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A picture of Master Doui-guksa, who was the first monk to transmit Seon Buddhism throughout Korea.
Hello Again Everyone!!
In this third article, I thought I would talk about Doui-guksa, who was the first Korean monk to transmit patriarchal Seon Buddhism, which became an integral part of Buddhism throughout the Korean peninsula.
Doui was born in Bukhan-gu, which is present day Seoul. His surname was Wang. Before Doui was born, and according to the “Doui Jeon” (Biography of Doui), in the 17th Volume of the Jodangjip (Records of the Ancestral Hall), Doui’s father and mother had a dream of his impending birth. While Doui’s father dreamt of a white rainbow across the sky which entered their room, his mother had a dream that she had slept with a monk. About a month and a half after this dream, Doui’s mom started showing signs that she was pregnant. Strangely, she didn’t give birth for another 39 months. Talk about a long pregnancy!
In 784, Doui made his way to Tang China by ship, which was pretty standard for Korean monks at that time. When he first arrived, he visited Mt. Wutai-shan. While there, he was ordained a monk at Baotan-si Temple in Guangfu. After becoming ordained, Doui headed south for Mt. Caoxi-shan (or Mt. Jogye in Korean). There, he paid his respects to the sixth patriarch of Seon Buddhism, Huineng, who is still enshrined there to the present day. According to legend, when he arrived at this temple, the temple doors mysteriously opened for him on their own accord. After his visit to Mt. Caoxi-shan, he traveled to Kaiyuan-si Temple next to help further his studies under Master Zhizang, who was a fourth generation disciple of Huineng. Doui attained enlightenment under Master Zhizang’s guidance.
Borimsa Temple in Jangheung, Jeollanam-do.
Eventually, Master Doui returned to the Korean peninsula in 821, where he established a small temple to teach. This temple was located in Jangheung, Jeollanam-do; and while there, he started to transmit the little known Seon doctrine of meditative Buddhism. Doui was also known as a strong critic of scholastic-driven Buddhist practices, which were prevalent during his lifetime.
Doui’s main disciple was Yeomgeo, whose main disciple was Chejing (804-880). Master Chejing was to later expand the little known temple that Doui had founded. This temple is still around today, and it’s known as Borimsa Temple. In doing this, Chejing founded the Gaji-sanmun (Buddhist Wisdom Sect), as the first of the nine Gusan-seonmun (Korean Seon’s Nine Original Sects). As a result of this lineage and his efforts, Master Doui is held in high regard as one of the key founders of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, which is the largest sect of Buddhism throughout South Korea.
In 825, after retiring to Jinjeonsa Temple in Mt. Seoraksan, Doui-guksa passed away. Master Chejing put it best when he wrote about Doui’s brand of Buddhism that it was “the tenant of unconditioned spontaneity,” which sums up the new brand of Seon Buddhism that he brought to the Korean peninsula. Doui-guksa’s budo, which houses his earthly remains, can be found at Seoknamsa Temple in Eonyang, Gyeongsangnam-do.
Doui-guksa’s budo from Seoknamsa Temple in Eonyang, Gyeongsangnam-do.
Before I write a single word, I want to preface this with my awareness that my advice is based only on my own experience- I am not, by a long shot, the expert on cross-cultural office relations. However, I do get along quite well with everyone in my office, so if that's proof enough for you, please read on!
|Step 1: Eat delicious food together.|
If you've spent any time at all on waygook.org, you've probably run across plenty of posts about strained NET/CT relationships, chilly behavior of Korean teachers toward foreign teachers in the office, and all manner of difficulties arising out of everything from deep-seated cultural differences to simple miscommunication.
Seeing as I'm lucky enough to consider many of my coworkers (not just coteachers) to be friends, here are my personal tips for getting along with coworkers in Korean public school. As I've never worked in a hagwon, I'm can't say if the same rules apply.
note: this post is targeted more toward coworkers other than coteachers. I'll write a post about getting along with your coteachers next!
