So it’s been a while since I last posted on here about what we’ve been up to except for our day trips. Life over here is getting relatively hectic and busy but as you have probably noticed we’re enjoying it lot’s and feeling very settled and happy.
So what’s been happening?
Well 3 weeks ago we had our school festival. It’s a big deal and the student’s got the day off class to play sport and traditional Korean games before having a concert in the evening. I ended up playing in the football match between my boys which was good fun, my team lost 6-2 but I was very conscientious about ‘trying to hard’ as I didn’t want to clumsily hurt any of the boys as there was a minor size difference and it was a gravel pitch… I also wanted to be able to make the excuse of ‘Oh well, I wasn’t trying anyway!’ if I did play badly or make mistakes. Despite this however I managed to play a few ‘Beckham-esque’ passes to cries of ‘wow‘ ‘very good’ and ‘best player’. I felt like a superstar. After the game many of the students and the teachers flocked around me congratulating me on my performance and in awe at how far and high I can kick a ball ‘You are strong teacha” they told me. My ego would be going through the roof except for the fact I know in reality I just stood around the middle of the pitch the whole game barely moving (as I was in work clothes and one of my high school students size 9 trainers – I’m an 11) and I managed about 7 or 8 passes the whole game. Although I would like to add that they were absolutely sublime! The standard was not great but you couldn’t fault them for trying or for their boundless enthusiasm.
In the evening we had the concert. I attended but understood little as it was all in Korean. I was quite impressed that every student was obligated to participate and either sang, danced or ‘presented’ to the audience. This is in stark contrast to Britain where I remember it being a constant battle to encourage students to participate when I was in school and even then it would only be the confident , more ‘talented’ students that would participate.It was quite enjoyable and they really do love a party and a bit of K-Pop. In Korea they love all things cute and ‘cheesy’, especially their boy bands. If the lads came over here, and I was single we had a thing for Korean women we could definitely do well for ourselves with our spectacular renditions of the Backstreet Boys, Westlife and Robbie Williams hits.
I love being English over here! Everyone assumes I am American until I start talking “I think you are maybe English man? You sound different to American’. One Korean guy in the currency exchange at Incheon airport even went as far as saying ‘I think maybe you are English man from Northern Provinces?’ I could not believe I was getting called a northerner in South Korea, Cardiff maybe I can understand why but not in bloody Korea! It made Amelia chuckle at least. Note – It’s called the Midlands for a reason – because it’s in the middle!
Once people find out that you are English they seem quite curious actually, adults anyway. Young people and my students less so but generally I think in Korea people are quite interested – perhaps it is because they know less about our ‘little island’ in comparison to the US. I was however totally 100% offended by a very ignorant American Woman on the DMZ tour:
American Woman – ‘You have a very thick accent…where are you from?’
Me – ‘Where do you think I am from?’
American Woman – ‘Australia or New Zealand?’
Me – ‘What did you just say?!?!?!’
I was truly offended. Australian? Me? Absolutely not. If I sounded a little like Dell Boy then maybe she could be forgiven, but I don’t. Bloody Americans. I have met so many Americans deserving of the stereotype us Brits have of them already. Some of them have defied belief! Although I should probably add for the benefit of my American friends (and before I get accused of Anti-Americanism) that I have met plenty of really cool Americans that we really like and are very good friends with! Amelia also has an American passport so erm… yeah. Obviously I’m not to prejudiced.
I have befriended a Korean soldier that get’s the same bus to and from work with me every day, his name is Yong-Jun. He speaks fairly good english for the area we are in and upon finding out I was from England he has insisted that I play football with him and his christian soldier friends tomorrow morning at 7am. So Saturday morning I will be playing football with these chaps at 7am our time, 10pm UK time. I’m quite looking forward to it except for having to get up! Yong Jun likes Park Ji Sung and Manchester United (like every Korean – Park Ji Sung is by far the most famous person in Korea) and we’ve had several good chats about football this week. It is difficult/nigh on impossible to go into greater detail. There is a lad here from York and he is a Leeds fan, so whenever I see him I have a good chat about football, and the same with Ryan, our ‘Yank’ buddy that calls football its proper name and not soccer! Amelia totally switches off as do the others who may be sat around the table when we are together once we start talking football. We feel a little bad – but we miss it far too much so we just carry on our conversation anyway. The one thing I am missing more than anything over here (apart from the lovely people at home) is football. The time difference means it’s virtually impossible to watch matches and I have yet to see a full game since I got here. I was getting into work this week an hour after the Champions League matches had finished the night ‘before’. I have read all about Gareth Bales performances but I haven’t seen any of it. I always enjoy ‘Skyping’ father as he is the only person I can actually discuss Leicester City with!
We had our school photographs taken for our high school students graduation yearbook earlier in the week. When my turn came I had about 15 cameras and camera phones pointing at me for the students personal collections. We had an official photographer taking the photo’s, but all my high school students were behind him pointing their cameras at me. I’d love to know where those photos are all going to end up. I’m pretty sure they have never seen someone with blonde hair and blue eyes before. Seriously.
