This past weekend at Dadaepo beach, Busan held a kite festival. I love Dadaepo, it's one of my favorite beaches in Busan. First of all it's huge, and rarely busy, or at least it never seems busy because of its size. Also it's pretty far south so a bit off the radar for most people and a really great place to go camping (we went camping twice on Dadaepo, and I hope to go again this year).
In case you hadn't been reading my previous blogs, you might not know that I am an Englishman that is currently living in Korea and married to a Korean woman. This has given me first hand experience of a fairly typical Korean family. This is an experience that has not always been plain sailing and is interesting because the nature of the family here in Korea is completely different to that in Western countries, and a million miles away from that of my own.
Yesterday I had two of my awesome Korean friends over to come see my new apartment, and to spend some time together. Since I still don't have much to eat or drink stocked up in my kitchen I ran down to the convenience store for some snacks and some tea. They didn't have any black tea, just green and barley, but I prefer black so I was looking for something comparable.
Oh living in a foreign country where you don't understand the language fully.
I am now 31 years of age, and although I think I look and feel a lot younger, I do wonder just how great it would have been if I had come to Korea much earlier. I contemplate just what a fantastic experience and opportunity it would have been for me when I had just left university. Don't get me wrong, going to teach in Korea is a fantastic experience at any age and I would thoroughly recommend it, but my gosh would it have been useful to know about at 21. This is my guide for graduates and anyone thinking of coming to Korea to teach. I think that you can infer from what I have written, that I can't understand why anyone wouldn't want to come.
I wasn't really expecting anything to come out of this day other than chocolate to be on sale tomorrow, but as usual, I was wrong.
First, our principal who is both laid back and no-nonsense bought a basket of goodies for all the teachers in the office (which are all girls except one outnumbered guy). It was nice and filled with candied nuts and little cookies and some gummy candies and hung out in the staff office to be grazed on all day.
Today, March 14th in Korea is "White Day" (it's also Pi Day, which I'm really bummed that went almost the whole day without realizing it- and missed both times to celebrate 3/14 at 1:59 and 26 seconds). White Day is the male counterpart of Valentine's Day - which is where women give chocolate to the man in their life and then a month later, the men reciprocate.
First off we went for BBQ with a little something extra which I had never seen before- an omelet ring.
Last Friday, Workwick Franklin teachers new and old gathered together for a night of beef, beer, and general tomfoolery. As a goodbye to the only Workwick Franklin teacher who finished his contract and is leaving Busan (at least for now), as well as to welcome the new Chicago couple (I swear the Windy City follows me around...and that's the way I like it), and celebrate the first week of the new school year- we went out. Now nights in Korea can sometimes fall into a basic pattern: dinner, drinks in multiple locations, drunken singing- last weekend may have fit the bill, but was far from typical.
That is my Asian pivot.
Here is part one, where I argued that there is no constituency in the US to support an Asian pivot besides the some business people.
Problems for Far East Teachers in the West (I will use England and Korea as an examples)
1. Discipline of Students
As an interesting thought experiment, in my last blog, I introduced the idea of having a Far East Native teacher programme in our own Western countries. I have no illusions that it will actually happen and there would be some changes to make to the programme, for sure, but I think it could run in roughly the same way. I think this would be of great value to our students in the west and might just give our rather stagnant education system a little shot in the arm. It would be a refreshing, interesting, open-minded, and important change, but there would be some unique problems for Far East teachers, that westerners do not have when they go to Asia to teach.
I pulled this image from here.
, which means that on the return leg of the journey I have found myself trying to catch taxis in the countryside to return to civilisation. It quickly became apparent that this may not be the same as catching taxis in the city.
Recently I’ve been travelling out from the edge of known space at
This time around the class sizes are one of the biggest differences. This year my largest class is a whopping 5 kids. Their parents call constantly to critique everything from my handwriting to the types of assignments I give (and yes I am expected to give even my kindergarteners real homework).
Tomorrow rounds out my first week teaching at Worwick and I will say in some ways it's very different from DaeGyo, but in others it's as if nothing has changed.
“If you do a live radio show in the morning, nothing worse can happen to you all day.”
Open Miked in Busan
I’ve been very busy recently. It’s the kind of busyness where you’re basically on the move and working from the moment you awake after five to six hours of sleep to the moment you go to bed, seven days a week, and I’ve pretty much been like this since November. It seems like a superhuman effort for a foreigner, but it’s just normal life for many Koreans. Is it a sign my attitude is becoming Korean? And if I don’t care, is the answer yes?
But just in case you ever wanted to see a Korean studio apartment, or you want to play compare and contrast with my last Korean apartment
, this is the blog post for you!
