Friday, June 29, 2007
Guys- Ever have a girl you loved say you were like a brother to her? Probably worse than being told she doesn't want to ruin your friendship.
This is not the case in Korea.
Girls call most boys, "older brother." In Korean, it sounds like, "oppa."
Older sisters are called, "luna."
I just got this comment on the blog: "Hmm you're cute but you look like my sister. which kinda cancels the attraction part out for me. hah." And isn't that the way it should be? As an only child, I'm no expert, but the whole "big brother" thing is a little creepy.
Many wives call their husbands oppa, as a term of endearment. Girlfriends call their boyfriends oppa, and the label seems to carry through to the couple's brother-sister dynamic.
I have been insulted so many times by Korean guys who try to carry my bags, tuck in my shirt, get me water and pay for my meal. As a budding independent, I used to think they were insinuating I wasn't capable of taking care of myself. I even had one guy roll up all of my 삼겹살 lettuce rolls, one by one.
But Korean ladies like to be taken care of. I was told by a student that if my friends weren't being paternal, or 'brotherly', I'd have reason to be insulted. So I guess I should just enjoy my oppas while I'm in Korea. Maybe they're the only brothers I'll ever have.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
"What are you afraid of?"
"Getting a bad grade on a test."
This week, one student caused me a lot of stress. He ran around with scissors, he stood on the whiteboard and wiggled it. (For dramatic effect, the screws came out and it fell over, almost knocking out another student.) The class became unsafe. I heard the boy sees a therapist with his family, and has some form of ADD. He gets angry when I ask him a simple question; he whines or growls and scuffs his shoes against the floor.
I told my boss I couldn't take it. "Time out" didn't even work. I couldn't rationalize with him. The class became chaotic, and the other students fed off the energy.
My boss phoned his Mother and had a little chat. The next day, he was another person altogether. He came into class meek and lifeless. He forgot his book and sat silently, with a lowered head, not saying anything but, "yes teacher. No teacher." After class I told him I would be very sad if he left, but that he needed to show me respect. He wrapped his arms around me, with his head on my shoulder. He looked like he might cry. It was a sweet, unexpected moment.
But I don't want a fearful student who knows his Mother is eyeing him, at home, on the CGV camera. I just need to be able to manage him. I wonder what next class will hold. Any disciplinary advice, teachers?
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
This post is for my family. Remember the 3 years in a row I wore "reading glasses"? My yearbook, health card, library card and Christmas photos all showed me in cat frames. I searched high and low for affordable glasses without prescription, and got so accustomed to wearing them that I freaked and wouldn't leave the house if I couldn't find them in the morning!
I prayed my eyesight would deteriorate at the ripe age of 16 so I could justify an expensive pair. I was convinced they made me look smart. Mom couldn't understand it, and now I don't blame her. "You have beautiful eyes! You look like you're wearing those plastic glasses with a fake nose stuck to them. Not attractive."
But fashion glasses are popular in Korea. I was ahead of the times! Look at the selection above, for 10 USD: various styles in a rainbow of colors. 6 years ago, I would have been in glasses heaven. (Sigh. I was so sophisticated.) I nearly tried a pair on for old times sake.
Monday, June 25, 2007
A few times a week I grab lunch at a Kimbap Nara restaurant near home. For 3,000 Won (3USD) I can get kimchi jiggae, a plate of rabboggie or bowl of ice noodles.
The coffee is dispensed from a machine for 10 cents. Coffee machines are very popular in Korean restaurants. You know, even hot water and powder can taste like a latte if you're desperate.
I have two new men in my adult class. One is a Christian and the other an atheist but they are both traditionally Korean. I'm liberal and choose to discuss social problems. Topics like abortion, stay at home Dads, and (laughs) gay couple adoption can get a bit heated.
I'm a strong believer in equal rights. I think homosexuals are born gay, but my students are convinced it is learned behavior, inherently evil, and would be a negative influence on an adopted child. They insist the adoptee would acquire their fathers (or mothers) "perverse" behavior. I asked whether they thought it would be healthier for a child to grow up in an abusive home or a gay parent home, and they chose the abuse without blinking.
I guess a hot topic like that is absurd to bring up in a society steeped in Confucianist tradition, a society in which adopting a child, period, is frowned upon, and gays live lives of secrecy. For the most part, the middle aged demographic grew up under a wooden stick of discipline, in post war time.
The man I dined with last night grew up on a rice and sweet potato farm. His father refused to be a farmer and not only fled his family farm, but left his son in the valley, in the care of his elderly grandparents.
The boy was beaten times he showed weakness, and when he queried about his family (did he have a father and mother? Were they dead?) he was sternly informed the topic was off limits, he wasn't to ask about them.
On his 7th birthday, his Father and Mother showed up unexpectedly. He was overwhelmed with joy, having been reunited with a mother, father and younger brother he didn't know he had. He just thought he was different, growing up. He had no mother and father and there was no explanation.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
There was some e-mail miscommunication but we finally got into contact and met tonight for the first time since we choked down plane food and watched 'The Notebook', high above the sea. His childhood story is facinating. He met his parents and younger brother for the first time at age 7. I'll tell you the story, in depth, sometime.
Anyway, here are some photos from our night. He picked me up in his car and gave me a traditional pouch that brings good luck. A luxury seafood restaurant awaited us, and afterwards we watched dancers in the park near the Suwon Arts Center:
Saturday, June 23, 2007
What, his pose doesn't look natural? That's how all Koreans bite into a hot dog... happily..
In other news, I'm not so sure Tae Hun's pocket ball lessons paid off! He would have been very disappointed in his student (moi) because I played an embarrassing game today. Shhh.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Koreans have told me stories lately. Let me share a couple with you...
1. "I recently found out my ex boyfriend is telling people I'm dead. I have the password to his e-mail and occasionally check his outbox. He told his friends that I died tragically in a car accident."
2. A woman at my work, 40 and unmarried, said she forgot to bring an onion for her sandwich, and was randomly given one today. She said God helps her with the small things, through prayer, but not with the big picture. She wants a man to love her.
3. A Korean friend, whose girlfriend is now living in NYC, told me about the night they almost broke up. He is placid in character, but when his gf insisted their relationship was over and entered her apartment building, he punched a brick wall and drew blood.
He hadn't had a cigarette since the military service but he chain smoked a pack that night and paced as the sun came up. His girlfriend awoke at 7AM, and he was still waiting outside her apartment. She emerged in her work suit and said if he could wait the whole night, they could endure many things together.
It's difficult to engage the middle school kids. There's insatiable eye rolling. These guys are pretty sweet, but I have a naughty class. They've come up with a saying: "No concept." Can somebody give me the answer to question B? "Sorry, no concept teacher."
Advertising out my classroom window. In this heat, it has to be the worst job ever:
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Holy flying dogs! I'm glad it's almost Friday!
My students were amused by the drawing of my best friend (he only has 3 fingers) so they took camera photos:
They like to "mock" read my books:
I teach them important life skills like how to make a heart with their hands:
I owed a fellow teacher dinner, so I took him to a Japanese restaurant tonight for rice and fish eggs in a stone bowl, oddang, egg, kimchi, etc. It was raining so, in line with the rainy day pancake tradition, we were served complimentary kimchi pancakes.
The restaurant looks deceivingly fancy. Dinner for two came to a total of man won, or $10USD.
In other news, it's the beginning of rainy season in Korea, so for the next month, I won't be able to leave the house without my umbrella: