Elwood 5566

Buk-il Boys’ High School. Mon. 17th Sept, 2007. (Korean Accounts 2)

Posted in Diary notes, Education, High school life, Korean Accounts 2 by 노강호 on September 17, 2007

Boys arriving at school: note the boys ‘on duty’ checking the uniforms of arriving students and also the boys saluting the school entrance.

I was up early in the morning and left the house at 7.15 to find my way to the school. Ted and Mr Chǒng had given me directions last night and they were fairly straight forward. From my apartment, which is in a row of one room apartments with its own separate glass door entrance, the school is up a hill. Ted had told me there was a short cut but that to save getting lost that in the morning I should take the long route. The first part of my walk took me past the small shop I had visited last night which I now noticed stood beside another dog soup restaurant. Then I passed a triangular shaped paddy field where Ted had told me to take a right turn. Then I simply had to walk straight up the hill passed a number of small shops and cross a main road to find the school entrance.

Across the paddy field towards my ‘house.’ The school can just be seen in the background

The hill up to Bukil (北一) isn’t that steep but in the heat and humidity I was soaking wet before I was even half way. There was a long string of boys behind me and I didn’t want to have to start conversations on the hill. I was so exhausted by the time I had walked only halfway up the hill that I turned off the road and caught my breath by the school’s baseball diamond. I had forgotten that Koreans, even youngsters, tend to plod up hills and don’t rush like westerners do but in my rush to get to school, and not knowing how long it would take me, I walked at a fair pace. I would have remained longer recuperating at the baseball diamond had I not seen another westerner in the distance and decided to carry on up the hill.

The boys’ gym, on the left, and adjacent girls’ high school

Further up the hill four boys stood ‘at ease’ across the road and as I passed them they stood to attention and bowed at me. A number of boys were doing press ups or burpees on the pavement. At the top of the hill, where the school entrance is situated, three teachers, all armed with sticks stood on duty. I noticed that as the boys passed this point they saluted the school.

The road up to the school, which at the time I didn’t pay much attention to, is lined with trees, cherry trees. At the bottom of the hill there are two enormous sets of iron gates, one for the boys’ school entrance and one for the girls’ school. Between the gates is a sort of guard room and to the side of this, on the boys side of the entrance is the most massive mirror. I have since noticed large mirrors in quite a few places in the school. Beside the road leading up to the school are two terraces, the first contains a number of tennis courts, the second contains the typical sandy parade cum sports which has a number of wisteria entwined arbours and drinking water fountains around its edge. Any British person, especially a teacher is tempted to call this area a play ground but one never sees youngsters playing in it and it is an arena employed more for physical training, assembling the entire school and used by the boys to play various sports. At the head of this arena and opposite the school façade, stands a large, covered podium. In between the back of this and the school façade is the most beautiful garden with pine trees cut and shaped in the traditional Korean manner. A large sculpture stands to the side of the entrance.

The boys’ dormitories

When I arrived at the front of the school Mr Kim was already waiting for me. I was absolutely exhausted and being soaked in sweat and wanting to compose myself before being introduced to anyone else, I asked to be shown the nearest restroom.

There is no time wasting with Korean employment procedures, no time for getting acquainted with systems or methods and neither are any individuals allocated to look after your needs. I don’t know whether or not this is because Koreans have tended to have very little experience of foreign travel or simply because they are ignorant or disinterested in your needs. I have always found that in Korea one has to discover aides and sympathetic helpers from among one’s colleagues. I think that after meeting Mr Kim on the entrance steps to the main building, and after exchanging a few pleasantries, I was taken straight to the humanities department where I was shown my desk and computer and then handed a class timetable. I was introduced to CM, my fellow English speaker. Next I was taken to the teachers meeting room for the typical Monday morning schools briefing. I met the school Principal and then had to give a five minute talk about myself. It was now 8.20 in the morning and I was due to start a class at 9.10am. Looking back on this I cannot belief that just after 10 hours of being in Korea and only after having been in a school for one hour forty minutes, I should then begin teaching.

the school’s facade was very attractive

 CM, whose name is Claude Montgomery Tidwell, is a rather distinguished looking American who is in his early sixties. Like so many older teachers in Korea, especially the ones who have taught in Universities, as CM has, he dresses in that stereotypical fashion reminiscent of Oxbridge; bow ties, tank tops, blazers and tweed jackets and silk ties are all part of his wardrobe. I recently meet a Professor from Ch’ǒnan Dangook University, who I automatically assumed was English; he was dressed entirely  in tweeds, had a silk bow tie, a carved walking stick, which wasn’t for show as he did have a lame leg. I quickly discovered he was from New England and I remember his name as it so suited his attire; it was Michael Huntingdon. Of course few of these ‘professors’ are professors in the British sense of the word. In the UK a professorship is not a teaching position but a position of prestige and status within a department. It is a title conferred on distinguished academics. I have not had experience around Korean English university teachers before but they do like to refer to themselves as ‘professor,’ using it as a prefix to their name. This is obviously a western affectation as Koreans use the title (교수) as a suffix in much the same manner as we use post-nominals. Further, the ‘title’ seems to be one that western teachers will use as a means of identity even after they have left university teaching in the same way it would be used in the UK. However, I would probably do the same if I was teaching in a university.

