It’s pouring


It’s probably been 25 years since I’ve been caught in a torrential downpour.  Boys had their pants bunched up to their knees and everyone’s shoes were soaked walking to school.  Fortunately, I had on flip-flops and peddle pushers, so I was in good shape (except splash guards on my heels would have been nice)

Unlike Seattle, everyone and their brother carries umbrellas, and it’s always a pretty sight in the classrooms seeing the umbrellas drying out.

Note the terrazzo floors.  The heating is wall mounted near the windows, so there is no floor heating at school.  But during the winter the teachers toss half their drinks onto the floor anyway, as if it were heated and the water evaporating would humidify the room.  Now, it’s summer and about 70% humidity and they’re STILL tossing cups of water onto the floor…sigh…

Note the fabulous condition of the walls.  Note all the junk on the floors.  Just like most of Korea, there are very few trash cans to be found anywhere.  There are tons of recycling bins, but very few trash cans.  The kids just throw their trash on the floor half the time, and I am always picking it up.  On testing days, they throw their papers on the floor, so you can barely walk without killing yourself.  Koreans in general seem to like writing on their books:  there doesn’t seem to be a lot of reverence for them.  It drives me insane that people will just write all over MY books without asking me!  In PEN!  argh!  And the students all have snap-off blade paper cutters in their pencil cases and no scissors.  They also carve up their books.  There are no hard covered books that are re-used.  I don’t know which came first, hard books being given up due to destruction, or soft books being destroyed because they seem less valuable…

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2 thoughts on “It’s pouring

  1. I don’t know how it works in the rest of the country, but early mornings in Uijeongbu usually consist of older Koreans sweeping up the streets in front of their business or collecting cardboard and other recyclables. I think this creates the impression in kids that they can throw their garbage wherever they want and it will magically disappear by the next day. You throw your Popsicle wrapper on the street on Monday and it’s not there on Tuesday, so why worry about finding a trash can.

    Plus, since the Korean government has a system of selling garbage bags to individuals rather than charging for the service itself, it’s not in their best interest to offer public garbage cans. If they did, citizens could just dump their trash in those instead of paying for the special bags.

    I’m torn on the garbage issue in Korea. On the one hand I saw people litter (or the results of their littering) back home in Washington State often enough, and think that just the city of Seoul has more people than ALL of Washington, so it’s bound to be show up more here than it does back home. On the other hand though, I wonder how many people here even see littering as a ‘problem’. It can definitely be reduced from the levels it’s at now.

  2. Last week I saw a documentary on garbage on the beaches. The southern tip of Korea, all around Jeolla province, the beaches are COVERED in mountains of trash, which crews had to hike in to clean up by hand where the terrain was too rocky, and/or they had bull-dozers loading truckload after truckload out. A high school science class was categorizing the junk by country, and most of the cans and bottles came from China, Malaysia, and Japan, in that order. The bulk of it, though, seemed to be floats and drift nets. It was truly tragic, as they also showed a lot of the marine animals that were caught in the nets or mortally injured by some of the items that had hit them.

    Yesterday, while avoiding my depressing project of joining the 500 adoption groups on FaceBook. (halfway there) I watched a lot of t.v. and saw several public service announcements about littering. So yeah, it’s a start.

    Most Koreans are uber conscientious about the environment. I’m not sure if it’s the environment they care about so much, as it is the trickle-down effects to their health – but whatever, they do care.

    I can understand why people leave the trash wherever they are, though, due to the garbage system. Actually, I really like the system as it encourages such thorough recycling. But I HAVE witnessed dumping of full shopping bags along the sidewalks by people who wouldn’t or couldn’t afford to pay for the garbage disposal bags. There are always public trash cans in the subways, and boxes outside of any convenience store but, failing that, we all know there are adjummas and adjoshis cleaning up every morning, who do an incredible job.

    What I CAN’T stand, though, is all the junk food wrappers thrown on the floor by the students wherever they happen to be when they’ve finished eating. It’s totally careless. Dangerous, too, when you step on one going down the stairs. It’s true there are no garbage cans in the hallways – but they do have them in the bathrooms and classrooms, so there’s no excuses other than poor breeding and bad attitudes.

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