It’s Sunday night, and tomorrow marks the start of the new spring term, my third here in Korea. At this moment, I’m feeling a little bittersweet. On the one hand, I’m excited for the new term to start. I’m going to be teaching four upper level iBT classes, plus four lower-level regular classes, which should hopefully be a nice mix. Also, I’ve finally worked my way into getting Saturdays and Sundays off, so I’m going to have my first real weekend since I’ve been in Korea. That should give me some occasions to do a lot more travelling than I’ve gotten to so far, and with the weather turning in the right direction, that’ll hopefully make for some good times.
At the same time, though, I’m going to be a little sad to see this past term go. In the last month or so, I felt like I had really begun to make a solid connection with the students—in just about all of my classes—so it’s tough to know that I’m going to lose all of that and have to start over. I think one thing I’ve learned about teaching is that having a good relationship with your kids can go a long way, and at least for me, that takes time to build. I’m hoping that I will at least get some of the students I had this past term in my new classes, so that should help some in the adjusting period.
Before I go, I’ll leave you with a couple of funny “I’m in Korea” moments that I had this week:
1) On Tuesday, I had my day off, and because it was a beautiful day (60 degrees and sunny) I decided to take advantage of it and go to the zoo that is about 10 minutes away from Pyeongchon on the subway. I had a nice time walking around the park (although there were a bit too many bondaegi stands—those silkworm snacks—for my taste) and checking out the pretty impressive variety of animals they had. At one point, a young girl, probably 15 or 16, came up to me and asked me to take a picture. I smiled and told her, “Sure,” assuming that she was asking me to take one of her and her friend who was standing nearby. I soon realized, when got up close to me and handed the camera to her friend, that what she actually wanted was to take a picture with me. I’d heard of this phenomenon before, but it was still a bit strange to be approached for a picture by a random person whose sole purpose in asking me was so she could show the picture to her friends later and say, “Look at me with this white guy!” I felt a bit like the gorillas in the cage behind me.
2) On Thursday afternoon, I left my apartment and hailed a cab on the street outside for the ride to work. As soon as I got in, the cab driver turned around, noticed I was white, and got this huge smile on his face. Before I could even tell him where to go, he asked, “Hagwonga?” He was right, but I wasn’t that impressed with his prediction abilities, given that just about all white people in town work on the same street of hagwons as I do. As he pulled away, he started asking me questions about who I was and where I was from. Then, he did perhaps the strangest thing a cabbie has ever done to me in my life: he popped open the glove compartment, pulled out two clementines, and handed one to me. At first, I wasn’t really sure what to do—the ride to school is really only about 5 minutes from my place—but after a moment I regained my composure, took the fruit from him, and thanked him for his generosity. I didn’t know if it’d be rude to eat it in the car, but when he started peeling his, I did the same and ate it right there in the back of the cab. When we got to school, I had the urge to give him a little extra money in appreciation for the snack, but since the concept of tipping doesn’t really exist in this country, I wasn’t going to have much luck even if I wanted to.