"The Life of a Teacher" Seoul by Canadienne
Seoul Travel Guide: 3,195 reviews and 8,335 photos
I moved to Ch'onan, South Korea in early 1997 to teach English. Although my plans were to stay there for a couple of years ~ enjoying a new culture, taking advantage of travel opportunities and saving some extra money ~ circumstances conspired against me.
I didn't quite make it through year one. . .so I have some terrific memories of breathtaking temples, glorious mountains and kind students. . .and some not-so-terrific memories of bureaucratic red tape, unresponsive supervisors and creepy roommates.
Things don't always work out the way we envision them, but. . .
"If you didn't get all the things you wanted, you can still be grateful for all the things you didn't want that you didn't get."
I e-mailed this article to friends and family when I was teaching in Ch'onan. . .it isn't mine, but I can't find the name of the author anymore (if you know, please come forward).
The scene: Near a playground, around noon. A young Korean boy is walking alone, when he is approached by a tall male Westerner, with long hair tied in a ponytail, and wearing sandals and a backpack.
Westerner: Hey, kid! How’d you like to learn some English?
Boy: That’s okay, I study English in school.
Westerner: Ha! You call that grammar stuff English? They’d laugh you off the streets of the good ol’ USA if they heard you talkin’ that jive. I’m talking about learning real English – the good stuff!
Boy: Well, I don’t know, I’ve got school, plus music classes, plus drawing classes, plus Tae Kwon Do, plus –
Westerner (interrupting): Yeah, you and every other kid in this country. But are any of those things going to make you competitive in a globalized society? Listen, how about I give you your first word for free. It’s “apple.” But don’t tell anyone I did that – it’s bad for business.
Boy (slowly repeating): “A-Pool?”
Westerner: Yeah, yeah, good enough. Now all you’ve have to do is come to the “Wee is English” hakwon, and you can learn lots more cool words like “igloo” and “hippo” – oops, looks like I gave you some more freebies, kid!
Boy: How much is it? My mother already works two jobs to pay for my other lessons.
Westerner: That’s because she loves you, kid. But if she really loves you – and if she doesn’t want the neighbours to think she’s cheap – she’ll pay for some English lessons, too.
Boy: But I only sleep four hours a night because of all my other classes and homework!
Westerner: Don’t worry, kid. I promise you’ll have no homework if you don’t want any. In fact, we won’t even teach you if you don’t want to be taught. We’ll just tell jokes, play games, sing and talk about music and movies during class. How does that sound?
Boy: But how will I learn English that way?
Westerner: Oh, you don’t actually have to study English. All you have to do is be around a native speaker like me. You absorb the English through your pores.
Boy: Well, I don’t know. . .
Westerner: C’mon, all the cool kids are doing it! Besides, how are you going to read the English signs on all the stores if you don’t study English? Never mind – listen. I’ve got something for you.
(The westerner reaches into his backpack and withdraws a flash card.)
Westerner: See, it’s a cartoon of a panda on one side, and a big letter “P” on the other side. Isn’t that great?
Boy (taking the card): Uh, I guess so. . .
Westerner: We've got lots of stuff like that over at the hakwon.
Boy: I’ve got to go. My Chinese Calligraphy class starts in two minutes.
Westerner (grabbing the boy by the arm): Aw, forget that junk. Come with me to this pizza place I was going to.
Boy: I thought it was wrong to end a sentence with a preposition.
Westerner: There you go again with that grammar stuff! Do you think Bill Gates uses proper grammar? Or Madonna?
Boy: Who are they?
Westerner: They're rich - that's who they are. Don’t you want to be rich?
Boy (starting to cry): No, I just want to get some sleep! I want to have dinner with my family! I want to play with my friends!
Westerner (shaking his head): Kid, that’s Third World kind of talk. The millennium is almost here - time to learn English!
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