Another crazy week in the land of Korea! My first week where trying to keep track of things back at home whilst being here has well and truly been put to the test - and I believe, passed with flying colours! I’ll explain more later!
My co-teacher at Wonnam was away in Gangwon on Monday, and according to the vice-principal, the students wanted my lessons to be taught so I obliged by going solo! I’d been working on a cracking Who Wants To Be A Millionnaire for Places In The Community which went down a winner. I’d also been practicing my Hangul by translating their names into English and I’ve decided to do a register each week to try and get used to their names. It also provides much entertainment because of my shocking accent. For example, ‘I’ is pronounced ‘Lee’, ‘Hui’ is pronounced ‘Hee’ but with your teeth clenched like your straining for a dump. The lessons went well, and even though they tried to get away with more than usual, it went pretty smoothly. In fact, they were almost forced to speak more English because they didn’t have anybody to translate. This works in
two ways, sometimes it can end in frustration, but more often than not, it turns into a convoluted game of English charades, i.e. it means that they have to construct a sentence in English for me to try and decipher. For example, when asked for more places in the community, I had the following - “Erm, doctor, nurse, next to, hospital, drug” followed by the action of somebody swallowing some pills. You guessed it - the pharmacy.
On Tuesday I had my grade 3 with Eun-bi. Although Grade 3 are by far the hardest to teach, I look forward to our lessons together because they normally end with some fun, and because some of the students have more advanced levels of English, it can have some really funny conversations too. The students normally have an English name and a Korean name. Their English names are sometimes quite brilliant. Zero, Pinky and Willy still get a chuckle when I do the register. Gerrard, Owen and Ronaldo are the football fans. I was doing my Nationalities lesson and teaching them about Scotland. Haggis, it turns out, is actually the Korean word for a babies nappy. This was quite apt because on
the same day I found this out, I proudly became an Uncle because my older brother, Pete, and his fiancé, Nikki, had a beautiful baby boy called Jacob. I’ve never before been so proud and pleased and annoyed that I couldn’t be back at home to see him. However, this was our first test of the international contact and it went very well. International calls and texts were fine and Skype has always been useful to touch base and make sure everything is good back at home. Emails from Dom have helped keep pictures and news flowing and I’d warned my teachers at school that the birth was imminent so they were prepared for me needing to answer a call with any news! The picture of Jacob has made it into every one of my lessons this week as a result and the students and teachers have all loved seeing the picture.
In Korea, there is a strange greeting too. Instead of saying, “How are you?”, they normally say, “Did you eat breakfast?” or “Did you eat lunch?”. Laura and I have debated about how to answer this question because we’re not sure if they just want a yes/no
answer, or to go into an in-depth discussion about what we had for breakfast/lunch. I’ll keep you updated on the progress. I have Grade 1 and 2 on Wednesday and they are normally pretty good. Just before my Grade 1 lesson, there had been a fight between two students resulting in me walking on a blood splattered floor whilst teaching. You don’t do that every day! Two of the students in the class had repeatedly turned around and started chatting to each other after I had told them three times not to, and even had the cheek to do it with me being stood there! This week I came armed with a punishment - lines! I figured this was beneficial because they would learn some English whilst being punished. Initially, I was going to get them to write, “I must not talk in class.” but then realised the oxymoronic nature of such a statement for an English conversation class so I went with, “I must not be disruptive in class.” with the added punishment bonus of needing to find out what the word ‘disruptive’ means. Classic.
In the afternoon I was given food plentifully. The last two weeks must
have been “making a burger” lesson in home economics as I turned up at my desk with a burger and a drink waiting for me. After a moment of deja-vu, I tucked in and begun comparing it with Naebuk’s last week. Although Boeun scored points on the packaging and the drink, the quality of burger at Naebuk excelled. I’m now waiting for Wonnam to show its might - I may suggest it as a lesson to the home economics teacher on Monday. My extra class was cancelled (gutted, because I’ve got a cracking lesson going through the Thriller music video in preparation for Halloween), so to console me, the PE teacher presented me with something quite unexpected. Up to the brim of a small pot he was carrying contained cooked red grasshoppers. Eun-bi said that not even Korean’s eat them. My bowels can’t get much worse so I was ready to take the risk. They actually didn’t taste bad, they were salty and didn’t have much of a taste, you could easily pass them off as a bar snack if they didn’t look like fried grasshoppers.