1. Your culture, their culture: know the difference!
So here you are, settling into your new job in lovely South Korea. You came from the US, from Ireland, from South Africa, Australia, wherever. Now, my first advice, and something that I admittedly tend to harp on about, is this: South Korea is not your native country. It's not the US, or Ireland, or South Africa, or even Australia. Really. I promise. The sooner you remember this, the happier you and everyone around you will be.
Not to rag on waygook.org again, but the "What Do You Refuse To Do?" thread just illustrates my point so well, I can't avoid mentioning it. Some refusals are reasonable, such as "wear a surgical mask [while sick]" or "eat dog" or even "care about Dokdo." Some complaints, on the other hand, ramp up my crankiness level at a worrying rate. Refusals include "sitting on the floor in restaurants," "learning Korean," going to work dinners, and in another post that I can't find at this moment, a poster complained about students constantly greeting him in the hall and having to respond. Oh the horror. Friendliness. How will you ever survive?
As The Korean wrote in a post about ESL teachers in Korea:
Even when ESL teachers come to Korea with best intentions, they often come strikingly uneducated about Korean history and culture. Korea is a unique place; no other country in the world brought itself out of utter poverty to a leading economic power within a few decades while surviving two devastating wars under two different countries' occupation. Many things about Korea require a radically different mindset from any other country’s mindset to understand properly – which is really what being exposed to a different culture is all about.
This is exactly the point I am constantly trying to make. There is an arrogance that comes with speaking the global lingua franca. In the majority of the world, speaking English will be enough to get by on. Sure, that's fine if you're just vacationing (though personally I believe that even tourists should learn basic greetings in the native language), but living/work and visiting for a week or two are entirely different animals. In the one case, you're merely on the outside looking in- take a few pictures, try some food, then go home. However, living and working in a foreign country entails quite a lot more, as I like to call it, cultural chameleon...ing. I need to work on that one.
|Guys am I Korean enough yet??|
To circle back around to my point, try to understand the culture you're in. Greet your coworkers in the morning, and when you see them in the hall. Do a bit of research, try to understand where they're coming from. Before you take offense at a comment or action, stop and consider the intention. Plenty of things that would be considered incredibly rude in the US are completely normal in Korea; comments about physical appearance/weight come to mind first. This is not to say that explaining to someone that, in your own country, such and such thing is not done/done differently is a no go. Just remember, before you get all butthurt and rant your feelings on waygook, that not everyone has the same background as you.
On a related note...
2. Learn Korean!
I cannot stress enough how important this is. The amount you want to learn is up to you, but please, please, for the love of...something, learn some Korean.
Maybe it's just greetings. You'd be surprised how far a couple of 안녕하세요's will get you (for the as-of-yet uneducated, 'annyeonghaseyo basically means hello). Kick it up a notch with 잘 먹어습니다 (enjoy your meal) and 반갑습니다 (pleased to meet you) and you'll be in good graces for the rest of eternity, barring some horrible social faux pas.
Also, hangul (the Korean alphabet), is actually super easy to learn. I know, I know, it looks complicated and scary, but it's actually (according to some) one of the most linguistically perfect alphabets in the world. The shapes of the characters are modeled after the shape of your mouth when you say them! Maybe that's only exciting to a linguistics nerd like me, but I stand by my excitement. It's certainly very logical, once you get the hang of it, and believe me, being able to read the menu in a restaurant on the names of bus stops on a map is the most wonderful feeling.
|The secrets of this manuscript could be yours for the taking!|
It's also pretty fun to buck foreigner stereotypes. If I had a nickel for every time someone responded to my basic Korean with "Omg your Korean is so good! Most foreigners never learn Korean. It's so hard/they're lazy/etc", I could build my own school out of nickels! Maybe. Probably not. My Korean is not good enough to warrant this response, believe me, but it feels good all the same.
Now, learning even the most basic Korean phrases will help with my next piece of advice, which is...
