Monday, 8 February 2010

Korea - The first game of cola pong

Hello everyone!

I haven't done this in a while! Feel out of practice. Anyway, this blog will cover January 21-30. I might do two and release them as a double-header...then again, knowing how long these things are, I don't think I want to inflict that on you. Here we go...

I forgot to post something on my last blog. Thursday 3 of winter camp: I got called a terrorist. What was my 'crime'? Well, we were doing a lesson on France. I bought a baguette, at great expense, to show the kids, but the bakery woman opted to slice it into approximately 56 slices, so it fell apart. Felt good to be giving them something vaguely healthy instead of sweets, though. I showed them all the tourist places in France, and got them to make a postcard saying where they had 'visited'. In the digital age, many may not remember what a postcard looks like, so let me remind you in simple terms. On one side is the writing. On the other side is a picture, or a collection of pictures. One student, Christina, was not keen to attack the artistic aspect of the work. I told her that she had to do it. Cue childish moaning (from her, not me), and me becoming a little bit sterner. "If you write about the Eiffel Tower, you have to draw the Eiffel Tower". Defeated, she gets back to work, and mutters 'terrorist-uh' under her breath. Well, I heard it.

I made her pay on Monday, by pulling up numerous pictures of Bin Laden onto the screen, pointing at him whilst asking 'terrorist, yes or no?', and then pointing at myself asking 'terrorist, yes or no?'. She got the point after the second picture, but I kept going and going. To be honest, I was actually impressed that she knew the word terrorist, if not its true meaning. Or maybe I am that horrible as a teacher...

Friday night was Lee's final night out, as he was flying back on the Monday. I had actually gone to bed early, tired from playing jeopardy with my students, and was not anticipating the drunken text which was along the lines of 'Garten Bier - now'. I arose from my slumber, and was soon catching up. I met more new people, including Stevo, a guy who I had heard much about but not previously met. Nice guy, and I soon found out that he played football on Saturdays. Now there is not much I miss about home, but playing/losing twice a week with Hajduk Spliff FC is something I definitely miss. He invited me along, and I was soon excited to kick a ball in anger.

Two problems soon became apparent. One was the travelling. Stevo lives in Ansan, which I didn't know how to get to, but they play near Hanyang University, which is even further away. Travel time - significant. The other problem was that, by this point, I was very very drunk, and not really listening to directions. Needless to say, I wasn't particularly excited about the prospect of running around when I woke up on Saturday. But new experiences is a key aspect to this adventure, so I hopped on the 1-1 bus and got down to Ansan. We then got a bus to Ansan station, the subway to Hangang, and a taxi to the 5-a-side pitch. The wrong pitch. But we did make it, and it was very enjoyable. It is mostly Western teachers, but there were a few Koreans playing as well. I always have to remind myself that a Korean might not understand me shouting 'I'm in support!' or 'Watch his run down the channel!', but I'm not the only one to make that mistake.

The hangover, the travelling, just about everything took a lot of energy out of me, so Sunday didn't happen. So onto my final week of winter camp. I decided to actually teach difficult material to my students for the first three days. We spent one day going through different American and British words, and another two days doing common expressions and slang, such as 'a piece of cake' and 'to get cold feet'. This was good for them to know, especially 'go nuts', but it was good for me as well, as I could use the eliciting techniques I learnt on my TEFL course without the pressure of 40 students staring at me with blank faces.

I decided to mix it up for the last two days. I had Friday down as a TV day for a long time, so wanted to go out with something special on the Thursday. I'd heard an idea from someone else out here of playing beer pong, but with coke. He said they loved it, so during the week I bought some table tennis balls, and then spent Thursday morning investing in cups and drinks. I didn't get to school until 1.30pm, so claimed I was being productive for my students. My co-teacher didn't mind. Touch wood, I seem to be able to get away with murder here.

I gave them a spelling test first, picking on my most intelligent students in order to make it fair. Christina, can you spell tree? Hannah, can you spell hippopotamus? A bit socialist, I know, but it kept them all in the game. They all got at least three pieces of candy, so it worked out nicely for them. Whilst we were playing, I started to set up the cola pong table, and was soon ready to call them over and instruct.

I play pong the fraternity way. The drink to be devoured is already in the cup. I have since been told that there is a sissy way of playing - you have water in the cup and the drink of choice on the side. I went through the rules, and then demonstrated. Well, I demonstrated that any skills I picked up in Connecticut have long gone. I rimmed it, and it hit the floor. Howls of derision from the students, all in unison. GERMS!!!! GERMS, TEACHER!!! GERMS!!! Oh dear. I'd forgotten the strong attitude towards any germ problems out here. Add to that the fact that the floor was filthy, and that the luminous orange ping pong ball now had grey dust all over it, and my heart sank. This will not work. There is no way I can persuade them to do this.

However, my degree was Politics and Modern History, so I called upon the powers of persuasion I learnt in Manchester (yes, I did learn something at uni), and persuaded the students that dipping the ball into boiling hot water after every go would kill the germs. Once they had overcome their admittedly quite rational fear - the floor was disgusting - we got playing, and they loved it. Well, they did until the other team scored, and they had to drink the Coke or Mountain Dew. I managed to persuade the two on the conceding team to play rock-paper-scissors, with the loser drinking it. In that respect, it got rather competitive. For the wrong reasons, perhaps, but any means to get to the desired end! As a disclaimer, I'd like to point out that they were all willing to play, and I didn't force feed anyone. I did have to tell them that if they got ill, that it was my fault, but so far that has had no consequences. So far...

Fuelled by this success, I went for dinner with April and Paul on Thursday night. I wasn't planning on drinking much, and certainly wasn't planning on touching soju. Paul, on the other hand, had just returned from Canada, so was planning on doing exactly this. He got his wish, and we got pretty drunk. I'm easily persuaded, that's common knowledge.

We ended up at WaBar in Bucheon. Paul's Korean girlfriend, Sun, came along as well, and she is a lovely girl, really good to talk to. She soon had to take Paul home, just at the moment we had ordered another pitcher. Friday was definitely going to be a TV day for my winter camp students. I got a phone number. From a Korean man. He gave me his business card. I took it, though wasn't overly enthusiastic about doing so. If Korean men give me cards it's because they want to chat in English about football, not because they want anything from me in a sexual way. At least that's what I'm going to tell myself. We eventually drank up and left the bar, only to be chased by the owner. We'd forgotten to pay. Yeah, we were quite drunk.

I showed up in looking, feeling, sounding and probably smelling disgusting on Friday, so two episodes of Scrubs were all that my students were getting out of me. Some of them gave me presents as a thank you for teaching them, which was very kind. But all I wanted to do was go to bed, where I pretty much stayed until Sunday. I couldn't stomach the thought of all that travelling for football, and was way too lazy to go to Hongdae, which I got a text for at 11pm. It was quite nice to take stock on Saturday, and I told myself that I would be productive on Sunday. In particular, I would climb Sorae Mountain. Find out how that went next time.

Love you all


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