Gadot accent), and I believe he is teacher by day and crime-fighting anime character by night. Based on the evidence though, that is the most logical explanation of his life.