My first day of teaching. What can I say about my first day of teaching? Let’s see……
I’m still here? That’s good right?
Nothing boosts your confidence in something you have chosen to do for the next year of your life more then being confronted by a bunch of surly 8th graders who stare at you blankly and with barely masked resentment as you stand in front of them for 3 hours trying to engage them. Or attempting, and failing, to control a classroom of bouncing, running, shrieking, cell phone toting, video game crazy 5th graders who could care less about the fact that you are trying to teach them the importance of subject and verb agreement and how this will play a crucial role in the success of their future lives.
It was rather handy that these blessed events happened to fall on my birthday. It’s always nice to have an iron clad excuse to drink. To add insult to injury, was the collective gasp of shock and disappointment heard in each and every one of my classes in regards to the fact that at the ripe old age of 27 years, (that’s the number one question you will get asked by these kids, how old you are, closely followed by…) “No I am not married. No I don’t have children”. This apparently is cause for concern and pity. Let me tell you something, there is nothing like looking into the eyes of a classroom full of pre-teens who are still up at 9:45pm on a Tuesday because they have been in school since 7am and will most likely be up until 1 or 2am doing homework, and knowing that THEY feel pity for YOU.
In spite of my shortcomings, some of the kids seem eager to know more about me and have been very sweet. I was given a can of coffee as a gift from an 11-year-old Minju in my first class. Later on, a nine-year-old Jennifer presented me with an individually wrapped apple pastry with a shy smile and a hesitant, “Teacher? For you?”. Very cute.
When a 7-year-old Justin began yelling at the TOP of his lungs “WHY???? TEACHER, WHY??!!!” during our introduction to the reading that day, refusing to get out his books or follow along and generally disrupting the rest of the class with his arrogant asshole ways, I was more inclined to pick him up by the scruff of his neck and chuck him out the glass window in my classroom to the streets of Suwon below. They frown upon those types of teaching methods at my school though so I had to be content with moving the little bastard to the front of the room and wait it out until the bell mercifully rang and made him someone else’s problem.
I know it will get better. I hope it will get easier. If not….well……there are at least 7 bars in the vicinity of my school. Coincidence? Thought I'd show you a couple of pics of our neighborhood...this is obviously during the daytime...realy does not do it justice.....I'll take some at night and post them soon. In the meantime.....
And while we’re on the subject of alcohol, the teachers really went out of their way to make my birthday matter, something that was unexpected, and in spite of my incessant dislike for the day itself, I found myself having a good time. Being treated to shots with names like a Mint Christy and a Red-Headed Slut will do that I suppose. Combined with the fact that I found a little piece of the KGB to have with me on my birthday☺, it was a good night all around. They even surprised me with a cake at one of our evening break times and sang to me. Thanks guys!!!!
You know your in trouble when you’ve been working since Thursday and still thanking God that Friday is here at last….falling into bed at eleven on Friday night out of pure exhaustion does make you feel old
This weekend turned out to be a particularly nice one, in spite of the forces of the universe working against me. Nothing makes you feel better about life then thwarting the forces of the universe. Saturday dawned wet and warm, with the rain falling ceaselessly. I felt like something that the cat had dragged in, this teaching thing will take it right out of you, and even after 10 hours of sleep I felt ready for more. I felt exhausted, still a bit hung over from Thursday night, and it was pouring rain outside. However, the guy that I’m living with wanted to go and do Korean things all day.
So off we went, armed with umbrellas and a fist full of won. With some trepidation we decided to brave the subway system on our own for the first time after being shown the basics by Ian and Bonnie, friends of Dave’s from back home that are living here now, last weekend. It took a bit longer then anticipated thanks to yours truly, but we made it into Seoul in one piece and set off in search of a palace. Luckily, there happened to be one just down the street from where we got of the subway. Coincidence?
Saddened to lean that we had missed the last English guided tour by 10 minutes, we nevertheless decided to settle for the Koran guided tour of the palace, Changdeok-gung Palace for those inquiring minds out there. It was beautiful, breath-taking at times actually. The grounds were bigger then I could have imagined, the tour was an hour and a half and we only saw half of what there was to see. The gardens in particular were amazing, lush and very quiet, amazingly so when you think about the fact that the palace sits in the center of a city of 14 million people. My camera battery was down for the day but take a gander at Dave’s blog (the link is posted above) if your interested in seeing some of what we saw, the pics should be posted in the next few days, it’s worth it, trust me!
After the tour we decided to try our luck and order some lunch at a Chinese restaurant we passed on the way back to the subway station. This is always a fun adventure, what will I end up with today??!!! Luckily, the menu had English subtitles to it. Unluckily, even when it doesn’t mention seafood in the subtitles, they still have seafood in every-fucking-thing in this country. Luckily (ok, we’re done with that now), the staff were very courteous and were very sorry about the confusion and brought me a fish-free plate of yummyness! When we had eaten our fill we figured we had enough energy to tackle one of Seoul’s many markets and set off for Insadong. Coffee in hand, we roamed the streets and stared at an array of art gallery’s, pottery, jewelry, shoes, handbags, purses, hats, clothes, and more tourist sops then Canmore and Banff combined. This district is known for it’s antique shopping; very pricey, bargaining is necessary and expected here. We were happy to take in the sights and smells from the many, many, many food stalls lining the streets selling everything from ice cream to deep-fried fish on a stick. Seriously.
We also saw more foreigners today then I have seen thus far. I’m not sure what I expected from the other foreigners in Korea, maybe a hint of recognition? A small smile when the eyes meet signaling the fact that we are similar in our differences in this place? Generally, this is not the case, most of them just walk on by, with nary a smile or any eye contact to be had. I don’t know why exactly, but this makes me a bit sad. We did have the happy chance to meet Scot and Sarah and James on the subway into Seoul, two Canadians and an American who were happy to give us a hand figuring out which platform we needed to be on, the same as theirs funnily enough! We exchanged numbers when we parted and I hope to be able to give them a calla s soon as we get our f@%&ing cell phones……..
But our day was not over yet…oh no. Dave felt, as he often does, that the movie theatre was calling his name and he needed to answer that call by taking me to see the latest in video game mania right now, a piece of cheesy schlock entitled “D-War”. The plot, if you can call it that, revolved around an ancient legend of a snake the size of Calgary that is somehow cruising the streets of Los Angeles destroying everything in sight. There is only one person that can stop him…blah, blah, blah.
Oh the humanity. Dave laughed his ass off the whole way through at the sheer retardedness of it all. I myself kept wishing there was some vodka in my water bottle to make it better, so once the movie was finished we headed back into Suwon and swung by Pavox, a cocktail bar located a convenient block and a half from our school and a general gathering place for the teachers at our campus. There were a few already there when we arrived and more joined as the night wore on. Vodka tonics, and a few rounds of darts made the early hours of the morning arrive at an alarming rate. 4am??!! Really????
And now? Now I face my first full week of teaching, and the start of what I am hoping will become a routine. We will be getting Internet and phones b the end of the week hopefully, so my updates will be more frequent and look less like a blog of biblical proportions.
Ciao for now!!!!