I went out for a Chinese meal with the other teachers to celebrate our principals 60th birthday a couple of weeks ago. This is what happened (copied and pasted from the facebook message I sent out to the boys –
‘It’s my first teachers meal and the first time I have had an opportunity to actually talk (via interpreter – thanks Mr Bae) to them and get to know them a little. It’s all quite civilised until about an hour in when this horrific Chinese Vodka is cracked out. In Korea if somebody offers you a drink at one of these meals it is considered hugely rude to turn it down so you are obliged to drink it. If you are a foreigner or new to a place Koreans will offer you a drink to make you feel welcome. The drinks are shots so you have to see them off. So I’m sat at this table with about 20 other Korean teachers, and they all seem to want to talk to me and drink with me. (They love English people. Apparently I look like David Beckham?!)
Anyway, Once the vodka was cracked out it was like being with you lot again. I ended up seeing off about 8 of these awful shots within about 20 minutes as I had no choice. It brought back some good (and some not so good!) memories. They knew what they were doing as I remember seeing them all laughing and talking to one another as they each came up to have a drink with me. Bastards.
Then Wednesday I’ve started playing football with a load of Koreans (I’m centre forward – bagged our first goal – rounded the goalkeeper before calmly slotting it home). Anyway, straight after the game they cracked out some beer and chicken. I’m the newcomer and the token white guy (with my American pal Will) so naturally we have to see off about 3 pints in a 10 minute time frame. We were then expected to make a speech to the entire squad (of about 30) in Korean. Nobody else was made to drink, or offer a speech. Just us. They laughed at us the whole way through. Everytime I attempt to speak Korean I just get laughed at. Whether it’s the 80 year old Hunchback farmer woman at the bus stop, or one of my 11 year old computer game nerds in 1st grade. They just laugh. Indiscriminately.
I move to the other side of the world and it still seems I cannot escape from being targeted to down drinks!
Thanks for the legacy you have left me with boys. x’
Korean teachers meals are good fun and good for workplace bonding. It came out that all the teachers thought I looked like David Beckham (I am young, fair-haired and English – it’s only logical for them to tell me of the resemblance!) and there was a lot of love being shared. Mrs Kim told me how happy she was to have such a nice, ‘good’ native teacher. She also said that when she first met she was nervous as she had never really met a British person before and that she knows all about ‘our very great history’ and was very worried that I would be boastful of England and not like Korean society. She then thanked me for not being like this and told me how much she liked me. This all sounds rather dramatic but it’s just how things happen in Korea! It also made me laugh because Mrs Kim (Who is at least 40 and happily married with children) was slurring her words as she said this ‘Im sooooooo happy to have you as native teacher’ ‘Britain is very great nation with great history’ ‘I’m soooo glad you are kind and very modest’. At the end of the night (about 8pm) as I was leaving I witnessed her running like a crazy drunk shrieking down the street to one of the other teachers in Korean trying to flag down a taxi. It was all quite amusing, and quite a spectacle. I was very surprised at how informal it was as relationships in school (except for Mr Bae and I – LADs) are normally highly professional.
Sorry for the bragging, it is custom and polite to overly compliment others in Korean culture. Hence why there was so much love being shared. I didn’t take it to seriously and just laughed. A lot.
We are now allowed to use the gym used by the ‘elite’ provincial athletes (football players and rowers) at high school level. It is 5 minutes jog from us so it is very ideally situated and free, which is always a huge bonus!.Anyway it’s pretty much deserted and has all the equipment I need and like to have a good workout (although CV equipment is limited to a few treadmills) so we’ve been using it a lot. I lost 9kg in my first two months here (1 and a half stone) mostly in muscle but now these last 3 weeks I have been getting back into it doing 4-5 workouts a week. I feel much happier and better for getting into a good routine again. Anyway, the elite girls soccer team live upstairs from the gym. On my first session in there they almost mobbed me asking me endless questions and watching my every move very closely with a combination of curiosity and genuine friendliness. ‘You are very handsome’ ‘I like English man’ ‘Will you be my boyfriend?’ ‘I love you’. If the genders had been reversed, it would have definitely been considered harassment. Anyway they were soothing my ego A LOT and I was quite amused by it, if a little embarrassed. As I was unlocking my bike I had a crowd of about 8 girls aged 16 or 17 just gathered around me, repeating the limited phrases and chat up lines in their repertoire totally invading my personal space. I didn’t mind I was just a little embarrassed and felt a little awkward! I went home and told Amelia about it. The next night Amelia came with me (she had planned to anyway) the girls continued their flattering chat up lines and complimented Amelia also. They were telling me how handsome I was and then they said to Amelia ‘Your boyfriend – very handsome, just like Wayne Rooney.’ I was dumbfounded. The girls then thought they would compliment me further by saying
‘Wayne Rooney, Wayne Rooney, (pointing at me) You! Very handsome!’
Complimented I was not. Insulted with all self-esteem diminished – I was.
Amelia found this hilarious.
On that note, it’s time to finish.
Its Bonfire night tonight and we are having our very own fireworks celebration by the river! Us Hwacheon foreign teachers are having a get together. There are 3 of Brits in total, so we are going to educate the Yanks, Canadians, South Africans, Aussies and Kiwis about Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder plot. We are teaching them some proper culture and history!
I hope you all have a lovely weekend.
Lots of love
PS Nana – You will be appalled to hear that my students were not pronouncing their ‘t’s when saying words such as ‘better’, and ‘bitter’ etc… I thought of you and corrected them. There are now 100 Korean teenagers all pronouncing their ‘t’s immaculately. You would be very proud! All thanks to you Nana xxx