How have you been enjoying the “Seoul Novel” – a collaborative effort between the Street Novel-ing Tumblr blog “Just Seoul” (that I still have yet to officially confirm is being posted by my old reader PhatDog, but I don’t know who else it could be?), a reader and friend’s first person narrative “Just Eric” over at Eric’s own WordPress blog (that was inspired by me, thank you very much), and of course, my contribution of 2nd-person one-paragraph micro-stories about this shared universe.
Well, hope you’ve found in interesting… and now get ready for the riotous conclusion! Working in tandem, all three of us will host one part of the finale that is going to mix up the different styles from each blog. I will start, and then when the other pages are posted I’ll link to them as well.
Get ready… because here it comes!
Just You – Finale
You are Ken, a teacher at a DIP Cool Schools franchise located on Cool School street in suburban Seoul. This started out as a tough year after you broke up with your long time girlfriend who you’d come here with from New Zealand almost 10 years ago. Back then all the foreigners in Korea were teaching plain old English and basically you were just babysitting little kids after school. Then following the All-English changeover these cool schools came along. You thought the whole thing was pretty silly but your ex Catherine really took it to heart and started partying with all these new American teachers and couldn’t take how boring you then seemed. At least, that’s what she told you in front of everyone in the teachers’ office on the day she dumped you. That was annoying and you really just wanted to yell back at her and then quit, but instead you took the high road and in a few months everything got better; you and Catherine made up, you started dating someone new, and even your job started to be fun as your school went from teaching those kids how to be cool to using nothing but gibberish in class. Catherine and the other teachers were offended by the ridiculousness of being asked to teach this gibberish and threatened mutiny at the school almost every night. You, on the other hand, really had no problem with this material, it made about as much sense to you as either the cool schools or English teaching did, since in your opinion none of it had much to do with any kind of real education otherwise they would have hired actual teachers and not just guys like you with university degrees, a ton of debt and nothing better to do. So you were happy when you found out that your friend Eric, the man who actually invented the gibberish curriculum, was coming to your school on that night to work alongside you as a teacher again.
After about 6 months away, I walked into the teachers’ office and found that the principal had cleared off my old desk for me. I was not popular among my peers but at least that principal always liked me. He was a middle-aged guy, who was more of a salesman than an educator, good at talking to parents and getting them to re-enrol their kids month after month. His supernaturally slicked back hair seemed to be held in place by ectoplasm, and even though I never saw him actually smoke there was something leathered and yellow about his skin that made me always imagine him as a guy smoking. I’m also pretty sure that he had sex with one of the secretaries in my apartment once while I was working at the head office in the afternoon. Since the apartments were rented to the teacher’s through the school he had a key to my place, and when I came home that day the sheets were all messed up, which was something the old me might have done but at that point I’d always made my bed before going out. Then a couple of days later I found an empty condom wrapper between the side of my bed and the wall that was definitely not mine. Anyways, what could I do, I was lucky to order lunch successfully in Korea so I had no idea how to navigate complaining about that!
From his office, the principal saw me enter the teachers’ room and he came over, put an arm around me, got way to close to my lips with his lips, and welcomed me back (at least I could then confirm that he really was a smoker). He announced my return to the other teachers in the office and said how lucky they were going to be to have the architect of the gibberish language working alongside them again. They all groaned and barely looked up from their desks. He offered my help if they had any questions about the material, something I didn’t remember volunteering to do. Then Ken, my only legitimate friend who worked here, came in from behind, put his arm around me from the other side, and I was quickly stuck in a bobbing dance to an awkwardly mangled “Welcome Back” song he and the principal improvised to the tune of “Happy Birthday.” No one else was amused, or even seemed to be paying attention, but we laughed. Then the principal said he wanted to introduce us to the two other new teachers starting that night.
