Friday, 25 June 2010

Korea - The first wedding

Hello everyone!

As usual, the World Cup was an important part of my week. Normally it doesn't affect my work too much - mainly because I don't do much anyway - but this week was a little bit different. The reason it was different was because Korea's final group game started at the sociable and sensible time of 3.30am. This means that the game finishes at 5.20am or so, rendering sleep afterwards a pointless affair. It was thus vitally important to get as much sleep as possible before the game.

Private teaching ruined me in this regard. I was teaching until 8.30, so got approximately 90 minutes of shuteye before hotfooting it to Bucheon on the last bus. Well that was the plan. Turns out I missed the last bus, so had to get a taxi. It wasn't the only time this week I was late...

I had been tempted by City Hall, but realised that I would struggle to get to school if I went, so stuck to Bucheon with Matt, Kelly et al. The atmosphere was thus a little quieter than the previous two games, but still pretty vibrant. We watched the game on large screens in a plaza-like area, accompanied by the wonderful combo of chicken and beer. We weren't hungry, but you generally do have to abide by the Korean custom of buying food in a bar. Unless you go to Garten Bier so often that they just give you the food...

Korea drew 2-2, and progressed to the second round. We did see the game, even though a drunk Korean woman kept on standing up for no reason. Even her husband was telling her to sit down, but she was having none of it, the free spirit. It was the first time in their history that they had done this outside of their homeland, so its fair to say that people were rather happy with this outcome. Big cheering, big hugs, lots of flag-waving. Normally these would be celebrations that would go on long into the night, but the sun had risen. I was teaching in a different town in three hours, on next-to-no sleep, and was drunk.

My thinking was that if I went to bed, I would sleep through my alarm, so I instead charmed the family with a drunken Skype call. I then showered, got myself ready for school, and had five minutes to kill, so went on the internet. It was 7.45. I leave at 7.50.

My phone makes a buzzing noise. A text. From Mr Kim. Asking where I am, and saying that the students are waiting for me. It's 8.35. RUBBISH!! I fell asleep whilst sat upright, that's a new one for me. Taxi to school, and I sprint into the class at around 8.50. Well, eventually. I did that Hollywood-style entrance where I overshot the door, so all the students saw was the door swing open wildly and then hear a skidding noise as I try to stop, before spinning round and charging in. With my Korea top on, and draped in my Korea flag. I was late, I was drunk, I was not in uniform - and I got a standing ovation. Brilliant. Helped that the co-teacher had popped to the toilet at that point. Especially as I had been joking with her that I wasn't going to show up. Smooth, you might say.

Wednesday wasn't a fun day, I was exhausted to the point where I slept on my desk for the afternoon. But then we did it all again on Wednesday night for England's win over Slovenia. In Garten Bier in Siheung this time, there was a big big group of us watching the game. So big, n fact, that the staff upgraded our free food to a FRUIT PLATTER!!! Arguably better than England's win, that. Celebrations of this narrow win over some European minnows (I can't disrespect Slovenia, actually - beautiful country, though the horse burger I had there was rank) were progressing nicely when someone suggested we go to a noraebang. No sooner had that been suggested, the owner of GB brought out two microphones, and proceeded to plug them into a small machine. We had turned a bar into a noraebang! Funnier still, there were a lot of Koreans still there drinking quietly. Only now they had to endure us singing numerous classics. Quite badly.

I got back at around 3.30am. I was woken by a phone call at 8.35. Oh dear, I'd done it again. I didn't rush this time, instead making it in for second lesson. I got a few knowing looks from the other English teachers, and quickly realised that I was pushing my luck and their generosity. Nice and early every day since!

Of the lessons I did get to, I was teaching my students about James Bond. I found out a few weeks ago that they know next to nothing about Bond, which disturbed me. What was also disturbing was the fact that I couldn't get my Bond film to work. Annoying, as my main activity was based on showing them some of Goldeneye. The activity that saved me was for the students to create their own gadget. My example was a gun that fired kimchi, which seemed to go down well. Some of them made good ones - one student unwittingly drew the protective ball used in The World Is Not Enough - and some of them made less realistic ones, such as the flying hat. That also has a laser attached to it. Good fun, though.

This lesson was also done on Friday, but frequently interrupted for various unorthodox reasons. In the afternoon my lessons were stopped so they could all watch a girl from school compete in the 100m at the Korean high school Games. One-and-a-half lessons, and all they showed was the MEN'S 100m and the girl's HIGH JUMP. Oh well. Earlier that morning I had to deal with another distraction. I was informed the day before that during one of my classes a cameraman would come in to take some photos for the school brochure. Fine, I thought. Oh, and because he's coming in, you have to teach in a different room. Bit irritating, but OK. Oh, and you can't hook up your laptop in that room, so all the technology you spent hours trying to work with the TV screens won't be available. Great. Big change of lesson plan. That is a camera by the way, not a yellow submarine. I think.

With ten minutes to go, the man arrives. I'm in the middle of showing the students some pictures in my powerpoint, so have the lights off. Our man waltzes up to me mid-piece and says something along the lines of, 'I'm sorry, but I need to take some pictures'. I need one minute, I say, as I have now just started giving the instructions for the gadget activity. What I did not expect was for the cameraman to then scurry across and turn all of the lights on. Not happy. Whilst still giving instructions, I casually walk across to the light switches and hit them all off. The man looks at me. I say, 'I said one minute'.

Once the activity is fully explained, he asks again for some shots, which I was more than happy to do. He must have taken about 9324568 photos, making us pose in awkward positions, and even taking a few of us outside. He told me to look like I am talking to the students, so I spent the outside photoshoot saying sorry to them for dragging them through this mess. They deserved candy.

Saturday was a long, long day. I went to Jeollabuk-do, 3 hours south of Siheung, with a few of my co-teachers to witness my first Korean wedding. One of the other English teachers, Lee Min-Yong, was getting married. I don't teach with her, but I know her and say hi if I see her, and I also wanted to see what a Korean wedding was like. There were about ten of us who ventured down. I was way down on sleep at this point, so spent a lot of the journey to and from the wedding trying to sleep.

I was told that it wasn't a particularly traditional Korean ceremony, and some things were the same. The bride wears a beautiful white dress, and is walked down the aisle by her father. They do the vows, the confetti and all that jazz. But there were some occurrences that I wasn't expecting. Eating food before the ceremony, for example. Though not that the bride could do this, as she was forced to sit like a waxwork model for over an hour while people stared and took photos. I managed to break her stony expression by saying hello, and she seemed happy and surprised that I had made the effort to come down.

The ceremony itself seemed very nice. Obviously I wasn't going to understand it, but most people seemed content to have a conversation while it was going on. Don't think that would happen in a church. The whole gig seemed quite informal, but I haven't been to a wedding in ages, so maybe this is how they work thesedays. 'Back in ma day' and all that. What you wouldn't get is a video of Korean students performing silly dance moves to Beyonce's 'Single Ladies'. That was hilarious. Soon after the group photos were done - aided by the brightest light ever - we were on our way back. I got to ride part of the way back (they stopped for food, of course - less than four hours after having a big lunch) with the vice-principal...and stayed awake for abut five minutes. Very comfortable car, he has.

No sooner had we arrived back in Siheung, I was soon on my way to my next port of call. Find out next time where that was!

Love you all


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