breaking outta incheon

As December and January came, I found myself in a solid routine. I was reasonably satisfied. Then a funny thing happened…


It came in the way of a holiday. Holiday itself was a somewhat huge issue. When I came to the K, I figured my vacations would all be exotic locales like Japan, Cambodia or Mongolia. However, I chose to spend my first real holiday in Korea by going to a little place called India. Not only had I been there before, I had lived there. I promised to visit my family and so I was committed to going there well before the holiday came. As the time neared, I was quite envious of people who were going to the Philipines, Cambodia and elsewhere. I sort of regretted that I chose India instead of venturing into new lands…


However, a twist of fate changed everything. Originally, I was scheduled to have a 2 week break and I was to arrive in my hometown of Bangalore on Jan 24th. I have always loved Bangy but I don’t love it as much as I used to. It’s grown so much that I hardly recognize the town anymore and there are so many new people there that the pleasure of seeing familiar faces disappeared many years ago. Although I was excited to see family and friends, I wasn’t ecstatic about going to Bangy for 14 days or so…

Then… On Jan 15th, I was informed that nobody had signed up for my Parent’s Camp which was scheduled the week of January 19th to the 23rd. I was quite surprised since I had already taught a few of these mothers two months ago, they sounded excited about the camp and one of them was Gung-Ho. That is not her name, it means that she was quite enthusiastic. So, when I was informed, I had to take a good hard look at the man in the mirror, did I lose these parents because of a poor showing during my previous lessons? Were my teaching methods not effective??? WAS I DOING MY LEVEL BEST TO IMPART KNOWLEDGE ON THESE PARENTS??? COULD I LEAVE EARLY IF THE CAMP WAS CANCELLED??? I ignored the first few questions and attacked the one about whether I could leave early… Now, my principal and vice-principal do not speak English. I do not speak Korean. So, I made Meeyoung, my stalwart co-teacher act as an interpreter and we went into hostile territory to see if we could negotiate my early release. At this point, I resorted to being my crafty self. In a calculated move, we waited until the vice principal (who could be described as ornery or a prickly pear) was away so that we could directly ask the principal (who you could say is cuddly or a regular pear). Korean schools are like the armed forces in that you always ask your commanding officer first. However, him being a bit of a prick, I felt quite smart waiting for him to be M.I.A and then going straight to the big dog. But the best laid plans…


As sunset approached, I tiptoed down the empty corridor. I ducked into the main staff room, it seats about 12 teachers and on one end sits his majesty, the vice principal himself. I asked the teachers where he was and they informed me that he had gone home. Meeyoung and I sprang into action and went directly to the principal’s office…time was of the essence! I opened the door to the promised land and smiling, I pleadingly said to the principal “Anyong Sa-heo” and then pointed at Meeyoung as in “She’ll tell you the rest.” However, as Meeyoung started filling the Princy in on my status, I saw the silhouette of a man sitting on the couch in the back of the room. It was my arch nemesis. He was glaring at me with a look of absolute disdain, similar to the look that Ivan Drago gave Apollo as he landed the death blow. I was sort of uncomfortable. Then, the principal smiled at me and gave me a thumbs up. Euphoria!! I felt like a million bucks (U.S) and then the prickly pear interrupted my happy little moment. He launched into a ten minute barrage of rapid-fire Korean and peppered Meeyoung with little phrases and loud ass exclamations. I stood in the middle of this back and forth and I began to suspect the VP wasn’t wishing me a safe journey or recommending a nice hotel. As we stepped out of the line of fire, Meeyoung told me that the evil troll had vetoed the Princy’s thumb and that he was now holding me hostage, unless the Incheon Board of Education could convince him that I was not doing anything wrong by leaving early. I called the board and in a rare moment of brilliance, they said “Why would we care what you do on your vacation?” I paraphrased this to my VP as “They said I should go.”  I added that the reason I was leaving early was for my cousin’s wedding and that my cousin is more like a brother, A TWIN BROTHER, okay?? I cannot emphasize how close we are…


We had to sit and listen to the VP fume and sputter about how we tried to go around him, I told him that I looked for him first but he was AWOL. In the end, I walked out and screamed like Mel Gibson for I too had fought like a warrior poet and won my FREEEDOMMMMM… leave a week earlier than scheduled.*

Now, I had 3 weeks to work with in India and the ideas were coming, there was a wedding to attend (the wedding of a buddy I met through my best friend) and it would be in a tiny village in the far north, in the land of Punjab, an area as foreign to me as Mongolia or Bolivia. What’s more, I was going with that best friend from schooldays, a loafer cut from the same cloth as me. Things were shaping up. I wasn’t sure we would even reach this wedding, but I knew we’d have a blast trying.


* But, my VP informed me, I had to bring back a copy of the marriage certificate…I’m telling you, I am dealing with a lunatic here.


The next week, the day before I was due to leave, the VP came running into my staff room, his short little legs gamely taking long strides and he fired some angry words at Meeyoung and left. I thought to myself, I am so happy I am out of here tomorrow. Aaah yes, I need a break.Then Meeyoung explained to me that, he had just come in, on the eve of my holiday and said that I could not leave now because ….wait for it….. ONE MOM had called and said she was interested in the class. I laughed and said “That’s a shame because I’m not going to be here.” We had to go have a sitdown with our little Napolean/ Kim Jong-Il/ VP again and in this meeting I said “Tell this nutcase I AM OUT.” I think Meeyoung’s translation was more like “He is begging you for permission, it is a very special family event.” In the end, the little despot made a huge production of it, but all I could do was laugh. I was feeling good, my mind was in India already… and the next day, the rest of me as well.



To Be Continued…


2 responses to “breaking outta incheon”

  1. Hey Sid Man!

    Nice to read about your agonising endeavour to get to your homeland albeit a week early. I am surprised you didn’t mention that you required a photocopy of a marriage certificate. Well! next time – anything can be arranged. 🙂

  2. Omg, I can’t believe you went through all of that.

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