No matter where you work in the world, or what job you do, there is always a certain euphoria that surrounds a Friday afternoon. This has been the one constant since my first day of work in 1986 at an electronics factory in Lancashire, to my current job as a teacher in Korea. There have been a number of different ways that I have celebrated this Friday afternoon feeling. In Australia, it would be a beer on the back of the tractor as we trundled back to our shack after a hard day of picking grapes or melons. In Israel, it was straight from the orange orchards to the lawn in front of our room, to down a bottle of arrack or vodka. In Holland, the electronics company that I worked for would finish early and we would all go upstairs to the canteen to eat snacks and drink beer together - whilst we laughed about the weeks events. Whilst in Liverpool it would be straight to the pub to get ridiculously drunk with my colleagues. Oh, hold on a minute, I see a trend emerging here. Maybe it is the need for alcohol after a working week that binds the world together (if the Muslims would adopt such Friday afternoon practices, perhaps we would not feel the need to bomb the shit out of them).
Korea, is slightly different. Essentially I spend my afternoons alone -which is fine by me. I don my Ipod earphones and shut the world outside. This is a course of action I necessarily take to either shield my ears from the repetitive greetings of the kids "teacher hello", "teacher goodbye" (yes kids, you are irritating little fucks), or the equally repetitive inane conversation of my fellow teachers. This usually takes the form of "what will you do this weekend"? To which I reply "I'm going to Busan" or "I'm going to a party at the Irish bar", or some other such pastime. Which invariably seems to blow their stacks, "Oh really" comes their reply, as though it is the most amazing thing on Earth. I then feel obliged to ask them what they will be doing, although I know for sure that the answer will bore the shit out of me, "I'm going to the library to study English", is an old favourite - sometimes varied with such responses as "I am going to The City 7 (shopping mall) or "I'm going to have coffee with my friends". Whatever the answer, you can guarantee that their imagination has not featured in it. In fact, I would go as far as to say, that there is no such thing as an imagination in this country. Unless of course, you include spending 5 hours making the class look preposterously untypical, in preparation for an open class (this is when the parents come to watch you teach - but actually might as well have gone to the circus to watch the clowns perform).
and so the story goes.
It's Friday afternoon and after a week in the limelight I have said my 500th and last "hello -goodbye" of the day and I am heading to my girlfriend Lee's house on my scooter. As often I do, I am singing at the top of my voice as I ride a long. I'm not sure if "Like a bat out of hell, I'll be gone when the morning comes", is an appropriate tune, for my little red step through scooter (complete with basket) - but that's my riding song. I'm excited, the weekend is upon me and I have a trip to Gyeongju planned.
I arrive at Lee's some 25 minutes later, leap off my steed and positively bounce up to her apartment. Within minutes it becomes obvious that Lee is not instilled with the same euphoria that I am feeling. In the knowledge that she did not have to work today, she spent last night partying with her friend. It is very apparent that our trip to Gyeongju is a non-starter and a quick revision of the plans is made. Leaping back on my scooter, I head to the nearest supermarket to stock up on supplies, this time I'm singing "Go grease lightening, you're burnin up the quarter mile". I grab as many bottles of red, as my rucksack, basket and back box will take (around 7) and head back to Lee's - for what looks like a heavy weekend.
Often, when I drink, I get incredibly tired but tonight I have the raging horn. Our bottles of red are interspersed with incredibly good and noisy sex (of which I will spare you the details). You know those nights? When alcohol and libido perfectly intertwine and you can't get enough of your partners intimate parts. Well, this was one of those nights. Our night begins at 6 pm and we are still periodically hammering away, way after the cock has crowed (I know, that was poor). Although it is October, the outside temperature is still too warm to leave the windows closed, especially on a passionate night like tonight. Eventually, we run out of wine and our animal like impulses are forced into submission. We fall into a deep sleep, somewhere around 7 am.
It's now 3 pm the following day, and we are trying to ease ourselves gently into Saturday evening. We lie in bed bedraggled, not wishing to become a part of the outside world and ignoring any texts or phone calls that we receive. Today we are out of commission and totally unprepared for what is about to happen. Suddenly the room is brought to life by the blurting of a strange alarm, the likes of which I have never heard before. Thinking that it comes from the sreet via the open window, I am not too concerned (Lee is more concerned because she recognises this as her own doorbell). Within seconds there comes a bang on the door, which sends shivers down both out spines. In Korea, the only people that ever bang on your door, are sales people or Jehovah's witnesses (one and the same thing actually). Of course, we are not in the mood for any of these charlatans (I mean, whoever is)? We choose to ignore the initial bangs, but the person on the other side is in no mood for our ignorance. The banging gets increasingly louder until the door is practically being kicked in. Being the gentleman I am, I inform Lee that she better answer the door and I retire under the sheets unable to face our predators.
From my vantage point on the left hand side of the bed, I can see Lee as she opens the door but the person on the other side of the door can neither see me, nor can I see them. The look on Lee's face alerts me to the fact that something untoward is going on. I hear a babbling of Korean tongue and detect a serious tone to the conversation. Well, I say conversation, it's more of a one sided affair, with Lee gettin vocally pounded by what I suspect is some Korean weirdo. Enveloped by curiousity and more than a little concern, I crane my neck forward and am shocked to see that there are a group of people standing in the doorway, headed by 2 uniformed police officers. Quickly, I dart back under the covers.
This scene is played out for at least the next half hour, during which time poor Lee has to stand and endure the vocal bombardment. Not wanting to add further impetus to the whole event, I remain under the covers (the fact that I am a complete coward, does not feature into it). At one point Lee comes back into the bedroom and gets her mobile. Returning to the police officer she relays a number to him. Eventually, the police officers and their entourage are satisfied enough to leave. However, they remain outside in a heated discussion for the best part of the next hour.
Lee returns to bed and we try to piece together what our eyes have just witnessed. She informs me that inbetween ranting and raving, the policeman has been playing a game of charades with her. The ESL teacher being well versed in the communication of charades, she has deduced from the devils horn gestures of the policeman, that the neighbours have been angered by our nocturnal groanings. What I didn't realise, is that the neighbours had been so annoyed that they had called on the landlady of the appartment block, who had in turn called the po po. That's right, the police had been brought in because we were too noisy having sex. Now call me a showoff, but I will add that too my repetoire of near arrests with little hesitation.
The only way Lee was ever going to get rid of the po po and posse of angry neighbours, was to let them know which school she taught at and to give the number of her co teacher. For the rest of the weekend Lee fears for that she will be released from her teaching position for being too vocal in bed.
As it turns out, the police don't get in touch with the school, although the landlady speaks to Lee's co teacher to inform her of the situation. It seems that there were complaints from all of the neighbours who demanded action from the landlady. Having no idea how to approach the situation, the police were brought in.
And just when I thought I'd experienced everything.