Thursday, 8 July 2010

Korea - The first K-pop performance

Hello everyone!

So last time I left you on tenterhooks about what I did with my Saturday night. To people following the World Cup, it is obvious what I did. Korea were playing, so I was watching, and I was watching in Seoul.

Different location this time, though. We were watching the game in Gangnam, south of the river. Specifically, we were going to the COEX mall. They turned the main road outside the mall into a fan park for us to watch the game in. We arrived about 4 hours before the game, and were surprised to find quite a decent spot on the right of the screen. We mingled for a bit with local fans, and supped on whisky or soju, whilst the crowds and the atmosphere built.


It got to about two hours before the game when a group of Koreans behind us started shouting at us. Turns out that COEX was the same as City Hall - you had to sit down for the game. We were used to that now. What we weren't expecting was the ferocity of the shouting behind us, imploring us to be seated over two HOURS before said game actually started. We shouted back, and stood our ground. Literally. Undeterred by our stance, the people behind us did the mature thing, and taddled on us to the security guards.

There were a few Koreans in our group, and they were busy explaining our position to the guards, when we noticed that, about 10 people to our left, was a group of Koreans. Stood up. With no one complaining to them. Our Korean friends leapt on this point, and played the race card. 'You hate foreigners' was essentially our message. In the end we had to relent, but not before I took our petulance to the next level. For the next two hours, anyone who was stood up - especially security guards - got hit by my plastic clapper, and shouted at until they sat down. I was flying through the soju at this point, flimsy defence that may be.

The reason we sat down was because a concert started. Now if this happened back home, there may be one E-list band to come on and blare out the one song that was on Radio 1 once upon a time. Not here, though. There is a great degree of importance stressed on these events, so the big guns come out. We were treated to a show from not one, not two, but three of K-pop's biggest bands.

Those of you not in Korea will not recognise the names of these groups, but I can assure you that they are a very big deal. First up was a boy band called 2pm. They are everywhere in Korea, though all of my students hate them, so I can't figure out how or why. Maybe they're like the Westlife of Korea. Next was a girl group called AfterSchool - similar to the Sugababes, perhaps, but with more members. Finally the third band came on, called 2am. That's not a mistype. There are two massive Korean boy bands called 2am and 2pm. My students much prefer 2am.

I'm quite taken by K-pop thesedays, even possessing some on my iPod. 'Teacher - illegal download', as one of my students kindly pointed out to me. So it was a good way to warm-up for the game, and took my mind off hitting people who dared attempt to stand up. And the monsoon that was trying to soak us. Shame about the game really, with Korea playing very well but losing gracefully 2-1. I actually spent a lot of the game chatting to some guys with a big drum. They even let me hit it for a while, which was awesome.

I wasn't willing to risk my trainers getting soaked, so had taken them off and put them in a bag earlier. At this drunken juncture I decided to not bother putting them on until I was in a dry place, so walked through Seoul and the subway system barefoot. Whilst singing a song from Grease, naturally.

video


It's getting towards the end of the semester now, so it is every student's favourite time of the year - exams. They started on Thursday, lasting for five days, and ending on Tuesday. How does that work, you ask? Thursday...Friday...SATURDAY...Monday...Tuesday. They only do exams in the morning. Before you think they have it easy, let me run through the schedule for EACH DAY. 50 minute exam - 10 minute break - 50 minute exam - 10 minute break - 50 minute exam - home to study for the next day's exams. Ouch. I feel really sorry for them.

So sorry, in fact, that we played games in the lessons I had this week. It was to do with opposites. I call up a member from each team, write a word on the board, and the students run up to the board, pick up a marker and write down the opposite. It vindicated how low the level is of a lot of these students. Not knowing the opposite of 'deep' is quite bad for high school English students, but they missed the boat when the big influx of native speakers came into the elementary system, so its not entirely their fault.

The free time has meant I have begun to plan my summer camp. Only two weeks this time, which is nice. And the day after I finish that I go to...Beijing. Life is good.


Love you all

Matt

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