The State Visit


Yesterday saw the cancellation of afternoon classes and the addition of some welcome Euro-culture for the teenage cultural lepers of Chungwon High School. When I accuse them of cultural leprosy it is somewhat inaccurate, they do embrace culture…..but just Korean culture tinged with American hip hop.  Europe is in a distant galaxy still awaiting discovery and Korea, as yet, does not have its own Mars Rover, so it is likely to stay this way.  What they do have at the helm of the  Starship Chungwon Enterprise is an enlightened Principal who is far from a cultural leper, she is a shinning light in MY anti-Korean education system universe.  She is Buddhist of course and is desperately trying to drag the school towards the realm of enlightenment, she craves for Nirvana, but unfortunately we have many light years to travel. One small step for Korean cultural diversity yesterday one giant leap for  the Kids of Chungwon High School.

There was of course the usual chaos as lunchy time was moved to accommodate the arrival of the Bulgaria State Symphony Orchestra Parzardzhik. The only problem was they forgot to inform the kids, first my class before lunchy was cancelled, then it was reinstated but the classroom was unavailable. It had been cancelled because the enlightened Principal thought the visitors from Eastern Europe would have had to mix with the kids during lunchy. She had been convinced by the big V that their (the kids) behaviour would upset them (the BSSOP) and lead to a negative first impression of the school, for **** sake have FAITH. These kids have been brainwashed into thinking they are worthless Korean citizens because of their failure to attain the minimum expected educational standards, do I detect a dichotomy between cultural enlightenment and student displacement?

Whilst I remember, one kid tried desperately to enlighten me this week. With a mixture of sign language and Shakespearean acting, he explained that he travelled 2 hours to school everyday because he was deemed too dysfunctional for his home town High School.  He had been guilty of two major misdemeanours, he did not achieve the academic standards expected of that school and he had a major crime hanging over him.  What major crime you may ask? Well, whilst at Middle School he had received 4 beatings in a week from his “punishment  teacher”. Punishment teachers are actually Korean sadists who cover up the fact that they are shit teachers by beating the hell out of young kids.  Of course it is now illegal in Korea but the practice continues unabated. Anyway back to the Shakespearean tragedy, the boy was a crafty (yes misguided) smoker and after his 4th beating decided a 5th would not matter so entered the boys bogs for a crafty fag. Little did he know that the chief executioner Hermann Göring had followed him, baton in hand.  As Voldermort hovered over him, raising his instrument of torture, the boy spotted an open window! You can guess what happened next?  Forgetting he was on the second floor the boy flew Lazarus like through the open window and onto the concrete 7 metres below, the result two broken ankles.  I suspect that Voldermort is still in situ and in all probability has been promoted.  We have our own Voldermort whose father passed away recently, how do you think he managed his bereavement? Yes he beat even more shit out of the kids.

Returning to our path to enlightenment and the BSSOP, the lunchy they were served was appalling, first impressions? On the menu yesterday was fishy cabbage soup, rice, Kimchi, green shoots in red pepper paste and some orange, sugary, fishy sprats with eyes intact (deep-fried until a caramelised chewy mess). Oh and a single two bite chicken drumstick in barbecue sauce. The Bulgarians, I am sure craved some Shkembe Chorba (tripe soup), or even some Tarator (cold Yoghurt Soup) with Lukanka (Bulgarian Chorizo). They stuck to the task of consuming our typical school dinner with a stoicism absorbed through spending so many years behind the iron curtain.

As 2 pm drew near the excitement was tangible, the usual sound of an orchestra fine tuning their instruments sat comfortably with the “staged” traditional Korean music class taking place in the classroom nearest the gym (concert hall). Cynicism my forte. At 1:55 the Butlin’s style tannoy announcement ushered us to the hall.  The kids had to sit on the floor (to stop them falling asleep presumably) and on one side sat invited guests and dignitaries, as a guest and dignitary, I sat with them.  On the other side sat teachers and injured students, how they receievd those injuries will be left to your imagination :-). It has to be said the concert was incredible, Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Haydn and the Sound of Music were included in the repertoire.  The kids also were fantastic, staying awake, clapping and cheering. We were even treated to one shout of bravo! Perhaps my initial comments were unfair?  They clearly appreciated the talent put before them and took a giant leap forward in the journey to enlightenment.  Bravo indeed!