Monday, January 22, 2007

Crashing the President's Farewell

I get up the next morning and I have heard nothing from my fellow co-workers. I call down to the front desk to see if I have any messages. “Oh good Morning Mr. Kim. How can we help you today?” Did she just call me Mister? “Um yes, did I get any messages this morning?” It seemed that I did not have any messages so I sat around the hotel until 8:30am until I finally decided to just go into work. I took a cab to the office and I politely asked the receptionist where I needed to go for the training. I was rushed to the 11th floor after squeezing onto an elevator with 20 people. I get off the elevator and some people beckon me into a room with 200 Korean people standing around. There must be a lot of people here for this training. I hear a voice up front speaking in Korean. There’s crying, speaking, clapping. I have no earthly idea what the heck is going on. I’m in there for an HOUR. Then the two men talking walk over to the door and everyone files out one by one- shaking the men’s hands and bowing. Uh oh. And they’re video taping it. Uhhhh-ohhhh. What do I do? There’s no way out. What the hell do I say? So finally, I got the nerve and walked up to each man, shook his hand, mumbled something like “Thank You!” and bowed politely. Then I quickly located someone that spoke English and they lead me to my class. Later, I found out after 8 cups of coffee that:

1. I wasn’t supposed to be on the 11th floor or at that event.
2. The event was the changeover of our new President. So, I met both men, on accident.
3. It’s all on film…there’s proof of my ridiculousness.

My teachers also seemed to think I was Korean until they met me. The class roster had me listed as Tran Kim. Kim is a popular Korean last name. So, naturally, they assume I could not have Kim as my first name. When I first started work, all my paperwork always said Tran Kim. So when people met me at work or spoke with me on the phone, they would always say incredulously, “You are Tran Kim? But you are not Korean!” Then they would all laugh and ask me, “So, your first name is Kim?” It would always be a good laugh for them.

Later that day I started to feel ill. My nose starts running and I begin to get a headache. One of the teachers tells me that he will take me to the drugstore after dinner. After class, our hosts took us out to eat. I was excited because this was my first crack at real Korean food. We walk up the street and right into an Outback Steakhouse. HUH? I fly all the way over to Korea to eat at a chain steak restaurant touting an Australian theme? So, I had a steak and a Foster’s. I ran into a Korean drugstore to get some much needed over the counter meds and picked up several boxes of indecipherable directions and names of pills.

I wake up and I am ill. And not from the Korean Outback Steakhouse sick- I have the CNN Avian flu outbreak sick. I go through class like a zombie, trying to make it through the day and hopefully try not to die in class. I rush back to the hotel and get some much needed rest. I managed to drag myself out of the hotel and into the street to get some food. I decided to go to the American place because I didn’t feel very adventuresome. An Army guy named Pete sat next to me at the bar. He talked about where to go on the weekends and was a little patronizing about educating me on the ways of Koreans. He yakked on and on about Korean girls that hung out in the bars waiting for an American to whisk them away to USA life. I listened to him babble as I drank a beer and had the worst burger I have ever had in my entire life. I highly doubt it was beef. By now, I feel like I need to make a call to the WHO Organization. So I bid Pete adieu and crawled to a taxi and back into my room.

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