the best season in Korea


is right now.

Following the typhoon we had a few more days of monsoon and monstrous humidity and then–then overnight the weather turned, and fall is in the air.  The days are moderate and the humidity is moderate.  It >almost< feels like Seattle, except a little more humid.

It’s lunch time at Cheongpyeong high school.  It’s one of the national testing days and the kids seem rather buoyant, considering.  Resounding over the soccer field is the school’s ad-hoc rock band, which practices every day at lunch.  They play a kind of punk speed metal, adding to/feeding some of the boisterous physicality of the students on the field and in the halls.  Whoever thought Koreans were quiet and reserved has never been to Korea…

Testing here is so different from the last school.  I wouldn’t know what the atmosphere in the classroom is like, because here I’m not forced to proctor exams.  But if the teacher’s room is any indication, there is not the tension, toil, and paranoia of my last school.

Yesterday was the English listening exam and several students were less than thrilled with how they did.  It’s no wonder, as I had passed by the classes during their test prep and the way Korean teachers project their voices accentuates the sing-song nature of Asian languages.  It was so alarming, I almost said “oh my GOD!” out loud…In a similar vein, I have decided to no longer include the co-teachers as the other half of any dialogue demonstrations because there is such little delivery of differing values in intonation or stress, that all the words sound exactly the same.  And my co-teachers can translate on the fly and have a huge vocabulary.  It’s interesting to me how they can understand anything I’m saying at all, since listening skills are so intimately connected to speaking.  It’s such a grievous weakness I think I’m going to switch gears and focus my lesson plans on that.  As much as Korea wants to dispense with foreign teachers, it’s clearly going to be a long, long time before that is possible.  Or, if they do, it will be a grave mistake.

But back to the change in season…I might be imagining it, but it also seems as if, overnight, there is a slight rusty tinge appearing on the mountainsides.

Next week is Chuseok, and some friends are coming over to do not much with me for a couple days.   Every year at this time, Koroot has a special gathering for adoptees.  I guess I’ve been lucky in that I have a couple friends to spend time with and not have to go celebrate a Korean family holiday with a bunch of people who have no family. I’m really glad I have a few non-adoptee friends.  REALLY glad.

One of the few times any Koreans have ever expressed concern for me was just prior to Chuseok last year.  They asked if I was okay.  “I’m fine!” I answered, “Why do you ask?”  “Because we heard foreigners were lonely during the holidays.”  They didn’t realize this was their holiday, not mine, and that it really had no significance for me.  But a lot of adoptees, you know, in their reaching, take on Korean holidays, superstitions, and spirituality as if they were their own.   Which really is beyond me.  So I guess it’s an opportunity for fellowship and consolation:  consolation for not having a Korean family to spend the holiday with.  But that sentiment is based on the premise that we’d love this holiday IF we had our Korean families, and is dependent upon choosing to make this holiday, (which previously meant nothing to us)  personally important.  I mean, we’ve lost enough – why add more misery to it?

I’m learning this being Korean thing is only as significant as we want it to be.  I used to give it zero significance, but that denial had the opposite effect.  Now that I’m here, I give it a lot more significance and yet also throw away those parts that I just don’t need to concern myself with or fret over!

So I’m happy to let Koreans curse the traffic, bitch about the food preparation, and steel themselves for long days of personality clashes with too many relatives in close quarters. Me, I’m grateful they have this long holiday to shut down the country and torture each other so  I can hang out with a couple friends (also in close quarters) and be happy that we’re there because we volunteer to be in each other’s lives, and not because we’re obligated.

My only concern is not knowing how many establishments will  be selling food or for how long, so it’s time to stock up the fridge.  Just thinking about having friends over makes me want to have a drink!  (believe it or not, I barely smoke and rarely ever drink – you guys just hear about it every time I do)

Hopefully this week I will get a lot of work done and I won’t be writing much, so have a very nice harvest time, wherever in the world you may be.

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4 thoughts on “the best season in Korea

  1. It is such a no-starter concept: to do away with foreigners teaching their own language, that AFAIC it’s about next to impossible to ever properly implement. And AFAIC too: in the future, more/most people will simply travel to the countries whose languages they wish to perfect (or even learn from scratch) for immersion courses — unlike today, where only well-off people can do such things.

    Ever thought of twinning your school with a U.S. school that might have, say, a lot of korean-american kids in it..? (I hesitate to say ‘just any’ school: because perhaps all-non-korean U.S. schools might possibly flag in interest after the initial ‘gee whiz’ excitement effect wears off…) Consider it.

  2. I have zero idea what AFAIC means…

    I’m not a “real” teacher. so any ideas I have like that get a polite acknowledgment for a second and then a dismissal.

    I’ve already suggested some programs where students from other countries work on communication projects with each other. Kids shrunk in terror. Not to mention it requires technology and I only see the students 1-2 times a week.

    The kids here don’t really wish to perfect the English language. The adults here don’t really wish to perfect the English language. It’s just a means to an end for them.

  3. WILLIE!!!

    Chuseok won’t be the same without you! It’s the same crew minus you! Joyce might join us one night too…all crammed in my little flat.

    You know I have’t let loose since you left. We all miss your social energy!

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