The principal clapped his hands and spoke more sternly, telling everyone sitting at their desks to turn around. Only about half of the teaching staff were actually here as it was still 20 minutes before the first class and the rest probably weren’t going to arrive until right before the bell, but the ones who were here did begrudgingly turn around. The first guy introduced was a shock: Steven my old annoying co-worker from the head office who I had gotten fired. He was giving me an incredible death stare and Ken poked me and whispered to ask if I knew this guy. Then the principal called in the next teacher and I was even more stunned to see the North Korean Princess! I’d obsessed over this woman for weeks and even dumped my girlfriend for her on Valentine’s Day. Unlike Steven, she didn’t look at me once. Ken again poked me and commented this time on how hot she was, and he was right, she looked more gorgeous than ever. I needed to talk to her. Even though we’d never really spoken a single word to each other before, the last time I saw her we’d shared an escalatingly humiliating romantic escapade and I needed to apologise, ask for her forgiveness and to beg her to give me another chance.
The principal next announced to the teachers that some classes tonight were going to be observed. Steven would observe Catherine, the North Korean Princess would observe me, and as well the CEO and COO from the DIP Cool Schools head office were going to be here soon to observe everyone starting with Ken. I thought this piece of news was a bit alarming. I had a good relationship with those executives since I’d helped them to change all of their franchise cool school curriculum into the insanely popular gibberish language. However, hearing that they were going to be here on the same night I was making my return to teaching made me paranoid. Did they know that I’d lost all confidence in my new cool personality? Are they coming to get rid of me by proving I was breaching my contract somehow and getting my work visa revoked? I didn’t have any basis for these suspicions but I just figured it had to be something sinister because these guys never came out to the suburbs to observe classes, they were simply too important. I turned to the principal and tried to speak in gibberish and tell him that those executives should turn around and go home, an easy enough command that my gibberish powers would have made come true days ago, but the principal just looked at me confused, patted me on the shoulder and led me over to the North Korean Princess.
He tried to explain to her that I was the first teacher she was going to observe, pointing at me and the door with sign language since she none of these North Koreans could speak any English. Then in a message that was also meant for all the teachers to hear, he futilely told her to be sure to take notes since I was the real expert around here and that incited more groans from the ever growing room of teachers. In fact, all those teachers were whispering to each other and seemed like they want to say or do something as a group, probably complain about the gibberish language content, especially with me in the room. Since I was standing in the centre and they were all around me, I burst out into a gibberish speech that was supposed to make them change their feelings about my material and go into class tonight with a great attitude. Instead they all just shook their heads, Steven said, “See!” and even Ken rolled his eyes at me.
The bell rang to signal that classes would be starting in a five minutes and the teachers all gathered up their materials and headed off to their rooms without any mutiny anyways, even though I noticed that Steven was bonding with some of them pretty quickly. I started walking to class and the North Korean Princess followed beside me. This was my chance to explain myself, even though I didn’t really know what to say or how to make her understand exactly how I felt. With one last desperate attempt I started rambling on in animated and passionate gibberish. This time something clicked, my honest and heartfelt emotions were coming through and I could feel the power tingling in my body again with each new word. Her avoiding eyes went from quick blinks in my direction to a full on love stare by the time we got to the classroom door. I was re-energised and just in time, moments before going back in front of those kids and teaching the gibberish language content that I’d invented and had changed my world.
You are the North Korean Princess. Your bodyguard was hiding in the DIP Cool Schools washroom with orders from your parents to kill the foreigner who’d dared to touch their daughter. Fortunately, much like most most men who spent just a few minutes around you, he was completely in love and would do whatever you said. You didn’t want the white guy dead since he was obsessed with you and this was something you could work to your advantage in some way. Although you weren’t sure how at that moment, maybe watching him teach would be a good start. You were supposed to start teaching gibberish to these moronic South Korean children soon and you had no idea what that meant. The principal of this school didn’t really have much of a choice when it came to hiring you, not after your bodyguard recommend it to him. That’s how things are going to work in this country soon enough, you thought, your family has money and that means power so once all these poor people on the street are weeded out and things settle down, your people will be back on top. Until then you needed some way to blend in and a job was a minor suffering you’d have to endure. Of course, you weren’t really a princess. You were no more royalty than the president of South Korea was a king, but you heard the white guy call you that and you liked it. And, oh yeah, you could speak English fine too, but he didn’t have to know that.