Elwood 5566

A Cup of Coffee and Patriotism

Posted in Comparative, Teaching, Uncategorized by 노강호 on August 3, 2013

Any of my Korean students will fetch me a cup of coffee if asked and occasionally they will buy me one from one of the numerous coffee shops in my area. I’m reminded of the time, when as a new teacher in my first post, I had taken a coffee into my classroom and when I came to drain the dregs discovered a couple of drawing pins lurking therein. I only took cups into my classroom on a few occasions and quickly decided it was dangerous to drink from a cup left in the presence of students. I also learnt to check any seat before sitting as upturned drawing pins were also a common means of abusing staff. Even a jacket I once left on the back of my chair was removed, thrown on the floor with my opened wallet and bank cards discarded on top. I can narrate these events to Korean students and they will be mildly shocked but there are some ‘stories’ I wouldn’t dream of  attempting to narrate as they are simply too shocking for naive Korean sensibilities: boys masturbating under desks, on one occasion a boy flashed his dick to a female colleague, or girls giving boys oral sex in view of the staff room.

Recently (now a year or two ago) however, an event occurred in a British school in which a boy stuffed his penis and testicles in a female teacher’s coffee mug, took a photo of his exploit and then posted the photo on his Facebook account. The teacher subsequently drank from the cup before discovering what had happened. Unfortunately the only major link I can find for the article is at the Sun, Britain’s crappiest, and most widely read daily newspaper. I originally read it on MSN News. Incidentally, another incident in the same week involved a girl putting laxative in teachers’ coffee. I had difficulty telling  the cock and sac story to all but a few very close Korean friends and certainly couldn’t explain it to a class of Korean 16 year olds whom I can mortify by simply sucking my pen. They would not be able to comprehend why any student should behave in such a manner and would see only disgust  and depravity in the act. However, I could easily tell it to British 13 year olds many whom would find it funny and a valid reprisal to make on a teacher. Indeed on the MSN comments associated with the news report, some individuals questioned why a teacher would have a cup in the classroom while some simply claimed a teacher deserved such treatment.

I wondered where those ESL teachers come from who claim Korean kids are as bad as British kids given there are so many blogs  and books written by full-time British teachers who are appalled by the current standards. Indeed, it’s usually only school managers and those who’ve had to prostitute their personal integrity to gain promotion,  those who live in self-denial in order to maintain their sanity and preserve at east a little self-respect, or the lucky few in truly decent schools, who will deny that something is seriously amiss. I could form a small club with the number  disgruntled teachers I know and I’ve known a number of excellent teachers who’ve left the profession because it excessively frustrated them. The idea of returning to British shores to teach fills me with dread.

a monitor cleans my board and replenishes chalk before every class

Britain is not the worst country in the world so why pick on it and not a really bad country?  The point is I’m not incensed by the inadequacies of other countries!  I don’t’ own their passports: I’m British and I’m forced to write that on official forms and documents. When it comes to learning we encourage students to accept criticism as a means of bettering their ability but many people erect a brick wall when it comes to the criticism of their nation. I’m not unpatriotic, conversely  I am patriotic. (Indeed, at one time ‘patriotic’ encompassed the criticism of your country as it was borne out of good intention and the desire for your country to better itself). And of course, I have been socialised in the UK, I speak English, I have an ancestry in the British Isles. Everything about  me is British and more specifically, English.

When I have lived abroad for long periods, especially in radically different cultures, I start yearning for England: English mist, damp mornings, English rain, green grass, decent tea, an English Christmas, Oh!… and the wonderful sounds of Elgar, even though I hate the nationalism it has come to represent. I miss those orchestral marches with their majestic dignity that is so vividly depicted by the characteristic combination of clarinets in their rich chalmeau register fortified by the cellos and in the background the pizzicato pulse of basses. There is  no hurry, the pace is relaxed and only the British have quick marches which are so leisurely you can almost hear the snort of immense cavalry horses. And when the  little timpani roll climaxes  with the brush of cymbals, a thrilling, gentle ‘tushhhh,’ an orgasmic tremor, evoking a tiny tinkle of brass, breast plates, dangling swords and medals, how staggeringly imperial! The culmination of an epoch of world domination depicted not by Sousarian vigour; its thrashing cymbals, blasting trombones amidst the bling-bling sparkle of patent leather, staybright and plastic, but by  sublime subtlety. And what of roast beef, bitter, lazy English villages and English eccentricity?  When I’m away from England, Britain, for too long, there is a yearning, almost at the genetic level which reminds me of my roots and kindles what little allegiance I have. I too am British and this memory, this imaginative kindling is my England and ultimately the place, for better or worse, I feel at home. In this context one can argue it is very patriotic to voice a concern that it has a scummy façade, that it is not aspiring to be better either in terms of its physical being or in the nature of its citizens.  

A British cavalry band trundles through the snow

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©努江虎 – 노강호 2013  Creative Commons Licence.
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7 Responses

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  1. cutestory said, on August 4, 2013 at 5:32 am

    You’re alive! Was starting to wonder. I think you must have abandoned your Facebook page.

    There are a lot of Korean blogs with a positive tone but yours is really the only one I can take seriously. Seems most of the others are either blind appogetics or bitter cynicism.

    On the subject of your post, I also go through periods of longing for home sometimes, but it quickly goes away when I remember the attitudes there. Closed off cold individualism. Everyone afraid and suspicious and one another. Helps me remember why I’m here.

    • 努江虎-노강호 said, on August 4, 2013 at 11:29 am

      Dear Cutestory, been busy on other projects. Now, I don’t recognise your email? Sorry, don’t you have a name I might remember you by? Thanks

  2. cutestory said, on August 4, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    No Nick, we don’t know each other.

    I’m just another hermit waeg who’s spent the last several months reading every single post on this blog. It’s been nice being able to read a lot of my own thoughts fleshed out in a way more elegant way then I’m capable of expressing them.

    I’ve also learned a lot from you and you’ve helped me to get over a lot of my own body issues and fear. For example, I never would’ve had the courage to go to one of the bathhouses here without this blog. I really feel like your blog has helped me emotionally/spiritually/ and just generally as a person.

    Keep writing. You’re awesome.

    • 努江虎-노강호 said, on September 15, 2013 at 2:37 am

      Because I’m working on another project, I was tempted to close this blog down but reeading your very positive comment, I changed my mind. Thanks!

      • cutestory said, on September 25, 2013 at 12:05 pm

        Hey could you email me back so I can write to you. I’d like to write to you in a non public way.

        Just register some random account and write to me if you don’t wanna give out your email.

  3. Waeg said, on August 11, 2013 at 8:09 am

    It used to be much worse years ago, when I’d be lucky to find any Koreans who would engage in open honest discussion about the pros and cons of their nation… The ones I did meet would admit they couldn’t really talk to other Koreans themselves, since the knee jerk reaction was to blindly tow the party line, talk only about how dokdo is Korean territory, or how the best apples in the universe come from Chungju. These days I find more open minded easier going people.

  4. Bianca the Skydiver said, on September 2, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    Well, truth be told Korean apples are pretty good and a darn sight better than any I’ve had in England the last 3 years. OTOH-Korea doesn’t have cider.
    1 all on the apple front

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