Cosmic Bitch-Slap

Catalyzing the Confidence that Redefines and Optimizes All your Relationships

Cosmic Bitch-Slap

Catalyzing the Confidence that Redefines and Optimizes All your Relationships

Cosmic Bitch-Slap

Catalyzing the Confidence that Redefines and Optimizes All your Relationships

Holy Shit!

Driving to my new job in Chuncheon, my Korean friend Ji-Yeon who’d met me at the airport took a small and winding highway. Tall pine-clad mountains flanked the road and with no Korean signage or buildings on the slopes, we could have been in Germany. It was almost dark when we arrived and I was dismayed to find the entrance to my new place of employment to be in a cramped alleyway piled with what look like trash.

We were greeted by three women on the second floor, with much bowing and babbling in Korean. I was finally introduced to my new employer, the owner of the language academy, a woman named Lynn who spoke virtually no English. Lynn looked to be in her late thirties, and dressed conservatively in a tasteful suit, an understated gold pin on her shoulder, and trendy glasses, she seemed welcoming. I was then introduced to the two women flanking her. June, older and dressed casually in jeans and a sweater, sported a shaggy haircut and a smile, and was introduced as my facilitator. On Lynn’s other side was the tall, slim, and sour-faced Carol, the teaching supervisor, also dressed in jeans and a sweater, but way tighter and dripping in glitter. Both June and Carol spoke excellent English and were to be translators for Lynn and me.

After a lengthy conversation with Lynn, Ji-Yeon informed me that there was an evening of orientation, after which, Lynn’s husband would drive me to my new apartment. Hugging me tightly, she wished me luck, promised to email me soon, and left. I felt very alone when I turned back to the Korean ladies for my evening of orientation.

Getting down to the official paperwork, I got my first unpleasant surprise. Clauses in my work contract had been modified and agreed upon stipulating that my workday would not begin before nine am and my classes would all be with elementary school age children. Handing me my schedule, Carol informed me that I began work every day at eight am and that my morning classes would be with preschoolers. I looked pointedly at Lynn and articulating this discrepancy, waited for Carol to catch up on the translation. Lynn blinked a few times and replied through Carol that all morning classes were for preschoolers beginning at eight, all afternoon classes were with the older children until five, and I had been hired for a full-time job. Right. So, what about the contract we’d faxed back and forth for weeks before sighing our deal? Apparently it was meaningless, and the negotiations had merely been posturing by the recruiter over terms that weren’t even on the table. Even though I was shocked and outraged by this unbelievably blatant disregard for our contractual agreement, I could see that this was how it was gonna be.

My next unpleasant surprise came moments later when June told me that I would begin teaching afternoon classes the very next day. What? With no training? You must be joking! No, June wasn’t joking. She would be responsible for training me for a couple of hours tomorrow morning. A couple of hours? Are you kidding me? You guys know I’ve never done this before, right June? When she wouldn’t meet my eyes, I saw something was up. I again skewered Lynn with my gaze and repeated the question certain that June would translate. Through her, Lynn blinked another few times before saying that tomorrow was the first day of the winter quarter and there was no time for training. I saw both June and Carol squirm as I replied that this was unreasonable, as it was setting me up for failure before I even began, and I couldn’t believe that, being the owner of the place, she wouldn’t want to make sure I was properly trained. I didn’t break eye contact with Lynn, and she definitely knew I was angry. Maybe she saw at that moment I didn’t give a shit and would fly my ass back home on the next flight out of there, because the corners of her mouth went up and she said in heavily accented English ‘We will see.’ June and Carol looked like they were shitting kitties, and when Lynn abruptly turned to them and barked out a command, they both jumped up saying it was time for the tour.

The school occupied the top two floors of the building, as well as the roof, and the orientation went over every square inch of it. Two long hours later, I’d taken in about as much as I could handle and was relieved when they said it was time for the welcome celebration. Carol and June explained that we were going to a local hotspot for Dak Galbi, a regional specialty that is enjoyed by friends or families hanging out together for a meal. The Korean ladies were clearly excited at the prospect, which did a lot to raise my spirits after the rocky start. We walked down the busy, well-lit street to a restaurant packed with people seated on thin, square floor pillows gathered around low tables with a sunken gas ring in the center for the big pans filled with deep orange unidentifiable lumps that everybody was scarfing up a mile a minute.

As soon as we were seated, a waitress brought a bottle of clear liquid and a bunch of small glasses. The clear liquid was Soju, a distilled Korean spirit that packs a serious punch, at up to fifty percent abv. Explaining to Carol that I wanted to join in their toast but didn’t drink spirits, I asked for a beer. Giving me a horrified look, she said that I must drink Soju with them, as it was custom and respectful of Lynn and the academy. Not being one to cave in under peer pressure, or social pressure of any kind, I politely repeated that I would not drink spirits, but would be happy to join them with a beer. Lynn wanted to know what was up and when Carol translated, I could see the dragon lady gleam in her eyes, as she made the Korean gesture for no. Looking at Lynn, I shook my head and slowly pushed the glass of Korean moonshine away from me. Not even an hour had passed and here was another unexpected conflict! If somebody offered me a line of blow in LA and I politely declined saying I wasn’t into it, they certainly wouldn’t insist I do it anyway! WTF? Isn’t respecting a person’s choice in mind-altering substances a universal concept? Guess not. Smiling, I raised my glass of water to indicate my willingness to participate in their toast. June and Carol were squirming again and when Lynn screeched something towards the bar they flinched. Thirty seconds later, a cold beer was put down in front of me and all us ladies raised our glasses in a toast.

