Tea vs. Coffee
The thing that threatens interracial and cultural peace at my school aren't differences in languages, beliefs, or customs. No, it's the coffee maker. That machine is going to kill a Korean soon and then all hell will break loose.
I used to make coffee at school via French press. Since myself and the other foreign teacher were the only ones who drank it, everything ran fine. This semester one of the Korean teachers had an unused coffee maker at home, the Mr. Coffee drip kind, and decided to bring it to school. The Korean teachers, who always get to school before I do, insist on trying to make coffee with this machine even though they don't drink the stuff. Basically, they are trying to be nice and in the process they make the worst coffee known to man. They usually add a teaspoon of coffee grinds, heat water via a kettle, turn on the coffee machine, and pour the hot water in. Anyone who has a working knowledge of a coffee machine knows you do not heat the water and then pour it in. This has the effect of making the coffee machine very angry as it hisses steam and spits hot water all over the place like a pissed off water-dragon. The Koreans try and remain calm but I know they're all thinking, "Jesus, this thing is possessed!" I've tried explaining that we should use cold water, but that point doesn't seem to get through. The Korean think I'm crazy, "He wants hot coffee, but insists that we use cold water? What does he expect from us?" To compound problems, my co-teacher consistently over-fills the water reservoir in the coffee maker so the coffee pot then overflows as well. The result is an enormous quantity of tea-colored coffee and some badly burned Koreans. I've tried to tell my co-workers politely to leave the job to me, but they insist on trying to be hospitable and mastering the art of coffee making.
Now to me this scenario seems asinine, but when I look at it from the Koreans perspective, my coffee habit must seem ridiculous. For one, I am horribly addicted to this black liquid. Without it I'm groggy and sluggish. I insist on having it everyday. The Koreans probably wouldn't be surprised to show up to work the next day and see me overdosed in the corner with a syringe full of coffee sticking out of my arm. Two, coffee seems ridiculously hard to make, and then I add lots of milk and sugar so I don't have to taste it. Yeah, a lot of that doesn't seem to make sense either.
Still, it's nice to know that all of this is done in good spirits, that my co-workers are trying so show me that they care. In this case I fill up my mug; take a sip; tell them thank you in Korean, that the coffee is very good; walk out the door, and pour it down the closest drain. Maybe they will break me of my coffee habit after all.