Making friends with the right people

The school’s “English Show” is finally taking place this week, having been postponed back when we were all dying of Swine Flu.

See you tomorrow! I called to Jennifer as I stuck my head round the office door yesterday evening, the night before the opening performance.

Yes… and please to dress up! she replied. Drat.

The problem is, I explained to a friend as I despaired over the contents of my wardrobe, I have neither the knowledge nor the clothes that I suspect are required in order to do such a thing as “dress up”. I’m the only one who ever gets this warning, come to think of it. I have a feeling that the boss thinks I’m dippy enough to arrive in wearing a t-shirt and jogging bottoms as I would if I were just spending a normal school day teaching groups of infants to dance to Whigfield songs.

In the end, I wore a blouse that wouldn’t quite button when I first got here, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it now fits. It’s not exactly hanging loose, but it’s comfortable. It’s the diet here, I announced at lunch as I energetically chewed an octopus tentacle I’d discovered in my soup. The weight’s just going to keep coming off! Jennifer looked doubtfully at me as I reached the bottom of my second bowl of rice. But… you are Cooking Lady’s favourite! she said. She said it as if everyone must surely know what this means, and I looked blankly at her. She only likes big eaters! said Jennifer, looking sorry for me. I considered this. Cooking Lady (a middle-aged, somewhat fussy, mother hen type) chose that moment to appear by my side with an affectionate smile and another bowl of rice. She also put some extra kimchi into the almost empty dish in front of me, and then topped it all off by reaching me a plate of rice cakes.

Actually, now I came to think of it, this had been going on for quite some time. At first, I couldn’t stomach most of the food here. I would eat my rice and force down some soup water, and that was it. No wonder I lost weight. But now? The food has grown on me. I’m used to it, and I actually look forward to the selection of fermented cabbage, pickled radish cubes, vinegared red pepper sauce, fish soup, shredded vegetables, and dried squid that appears at the lunch table. I can now use chopsticks pretty naturally, so I suppose I’m also eating more quickly. And after I went into the kitchen for seconds a couple of times, Cooking Lady (who doesn’t like picky eaters – I can’t have a conversation with her, but I can tell a lot from her tone of voice and facial expressions!) became extremely fond of me.

She started bringing me more food before I was even halfway through my original bowl of rice, and she now kind of hovers around, watching me with a doting smile on her face and rushing to assist if she sees me reaching for something in a dish that’s too far across the table. And now that I’ve started venturing to speak a little bit of Korean here and there when I can, she loves me even more, as she’s the only one present who can’t speak any English at all. The other day as I took my bowls and chopsticks into the kitchen, I told her that the bibimbap was delicious, and that I’d enjoyed my lunch very much. She was so overcome that she gave me three satsumas and a slice of chocolate cake, jabbering away far too excitedly for me to have a hope of understanding her.

So. I guess the weight loss has come to a halt, eh?! I have an awma who all but forces me to eat everything on the table, and a Cooking Lady who will now be deeply hurt and offended if I don’t eat at least three times as much as everybody else. Ah well, what can you do…


2 thoughts on “Making friends with the right people

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