After two months in South Korea, I've started to build up a collection of Korea-moments. Each time one passes me by, I think, "Oh man, I have to blog about this!" And then life happens, I get busy, and another day passes. Well today is the day! Today I bring you my Korea Highlight Reel. The following is a collection of all the random, hilarious, scary, ridiculous, or just plan dumbfounding things that have happened to me since my arrival.
1. Let's start with scary: Upon arriving in Korea, one will most definitely hear horror stories involving the traffic culture. I have to say, the stereotypes about Asian drivers are all false. Slow is NOT the name of the game over here. When I arrived in Korea, many foreigners described situations where they had seen people hit by speeding cars, or been hit themselves. I graded an essay the other day by a student who had been run over when she was younger. They speed around like (excuse this metaphor for anyone outside of the Eldridge Wilson Clan) Collin Wilson after an ice cream truck on a hot summer's day. Crazy, nonsensical, and potentially dangerous. Oh, and cab rides are an adventure all their own.
2. "Sick Days" mean something entirely different in Korea than they mean at home. In America, if you've got a headache, a slight cold, even a broken toe can lead to a sick day. In Korea, if you're not hospitalized, you better be at work. Same goes for the students. I taught a class last week, where one student was so sick, he draped tissues over his entire face and coughed like a deaf dog for 40 minutes.
3. I have a favorite student! By far he is the greatest thing to happen in Korea so far. Wait till you hear about this kid! He requires a bit of a back story, so bear with me. In Korea, when the students attend English academies, they can choose an English name (and most of them do) for the sake of the foreign teachers, I believe. Many of the students have pretty normal names, Jake, Daniel, Justin, Harry, etc.
But this one kid....He has a new name every day I've taught him for the last two weeks. Yoda, Mace Windu, Anakin, Obi Wan, it changes everyday. When he doesn't do his homework and I have to scold him, he calls me Darth Sidious. This happens often. I've started humming the "Star Wars" theme song whenever he is around. It embarasses the heck out of him, he runs away, and hides until I leave. BEST KID EVER!!
4. This past weekend I took the bus to Seoul, which is about a 3 1/2 hour trip. A co-worker and myself bought tickets to see "Wicked: The Musical". The Australian cast was performing in Seoul for a few months and I really wanted to check it out. Due to the language barrier, they had translation screens set up throughout the theather. But apparently, translation screens or not, the jokes didn't always make it across the culture barrier. Now, I've seen "Wicked" three times, on three different continents no less, so I know that people think this show is funny. But in Korea...crickets. The few token foreigners in the audience could be heard laughing throughout the show among the hundreds of silent Koreans who either didn't think it was funny, or simply didn't get it.
5. A few weeks ago, I walked past a cop pulling a stroller out of the back of his cruiser in front of a bar at one o'clock in the morning. Still curious as to what that was all about.
6. Walking around downtown Gwangju, there is a very good chance that you'll be approached by a Korean trying to herd all the foreigners into a special bar/club built just for us. There are even signs that say "Foreigner Club Only!" There are definitely establishments that lean Korean and lean Foreigner.
7. Each day at school, there is this super awesome woman who makes us dinner. Some days are great, some days are squid. Today was a squid day:( Unfortunately, a lot of the time, you don't know its squid (or something else entirely strange) until its already in your mouth. When I first arrived, I asked a lot about what I was eating. I've now learned to ask later or not at all. It's better if you don't know.
Well, there is draft one of my highlights reel. I'm sure I'm forgetting some good ones, but hey, I've got 10 more months to go!