Today in class, as I was checking students' work, one boy tapped me on the arm.
"Teacher, North Korea vs. South Korea warcraft! North Korea vs. South Korea World of Warcraft!"
I studied his face, his eyes bright behind thick glasses. There wasn't worry in his voice; there wasn't any teasing either. He waited all of three seconds for my reaction before another student snatched his pencil, and the boy turned to grab it back, laughing.
When Yeonpyeong Island was being shelled by North Korea yesterday, I was sitting at my desk, watching the clock tick down the last five minutes of the workday. If my colleagues had heard the news, they didn't discuss it for long, because the office hummed along as usual. I didn't learn about the attack until someone told me online.
Last night, some friends and I swapped notes on the issue.
"Were your coworkers worried?"
"No. They didn't talk about it at all."
We didn't discuss the attack for the rest of the night. Escalation? Evacuation? Another strike? They weren't on our minds.
I followed the story online this morning; the CNN reports, Lee Myung Bak's statements, all the buzzing expat message boards ("If shit goes down, I'll be at the border with a machine gun! When in Rome!" - sojuman5533). Today, Facebook status updates from teacher friends were all different versions of "Thanks for the worry, friends and family, I'm safe!"
My coteachers passed my desk, offering their usual chipper "good morning!" Business as usual, I assumed. But after the class with the Warcraft comments, I had to ask. I beckoned one woman over, pointing to a BBC news story on the attack. "What do you think about this?"
She shook her head. "Mostly, I don't want the students to worry," she said.
You're not worried at all?
"We have a long history of disputes between the two countries. This is another occurrence. It happens a lot here. You'll see."
All day, I replied to emails from concerned friends back home (from the presumably sardonic "Have you been kidnapped?" to the broader "So what's going on over there?" Korea was all over the news, statements about the UN, about President Lee's "severe punishment" comments. I got an email from the Canadian ministry of foreign affairs, telling me to follow the situation as it develops.
Then, I walked away from the computer, and it was just like any other day.
At the lunch table, teachers chatted about weekend plans and the upcoming winter break. Between classes, my coteacher asked me for book recommendations. Girls ran up to me in the hall, cellphones ever in hand, to show new photos of their pet dogs, sleeping.
Business as usual.