3. Try to Be Involved
If you've read anything about having a job in Korea, it's likely that you've come across the famed work dinners, or 회식. These gatherings usually involve lots of food, drink, and most importantly, a relaxation of social boundaries and a chance to bond outside of the office environment.
|Bulgogi marinated in peach sauce, all on the company card.|
Beyond the company dinners, always offer to help out with events. Odds are, you'll be assured that no, they don't need any help, but the mere fact that you offered means a lot. For instance, at the end of the school year, right around Christmas, there was a big school festival, with everything from an art show to various dance and music performances by students and teachers. I'd mentioned earlier in the year that I played the violin, but thought nothing of that fact until the music teacher approached me one day with the idea of us playing a duet at the festival. I was flattered, and thanks to his charming smile, I agreed.
The whole experience was really great. Even though the ladies in my office refused to let me help them with the setup, possibly because explaining what needed to be done to the clumsy foreigner was more trouble than it was worth, I still had something that drew me in to the spirit of the event. We practiced constantly, well aware that we had an audience of roughly 900 bored middle school students to impress. Despite my fears, the whole thing went off without a hitch, and 5 months later people still bring up my performance in conversation at lunch.
Anyways, that whole long ramble was just to illustrate my point; get involved! It won't suck, I promise! In fact, it usually ends up being really fun, even if you don't always know exactly what you're agreeing to participate in.
4. Go the extra mile
My explanations are getting shorter as my list gets longer. This one is pretty basic, and probably applies to jobs in any country, but I wanted my list to have 5 points, don't judge me.
If you're working in public school, I'm going to assume you're on a contract like me, which means that technically you only have to be in school from 8:30-4:30, and anything extra is overtime. "That's great!" you think, right? That means I can leave at 4:30 every day and have glorious long evenings all to myself.
Technically, this is true. However, most of your coworkers are likely going to be coming in earlier and/or staying later (whether or not this is a good practice is a debate for another time), and while I don't have any evidence to back this up, I imagine that seeing the young foreigner constantly arriving last and leaving first would not sit well.
So, my advice? Come in early once in a while. Stay a little late on days when you have a bit more to do, organize your classroom, chat over a cup of coffee with the person you sit next to, anything that strikes your fancy. If you're magically on top of your lesson plans, bring your Korean homework and do it at work!
I know this is probably controversial, since this is technically working overtime without getting paid for overtime, but let's be honest, will the odd half hour once or twice a week really kill you?
This also applies to helping out with stuff beyond teaching your classes. I've helped the IT guy understand difficult metaphors in Jason Mraz songs. I once read a speech aloud for a teacher's husband while he recorded me, so he could practice his English pronunciation before a big speech at his company. On a memorable day during Winter break, I teamed up with my office mates to rearrange and clean our entire office, much to the surprise of everyone who came in the next day.
5. Bring Food
Look, this one is really easy. Everyone likes food. Except people on diets maybe? But I'm not counting them because they secretly like food, they're just pretending they don't for the sake of health or beauty whatever. There's a rumor that my office is cursed; stay here long, and you're bound to gain weight, thanks to all the snacks everyone brings in.
|The irresistible charm of eggplants.|
|Guaranteed to make you fat: baked sweet potatoes and rice cakes.|
|Guess which one is me?|
So there they are, my 5 suggestions for getting along happily with your Korean coworkers. As I said before, I'm not a cultural expert, an expert on how to make friends, an expert on Korean schools...can you see a trend?
What I do know is that I consider many of my fellow teachers to be friends, and some even feel like family, so I must be doing something right.
Do you work in a Korean school? Any more tips for happy office relations? Think my advice is dumb? I'd love to hear from you in the comments~!
Look! A new update! Just like I promised! Also, thanks to everyone who came out to watch me stream this comic. Here’s hoping I can do it again next week!
Over the years, it seems like more and more western goodies have been making their way to South Korea. It’s kind of getting to the point where there’s no real reason for me to bring things from home anymore. Granted, there are still a large number of items that don’t exist here (more mac n cheese, please!), but it’s no longer impossible to find necessities and luxury items that I used to beg my friends and families from back home to send me.
