Up in the bushiban we have four desks pushed together in the centre of the room and then two more along the short wall and three on the long wall. I sit with my back to the big window, right next to the punch clock, clocking in every afternoon at one and clocking out again at nine. The children come in after school, starting at about 4:30. We are suppose to be using our time in the office developing a syllabus for the cram school, but mostly we bullshit each other about places we’ve been and dream about places we still want to go.
Sitting by the time clock at the bushiban is a pretty good seat, second best I’d say. I got lucky. And clocking in and out is serious business. If you are one minute after one o’clock, you get docked for fifteen. Of course, any and all minutes after nine are ignored with extreme prejudice. You don’t get paid extra for those. I’m always on time. I live down the alleyway, just behind Mary’s Hambugers, a remnant from when the US had an airforce base supporting the Vietnam War not far away.
The on-timers and the late-comers rush in and scan the rack for their cards. “Allow me”, I say. Already treating rules as jokes. Clocking in for another teacher is strictly forbidden.
I work with another Canadian, an American, an Australian, a Philippino, an Irishman and a bevy of Chinese girls, teachers and staff. As a traveller, I tend to avoid other Canadians and Americans, preferring to spend my time with most other every other culture.
I like the Australian the best, maybe because I have just come from six months there and already miss the place.
I like the way Australians shorten words. Afternoon becomes avro. Tradesmen becomes tradies. Pull a fast one becomes pull a swifty. That one kills me every time.