Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My school doesn't have a fire alarm.

I learned this yesterday, the hard way.  I was sitting in my (communal) office, doing work, ten minutes left on the clock.  There was a commotion.  The other teachers in the office became frantic, exchanging information in panicky Korean and rushing out the door, leaving me quite alone.  I thought, "Would they tell me if the building were on fire?" and got back to work.

A few minutes later, my head co-teacher returned to the office.  Here's a transcript of our subsequent conversation:

Her:  [Korean mispronunciation of my name].  The school is on fire.
Me:  I was just wondering if you'd tell me if the school were on fire.
Me:  [Noticing eerie silence] The school doesn't have a fire alarm.
Her:  [Characteristically throaty laughter]

The fire was three doors down the hall from my office, nicely shortening the walking portion of my gawking expedition.  I hope nobody minded me taking pictures with my cell phone and grinning while other, more valiant faculty attempted to save the day.  I didn't see any flames, only billowing black smoke.  It reeked of electrical fire.

The smoke looks like a tame cloud, but that's only because it was billowing out the classroom's windows too fast for my phone's camera.  It was pretty cool.  I admit jets of flame would help.  Maybe next time?

As balding man in suit watches, courageous P.E. teacher rushes into cloud of acrid black smoke to do I don't know what.  It was quitting time and I wasn't paying attention.

Just as I was leaving for the day--I can't be bothered to stay late, conflagration or no--someone realized the incoming fire engines would be unable to approach the building because of the parking situation.  This provoked a mad dash to the dangerously pregnant parking lot and probably some hilarious slapstick once everyone began trying to un-triple park their cars simultaneously.

Here's a very hastily-taken picture of the lot:
I was trying not to get caught photographing the parking lot because it would seem weird. 
There's a third row of cars under the awning and the only way in or out of the lot is a gate wide enough for one vehicle.  There's no room for maneuver.  If one wants to leave out of turn, one must call the owner of every car blocking one's path and politely importune them to move their cars.

This morning my boss asked to see the photos I'd taken with my phone.  Oops, busted!  She wanted to examine them for evidence of arsonists.  I'm told the leading hypothesis is that two boys started the fire while smoking in the classroom.  These ne'er-do-wells haven't yet been identified, but the hunt is on!

Oh, and then after the fire I heard North Korea had shelled Yeonpyeong Island.

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