On today's episode of MTV cribs.... Okay so I know that MTV cribs would never really want to see my Korean apartment what with its lack of infinity pool and Porches in the garage, and the fact that it's no longer 2000, and I'm not in Destiny's Child.
After she read about how various so-called “international couples” start to possess a feeling of limbo in the world, belonging neither to their home countries nor to the nations in which they’ve made their new homes, A. asked me how I felt the last two times I went back to America, since at this point, after almost three years in Korea, I am definitely not fully American anymore, and likewise in a state of purgatorial limbo, waiting to burn off the sin of being young before I can attain the heavenly bliss of an income that provides for a life of permanent travel.
Last year I put up a few posters up on the walls and a few drawings
later in the year done by my students, but beyond that I didn't change
My last spin across the dance floor that is Korea, I was reluctant to make my apartment into a home. I was only going to be there for a year so why buy much? Well my return has hopefully made me a bit wiser, but only time will tell.
I guess you could briefly summarise my feeling of the worth of a Native English teacher in Korea, as someone that should be an inspiration to the students, and someone who is prepared to be inspired by the students themselves and the Korean people they meet everyday, during their stay. On making this statement I am aware that I maybe guilty on two charges; that of being overly dramatic, and that of being arrogant in thinking that I can be inspirational to them. I am not one to be dramatic, so I am going to defend myself on this charge by asking a question; if you are doing something (a job), which you go to almost everyday, and spend more time doing than possibly seeing your best friends, what's the point unless you can enjoy it and in a way that enriches your life? Not everyone can be a doctor, or a marine biologist (my ideal profession), so why not find a way to enjoy and learn the most that you can from your work?
Welcome to Worwick Franklin- can you come in to work today?
That may not be exactly what happened, but it’s kind of how my intro to my new school felt.
On Monday, February 20th I went to visit my new
school, Worwick Franklin, for the first time. I met
with the director and we talked VERY briefly about my start date and my
apartment (I was originally told I would start work on March 5th and
I could move into my apartment on Saturday February 25th- both of
those pieces of information changed fairly soon after). I also got to briefly meet the three
teachers who would be leaving at the end of the month and the other teacher who arrived at the end of December and will be staying at the school with
me and the other new mystery teachers.
In my last post, I identified the reasons why Native English teachers essentially do not help in achieving higher test results for Korean students, but are valuable in other senses. When I first saw the figures from Seoul, for the lack of improvement in English since the introduction of the Native teacher programme, I thought deeply about the usefulness of my own position in my school. I think despite the fact that English teachers get paid well here in Korea, the schools themselves can make the foreign teacher feel fairly surplus to requirements sometimes. The figures from Seoul and this fact made me question the meaning of my existence in my position at the school. I could give many examples of the lack of importance I feel sometimes, but I shall just give one particularly irksome example from last year;
I am currently working in South Korea as an English teacher, and enjoying the culture change very much. I am employed to teach high school students English, and invariably about western culture. The governments in South Korea, Japan, and China, feel that it is very important for children to learn English, and although they have many English teachers of their own, teachers that are good at speaking are in short supply. On top of this there is a slight attitude of fear and distrust among far-eastern countries of people from English speaking nations, and the western world in general. With this in mind, they see the need to employ native English speakers, to improve English so that people from these countries are ready for business in a globalised economy.
This past Sunday I had the humbling and amazing opportunity to visit the House of Sharing in Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do province, about 45 minutes from Seoul. The House of Sharing is both a museum and home to former “Comfort Women” – survivors of sexual slavery at the hands of the Japanese military during the Asia-Pacific War (1932-1945). It is the world’s first human rights museum centered on the theme of sexual slavery.
Eight of these women live in the house today. They are called the halmonis (할머니), or grandmothers. During World War Two, they were what many called wee-an-bu (위안부) or “comfort women”, 200,000 of the girls and young women from all across Asia who were taken by the Japanese to work as sex slaves.
The term “comfort women” is obviously a euphemism used by the perpetrators in order to lessen the horrific reality of the situation. The official name for these women is ”Women drafted for military sexual slavery by Japan” or Cheong Sin Dae 정신대.
A bronze statue that represents what these women would have wanted from their life at the time – she wears a traditional marriage crown, on her right is a suitor and on her left is a family. The waves symbolize prosperity in childbirth.
I am a big admirer of Karl Lagerfeld, from his work for Chanel to his dry sens of humor, so I was very excited to see his exhibition Work in Progress at the Daelim Museum in Seoul.
No, I’m not a French designer either. I’m from nowhere. I’m a European, old European is all I am.
Next Saturday the Daegu Theatre Troupe will be performing for the first time in an actual theater! We will be wowing our audience with our celebration of the funny, the strange, the unusual, the inner turmoil, the outer actions – All Things Love . I‘ve been super excited about the show because aside from being in it, I [...]