Can you spell M-A-R-I-N-E-S? {Darrell}

Published: October 13th 2007
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The ClassThe ClassThe Class

My class of Marines
Today Cath and had an opportunity that few South African get. We were invited as special guests to visit two of South Korea's military bases.

With warring over the Korean peninsula becomming less popular by the day, the South Korean defence budget now covers optional English classes for military conscripts. This means that at the end of a long day digging trenches and firing automatics, soldiers can now chose to go study English with native speakers. And which lucky Anglos get to de-brief the Korean military? Well, yeasterday it was the two of us who were collected at the back gate of English Village after the day's classes were done.

Unfortunately we were not picked up in a camo-painted jeep (like Cath has before), but I guess that's nothing to regeret seeing as we'd have had to travel in the open back. Now that winter's on its way that would have been a cold hour on the road. Instead a bright blue 4x4 arrived to carry Cath off to the Air-Force base so that she could teach pilots which button says "fire".

A few minutes later a tiny Daewoo arrived, which was to be my lift to the base of the 2nd Marines Division in Gimpo. I guess the Air-Force must have more money lying around these days. I can't tell you why Marines need to be able to speak English, I've always though they were more of the "... ask questions later" type.

The hour long drive was mostly spent chatting to the man in the passenger seat. He was quick to point out that his uniform badges were those of the navy, not marines. He seemed quite surprised that we had not realised this - my knowledge of Korean military insignisa is clearly not up to scratch. Apparently he is acts as the navy's liason on the marine base. The marine who was driving us sat in silence and stared straight ahead the whole way. Hmm... going to be a fun class.

When my Korean co-teacher and I arrived, we were served a surprisingly good dinner, consisting of a great big pot of spicy tofu and cabbage stew (it was one of the best Korean stews I have had), served with black rice and side dishes of fried chicken and at least 4 other kimchi-ish dishes. It was so good that even the naval
Cathy's rideCathy's rideCathy's ride

The pilots clearly travel in style
officer who ate with us commented on how hungry I must have been. I'm really proud to have had my appetite complemented by someone who's used to dining with active marines.

As the marines who were to be our students came walking into the dining hall, another soldier started to clean away the dishes. He poured the officer's half-finished glass of water into his half-finished bowl of soup, and then added the contents of the bowl back to the pot. that's how it gets to become so tasty!

We split the group of shaved-headed 20-somethings into two groups, and each spent an hour with our students before swapping the two groups for another hour of teaching. With my first group I made the mistake of trying to teach too much. Most of the time the guys sat silently and I really had to draw and kind of answers out of them. With the second group I decided to take a different approuach. When I came into the room after the 10 min changeover break I found them playing a game at the table. Although I had no idea about how to play, I joined in for a
Our driversOur driversOur drivers

The little car they picked us up in on the right
few mins and it was not long before I managed to win a round (by sheer luck!).

After that the soldiers were really open. The men live on the base 7 days a week, never allowed off even to pop down to the shops. So all they really wanted was a bit of interesting conversation. We ended up chattign about dream holidays, most of which were hilarious. It was pretty easy to encourage them to all participate in the conversation. By the end of the hour we were so into our game that none of us were ready to leave.

I asked them what kind of lesosn they would like me to prepare for next week. The first suggestion was to talk about foods from all over the world. But after about two minutes of that conversation we realised that might not be such a great idea. These guys live on a diet of mostly kimchee and rice (don't ask me how they get so fit!). There last meal of the day is at 5pm, so maybe not such a great idea to be talking about hamburgers and Chicken รก la King at 9pm.

Cruising back to English village in the little Daewoo with my silent driver really gave me the chance to appreciate the privilege I had just enjoyed. To be able to sit and chat to a bunch of guys my own age, who live in a completely different world, laughing and learning from each other was really incredible. Tomorrow they'd be waking up with the dawn to get started digging trenches at 6am. I'd be waking up in my double room apartment for another day of my worldwide adventure. But despite all of that we were able to sit around a table to laugh and genuinely take interest in one another.

Sorry about the quality of the pics, I wasn't sure how happy they would be about me taking photos on the base at the start, so I was trying to be discreet


15th October 2007

I need to learn from you!!!
I think it's times like that,that you realise what an awesome priviledge you have just endured...and maybe that is what I need to be doing in my life at the moment.. Just be thankfull for life...praise God! Love you guys! Mwah

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