Published: March 13th 2012March 13th 2012
Sometimes I wonder how I managed to get such a cushy job, and why I would ever consider getting a job in an office sitting staring at a computer. February was such an easy month, particularly the last week, which was the last week of the school year. For example, on the Monday I got paid to go ice skating all morning, and then to go and eat the fattest steak I could find on the menu at the steakhouse. This was the field trip for the oldest class in kindergarten, who were graduating to elementary school. They asked to go ice skating, which I was quite happy to go along with. I think they regretted the decision though, poor kids looked pretty stressed out after spending the whole morning hitting the deck every 30 seconds. And my first steak in four months was enough to write a whole blog about. I'll spare you though.
The rest of the week was spent doing pretty much nothing other than a few ceremonies for graduation and completion and the usual song contest and plays - I maybe taught 2 lessons all week.
Yeh, I was feeling pretty smug.
the inevitable happened. Five of the seven Korean teachers left, and were replaced by new ones who weren't even brought in early to observe the classes. New kids arrived, a lot of them never having been to school before. School was utter chaos for the first week, no one really knew what was going on. I've been lumped with most of the new kids. After getting more lenient over the last couple of months I'm now having to get my act together and start shouting again. I feel bad because I guess a lot of the kids probably don't know what is the right or wrong way to behave yet, but I guess it's my job to teach them! Anyway, it hasn't been too bad so far (I'm only a week and a half in...). I only really had problems in my 5 year old class full of new students, in which one little girl for some reason thinks the school is a prison and is absolutely terrified of doors being closed and petrified of me, the jailer. Maybe she's based this decision on the lunches in school...
I can see it being a tough couple of months ahead.
I've got to phone test these kids next week, most of them can't even answer the question 'What's your name?' face to face, so that'll be fun.
Anyway, enough of the school stuff, it's all pretty samey really. So in other news...I feel I've been pretty lazy recently with doing the tourist thing, it's been so cold it's hard to get motivated to go anywhere. I've done a couple of hikes recently which have been pretty good. You can get out of the city here fairly quickly considering it's such a massive place. There's a pretty amazing island called Gadeok-do about 15 minutes on the bus from my place. We also went and checked out a place called Gyeongju, which was the capital of the Silla Kingdom, which was around a bloody long time ago. So there's plenty of ancient things to see there, they have these huge burial mounds absolutely everywhere, and loads of rocks covered in carvings of what I assume is Buddha. Not the most informative review sorry, but I'm no historian.
Last weekend I went and explored a fairly poor area of Busan, called Gamcheon. Busan has tried to bring money into this area
by designating it as a 'cultural village'. It is set on a mountainside within the city, the streets are winding and narrow, and the houses are all painted different colours. You follow arrows round the place to discover little houses full of modern art. It has been branded as the Korean Machu Picchu. Now I've never been to Machu Pichuu but I'm fairly sure that the 3 day trek through jungle in the middle of Peru to discover the ruins of an ancient city isn't exactly comparable to the 20 minute bus journey through the polluted streets of Busan to discover some painted houses on the mountain side. That said, winding my way round this colourful little maze was a great way to spend a few hours.
I'm still enjoying playing rugby out here, we've been playing one of the university teams here in Busan, PNU, every week which has been great practice. We have a big tournament with a few of the other ex-pat teams from around Korea on Saturday which I'm really looking forward to. We are in a league which a bunch of teams from around Korea too, which starts fairly soon. I was under the
impression that there was only one US military team in the league, but it actually turns out 5 of the 10 teams are US mils. Good job school pays half of my medical insurance! Actually on this note, I was cycling to rugby last weekend along the same cycle path that I saw the man taking a poo, and on three separate occasions in one trip saw old women taking a pee on the path. I'm going to start cycling a different way I think, maybe there's something I don't know about this route?!
Anyway, I'm sure reading about my life isn't particularly fascinating, so I'll put in a bit about Korean culture to (hopefully) keep you interested. One interesting thing about Korean culture is the attitude towards elders. Anyone older than you deserves your full respect. Verb endings change depending on your age or how respected you are. In fact, its fairly common to get asked how old you are, in order to determine whether you are younger or older than them, and how you should be spoken to. Now I agree you should always respect your elders, but I feel that sometimes this respect is abused a
bit here. I have often seen old men push little girls out of the way in the queue at the supermarket to buy their bottle of soju (rice wine). I've been pushed out of the way on more than one occasion. I've seen old men shout at policemen even when they are in the wrong, and get away with it. If you're told to do something by someone older than you, you are expected to do it. Now I'm sure this isn't the case all the time, but it is interesting to watch the interaction between the young and the old and see how different it is to the general attitudes back at home.
Anyway, hope all is going well at home! Make sure you check out all the photos at the bottom, added quite a few this time!
Love Ross x
There are more photos below