The bad thing is that I now have to try a lot harder when purchasing gifts from home for my Korean friends and students. The promises of “cool American snacks” just doesn’t have the same draw when they can run out and get everything themselves.
Got any questions, comments, or maybe even some delicious cookies you want to send through the internet? Feel free to contact us at dearkoreacomic at gmail dot com.
You can also leave comments on the comic’s Facebook Page!
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Bärenjäger, a German honey flavored liqueur with a vodka base, has been being imported to Korea by Big Shot Imports for about half a year now. It quickly garnered attention as a tasty winter beverage, as its thick consistency and sweet flavors are perfect for those chilly nights spent in hibernation. In fact, its name literally means "bear killer," as it was once fed to the animals by hunters to make them easier to kill.
Still, there are a number of tasty concoctions perfect for all of this year's outdoor barbecues and summer drinking sessions. Currently, there are a number of Seoul watering holes serving up Bärenjäger for all those eager for a taste of something new. Phillies, ThunderHorse, Maloney's, Dillingers, 3 Alley Pub, Sam Ryan's, Sinbin and Chilli King will all happily serve you one of their signature honey cocktails, but you can also try making your own at home. Below are a few of my personal favorites.
Bärenjäger doesn't make for the best shot- it's a tad cough-syrupy when served straight up- but if you must, give this ultra-sweet shooter a try.
1 oz. Bärenjäger honey liqueur
1/2 oz. lemon liqueur
1/2 oz. orange juice
Layer the Bärenjäger and lemon liqueur in a shot glass and top with a splash of orange juice. Bottoms up!
Nothing says summer like a tall glass of iced tea, especially when its got a bit of a kick. You can use just about any variety of tea, so don't be afraid to play around with the flavors. For a Korean twist, opt for maesil, or green plum, tea. (Photo)
2 oz. Bärenjäger honey liqueur
6 oz. fresh brewed tea
lemon juice, to taste
mint springs for garnish
Stir the liqueur with the tea in a glass over ice. Be sure to mix well. Add lemon juice to taste and garnish with a spring of mint.
Whip up a "crazy bear" perfect for Mexican taco night or a day at the pool. In addition to the Bärenjäger, the Allspice Dram is really what gives this drink depth. If you don't have any at home, you can make it. Click here to find out how.
1 1/2 oz. tequila
1 oz. Bärenjäger honey liqueur
3/4 oz. lime Juice (more Lime Juice drinks)
1/2 oz. pink grapefruit juice
St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
chipotle salt, to taste
Take a chilled cocktail glass and apply the chipotle salt on the rim. Spray the allspice dram inside. Put the rest of the ingredients into a mixing glass or shaker. Add large cubes of ice and shake vigorously for 6 seconds. Strain into the prepared cocktail glass.
Bärenjäger may not be for everyone, especially for those not keen on sweet drinks. But it's a refreshing cocktail ingredient and a perfect fit for the summer. You bee the judge... give it a try!
AKA Slow Motion Teacher Talk.It's a disease.
The first symptom, as you might guess from my subtitle, is slower speaking speed. Unsurprisingly, if you speak quickly to someone in a language they aren't super comfortable with, they won't understand you. It's the same for me with Korean. If someone mumbles or talks too fast, I can't catch anything, but if they slow down for me, suddenly a world of comprehension opens up for me.
When I first started teaching, I was nervous. When I'm nervous, I speak more quickly. I think a lot of people do this. In an ESL classroom, though, fast talking is not gonna fly (though it is great for saying things you don't want your students to hear). That was the first critique I got from my co-teacher: slow down. So I did. Suddenly, a classroom full of unresponsive glassy-eyed students began to understand me. Maybe not everything I said, but finally I was getting through to them on some level.
So began my descent into what I refer to as "teacher English". I find that the changes can be organized into three groups, starting with...
