Monday, 6 September 2010

Korea - The first parental visit

Hello everyone!

Back to reality after China. I only had four days between arriving home and starting back at school, so got back into our usual rhythm of drinking a lot and having fun. Noraebang until 6.30am? Check.

It wasn't going to be a usual week in school, however. Mainly because I was only working two days. You see, my parents had decided to take the plunge and come visit me from Tuesday to Saturday, to see how I really live out here. To see if I actually do anything that isn't in my blog (unlikely, I know). And to see if people in my school actually like me.

I guess they wouldn't have got that impression on Monday morning, when it was relayed to me that the VP's, in all their wonderful wisdom, had decided to perform a U-turn and not let me take any days off. It would disrupt the students, supposedly. Because I'm that important? Not too sure about that. They soon relented to an extent - I had one day of vacation left to use, so said that would be for Friday. But they wouldn't budge further, so we went over their heads directly to the big dog - the principal.

I've never spent so much time in the principal's office as I did on the Monday. If I spend any longer in the future, it is because I will have been fired. I gave some ground, and agreed to work Wednesday and leave after I finished my lessons. I then explained that I was planning on bringing my parents to school on the Thursday, so didn't want to teach. The principal, through my co-teacher, was happy enough with this, on certain conditions:

1 - My parents meet him. Absolutely, I was expecting to do that anyway.
2 - He takes us out for lunch. Brilliant, fantastic food without me pulling out my wallet.
3 - He takes us to...Everland. Everland, Korea's equivalent of DisneyWorld. My 60+ year-old principal wanted to take us to...Everland.
4 - All of this is without a translator.

Myself and Mr Kim were both gobsmacked by this. He later told me that the principal has never been that generous to any teacher before, Korean or native. I couldn't say no, even though I had grave reservations about the Everland idea. I thus taught for two days, and then bombed off to the airport to surprise my parents.

In their minds, I was going to meet them at their hotel in Seoul. I was never going to do that. I went to the airport, gave my little Wales flag to the woman waiting to show them to their car, and then hid behind a pillar. Hid too well, in hindsight, as they all walked straight past me. Over 30 minutes after I had hid, the woman came sprinting up to me and told me that they had left.

Backfired? Not quite. They had left the concourse, but not the airport. So I met them, dished out some hugs, and we were on our way. I spent Tuesday evening with them before heading back to Siheung - I did have to work the next morning. I told them about the principal's idea, and got the impression that they weren't comfortable with it, so relayed this the next day and we made some alterations.

Having knocked out four lessons on unusual food - the I'm a Celebrity video didn't go down too well right before lunch - and avoided having to go to an after-school workshop, I went to meet my parents in Seoul. I took my mum to Namdaemun market to buy some trainers, before we headed out in the rain to meet Juno for dinner. Weather-wise, they chose a bad week to come, but it could have been worse, as you'll find out in later blogs.

Food is a key aspect of any Korean experience. I tried to cover as many bases as possible, and can't really think of any obvious Korean food that they didn't sample. I was very surprised with their impressive chopstick skills. My dad was a big fan of the kimchi, which took me by surprise. My mum's favourite was possibly the bulgogi. However, they seemed to like everything thrown in their direction, which pleased me a lot. The spice didn't disrupt them too much, either. They said that their least-best meal was the one they had when I wasn't there to assist. Well, and an extortionately-priced hotel breakfast.

They really liked Juno - I got the impression they wanted to adopt her as their own - and really liked everyone else they met as well. They met a lot of people - Thursday must have felt like being a celebrity to them, being introduced to the vast majority of my friends in Bucheon and Siheung, as well as people in the school - but they took it all in stride, and everybody liked them as well. I think one of the girls in Bucheon wants to marry my Dad.

Thursday was quite a day even before meeting folk in Bucheon and Siheung, as I took the rents back to school. They got to meet the teachers, and I introduced them to some of the students. I did this by barging into unsuspecting classes and dragging my parents in with me, before demanding the students say hello. For one class they even got to watch me teach for a little bit, which they found hilarious and frightening in equal measure.

We did lunch with the principal and two other teachers before heading, not Everland. We went to a Korean folk village, which was pretty cool. One of the English teachers was allowed to accompany us as well, which helped so so much. I enjoyed it there, but I honestly think the principal enjoyed it more than anybody. Running around like a schoolkid on Christmas morning.

The other sight of note that my parents took in was the DMZ. Proper tour this time - the one by the US Army, not the excuse of one I went on last time. It was a very early start, which wasn't aided by our lack of sleep after a taxi tried to do a number on us the night before. Slight aside, my dad said he has never seen one of his children drunkenly berate a taxi driver in a foreign language before, I'm quite happy that he has now. It was a very interesting tour. We went into the Joint Security Area (JSA) and were stared at by a North Korean soldier who was using binoculars. Even though he was about 25 metres away from us.

I really enjoyed seeing my parents. I guess with all of the fun I have been having that I forgot that they are an integral part of my life. They enjoyed seeing me too, and enjoyed their Korean experience, which also made me a very happy son.

Love you all


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