My Brilliant Korea
January 20, 2010
People at my school like to film me doing stuff.
In the few short months I have been a teacher in Seoul, I have already starred in multiple PR videos, (most notably a clip where I was captured delivering a high-five to a reluctant student).
So, it came as no surprise to me when one of my co-teachers, Jasmine, arrived at my classroom this week and informed me my acting skills would once again be needed.
“We need you to act as a foreign visitor at a hotel,” Jasmine told me.
I followed her to my school’s fictional hotel (complete with fake check-in counter and fake guest rooms) where I found dozens of people, cameras, lights, and a rather handsome Korean director waiting for me.
“We do a lehearsal,” the handsome Korean director said.
“Um, sorry? ” I replied.
“Leeeeee-her-sal,” he said again.
This seemed to be all the information available at that time.
So, without any more direction, I said the following to an incredibly nervous fake hotel receptionist (INFHR).
Me: I have a reservation.
INFHR: Can I help you?
Me: Yes, I have a reservation. My name is Miss B.
INFHR: Just a second (stands awkwardly).
Me: OK, no problem.
INFHR: Please fill out this form (does not produce a form).
Me: Do you have a form for me to fill out?
INFHR: Yes, here it is. And this is your room number. It is your room key.
Me: Great, thanks. Are there any places you could recommend I visit in Seoul? I’m here for one night.
INFHR: There is a Chinese restaurant in Myeong Dong. Have a nice day. Bye. Bye. Thank you.
With several hand gestures and some more broken English, the handsome Korean director indicated I had performed well and would need to wait in another room for a short time* before we would film the scene.
I wandered over to where Jasmine was standing with her mouth agape.
I assumed we were on the same page about what had just transpired.
“How embarrassing,” I whispered.
She shook her head.
“No, I cannot believe it,” she said, in awe.
“First you are perfect journalist. And perfect teacher. And perfect clothes and perfect face. And now you are a perfect actress. You are like perfect person. I envy you so much.”
Jasmine, it should be noted, is one of the most beautiful and intelligent women I have met in Seoul.
Not only that, she is happily married, with two gorgeous children, speaks two languages fluently and always matches her shoes with her handbag.
In my eyes, she is basically perfect.
On the other hand, I:
- can only name three African countries without the assistance of a map;
- quit a board game early if I am not winning;
- am often unforgiving;
- am impatient;
- grind my teeth in my sleep;
- play songs on repeat, sometimes up to a dozen times in a row;
- do not enjoy conversations before 10am (or before 9am, with the assistance of caffeine);
- often look quite unattractive before 10am (or before 2pm, if excessive soju has been consumed the previous evening).
And really, that’s just the start of my imperfection list.
The conversation with Jasmine caused me to have something of an epiphany.
It is absolutely pointless to envy anybody of anything, ever, because perception and reality are so vastly different, even among co-workers at a low-level high school in a south-west suburb of Seoul.
In fact, I am sure many of my students envied South Korean supermodel, Daul Kim, before she took her own life in a Paris hotel room in November.
I felt the need to share my epiphany with Jasmine.
“Jasmine,” I said.
“I ate two tubs of ice cream for dinner last night. Does that sound perfect to you?”
Bizarre Korean fact: *A “short time” in Korea can mean any length of time. In this case, it meant waiting three hours to film the aforementioned scene. I spent that time writing this blog post. Similarly, a “long way” can mean any distance. If a Korean person tells you something is a “long way” and you may need to “take a bus”, it can actually mean your destination is 50 metres up the road.
When Blythe was a journalism student at the Queensland University of Technology she interviewed the former Indonesian president, Abdurrahman Wahid.
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