Asia | Korea, Republic of – And now the weather..
You catch me in a dull moment between classes. I apologose for brevity, but these kids won’t teach themselves, and I only have ten minutes until the lower case alphabet consumes me once again. It continues to snow here with blatant disregard for my personal comfort and my desire to keep my extremities attached to my body. It doesn’t help that the heating system in the school, whilst marvelously efficient once it has been running for ten minutes, is in the preceeding period somewhat akin to an Antarctic gale. What’s more, it is an Antarctic gale positioned just above my desk and aimed directly at me!
Nonetheless, I remain happy and contented with life here, although I must confess that I am looking forward to the distant dreamy days when it will be unrelentingly hot day after day after day. Mmmmmmm……heat!
Well, it’s now 45 minutes later. The class began by three of the kids physically dragging me into the classroom (I think I must be popular!) Happily, the one really disruptive student has been moved to another class, so I was able to teach without the endearing sound of him screeching throughout the lesson. (It transpires that in his new class, he attempted to stick a pencil up the teachers rectum!) We played alphabet bingo – is someone really PAYING me for this?!!
Anyway, on to recent events of interest. New Year’s Eve. Greg (the other native teacher) and I decided that despite our Korean colleague’s abject ambivalence to solar New Year we were going to party regardless. Thus we headed into Seoul, and (with misgivings on my part) Itaewon. Greg had previously located a bar which tended to fill up with ESL teachers and other civilian types rather than U.S. soldiers, so we thought we’d give it a try. On walking in, I was quite taken aback. having seen barely a western face in three weeks, to come across an entire bar full was a little weird. Nonetheless the beer was cheap and the company was pleasant. I whiled away the last hours of 2002 in conversation with some spectacularly named people, such as’Yollanda’ and a ‘Sgt Skip’ before circling the place at midnight and saying ‘Happy New Year’ to everybody I could find. In my cosy haze I may have said it to a few people more than once, but then you can never have too much goodwill! I got the last subway train back, and after a long cold wait at Soekye station, I got my connection and then had a long, cold walk back to my apartment, due to a total lack of cabs willing to take me home.
Next day I decided that freezing air and culture were the best things for a mild hangover, and so wandered down the road to the catchily named ‘Gyeonggi-Do Monument No.37’ – the tomb of General Jeong Mun Bu (Who led a rebellion against the Japanese in 1542 ) This was a very pleasant interlude as it turned out. The tomb itself was on top of a small hill surrounded by woodland, glowing happily in the late afternoon winter sunlight. Below stood an ornate pavillion, carved and painted in the elaborate greens, reds and blues that seem ubiquitous in Korean ornamentation. Despite being stuck right next to the enormous ‘Lotte Mart’ department store the site maintained it’s peace and dignity very successfully. I was pleasantly surprised to find something of aesthetic value in Uijeongbu, resembling as it does for the most part a giant building site. This is perhaps to devalue the place a little. It’s not unpleasant, and I am very happy here.
Blimey! – I’ve just looked out of the window. (This wouldn’t normally be cause for exclamation – except that it is snowing SO hard that I could barely see across the street!) Ah well, as long as I can get into Seoul tomorrow it can snow all night for all I care. I have ‘The Two Towers’ planned as a birthday treat to myself.
Happy New Year to all – wherever you are!