On the way to Naebuk on Thursday I was crossing the bridge and
there was quite a strong crosswind. The man in front of me had just finished eating something out of the small black bin bag he was carrying and decided to do the (un)environmentally action of throwing it into the river below. However, his plan back-fired as he threw it and it blew straight back in front of him. I chuckled, but then he had the audacity to try again! This time, the bin bag flew into his face. I was laughing quite hard at this point as I walked past him. I turned to see if he’d found the error of his ways, but he’d obviously resorted to plan B. It was not, as you would have thought, to put it in the bin, instead, I saw him tying the bin bag around one of the posts on the bridge!? I made sure I showed the children a video on how to help the environment in my lessons as a result. Every week I get the same bus at the same time to exactly the same place to get to my middle school, yet the Korean man in the shop still has difficulty determining where I am needing to go!
I now accommodate a good couple of minutes each week to readdress where I’m meant to be going. Naebuk is clearly trying to influence the children with English as there is typical English role plays in Korean and English along the corridors, and even the toilets. The one in the toilet is my favourite:
A: I’m worried about my weight. I think I’m overweight. B: I think you should get some exercise.
Friday was brilliant! It was the traditional schools sports day! I must redirect you to my friend Gavin’s great blog - blog - because everything on there was done at our sports day and I won’t do it the comical justice that Gavin writes with and that it deserves. The day kicks off with the funniest thing ever - the warm up! Eun-bi was telling me that they have a CD and dance/warm-up which they learn from when they are in elementary school and continues throughout. Consequently, the CD kicks in with music and a man shouting in Korean and all the children (and some of the teachers!) begin to dance and move in unison! I wish I had a video of it! They
The FallenDoing some advertisement for The Fallen.
had a hacky-sack type event, one where you throw sticks into a wooden funnel, the slow bike race (hilarious), hitting a metal tyre rim with a stick and the Korean wrestling. I don’t think you could get away with doing wrestling as a sports day event in England! The football match was great too - the B team absolutely destroyed the A team and beat them 4-0. I’ll remember to remind them about that if I see any of them next week!
After work on Friday, I had a quick go on Call of Duty, with Laura’s unhelpful, and for any CoD fan, humiliating comment, “Are you meant to get killed all the time on this game?” It was time for a drink. We went out with Chris, Betty, and Stephanie who has just recently come to Boeun and had never been to norrebang! We soon put that right! Chris had a funny story, one of the parents at the school was talking to him and said, “My daughter’s going to paint the Jew,” Chris had to check whether he’d missed out on another moment of Korean cultural insensitivity, but persevered, “paint the Jew?”, the parent clarified, “Yes, with the animals,” “Ah, the zoo! You’re daughter’s going to paint the zoo!” Absolutely classic.
You’ll be pleased to hear that I’ve become an international musical performing artist after my antics yesterday - much to the annoyance of my little brother I would imagine. The music teacher asked if I wanted to play the piano at the school festival a couple of weeks ago and I obliged. Maybe I wouldn’t have if I’d known I was going to be performing in front of all of the students, teachers and many of the parents in a 400+ capacity venue in Boeun on a grand piano! However, it was great fun and I’ve put a video up on the blog (at the bottom or click here ) so you can see my performance. I did make sure that I did some advertisement for theFallen (www.myspace.com/thefallenyork) whilst I was out here though!
The festival was good fun all round actually. Some students who I would not have expected to perform were up on stage singing their hearts out, rapping or dancing. The good acts were interspersed with some truly terrible performances. I think my favourite moment was the audible groan from 400 people which followed the hosts announcement for the next act to perform - which were two poetry recitals. I followed a high school traditional Korean drumming act which was absolutely brilliant so I had a job on my hands with a tough act to follow. Luckily, following me was a group of students dressed as women singing and dancing to K-Pop music so I think I could have got away with pretty much anything in the end!
Today has been great because we’ve done absolutely nothing! I wanted to spend the whole day in bed in my PJs but it got a bit cold and I needed a dongas for my lunch. I’m now worrying about craving Korean food but then I watched Midsomer Murders last night and it’s probably about as English as you can get (they were even serving roast lamb on the episode - I don’t think I’ve seen a sheep in Korea yet!).
Until next week!
Tink and Laura
Pete and Dom - I forgot to mention a while back that at the Rock festival they had Metallica’s S&M blasting out the speakers - cracking!
Welcome to our travel blogs! These blogs are written to share our experiences travelling around the world to friends, family and blog readers from around the world. Take your time and have a good read! We've split the blogs into the following trips:
India (2008) - A month long trip from north to south travelling to Shimla, Delhi, Agra, Pushkar, Jaipur, Mumbai, Goa and Kerala.
South America (2009) - A month long trip to Peru and Bolivia visiting Lima, Arequipa, Puno, La Paz, Custco and Puerto Maldonado.
South Korea (2010-2011) - A year teaching as a Native English Teacher in Boeun at t... full info
Korea was an independent kingdom under Chinese suzerainty for most of the past millennium. Following its victory in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, Japan occupied Korea; five years later it formally annexed the entire peninsula. After World War II, a...more info