Student ‘Discipline’, Stranger Danger, and a US Marines Uniform

Hello again!

So it’s not been long since the last post, but I figured it’s been a while since I posted about how we’re getting on living out here and our schools!

So we have been here for over 6 weeks I think?

We’re both getting on quite nicely in our schools now. Amelia has one or two disruptive classes but I think she’s handling everything well by the sounds of it. My school is a very cushy number. I have a good relationship with all 3 of my co-teachers and I’m growing progressively fonder of my students. I realised the other day that my eldest students were born in 1992, I’m only 3 years older than them! They are aware of this, but they seem to like that I am a young teacher. All the other teachers at my school are over 30 and mostly in their 40’s so I guess they enjoy having a young ‘chilled out’ teacher on a more similar wavelength to them.

I haven’t needed to raise my voice or shout once at my students yet. I just signal to them if they are talking (which often they are) and they seem to always respond positively. I remember when I was at school if a teacher used to scream and shout to maintain discipline they would usually lose respect and become unpopular with students. I’m not bothered about winning popularity contests, but it’s nice to be liked by students and to enjoy a good (but professional) relationship with them. I figured I will only ever shout at them if they have done something MAJORLY wrong and it is totally warranted. That way they will know that I am furious at them and not do it again. To be honest though, I don’t really envisage this ever happening as 1) I like to think I am generally a relaxed person and 2) I just don’t think my students have got it in them to misbehave to such an extent. The worst they do is whisper to their friend when I’m talking which is rude and irritating, but not worth shouting at them for. I just clap my hands, wait for them to finish or wait for a class-mate to tell them to ‘shush’ and they get the message. The only other issue is students sleeping in lessons. There’s little you can do about this as the poor little blighters put in 14 hour days, 6 days a week in school, every week. Cue some very tired students. I sympathise with them for having to endure such long days. It can’t be fun or much of a childhood for them. I usually just let the one or two students that are feeling drowsy have a sleep and focus my attention and energy on engaging those students that do want to learn. My logic being that the students won’t learn much when they are tired anyway, that they aren’t disrupting the class or other students learning when they do sleep, and it might help them wake up for other classes later in the day. Most of my students do seem to stay awake in my lessons, which is always nice. I have a chuckle to myself when I walk past the Maths classroom and see half the class asleep… it seems like wherever you go in the world, maths is always boring! Useful of course, but boring nonetheless.

I have also had to re-evaluate my personal levels of ‘cool-ness’ this last week. So I’m walking to work, stood at the bus stop, sat on the bus, sunglasses on, listening to my Ipod generally thinking I must look cool. In fact, thinking I am cool. You get the picture. Anyway, as I’m sat on the bus home listening to my Ipod a couple of my middle school girls excitedly tap me on the shoulder and signal for me to remove my earphone. I duly oblige and am curious to know what they are about to say.

‘Teachha, listen… I have same!’ (Points to Ipod, puts her headphone in my ear)

(All said and done with great enthusiasm and excitement)

So I listen to the Ipod. Great. I am listening to Pixie Lott, ‘Don’t Stop’ and so are these 14 year old Korean girls.  Now these are sweet girls don’t get me wrong, but I can’t help but feel it’s just not cool to be listening to the same music as 14 year old Korean girls!

Some of my 2nd grade middle school students (12-13 years) started asking me if I’d seen some movies last week. I had no idea what the movies were, so I asked my co-teacher, Mr Bae. He informed me that they were asking me if I had seen some ‘famous’ Adult Korean Movies and if I liked them or not. I was truly shocked by this, I really thought my kids were super sweet and innocent. The girls might be more so, but I guess boys will boys regardless of where we are from!

I also made an error last week, I misspelt ‘Brocolli’ when writing it on the board for my high school students, without even thinking I murmured ‘Oh Sh*t’ to myself as a natural reaction and corrected it. Unfortunately as most of you will know, I have a loud voice, even when murmuring to myself with my back turned to everybody else.  All I heard was this almighty roar of laughter from behind me to turn around and be greeted by the sight of my children pretty much in tears of laughter at what I had said. I was very embarrassed and felt quite guilty for my ‘slip of the tongue’. What I found even more ironic was that these students have such a low-level of English, but yet still they know all the swear words. Yet another cultural similarity. I remember the first 3 expressions I learnt in French were ‘Bonjour’ ‘Au Revoir’ and ‘Merde’.

We normally get collared by random Korean people at least a couple of times a week. What normally happens is someone bows to us, we bow back politely and say ‘Anyong Hassay-or’ which means ‘Hello’ (Literal translation ‘Are you at peace?’). Some of them take this to assume that we are fluent Korean speakers. That we are not. Neither of us can speak much so we just look at them blankly and adopt the smile and nod approach. Sometimes we may say ‘My name is, we are from’ kind of thing but we just let them say their piece, pretend to understand and say ‘Kan-sahmnida’ (Thankyou – although we’re not usually sure what for, it just seems the polite thing to do!) followed by ‘Anyong-ee-kissay-or’ (Goodbye). These encounters can sometimes last for up to 5 minutes. We don’t want to offend them by just walking off so we give them the time of day until it becomes apparent that we have no idea what they are saying, and they walk off. Normally we smile at them and they smile back so we assume that means we left on good terms!

