Another Country

Okay, okay, so I ripped off the title from James Baldwin’s seminal piece of fiction for my blog entry.  Sue me.  I’m sure he’d understand.  Granted, my work has nothing to do with racial and sexual issues in the mid-20th century, but yeah…

Moving on…things are well. I started teaching this week and boy, oh boy, is it something. I teach at an all boys school with about 1500 sixteen to eighteen year-olds, although I only deal with the sixteens and seventeens. Out of these, including the teachers, I am the only Westerner. It’s crazy. The students heard a new teacher was coming and they all found out my name (which the pronounce “Robot”) and so the first day I got here they were saying my name.  They do it even more now that I’ve taught a good portion of them and when I walk the halls it’s nutty. They all stare and they all chant “Robot” or “So handsome”, and they applaud me for no reason.  It’s very odd and I think that is the best way of describing it for now.

The Korean people are very generous, I’ve noticed.  They are always asking if I’m alright, always trying to take care of me, and sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming – but not in a bad way.  At most I teach four classes a day, ranging from first year-students to second-year students.  Oh, then I also have classes with some of the faculty, to help improve their English – although they don’t always show up.

Other than that, there is no set ciriculum, which is cool.  Basically, I have free-reign to come up with whatever I so choose.  Some of my co-teachers help me out, others just stand there.  Mr. Jang, my main co-teacher, well…I have him often because he teaches all the first-years.  So I see him at least once or twice a day.  Then I see a mixture of other teachers to round out my schedule.  It’s an odd schedule, but I guess whatever works.  And they still practice corporal punishment, although I haven’t seen it yet.  Heard stories, but havne’t seen anything.  Should be interesting.

I have a desk in the teacher’s lounge, which is just surreal more than anything, and then I have my own classroom called the “English Zone” (which they pronounce “English John”) and this is where I teach. I have a desk here as well and once a week I eat in here and offer a “free talk” session for any students.  Supposedly no one comes, though.

I had my first school lunch today which was very traditional Korean food (which is eaten at all times of the day).  I had a fish cake (nummy), some radish kimchi, some cucumber kimchi, rice, and then beef and tofu soup to round it out.  I love this food, so it’s been great so far.  We’ll see what happens after a year.

I have to put together about one different lesson plan per week.  I make it slightly harder for the older kids, dumb it down for the younger ones.  Already completed one and a half today, but this week’s been nothing but winging-it, which I find is much easier than I would have thought.  Next week I’m going to talk about food and eating and dining out.  Ha.

My apartment is right across the street from a Mexican restaurant, which is rare, and I’m super excited about that.

My initial thoughts are that it’s going to be a very great year.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I need to treat it as such.  I’ve already eaten boiled silkworm pupae (check my photos on the earlier post) and I’m ready for whatever else comes.  I’m not used to being an outsider, though.  Yes, we’re all outsiders on some level, but I’ve never experienced anything like this before.  They’re not rude.  On the contrary, Koreans really, really like foreigners.  A lot.  People go out of the way on the streets to shake your hand or smile and wave.  It’s comforting.  Granted, there’s a language barrier (although I’m working on that), but it’s still just something to get used to.

I think, though, this is going to be good for me.  On many levels.  I think, as a writer, it will help me grow because I haven’t yet experienced anything like this and I think it’s important to have real emotions and memories to pull from when you write.  And I think I will be getting a heaping amount while I’m here, to say the least.  So I look forward to the material I come up with.  I feel inspired already, so that’s a good sign.  I also think this is going to help me grow as a person, in general.  Cheesy, yes, but you get so caught up in your own little niche that it’s hard sometimes to realize there’s a great big world out there.  And I think, even on a small scale, my eyes will open up a bit more.


One thought on “Another Country

  1. Wow Rob, it sounds like you are having a great time in Korea! I am sure the next year will be awesome if your first week is any indication of things to come. I love that they chant your name, sweet. Keep up with the great stories, and have a nice week 🙂

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