So. Here’s an anecdote from a few months back.
One night in Naju, I went to bed excited that I’d spend the next day at my school’s annual festival, watching my students perform musical numbers and skits and various other things. Despite a semester in Japan, I’d never had the opportunity to experience such a thing and so wanted to go even though my presence was not in any way required.
At 2:00am exactly, I woke to my phone ringing. It was a Korean cell phone number, so I assumed the caller had just made a mistake. I let them call back twice before finally picking up.
There was a pause, then a click.
A moment later, the same number called. I answered in Korean, and a woman’s voice responded likewise. “Hello?” I said again, clawing through sleep-veiled layers of my brain for the translation of what I wanted to say. After an awkward pause, I gave up. “Um, wrong number.”
She didn’t call back. Unfortunately, I was now wide awake. I twisted beneath the covers for a while, sticking my feet out when they felt too warm and pulling them back in when they iced up. Finally I pulled my phone back over and started reading World War Z. Surely I’d feel tired again soon.
5:00 hit before sleep decided to humor me.
8:00 hit and my host mom came in with breakfast. At 8:30 I woke up long enough to pull the try onto my bed and eat it. Some time around mid-morning, I sleep-texted my Korean friend.
I awoke for real just after 11:30, when my host mom exploded through my bedroom door, screeched “오메!” and then rushed out again, shouting to someone else that I was still home.
I still have no idea why she did that.
I was already late, but remembered seeing that the festival would go until 6:30, so I wasn’t worried. I faffed around, checking Facebook and email, taking a long time to decide just how warmly I should dress. By pure accident I found the festival pamphlet my school had given me and saw that I hadn’t seen 6:30 — I’d seen 16:30.
After having a friend translate the schedule for me (via text) I decided that it would still be worth it to go, if only for the last part. All my students’ performances were scheduled between 2:00 and 4:30.
1:00 — I go to take a quick shower. The shower head is broken.
Host mom, I think, weren’t you at the store buying a replacement when your son called you about it three days ago?!
All I had at my disposal now was a spigot and a small plastic basin. I’d taken numerous so-called “spit baths” before, when camping and when hurricanes did away with the hot water at home, so I decided to just suck it up.
The water was almost ice.
Sure, I spent my childhood trolling snake-infested forests (and back yards) and sharing murky swimming holes with gators — but that was just Florida. Such a childhood paled in comparison to a cold bath in Korean winter. By the time I had finished wringing the (metaphorical) icicles from my hair I was shivering so badly that Survival Mode Brain made an executive decision: Forget going outside. We’re turning on the mattress heater and getting right back in bed.
And that is how this wimp missed school festival day.