Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

All Quiet on the Eastern Front

It’s 7:00pm on quiet Friday night in Daejeon, South Korea (for those of you not familiar with South Korea, Daejeon is about 100 miles south of Seoul)—quiet in that I am sitting alone in a classroom at the Woosong (pronounced oo-song) Language Institute waiting for one or two students to show up for their 7-9 Adult Conversation Class.

It’s not my class; I am subbing for a colleague. It’s a little extra cheese as a former colleague of mine at Yonsei, Ross Kilborn liked to call money.

The names of the two students are Esther and Bonnie. English language learners in Korea like to give themselves an English nickname. Students have been doing this for as long as I have been in Korea; maybe they think having an English nickname will help them speak English well. I’m not so sure about that. I once taught a student who called himself Rambo; he could barely string two sentences together. Wait a minute, maybe I am thinking about the real John Rambo.

Teaching English on a Friday night reminds me of when I first came to Korea in December 1990. Back then I was teaching at this language institute in southern Seoul (Kangnam-gu) five days a week from 10-12 and 6-10. That 6-10pm block of two classes was a real drag especially the last conversation class. It was even more of a drag come Friday night, when most of the students, Korean salarymen, were too tired to study after a long week at the office and were more interested in hoisting a few brewskis at some local beer hall than studying English.

7:15. Still no Esther or Bonnie. As a rule, I have to stay here until 9:00. These are paying customers and even if they arrive an hour late, they still get their English class.

The colleague I am subbing for tonight gave me a heads up that these two ladies might be a no-show. It’s near the end of the seven-week term, and some students might think that one less day is not going to make much difference, so they blow off the last class or two. Hey, it’s Friday night; maybe they want to go out with friends.

Well, at least it gives me some time to jot down a few ideas and sentences that I will write out later this evening when I am back in my room.

I hear footsteps, high heels clicking and echoing down the hallway outside. Could this be either Esther or Bonnie? False alarm. It’s a woman going to a classroom across from mine.

7:45. It doesn’t look like Esther or Bonnie is going to make it tonight. It’s all quiet on the Eastern front tonight.


  1. I love these little glimpses of ex-pat life. Thanks for the smile Jeffery

  2. Thanks for stopping by Marty and for the kind comments. I appreciate them a lot.

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