Chungju, my life for three years….
It truly has been a distraction and a reprise from the education whores who tried to kill my life in London. You succeeded in one thing, giving me the freedom to fly!
So what of my life in Korea….What have I loved?
Firstly a fabulous, great and trusted friend in Frank Oh Bok Young (FOBY) who will remain thus forever and a day. My other centurions Angel’s Disley and Heighway and the beautifully eccentric Emma Wakelin will always be treasured. Huibaek is my favourite bar master though the guy and his gal at Jazz & S are the coolest.
Secondly my fabulous smiley students who grew despite the controlling and unimaginative curriculum. From this years first grade Sonny’s smile, Jade’s warmth and Donny’s camp eccentricity (no he’s not a Brit). From my second grade Andrew is a star, Alex a credit to his parents (a good egg) and Garett just simply “Mr Lover Man”, Shabba! My 3 year odyssey began with the receptive and gregarious Kate (who will become an English teacher), the wonderfully polite Noah and the incredible Christopher who will study traditional Korean music at Seoul National University. I’ll remember the “Iceman” and “Cucumber” and the ultimate clown ‘Trevor”. I hope “6-pack” will become a star of the Korean ballad.
Thirdly my mostly female colleagues who give their life and soul to the kids despite knowing the system is far from perfect. Some reminded me of my own teachers when I was of an impressionable age. Long may these women reign. My Principal has also been a legend, showing support and a generosity I’ll never forget.
Fourthly the eccentric retired guys in Seoul who’ll engage you in fabulous positive conversation and show a genuine interest in your life outside as well as inside SK.
Fifthly, Jongno-gu, my home from home. Legendary food, beers and the occasional cocktail. The nearest I ever got to real Korea.
Now my résumé for Korea.
I’ve observed escapism; school is purgatory, the PC Bang, singing room, alcohol, f*** motels and surgery, are outlets of a monotonous life. The seeking of distraction is king in this nation, the need to satiate the escapists desire.
Internet addiction is rife and rehabilitation centres are an entrepreneurial possibility; life is truly lived online to the detriment of social skills. Narcissism is misguided, the before is generally better that the after where cannibalistic eye correction has been delivered as a 16th birthday gift. The quality of mercy is not strained but the quality of TV is shite (particularly SBS football), sadly it’s endured by the populace, even on the buses and subway trains. The exception being the calm, collected Buddhists, why do they live here?
The mind changing consumption of the devil’s brew renders octogenarian monsters, late afternoon. Vomit is a true expression of a sound night out, it’s definitely unrelated to age or income bracket. Sleep in work is a regular observation, including doors unlocked and pants down in an educational environment. 20% of SK men (in their 20s) pay for “jiggy jiggy” at least 4 times every month. Older ladies ply their trade on mountain trails fuelled by Makgeolli and pancakes. Women appear nonplussed by this behaviour.
SK has more credit cards per head than any other nation and household debt double the average annual disposable income. Savings, well what savings! Debt post the 2008 crash has grown steadily. This rampant consumerism clouds the reality of dull regimented lives supplemented by a complete lack of wanderlust and self-actualisation. The cost of a Samsung curved TV is still greater that my 7 week Trans-Siberian odyssey back to the UK.
Where would you like to visit overseas? Why would I want to visit overseas? Korea has the best food, best language, best fashion, best movies and the very best education. Unfortunately I don’t agree, the level of disillusion is unacceptable. There is a distant lack of emotional intelligence. The ultimate escape of course is that of suicide. Between 1992 and 2010 GDP grew 300 percent but surveys recorded the happiness indices notably lower that other developed or developing nations. Students are the most unhappy of all OECD countries.
HIV and AIDs do not exist and neither does drug addiction (LOL) but in my opinion nether does any recognition of mental health or learning difficulty issues which are merely seen as weaknesses. They still say “handicapped” or more regularly “stupid”. School kids bully the disadvantaged without understanding the impact on those deemed to be different or weak.
Any questioning of attitude or inappropriate behaviour is classed as a cultural difference or my lack of understanding. I’ll say for the last time it’s ok to ignore a colleague until you want something at which point none physical love is displayed in abundance. Challenging this dysfunction is seen as the ultimate display of rudeness. Well let me say the room of distorted mirrors is in need of a visit.
So it’s over and out from, Chiang Mai and CELTA for me, a short Winter Camp in February and my Korean experience will end.
I hope I encouraged them to speculate, open their minds, to travel and at least gave them with a positive cultural exchange but only time will tell. I’ve loved most of it and hated some of it but the memories will last forever.