Like I said, the first change, for me at least, was speed. When I talk to non-Korean friends, I talk fast. I mean, I don't sound like a conversational auctioneer, but I also didn't inherit my dad's slow southern drawl. If I'm excited I can pass on a record amount of information with a single breath. But since I came to Korea? Well, it's like going from the autobahn to a school zone.
When I'm teaching, I always have to keep a little voice in the back of my head saying "slow down, relax". If you think you're speaking slow enough, try to go a bit slower. If your students start laughing at you, you've probably slowed down too much. Try to find that sweet spot where they can follow what you're saying but you don't sound like a tape player running low on battery power.
Another part of the big slowdown is a sort of...spacing of your sentences. For example, let's say I'm telling a story about my car stalling on a bridge. Normally, I would tell the story like this:
"Last year, I was driving on a bridge, and suddenly my car stopped, right in the middle of the bridge. It was really scary, and I don't know anything about cars, so in my panic I called my dad to help me instead of thinking to call a tow-truck or the police or something."
In class, it would go something like this. "Last year...I was driving on a bridge. In the middle...my car stopped. My car was broken. I don't know...about cars. It was really scary. But...I didn't call 911. I called my dad." (cue laughter)
As you can see, the longer more complex sentences get broken up into shorter statements, and sometimes I'll even take a pause in the middle of sentences to allow people to catch up. I try not to let this happen too much with my higher level students or my friends who are super good at English (gold stars for you all, seriously) because I don't want to teach them weird, unnatural sounding English, but for anyone at a lower level, it really seems to help.
This shows up in a few ways. Most obviously, it's helpful to cut out all your slang. "You got it?" becomes "Do you understand?" "Wanna grab a cup of coffee?" becomes "Do you want to drink some coffee?" "I'm not feeling up for it" becomes "I'm too tired." Notice the trend? It's gotten to the point where I'm so used to making this change that I had a hard time coming up with examples. If I stay here too long I'm going to lose all my slang and start talking like a textbook. True nightmare scenario right there.
|Imagine this said with no inflection, 100 times a day.|
It's also good to avoid idioms and cultural references, unless you're ready to explain them. Now, if you're working with students who are a high enough level, this kind of thing might be a piece of cake for them, but with lower levels you don't want to bite off more than you can chew. For example, with my co-teachers I can say "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse!" because I know they know the saying, or at least I can explain it easily, but if I said that to my students, I'd probably get blank looks. Things like "piece of cake" are even worse. There's no real logic to that one. Is cake inherently easier to eat than other food? Does deliciousness equal easiness? Inquiring minds want to know!
The other aspect of simplifying your language is harder to explain. It means building your sentences out of grammar that's easier to understand, that your students are more likely to know. For instance, I won't usually say that something is "harder" or "easier" or "simpler"; I'll say it's more hard, or more easy, or more simple, just because I know that will be easier for my students to figure out. Instead of saying "This weekend I'm going to study" I might say "This weekend I will study." The more you know about their level, the more you can tailor your langauge to incorporate what they already know, which helps to build confidence, and also helps when teaching new vocab, since you can sandwich it in with stuff that's already kicking around somewhere in their brains. Supposedly.
No matter who I'm talking to, I use my hands. I think it's pretty universal, though some people are more prone to gesticulation than others. However, the longer I spend in middle school classrooms and with my less than fluent Korean friends, the more my life begins to feel like the longest running game of charades in history.
The most common gestures are those in the classroom. Listen: touch my ear. Write: mime writing. Work together: mime pushing two students together. The list goes on and on. What I've found helps the most in regards to classroom hand gestures in consistency. Whatever you choose to mean listen, or write, or shut the eff up, make sure it's the same every time, because then even the lower level students will be able to follow along, and hopefully it will help them catch up on the basic classroom language.
