HERE IT IS!! The blog I know you’ve all been waiting for with bated breath- tutting, tapping your watches and generally thinking bad things about me for leaving all the hard work to Andy. I’m terribly sorry it’s taken me so long, but in my defence I never said that I would write a blog before we left. I was sure to tell everyone that “Andy will be making a blog, so that’ll be a good way to keep in touch with what we’re up to won’t it? I’ll send you the link!” Remember? But after three months of tutting, tapping, poking, prodding and general bullying I have finally given in.
Honestly, it’s not such a chore, I have been wanting and intending to write for ages but it’s actually quite a daunting thing for me, I don’t really know why. There’s also always something else to do, you know… plan lessons… be ill… drink beer… be ill…
Anyway, it’s time I pulled my socks up in this direction.
I’m going to have to do a rapid catch up so I thought I’d give you a few of the snippets that have been most significant for me, like being dumped in the middle of a field, in the middle of nowhere by a bus driver who on second asking wasn’t actually going to the place he’d told me he was an hour before, making me miss an entire morning of classes (I’ll tell you more about that later.) Or like the middle school student who asked me if I’d had facial surgery… not sure if it’s because she can’t believe anyone could possibly be naturally this perfect, or because she thinks my face looks like it’s the remnants of a patch up job on one once mashed up with disfigurement! Who knows? Either way, I laughed. You have to.
That’s one thing that really stands out, they are extremely honest and will make no secret of the fact that they’re giving you a good ‘up and down’ and that they have an opinion on what they see. One of my millions of co-teachers Mi Sook, told me that the reason I keep getting ill is because I don’t wear enough clothes. She then pulled out each of her six layers of clothing to show me the appropriate amount of clothing for a warm spring day, when the temperature must have been nearing 30 degrees. I told her I thought she was crazy and showed her my one layer of t-shirt, pointing out that I think I must feel the heat more than her. She looked at my top and said with a sigh and a smile, “Yes… and sometimes I can see your stomach.” Don’t exaggerate Mi Sook. This is the woman who stood with me on a beach watching the sunset while holding my hand, wistfully telling me “I like you, I think Andy be jealous.” She’s such a treat!
One of the most delightful things about first arriving in Sunchang was the reaction of the students when I walked into their classrooms on my first day at each school. I was met by a chorus of, “Oh WOW!” in no less than every single class. At first I thought it was funny and went with it, with a modest wave and perhaps a small bow, but after the tenth time, it started to get embarrassing. It’s a good job my ego isn’t inflated easily! A third grade girl at one of my middle schools still greets me every week with, “Hellooooooo beeYOOtiful teacher!!” Again, at first I thought “ah, that’s nice,” but now I kinda want to tell her to give it a rest, I’m not that beautiful.
I’ve found I’ve been going through strange phases of picking up small characteristics of Korean behaviour. My most recent, which I’m still doing, is to say “mmm-m-m-m-mmm,” in agreement to things in conversation, I’m not sure if anyone else has noticed. I’m trying to stop but it’s like the time I picked up saying “yeh-yeh-yeh-yeh-yeh,” in agreement to stuff after working with Italians, I still do that. I also found the obligatory bow that everyone greets each other with here started to turn into a courtesy in the first few weeks, if I wasn’t really thinking about what I was doing. That was just weird so I’ve stopped that.
I’m on a roll now and want to write so much more, but I think it’s unfair to punish you for my blog tardiness by writing an essay. So I’ll break it up a little and write some more soon (promise). I’ll just leave you with my answers to some questions asked by my good friend Ben Green after Andy and I had been here for two months:
“What do you get up to in the evenings? Do you have a nice living room to chill out in, with a TV, with English speaking programmes on it? I hope you do! Have you found yourself some kind of drinking establishment to go to? One that plays good stuff I hope! That’s a point, what does your average Korean listen to?”
Now then… my answer to this could be another essay on it’s own, so what you should know is…
– we don’t watch tv cos there’s no point- ALL Korean
– the only thing we sit on is our bed- no living room (well, a room with no furniture in it)
– when we go to the ‘drinking establishments’ (I use this term in it’s loosest possible form) here in Sunchang they have to turn on the lights and dust off the glasses especially for us- if we want a decent night we have to make a trip to the city which doesn’t happen often, although this is great for saving money!
– Korean modern (I would say ‘popular’ but I can’t comprehend how it possibly could be) music is the hugest, massivest, mountain of SCHEISSE cheesy pop crap you could possibly imagine… EVER, so we generally try to avoid hearing it at all costs or resort to putting our fingers in our ear holes. Your ‘average Korean’ appears to listen to it with enjoyment and the kids LOVE that stuff (am I sounding old?). Alrighty then…