Ah, my first day back at ‘work’. At my high school anyway. My dear old high school. It’s been almost a month away, and… what a glorious break that has been.
I’ve been doing my best (well, maybe not always my BEST) to focus on the things I’ll miss about Korea when I leave, while I’m still here. But it hit me this morning, as I watched my co-workers and officemates run around like crazy hyper little children, that I’ve been neglecting one aspect. Despite their best headless chicken impersonations, I’ll miss the laid-back attitude they have, culturally, when it comes to scheduling. I will really miss that. America doesn’t do too well with that attitude, I learned long ago.
When I first came and sat down in this fateful chair, I presumed that, of course there was a schedule, they just weren’t telling me. (Not on purpose, but, they’re busy, it’s translating work, I and my classes aren’t really important, so it’s a low priority.) But as I greeted my lovely co-teacher upon her arrival this morning, and 20 minutes later asked if the schedule would be ‘normal’, she replied ‘I don’t know.’ And it finally clicked that there really might not be a schedule yet. Even day of. Four minutes before my first class, if it was to exist, I got a mostly-comprehensive message summarizing the day’s schedule (it’s not the same).
And I realized- you know what? 4 minutes is PLENTY of time. Professionally speaking, I should already be prepared for whatever classes I suspected to have, and an additional ‘in-case’ class. Now, we won’t discuss if I had actually achieved that already (it’s debatable), but it hit me that I’m completely ok with that. Not only that, I often wished American schedules could be more similar. So what if schedules change in the last (literal) minute? Roll with it. I mean, if you’re performing a choreographed fight scene with edged weapons (first of all- why??), and someone changes that timing by mistake or a ‘why not?’ motive, and you lose an arm, ok, be upset. Those sort of plans should be more, well, planned. and adhered to. you know, ideally.
It’s another thing I liked about my last two jobs. I’d get 30 minutes notice (which, after Korea, feels like an eternity) that I was leaving early or had to come in unscheduled. Last 3 jobs, actually… Anyway.
The last mention I’d like to make of this, and the reason why I call it a part of Korean culture, and not just a habit of the academic workplace, is that this idea(l) is wholly applied to public transportation. And that realization hit me a couple months ago when I was going out to the boonies for a festival with a friend, and was asked a series of (very legitimate) questions- what time should we be at the bus terminal? what time will the bus leave? will we spend the night? if we do, where will we sleep? how will we get to where we will sleep? how long is the bus ride? what time will we leave to come back? etc. etc. My immediate and honest answer to all of those questions was a potently unperturbed, “dunno”. (followed shortly though, with a “we’ll find out when we get there.”)
And I gotta say, I love that about Korea.