We also get offered lifts to places by random strangers who want to help us and practise their English. We are of course aware of ‘Stranger Danger’ but I must confess that we have totally let our guard down since we got here. It is considered rude to turn down offers of help and assistance in Korea from others. Several times now we have got into cars with random men that have just pulled up by the side of us and offered us lifts into town or whatever, saving us either a taxi fare or a 20 minute walk. We would never dream of doing this in the UK, but in Korea people just want to practise English with us and help us out. We are quite happy to talk to them for 5 minutes in return if it means we get a free ride to where we want to go. We have only done this when we are together. I wouldn’t be overly impressed if Amelia got into a random strangers car alone and got a lift. I can’t help but feel that might be verging on recklessness, even by Korean standards.

We went winter shopping at the weekend. The temperatures in the last week or two have plummeted sharply. Two weeks ago temperatures were still 30 odd degrees and we were enjoying glorious summer weather. Now, the weather is still clear and fine, but temperatures are dropping. It is dropping to 5 degrees at night already, and no more than 20 during the day. It’s remarkable considering it was 35 degrees with over 90% humidity here 5 weeks ago! Anyway, owing to the temperature change we went shopping. As we were only allowed to bring 20kg of luggage with us, we were unable to pack winter clothing which was a huge pain. The Americans could bring 40kg so most of them seem to be pretty sorted which we were very envious of. Anyway, after shopping around we decided that it would be best to buy high quality coats etc as the temperatures here have been known to drop as low as -35 at night-time! Although usually the low is about -25 from what we have been told. So not that cold really…. Ahem. Hence the need for some good warm winter clothing! We ended up spending around 150 GBP each on our coats, Amelia got Berghaus, I went for FILA Sport as they had the best deals for men. We feel like it was a good investment. We also brought bikes, as the walk to and from town and the run to the gym every day is just too much, especially during the long winter. We picked up cheap Tesco equivalent ones for about 50 GBP each. So long as we can get from A to B with them we’ll be more than happy!

I decided that I needed some hiking bottoms as I didn’t have anything appropriate I could wear walking in the mountains with me. We looked in the high street stores but the hiking bottoms were so expensive. I was reluctant to spend 60 GBP on a pair so decided to head to the Military Surplus store in our town on the way home. I tried to buy some Korean Army Issue Combat trousers, but I wasn’t allowed too as understandably only Korean soldiers are allowed to buy them. That was a shame as they were only 25 pounds and very good quality! She did however tell me that there was a large ‘stash’ of US Army, Navy and Air Force Uniforms that I could have if I wanted to buy one of them. My eyes lit up at this! I had a look around and one pair of combats particularly took my eye. They were a little more expensive at 35 GBP. I got a jacket thrown in also. This was not just any normal combat jacket though, this was full on official United States Marines Officer Uniform. ‘I was like a little kid in a candy store’, quote Amelia. I decided that these were the bottoms/uniform for me. Pushing my luck, I though I’d ask if I could have my name sown into the uniform also. The lady said yes!!!

I am now the proud owner of  a US Marines Uniform with ‘D.PLUMMER’ emblazoned next to the emblem of ‘US Marines’ and the coat of arms. I also managed to acquire a US Navy Officer backpack to go with the combat overalls. I look like such a lad. Amelia thinks I’m ridiculous, but I think otherwise….

I’m going to get the badges and rank etc… stitched on hopefully later in the week at no extra cost. When I come home I am going to have the best fancy dress outfit for any form of army night, end of. I just hope people haven’t grown out of fancy dress nights by the time we return! I’ll be pretty upset if you have. This store also sells US Navy jumpsuits etc… and the uniforms and boiler suits for the real life Top Gun Pilots etc… If anyone wants to go the extra length for a ‘Top Gun’  themed night, then send me the money and I can sort you out with a very good outfit indeed! I would have got the Top Gun uniform ideally, but the Marine combat trousers will actually serve a practical purpose. Maybe later in the year I will get the Top Gun uniform. I’m also contemplating purchasing some Korean Army Military Issue Boots, as they are only 20GBP and perfect quality. It’s just the issue of getting them to fit my feet…

The military uniforms and clothing are all very high quality, and a lot cheaper than branded clothing so I think this is the ‘economical’ way to go about things for winter!

I forgot to mention that Amelia is struggling to get clothes to actually fit her in Korea, because she is too small even by Korean standards! Bless her. I have laughed a lot at this. It turns out apart from shoes, I should just about be ok for clothes. Amelia however is finding it more than difficult than I, now who would have thought that?!

It is Amelias birthday this weekend (She is going to be 25 in Korean years – old bag! – I’ll be needing to trade her in for a newer model at this rate!) and she has decided that she would like to spend it hiking Korea’s 2nd tallest mountain, ‘Seoraksan’, which stands over 1750m tall. It is supposed to be incredibly beautiful. The plan is for us and a couple of our other friends to meet on the friday night after work and hike the mountain on the Saturday and Sunday before returning to our humble abodes Sunday evening. We are hoping to sleep on the mountain side on the Saturday night as you can watch the sunrise over the Sea of Japan early in the morning and we figured it would be pretty cool to see that!

Anyway, it is lunch time now. It is mid-term examinations this week, so no lessons. I just sit at my desk, desk warming. Lot’s of spare time. Thought I’d actually do something a little more constructive instead of just reading Wikipedia for several hours on end. I started reading about Japanese War Crimes the other day and finished up reading about Eva Peron and Argentina a whole afternoon later. Enthralling stuff.

We are being downgraded into a smaller apartment next week which is a huge pain and inconvenience to us, and we have to go to a teacher training conference for a couple of days. We’re going to be very busy so you may not hear from me for a while! Nevermind.

I hope you are all well.

Love as always



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