The worst part about all this is that I can't stop. Now, no matter who I'm talking to, I sound like an English teacher. Fortunately it hasn't seeped into my writing yet, but I fear that day can't be too far off. The other thing I've noticed is that bits of more...shall we say...Korean phrasing have been sneaking into my lexicon. For example, I regularly find myself encouraging people to "Take a rest" if they seem sick or tired. There's nothing inherently wrong with the phrase, grammatically, but I don't recall ever putting those words in that particular order before I moved to Korea. Another common phrase is "Do you know (insert any noun here)?" Instead of asking "Have you heard of the Beatles?" I'd be more likely to ask "Do you know the Beatles?" It's a small change, but it comes directly from the way most people here communicate with me. I know there's more, but somehow they're all slipping out of my brain in this hot weather.
Do you teach ESL? Has it changed the way you talk? Any tips? The comment section is always open.
A month or so ago we came into work to learn that our principal’s wife had passed away after a long illness. It was mentioned that we might like to give condolences. This was the extent of communication on the matter, until my boss arrived to say we’d be leaving in half an hour, and I looked up to see that everyone in my office had changed into black suits. In keeping with the arrival of Spring that morning, I was wearing a floral tea dress. When, panicked, I expressed that perhaps this wasn’t the most appropriate attire, the Japanese teacher piped up: ‘It’s OK – you’re not Korean.’
I feel like this situation neatly demonstrates a particularly thorny thorn in the side of foreigners in Korea. On some levels, we are expected to assimilate unquestioningly with the group. This explains what would, in the UK, be considered a phenomenally poor chain of communication: it was simply taken for granted that everyone would go and there was therefore no need for me to know such small details as the fact that ‘giving condolences’ meant ‘going to a memorial service’, that it was today, located an hour’s drive away, and required appropriate clothing as well as arrangements for transport home. Simultaneously, however, we are seen as entirely other to the group. So other, in fact, that it does not matter if we rock up to a memorial for our boss’ wife looking like we stopped in on the way to the Henley Regatta.
An extra strand to this is that it did not cross my colleagues’ minds that showing my respect in the appropriate manner would be a matter of personal importance: in a society where group opinion and surface appearances trump individual will and genuine intention hands down, they simply did not understand why my appearance causing a grieving family I had never met to think ‘she clearly doesn’t know how to dress but we’ll let her off cos of being foreign’ would not constitute enough reassurance to put my scruples to bed. It was also entirely normal that it was the Japanese teacher trying to reassure me: she and the Chinese teachers – also foreign, but crucially Korean-looking enough to draw criticism if inappropriately attired – had all got the memo.
At this point, I felt, there was no right thing to do. However, trusting that my colleagues were right and the family would only think I was horribly ignorant rather than utterly disrespectful, was, I decided, a marginally better option than not turning up at all. I went, paid my respects, had my tea dress and foreign-ness scrutinized, and came home to a dark room and an entire pack of Choco Pies.
My highly productive and measured initial reaction to all this was one of mortified frustration-rage. By every yardstick of my culture, I had been monumentally snubbed with nauseating consequences. The rational side of my brain railed valiantly against this, pointing out that the situation was the result of an extreme and unfortunate convergence of factors I had known about before I left home; that my reaction could have no positive outcome; that no-one, even utter baddies, goes about monumentally snubbing people in this kind of context for no good reason. What had living far from home for so long taught me, Rational Brain argued, if not that the experience essentially constitutes a series of leaps of blind faith that such snubbing is not occurring, in spite of the chorus of cultural yardsticks screaming otherwise? Trouble is, some of these cultural yardsticks are so deeply stuck into our minds that we don’t even know that’s what they are – we think of them as solid markers of fundamental truths rather than permeable ideas subject to interpretation. For this reason, it took a while to really process and understand Memorial-Gate. Even now, although it’s something I can understand academically, I feel it (and my reaction to it) has changed my working relationships fundamentally which has been sad at times. In the next few posts I’m going to try and share some of the results: please feel free to leave me your comments, and/or your experiences with such things.
Wanderings and Ramblings of an ESL teacher currently based in a tiny mountain town near the North Korean border.