AN HOUR

Welcome to an hour of my life. The events of this hour are true, barely exaggerated, and are intended to show just how much can actually fit into one hour on Friday afternoon. Warning: A lot of sweating might occur.

Just before the workday ended at 4:40PM, my co-teachers and I were having a heart-to-heart. We discussed parenting, and what it means to be a good mother. Tears were shed. Tears. And then about five minutes later I was out the door and on my bike in my work clothes. Sweating.

I waved to three or four students as I quickly rode to the Global ATM across town. In order to make it to Seoul in time for my evening plans, I’d have to leave on the 5:40PM bus. After withdrawing money from my overseas account, I headed to the bus stop and purchased my ticket.

It was after 5PM according to Ochang’s clock tower (otherwise known as Homeplus), and I still had to pack for the weekend. I raced back to my apartment, bowing to a teacher from my school, and waving to several more students along the way.

Every time I leave my apartment I feel like I’m in a Disney movie. Like the scene from Beauty and the Beast when Belle busts out in song and everyone around town says, “Bonjour!”

[Student #1]
Hello!

[Student #2]
Hello!

[Teacher #3]
Hello!

[Student #4]
Hello!

[Student #5]
Hello!

There goes “Chase Teacher” on his bike like always,
The same old shirt and pants to wear,
Every day just the same, since the day that he came,
To this poor provincial town,
Hello, 'Chase Teacher'!

The scene back at my apartment was anything but Disney. It was a mess. I couldn’t find anything. It was hot. I just piled everything in a suitcase. And at around 5:25PM I was running late, out the door, sweating profusely.

I didn’t think about turning off the gas on my stove, or making sure the iron was unplugged until I was about three minutes down the street. Too late to turn back, so I just said a little prayer.

Ahead of me I could see a pack of my students on bikes. I contemplated going a different direction to avoid them, but they already noticed me coming. Within a few seconds their excitement engulfed me. They shouted any English word they could think of, and tested me on their Korean names.

A few kept following me on their bikes, circling like cute little vultures squawking, “Bye-bye!” on repeat. I couldn’t help but smile and laugh even though I was annoyed with my heavy bags, and I had about ten minutes to spare.

No taxis were around the corner. Go figure. There are always ten of them just waiting when you don’t need one, but none when you do. I had less than ten minutes at this point to go about a mile with a suitcase and a bag in hand.

Times like these call for a breath mint. I stopped, popped one in my mouth, and started to run. I ran as fast as I could in tight jeans, dress shoes, and with a carryon suitcase dragging behind. I also jaywalked, and hopped a bush. Pretty sure at least a dozen students and their families witnessed my mad dash to the bus.

At 5:37PM I reached the last obstacle—a stoplight a block away from where the bus was loading. If I haven’t already mentioned, stoplights in Korea are painfully long. There was too much traffic to run it, so I fumbled through my bag to find my ticket. I couldn’t find it, and in the process almost missed my chance to cross.

The bus driver gave me a judgmental glance when I handed him the ticket. I wasn’t sure if it was because of my failed two-hand attempt, or because I was pouring sweat everywhere. Oh well, I made it!

Of course my seat was at the back, so I had to do the “last person on the bus” walk of shame, literally dripping all over everything and everyone. I felt so bad for the man next to me. Good thing I packed my apartment, and had a few extra shirts to spare.

An hour of my life filled with hearty conversations, crying, sweating, biking, sweating, waving, sweating, packing, sweating, running, and sweating some more. What a beautiful hot mess.

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