At 7:30 a.m., the school cleaner Chu Myeong-ja comes to work. Though she looked forward to the Ewha Voice interview, having permed her hair and applied a new hot pink lipstick, she asked to put off the interview for a while. She said that she should finish cleaning first as she could not speak comfortably with the uneasiness of not having done her work.
“I have to clean the classrooms and offices before students and faculties come to school,” Chu said. “I do not know when the faculties will arrive, so this makes me hastier and more nervous, trying to finish cleaning as fast as possible.” Sweeping and dusting empty building every morning, Chu has polished mornings of Ewha for 38 years.
After cleaning all the offices and classrooms, she replenishes the toilet and restroom supplies. After sweeping the stairs, she goes outside to clean the front and the back of the building. Finishing her morning duty in Pfeiffer Hall, she heads to Aryeong-dang and the Industry-University Cooperation Building. Though it seems like a demanding job for a lady over 60 to do on every morning, Chu has a rather positive mindset.
“If you think that the work is hard, you can never do the work,” she said. “I am simply grateful for being able to work at one place for this long.”
One thing that comforts Chu is Ewha students. According to Chu, the students say hello to her quite often.
“All of the girls who greet me are just so pretty,” Chu said.
Chu, who thinks of Ewha students just like her daughters, actively reaches out to help students she encounters. One day, while leaving work, she saw a student in shorts and white sneakers with blood dripping down to her ankle. Startled, Chu approached the student and realized that the student was unexpectedly doing her period. She took the student, who was standing stock still as if petrified and crying out of embarrassment, to the cleaner’s room.
“She looked like a freshman, for she looked as if she did not know what to do,” Chu recalled. “So I lent my own underwear to her and washed the student’s underwear and sneakers. To me, she seemed just like my daughter, so I gave her a ride back to home.”
Throughout the interview, Chu constantly emphasized how thankful she is toward the school where she has been working for so many years.
“The intensity of the work has been immensely lessened,” she said. “Nowadays, because of the cleaners employed for the night duty, the work is not hard at all. However, no matter how intense the work was, I’ve had a fun time at Ewha and am grateful for being able to stay here for such a long time.”