Elwood 5566

Ben. Korean Teenagers (1)

Posted in Diary notes, Education, Korean children by 노강호 on May 25, 2010

Ben is one of my students. He is 15 or 16 and in his final year of middle school. Tomorrow he is off  on his class trip, in this case to Sorak Mountain. He is in school early in the afternoon as his class has been let out and so he calls in for a few hours study, prior to buying  ‘snacks,’ at the nearby E-Mart. The snacks he tells me, will include ramyon (Korean pot noodle), choco-pie, (Korean chocolate cake-biscuit things), crisps (what American refer to as ‘chips’) and drink.

It’s the first time I’ve seen him in uniform; gray trousers and jacket with matching gray waistcoat, and a white shirt with the typical burbery-type pattern on the inside of the collar and inner cuffs. On his breast pocket a green flash carries his Korean name, stitched in gold. He’s a skinny boy who in class we often refer to as ‘chopstick boy.’ Today he is incredibly happy, his ‘kibun’ repaired after his post exam despair, last Friday. He’s not just a little happy, he’s ecstatic and he keeps telling me he wishes he was going now.

Next, he starts to tell me about how he fell over in football at school today and had to go to the school ‘hospital.’ He pulls up his shirt cuff to reveal a scratch the length of his forearm. It bled so much he tells me; ‘there was blood everywhere.’ He understands the difference between a cut and a scratch but insists it bled a lot. Then I considered how skinny he is and thought the loss of a little blood for him might be catastrophic and won’t to tease him but am cautious. Koreans do not like being teased as we in the west do and a bit of fun can very quickly upset someone and then you’ll have to wait for another day to clear the air. However, as a rule, Ben doesn’t mind a joke. That reminded me of last year when I jokingly asked a student, Mark, to close his eyes and then, from about a foot from his ear, I pulled the rip cord of a firecracker. Mark almost jumped out of his chair and didn’t find it at all amusing. He sat crying for almost half an hour and there was nothing I could do to console him. The firecracker had made one big bang, not like other ones I’d set off and Mark claimed a bit of powder had hit his ear. Well, if I’d been teaching in the UK I would probably have lost my job. Next day I gave him a box of choco-pies. In the nest lesson we discovered the firecracker had been made in China and that they are notorious for being loud and unpredictable.

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