I thought I’d tell you about a few occurrences that have taken place here in the last month or so…
Firstly, I just love how honest Koreans can be sometimes, how up front they are and their open-ness. Today, I walked into the cafeteria for lunch, we eat with the elementary school next door at lunch times. There were 3 really cute kids, I think about 7 or 8 years old. They waved and said hello as I queued next to them for my lunch. Instead of asking how I was or my name, they simply said ‘Big‘ and then proceeded to point to their foreheads and signal that my forehead stuck out disproportionately from the rest of my head. They then considered it appropriate to ask me how I was and for my name.
I have been hitting the gym the last couple of months again, and have started to re-gain the weight that I lost when I first got here. Mrs Kim clearly disapproved of this – ‘Dan you are gaining weight – your face looks fatter’. Thanks Mrs Kim, all my sweat and effort in the gym clearly has gone to waste, as I obviously look fatter!
In Korea women seem to have a different concept of male beauty and attractiveness. They appear as a society to desire super slim, super pretty, effeminate K-Pop singers as their perfect men, as opposed to larger, broader more masculine males (such as myself of course!). They love six-packs and slender men, some even seem to like men that wear make-up. Yes numerous Korean men wear make-up. As a British ‘Alpha-Male’ / ‘Full-time L.A.D’ I consider this to be verging on homosexual, but in Korea this is acceptable, maybe even desirable to some extent. Even some of my more ‘pretty’ male high school students wear make-up (although it’s not too obvious) to school daily. Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m all for embracing a new culture and integration, but I just can’t foresee myself adopting the effeminate K-Pop look anytime soon. I’m sure Amelia will be relieved to hear that.
It’s the end of term now, and my kids sat their end of year exams about 3 weeks ago. Consequently it has been a constant battle to get the kids to do any work or pay any attention to what I am teaching them. They have worked their arses off all year and want a break. Fair enough I guess, but I was told I had to carry on teaching them normal classes. Well it’s the last week of term this week, and yesterday was my last lesson with my middle school second grade advanced group. I love this class, they are just the nicest students and put a smile on my face everytime I see them. As they are always so good in class I gave them a choice of what they wanted to do as a reward – sing Christmas songs or watch a movie? They said neither, they said they wanted to talk to me! So we ended up having a 45 minute conversation. It was good fun, they told me about their boyfriends and girlfriends (they are 12-13!) and decided they wanted to teach me Korean. It was quite amusing as they taught me numerous phrases to deal with classroom management – which I have forgotten already! Not much use. There is also one boy in the class who is basically a little s*** and the problem child of the school. He never pays attention, always sleeps and can be disruptive. I have even shouted at him once, he has never misbehaved in one of my lessons since! Anyway, he decided to pick a large spot on his nose during the lesson (gross I know) and got one of the girls to ask me in English (as he speaks none) if he could go to the bathroom. I said yes of course as I refuse to ever be the kind of teacher that will not let a student go to the bathroom. As soon as he left a mass ‘bitching’ session erupted.
“Teacha – we hate him”
“He is very stupid and bad”
“No-one like him”
“He hits us” – from one of the girls.
“He move from different school because he is bad boy”
The boy walked in during the middle of this. The class then smiled towards him in a friendly manner as he re-entered the room and continued to insult him in english and tell me how much they disliked him.
“Teacha he is so stupid. He not know we talk about him in English to you. So we say bad things because we hate him” – From the girl who is sat right next to him. Everybody looked at him, he laughed, and they laughed back. I had a little chuckle to myself at the situation. This boy was totally oblivious (probably for the best) as to what was being said about him. I felt bad for him though and told Mr Bae about the conversation in passing to see what he thought – “He is most problem boy. Teachers, students and parents. Everybody dislike him“. I suppose I shouldn’t feel so bad for him.
Last week my high school first graders were play fighting with each other, totally ignoring the lesson I was trying to give to them. I was getting irritated so I said in a raised voice ‘Hajumma’. Suddenly they sat bolted upright in silence, looked at one another in disbelief, and then looked at me in total amazement and shock with a hint of new-found respect, as did the rest of the class. Once the shock and silence had subsided after a few seconds they then all proceeded to smile, laugh and give me a round of applause before telling me numerous times “Wow teacha, very good” “Teacha korean – most tremendous” and giving me thumbs up signs. Mr Bae who was stood right at the back was laughing hysterically and giving me thumbs up signs behind their backs and miming ‘very good’ to me repetitively. Their faces and expressions were absolutely priceless. I wish you could have seen them.
Note – ‘Hajumma’ means ‘stop this instance’ and is to be used to express anger.
One of my students is moving school, she came into my office earlier. She said ‘Thank you for being good teacher, I will miss you’ and then she gave me a big hug. A couple of her friends giggled and ‘ahhed’. It was pretty cute. I guess I will miss her too.
On a final note, its Christmas this week. I love Christmas, it’s normally my favourite time of year. I love the build-up to it back home – everybody’s happy, the songs, the football, the television, the films, the nights out (Sexy Santas!!!) and everyone just being together on Christmas Day and the whole Christmas period. I guess I just love the Christmas spirit. It’s been (and is going to be) very strange spending Christmas away from home and all things familiar for the first time. To be honest it hasn’t felt like Christmas at all in the run up to it over here, even though they do celebrate it in Korea – it’s not a big deal. It’s more of a religious day than anything else. Everything will be open as usual here and it’s not too different to any other day apparently. This is the one time of the year in particular that I would love to be at home, but unfortunately that is not possible. We have to work until 5pm Christmas Eve, despite their being no students in all day and even the other Korean teachers get the day off. Not us foreign teachers though, we have to go into school and sit at our desks and do nothing all day. It’s pretty frustrating but I guess it’s just the Korean way of doing things and there’s nothing we can do about it. We will spend Christmas Day with a few of our good friends in Incheon and make the most of the day. We’re looking forward to it, although I think I will miss home a lot. It’s only one or two Christmases we’ll be away for. All being well there will be plenty more to enjoy and look forward too in the future hopefully and we’ve been having a great time on our travels so far. The benefits far outweight the negatives in the broad scheme of things and we know that so we should be fine.
I hope you all have, and are having a lovely Christmas and I cannot wait to speak to all my family via Skype on Christmas Day.
Lots of love