November 11 is a very important day. In Britain, it is of course Rememberance Day, where we pay our respects for those who fought for and protected our country in our hours of need. It is also very important in Korea. As part of my announcement to my students that I was leaving, I circled this influential date and asked them what happened on it. A few bright sparks gave an alternative answer - the G20 summit, which was in Seoul on that very day - but most of them got the answer I was looking for...
Pepero Day - pepero in Hangul is 빼빼로 - is one of the most ridiculously commercialised ideas I have ever come across. If you thought Valentine's Day was bad - and I do - then try this on for size. Pepero is a not particularly appetising chocolate-covered biscuit stick that is mass produced by the Lotte group, which is one of the biggest conglomerates in Asia. Lotte, along with Samsung, Hyundai and LG, have a lot of influence out here. A lotte, you could say. I'll get my coat.
Back to point, the company introduced an advertising campaign a while ago, strongly suggesting to couples that love could be shown through exchanging boxes of pepero. This has snowballed into one of the biggest days of the year for couples. I thought I would try to take advantage of my seemingly powerful position in school by demanding boxes of pepero off the students.
I got seven boxes, which is pretty impressive until you hear stories from elementary school teachers about how they cannot see their desks due to all of the pepero. Or the forty-five boxes one of the other English teachers on my school managed to accumulate. Was I jealous? I told her she would get fat. So yes? What concerned me more was the fact that three boxes came off teachers and four came off boys. None off girls! Need to get that charm working again. I did steal some from students in the one girls' class I took that afternoon though.
I'm going to call it cultural adaptation, but I well and truly got sucked into pepero day. I bought a box for the girl I'm seeing, and gave it to her that evening. I received a bigger tube, so got the better deal. And pumpkin soup, randomly - I don't think that's a 빼빼로 thing. Also had a Korean-style tiramisu coffee that night, which is one of the best non-alcoholic drinks I have sampled out here. Outstanding.
Almost as outstanding as my lesson for this week. I am beginning to run out of ideas for lessons - actually, I've been struggling since August - so am going for increasingly bizarre lesson topics. This week - optical illusions, of course! The students loved it - many of the pictures really confused them. Their favourite part of this lesson, however, was the video I played them at the conclusion of the fifty minutes. I've embedded the video into this blog - follow the instructions and be amazed. I told the other teachers that it is the closest thing to drugs that these students will ever experience unless they leave Korea. Maybe why they liked it so much and demanded I play it again...
Bit of a Lotte week, in truth. I Went back to Lotte World on Saturday to make use of the free ticket that my VP gave to me when I went with the students on their field trip. It was surprisingly awesome. It is half indoors and half outdoors, but the sun made one final push to drive the temperature into double figures, so that wasn't an issue. Was almost warm enough to eat the ice cream dots, as superbly modelled below. Every ride was really good - even the teacups, which we span to the point that we struggled to walk when disembarking them.
The six of us who travelled across the city to Lotte World had a blast. We were, however, all very surprised that the Disney corporation have not realised that many of the signs and buildings are an outrageous ripoff of the Magic Kingdom. Compensation ahoy there, though if they keep selling 빼빼로 at their current rate I don't think Lotte will have too many problems with a payout.
Love you all