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14 October 2004
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Korea Life Blog - At the School

My A class is a little bad, not by much, but there's potential to be really bad unless I stay on top of them. Yesterday I held the five troublemaker boys after class. I gave them a lecture. I was never able to do this at any other school because I had no Korean assistant. Anyway, it went something like this:

Me: "OK, tell me what you learned today?"

Boys: (staring at the ground, one tries with "Is boy Jerry name!")

Me: (feigning anger) "I spent 40 minutes of class today teaching you two short sentences and you can't remember them?"

Boys: (getting really uneasy as Cathy translates)

Me: (pointing to Adam as an example) "I'm Adam. I'm a boy." That's it. I taught you that for 40 minutes. Is it THAT difficult? Why can't you remember that? Because you don't listen. You're rude and disrespectful, all of you. I came here from America, very far away, to teach you English. I can't see my Mom, I can't see my sister, I can't see my dog and cat - I can't even see my goldfish! My sister had a baby a few days ago, and I couldn't be there. Guess why? Because I care too much about Korea and your future. I love this country and I love my students. I came here to Korea to teach you (pointing at each one) boys. You have to speak English, and it's my job to teach you to do so. You have to listen to me and respect me..."

It went on like this for awhile. A couple of the boys started to cry and even Cathy looked a little choked up. Afterword, I made them write "I'm sorry Shawn teacher" 15 times while Cathy told me I have "Jung" (which means something like I have inner spirit and love). Before the kids left, they kept trying to hug me.

Today they were a little better than yesterday, but not by much.

I applied for my Alien Registration Card. I have to leave my passport with immigration until October 25 before it's ready. That's two weeks, just about. What are you supposed to do in the meantime if you need ID or if there's some kind of emergency? I think that's a warped system. Why can't they just look at the passport, then make two copies and sign them or something, then make the ID card later without it?

Cathy and I received a huge amount of new supplies from the school itself today (not the agency). Mountains of flashcards and games and other materials.

Cathy, however, kind of irked me later. A few weeks ago I showed her the copy of the Lulu version of my book and she was totally interested and surprised. Well, today she noticed the Korea copy I had on my desk and said, "Oh wow! Is Korea now? Can I read your book now it's Korea? Wow!"

"Well, sure. You can buy it tomorrow. It's only 10,000 won. Do you want me to bring you a copy?"

"What?" (probably didn't understand what I said)

"It's for sale. 10,000 won." (I said this in Korean).

"Oh, I see."

"So, you want one? I'll bring it tomorrow."

"Oh, yes, of course."

Later after classes are over:

"So, I'll bring you my book tomorrow, OK?"

(clearly uncomfortable) "Oh, um. I have to thinking first."

"Thinking what?"

"It's, well - it's expensive too much."

Now, I had been thinking 10,000 won (about $8) is a pretty decent price, so I was surprised. Also, she's a 26 year old single working woman who lives at home with her family, and she's my assisstant.

"Too expensive?" I asked. "Really?"

"I'm sorry."

"Yeah, me too," I said, now uncomfortable myself and a little annoyed. It wasn't that I was disappointed at losing a sale; I didn't even really want her to read it in the first place, since some of the parts are a little personal for my co-worker to be reading. But she'd been telling me how interested she is in my book off and on for the past week or two and seemed so excited by the copy I had today. I guess she was expecting me to just give it to her.

If she didn't want to pay for it, at least she could have made a better excuse, such as "I'm afraid I won't understand it," or "Can I buy it in a few weeks?" or whatever. Oh, well.

On the way home today, I started thinking about the prices of books in Korea. 10,000 won ($8) for a new book by anyone in America is a bargain, even for mass trade paperbacks. Books are really expensive there these days, especially for a decently printed one.

However, looking at the selection of Korean books at Walmart tonight, I kept seeing pretty nice looking books the size of mine for about 7,500 ($6) or 8,500 ($7). Korean books are so cheap. What gives? In America we have trillions of trees to make paper with. In Korea there aren't that many extra trees. What is it? The ink? Or just greedy book companies or what? Anyway, I wonder if my book really is too expensive, but I just want to keep it 10,000 won to make it nice and even and easy.

Maybe, for a joke, I'll tell Cathy tomorrow that I feel terrible about her money situation and offer to loan her, say, 20,000 won, since she is so broke. Maybe even bring her a sandwich, too. Hehe.

One other thing annoyed me today as well. I got a complaint from one of the parents who called the school. She reported to the principal that I said the word "babo" (which means something like "silly" or a light-tone "stupid") in class. Sometimes I use that word just out of habit. It's so common and makes the kids laugh too. It must have been the other day when I kept asking this one boy "Are you happy? Are you sad? Are you angry? Are you funny?" and he kept replying with the same answer "Yes, I am." So I asked him, "Are you babo?" And he answered the same way, "Yes, I am."

Needless to say, the other students burst out laughing. I can just see it now, the kid running home and telling his mother how the teacher called him stupid and everyone laughed at him. Meanwhile, down the hallway, the Korean teachers are screaming at their kids, cursing, hitting them, whatever, yet the foreigner gets in trouble for saying "babo." Aigoo!


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