I should probably preface this story by saying that in South Korea we (students, teachers, professionals, old people, young people, you name it) drink a whole lot of instant coffee. You can buy it in many forms, in individually portioned and easily portable sticks that contain sugar, cream, and coffee, in big bags of just powder, in individual cups filled with strange flavor combinations (vanilla cappuchino drip mocha coffee) at convenience stores, and most notably in vending machines.
Our school, like every other (high) school I’ve been to, has at least two coffee vending machines. You put in 200 – 400 won (20 to 40 US cents – I’ve found that the more rural you are, the cheaper the coffee – in Changpyeong it’s 200, Yesan it was 300, Seoul it was 400) and choose what flavor you want. A dixie cup drops down and spurts out powder and hot water, and voila! Instant cheap caffeine fix.
Now I normally don’t use the vending machine – I’m a teacher and have my own desk and mug, so I tend to just buy my coffee sticks in bulk and mix there, or have tea like a classy person, but sometimes I want to take a short walk, or I’ve run out of coffee, so I pay the coffee vending machine a visit. 200 won is very cheap but also an awkward amount, so normally I pay with a 1,000 won bill, or a 500 won coin. I like to leave the rest of my change in the machine, so that way when students are on their break and about to put in money to buy coffee it’s like a magical coffee fairy visited and granted them access to the magical world of height-stunting, tongue-scalding, sugary-yet-not-quite-delicious hot beverages. I always make sure to do this when students are in their classes, so no one can chase after me with the change.
Today on my way back from my one class I met two first grade boys by the vending machine. They called me over (Boy A: PODOLSKI!!!! Boy B: Ya! Are you crazy? Call her Teacher! Emily: Guys. It’s Potosky. Pah-tah-ski) and we chatted for a bit about the trip they’re taking tomorrow. They then finished getting their coffee and using the leftover change bought me some as well.
What goes around comes around.