Monday, February 14, 2011

Endings and Beginnings (14 January)

The day’s lessons seem to fly by with one exception.  Since it is the last day of winter camp (for the freshmen at least), the timetable is slightly different to that of the rest of the week so I cover today’s conversation lesson.  NZ2 has told me of the type of speaking activities he’s been doing in class and I work from his notes.  However, despite this approach, the lesson appears to be an epic (no pun intended!) fail and the students definitely seem to prefer NZ2 to me. 

Bad Chopsticks!

Today really does not seem to be my day as lunchtime is just as awkward as the conversation class.  First, I accidentally snub the gorgeous Mr Maths by not sitting in the seat next to him at lunch (which is apparently where I’m meant to sit following a seating arrangement that I still don’t quite understand), then I discover that, although I’m sitting next to Mr Jeong, I’m also sitting diagonally opposite Six-pack who is sitting between Mr Maths and Mr Baek.  It’s not a good chopsticks day for me and my hand is seriously cramping from my iron-tight grip on the chopsticks in an attempt not to embarrass myself.  It’s this very sight which seems to amuse Six-pack and Mr Baek (among other teachers) who pass various comments on my chopstick skills.  I’m tired and my hand is sore so I’m not in the mood for even joking comments but I try to smile and be gracious about the jokes nonetheless while I feebly attempt to eat some lunch.  Before I know it, the day’s lessons are done and it’s time to move to Dandelion Hall for the closing ceremony of the freshmen’s winter camp.

Help You? Sure!

On Wednesday and Thursday night, I spent 30 minutes helping a freshmen student to practise his English poem that he is reading in today’s winter camp closing ceremony.  My co-teachers seem to find it very strange that I voluntarily came back to school at 19:00 twice in one week just to help a student.  What they don’t seem to understand is that the students don’t ask for help very often – at least, not from the foreign teachers – so I jump at every opportunity when they do ask for my help because it shows that I’m not just a non-entity as far as they’re concerned.  I only aim to win over one student; anything more is a bonus.  The results are also worthwhile: Seeing that student on stage, a little bit more confident thanks to 60 minutes of my time, is far more rewarding that sitting at home playing around on the internet or our drinking with other foreigners.


It’s impressive to see the various classes perform things from their different lessons of the past two weeks – particularly when considering that some of these students have only just started learning Spanish, Japanese or Chinese during the two weeks of camp.  The students are all in high spirits as they leave the auditorium and I’m feeling a bit cheeky when a group of them call “Sarah teacher” behind me in the corridor as we’re leaving.  I know from the sheer volume of these voices that these are students from 102 so I match the volume and quality of their voices much to the amusement of several teachers and the confusion of several parents as we chat while heading back to the main school building.  One of the teachers later comments that it’s been a while since he’s seen new students take such an instant liking to a foreign teacher which I take as a compliment.  I’m touched when several of my students take the time to say goodbye to me and tell me that they’ll miss me; I’m even more touched when one of them brings me chocolates to say thank you for teaching her. 

Winter camp is finally over and I find myself a little sad that I won’t see these students again until the beginning of March.  We’ve just been told that the second part of the camp, scheduled for early February, has been cancelled by the Department of Education due to lack of funding.  With camp over, school will once again be running on skeletal staff and it’s a little depressing. 

Exciting Beginnings

As I head home for the weekend, I think of the news that my fantastic co-teacher shared with me earlier about her brother getting married the next day.  I’ve heard a lot about Korean weddings and hope to attend one while in Korea.  I didn’t see her before she left so I send her a text message wishing her well for the wedding and everything that she has to organise.  I’m barely home when she sends me a text message inviting me to the wedding.  Now I feel awkward.  I hope that she doesn’t feel obliged to invite me and I know that she’s going to be busy with family obligations so, as much as I’d love to attend the wedding, I feel that I shouldn’t and this is what I tell in a text message.  Clearly, I still haven’t learned lesson two!  In the mean time, I ask NZ2 for advice and he tells me to attend the wedding.  Catfish also tells me to attend it and then asks if I feel like Galbi for dinner – it turns out we both had unsatisfying lunches at school today.

I’m just about to phone my co-teacher to accept the invitation when she phones me.  It’s no imposition at all and she’d love to have me attend the wedding if I don’t mind travelling to Jeonju which she thinks is relatively far away.  I’m very excited to attend my first Korean wedding, which is what I tell her perhaps a little too enthusiastically, and she gives me the basic details with a promise to text me the address in Korean to show to a taxi driver.  I all but skip out of my apartment to meet Catfish who is already at the Galbi waiting for me with her Culture Shock book and the section on weddings earmarked for me.  I have to buy this book!

Galbi is as satisfying a meal as ever – perhaps even more satisfying than usual since we end up ordering a third portion to share instead of one each as we usually do; the staff seem to find this a bit amusing but happily comply.  It’s a compliment to the restaurant that we obviously enjoy the food!  We discuss the upcoming wedding and generally catch up on the week’s events – it’s mindboggling just how busy a week in Korea can be even when you think you’re not doing much.  There are any number of things that can, and do, happen that make the days memorable and these have to be shared with special friends who appreciate them as much as I do! 

From Galbi, we move to Angel-in-us for coffee and a continuation of our chat that seems to digress and bounce back to the various topics we simultaneously discuss.  Close to midnight, we rush down to Lotte mart to try to find a wedding card of some sort.  Catfish ends up singing the traditional Western wedding march in an attempt to explain what it is that we’re looking for but her current victims understand this to be an enquiry as to what time the store closes: We have 20 minutes.  We head to the stationery aisle with our fingers tightly crossed for luck as we laugh over several “Oh Korea” moments and generally de-stress after a busy two weeks of winter camp.

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