Toasting in Korea is a lengthy process that almost guarantees everybody’s wasted by the time the food is ready. Since most Korean food is cooked at your table and usually by you, it can take a while and toasting is what you do while waiting. Taking turns around the table, each person offers some heartfelt words, everyone raises their glass in response, and then drains it. Once everyone has spoken, this is repeated until the bottle is empty or the food is ready. When our waitress brought the pan filled with raw ingredients to be cooked at our table, I could see we were in for a long night. And that Lynn liked Soju a whole lot…

Dak Galbi is chicken, onions, carrots, cabbage, sweet potatoes, and chewy rice noodles the size and shape of a large man’s index finger. Cooked together over a high gas flame in the center of the table, it’s generously lubricated with the ubiquitous orange blow-your-head-off spicy sauce that’s the cornerstone of virtually every Korean dish. By the time ours was ready to eat, the bottle of Soju was empty, and the ladies were in full-on party mode. Lynn’s husband appeared towards the end of a second bottle of Soju, by which time the ladies had all regressed to their teenage years and were tossing noodle logs at each other across the table. Mr. Lynn paid the bill, bundled the ladies into their coats, scooped them into a cab, and led me to his pick-up truck parked outside. Although very smiley and friendly, he had zero English apart from the word okay.

After a very short drive, we parked on an unlit side street and hauling my suitcase from the back, he trudged up a short path to what looked like a duplex condo building. Unlocking the outer door, we passed through a tiny vestibule filled with kid’s toys to a door across from the entrance that he unlocked and opened. Mr. Lynn flipped on the lights and made a sweeping gesture with his arm indicating that I should enter. I found myself facing a tiny galley kitchen with a dark room at the end of it, and a larger living space through a doorway to my left. He put my suitcase by the door and immediately launched into a tour of the compact apartment, smiling and spewing a nonstop stream of Korean.

When the unintelligible tour was over, Mr. Lynn led me back to the front door where he demonstrated how the keys worked before pointing to his watch to indicate that he would pick me up for work the next morning at seven. Smiling, I said ‘Yes, see you at seven.’ Smiling back, he said ‘Okay, okay, okay ’and we shook hands vigorously before he left.

Locking the door behind him, I lugged my suitcase into the living area and sitting down on the bed, heaved a sigh of relief that I was finally in my new apartment after this incredibly long day. I looked around my new space and noticed something odd about the wallpaper. Looking more closely I saw what my mind said couldn’t possibly be black mold rising to a uniform height almost three feet above the floor. I rubbed my eyes, but it definitely looked organically random, and worse, it continued around the corner of the room and onto another wall. There was no mistaking it for wallpaper now. Black mold! The dread of every homeowner in Southern California, and it was all over my walls! Jumping to my feet, I heaved the bed away from the wall behind me and almost sobbed with relief when I saw it was mold-free.

A patch of dirty flooring was revealed by the moved bed and looking down I could see part of a stack of magazines. Squatting in the gritty hair-clogged dust I angled them out and pulling them towards me, saw that they were porn mags. Asian porn mags. Great. I kicked them into a corner and was shoving the bed back in place against the wall when something rolled into my foot from underneath, startling me. I looked down to see a cylindrical box with a label depicting a blow-up vagina surrounded by thick black hair. Whaaat? The instant it dawned on me that this was the previous renter’s sex paraphernalia, my mind leaped to the bed where the all fun must have been happening. I removed the bedspread to examine the bedding and finding a sizeable area stiff and stained, I ripped off the bedding and flung it in the corner with the porn mags and the blow-up vajayjay while my brain screamed This is soooooo fuckduuup!

I’d packed bedding and a bath towel at the bottom of my suitcase, and I needed to unpack other stuff to get to the bedding. Realizing that this apartment hadn’t been cleaned after the last tenant had vacated, I was frantic to find somewhere clean I could stack the contents of my suitcase as I dug for the bedding. I ransacked the kitchen and bathroom cabinets hunting for some kind of cleaning product and found a roll of paper towels with a few sheets left on the roll. Yanking open the drawers in the living area console, I found a round plastic squirt bottle with a pink and blue label that was almost empty but had a faint aroma of bleach. Using the paper towels and the bleachy smelling stuff, I managed to clean two drawers and the surface of a wall console before my paper towel supply ran out. Transferring the contents of my suitcase to the cleaned areas, I dug out my bedding and remade the bed thanking the sweet baby Jesus that my sheet set fit.

Nearing freak-out, I was enraged by the disgusting and unacceptable state of this apartment provided by Lynn without even being cleaned. I plotted venting my righteous ire at the school the next day as I packed the porn mags, the sex toy, and the soiled bedding in a plastic carrier bag I’d found in the kitchen. When done, I washed my hands with the last of the bleachy stuff and not wanting to venture into the bathroom until daylight, got cleaned up for bed at the kitchen sink. In bed at last, I saw that it was one in the morning and I had to get up at six. It took me a long time to fall asleep, lying as still as I possibly could and wondering what the fuck I’d gotten myself into.