I had four classes on this day and they all went perfectly. Before each lesson, the class captain stands up and calls the class to attention. All the boys then sit up straight with their hands on their thighs. Next they are given an order to bow. It is possible to begin a class here the very second the bell is sounded which is amazing and so unlike degenerate schools back in the UK.

Sunrise from the school roof

My small apartment, in a complex called Roseville One Rooms, is about a ten minute walk from the school, and is situated in an area of Ch’ǒnan called Shin Bu Dong (신부동). My area consists of a number of ‘one room’ complexes and the nearest land mark is known as Tower Golf. Here there is a large golf range and also a sauna (목욕탕). There are also a number of dog soup restaurants in my vicinity. The daytime heat is very uncomfortable and initially I did not enjoy walking to and from school or even around the school as there are 6 floors and no lifts in the main building. In the first few weeks I didn’t really explore my immediate area though I quickly discovered where the nearest supermarket was – a Lotte Mart which is a short drive from my apartment. To be truthful, I was quite exhausted at the end of a day and didn’t relish going into town or walking around in the heat exploring.

©Amongst Other Things – 努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
Written September 2007

Ch’eonan.September 2007. (Korean Accounts 2)

Posted in Diary notes, General, High school life, Korean Accounts 2 by 노강호 on September 15, 2007

I arrived at Inch‘on airport, Seoul on Sunday 15th of September. I was supposed to be being met by one of the teachers from the school but this plan was abandoned a few days before I departed and they asked me if I could travel to Ch’ǒnan (天安市). The journey from London to Seoul was tiring and in total lasted about 32 hours. I spent 3 hours waiting at Dubai airport. I arrived in Seoul feeling very tired and after a little hassle managed to find a bus that travelled to Ch’ǒnan. The duration of this journey was about one hour fifteen and for most of the journey, which began as dusk was falling, it rained heavily. I had hoped that Ch’ǒnan might be a little less westernized than was Daegu because in the short walk from my apartment there to my old school I passed Baskin Robbins, MacDonalds and KFC. Well, my bus left the highway at the edge of the city and within a minute we were passing through the centre of the town where I know the bus terminal was located and as we approached it we passed The Outback Steakhouse, Baskin Robins, Dunkin Donuts, Macdonalds, KFC and as we turned into the terminal, I could see a Burger King a little way off in the distance.

It was raining heavily as I wearily lugged my bags off the bus and headed for the nearby shopping mall where I left my bag with an attendant and went to find a phone booth. By the time I returned Ted, the guy with whom I’d had most of my communication regards the school, was just entering the mall followed, moments later, by Mr Chǒng. From here I had to drag my bag through the rain to a suitable spot where Mr Chǒng could meet us with his car. Once he arrived we drove up to the school which didn’t seem too far away but I couldn’t really see much as everything was in darkness however, I could tell it was at the top of a hill. Turning the car around, we drove back down the hill and crossed the main road onto a rough track of a road on which stood a dog soup restaurant. It seemed only a minute or two from here to where my apartment is.

It was somewhat depressing arriving at my accommodation in darkness, tired, and in the middle of a storm that I later discovered was the edge of a typhoon. Though I now like my room, at first viewing it appeared dingy and uninviting. A large double bed stood in one corner and at the feet of this was a large number of boxes. Ted announced to me that the boxes would be picked up in a day or two but I’m not stupid, this is Korea and unless Ted is here himself to move them, they will be here for weeks on end. I wasn’t really pleased with how Ted announced this as a statement of fact rather than a request. Mr Chǒng and Ted stood looking around the room, praising it and were especially pleased with the double bed, which I must add, having since slept in it, is very comfortable, however, what captivated my attention the most wasn’t the lovely bed, but the grungy grey pillow and duvet that lay in  a  pile on the bed. The pillow was particularly disgusting as it had slobber marks all over it. I immediately knew that I wouldn’t be sleeping in Ted’s dirty laundry this evening. When they left I investigated the room further and though it was clean, I was quite amazed that neither Ted nor Mr Chǒng had seen fit to put any water in the fridge, leave me a little milk or wash my bedding. Ted had even beamed with a touch or pride when I opened the refrigerator door and saw a lonely, atrophied potato and onion.  A soon as they left I walked down the road and discovered a small shop where I bought some noodles, milk and shampoo and as soon as I returned home and had unpacked, I put the dirty bedding  in the washing machine. I eventually washed the bedding twice and they have since been transformed from a colour I thought was grey to pure white.

©Amongst Other Things – 努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
Written September 2007
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