Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Korean on Canada Day

I'm trying really hard to remember what I did last Canada Day, and for the life of me, I can't recall. I remember that it was spent in Korea, and it was towards the end of my first year, and I think I wore my Team Canada Yzerman jersey, but that kind of goes without saying.

To me, Canada Day isn't that big a deal - it's a day off to wander around Princes Island in Calgary if the weather is nice, and it's a day I suppose to fee lucky. I suppose I've always had good Canada Days, probably because I have more than a few friends who are more patriotic than me, and I just let them rub-off on me for a day. I also appreciate how Canada Day back home often feels more like "World Showcase Day" - every culture in Canada bringing-out their home country's colours - be they from Brazil, The Ukraine, or China. It's nice to see more than one flag being flown and embraced.

This year, I decided to make a little something of Canada Day - though circumstances being what they were, there wasn't much to be done. Fortunately in some regards, but unfortunate in others, my students were all writing final exams today. This meant no Canada Day lesson for anyone, but I decided to wear my jersey, drape the flag around my shoulders, and rush around the halls with my flag flapping like Superman's cape behind me.

I would stop-off into classrooms between exams to sing the anthem after explaining that it was "Canada's Birthday". The kids, to their credit, even through the fog and haze of day two of exams, were pretty stoked about it. They all cheered and said a hearty "congratulations" throughout the day when they saw me.

With exams underway, I just hung my flag outside the English Only classroom and went back to preparing for lessons next week. Afterward, some of my English co-teachers decided that it was time to visit a pottery museum... I know... a difficult segue way, but there it is. It seems that every now and then groups of teachers decide that it's time for an excursion of some kind and today was of the pottery museum kind. Though I had and still have a lot of work to take care of, being a sucker for kimchi, I decided that taking a pottery museum break was the right thing to do... what better way to Celebrate Canada Day than to explore a Korean pottery museum...

It was cool - I saw pottery and lots of it. I saw pottery for storing food, pottery for holding lamps, pottery for squeezing the pus out of wounds, pottery for carrying the earthly embodiment of god of, and - right next to that - pottery for carrying human excrement... at least that's what the sign said. All in all - an intriguing day. Not something I would have chosen to do on my own perhaps, but I was touched to see my teachers go out of their way to take me to see something that they felt was culturally worthwhile. As long as it doesn't involve eating dog meat, I'm all about it. Speaking of vegetarianism, since I'm into awkward segue ways today, I saw a restaurant called "Donkey Chicken" today. I don't want to know what that means. It may not be easy to be a vegetarian in Korea, but there are times when you're glad you are one.

My day continued with a trip to Gangnam this evening for my first Korean lesson. Yes, you read that right, I have finally bitten the bullet and paid for lessons. I'll be heading to Gangnam every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for two hours. It's good to have my friend Lexi in the class with me - a study partner and company for the subway ride home. It's pricey - 280,000 won per month - but in my estimation it'll be worth it. Going to the lessons and paying for them is the only way actually learning the language is going to happen. I've been here long enough to know that if you don't schedule time to learn and see it through, it isn't going to happen. Day 1 was a tad easy, but soon the real structure begins. I'm both excited and nervous about learning a new language at my age. At the very least, it's a project - my brain has been craving just this sort of thing and being here, I can't think of a more practical pursuit.

So, happy Canada Day to all of you back home. Enjoy your freedoms, be proud, but more importantly, enjoy your good fortune, because that's probably more accurate. I capped my day off with a pint of Big Rock Traditional Ale served to me in the heart of Seoul. I consider myself fortunate too.

In other news, My school-wide Hogwarts' House contest came to a close this past week. Though Ravenclaw put up one hell of a fight, in the end, Slytherin's lead was just too large to be overtaken. Here's the the snake people having their day in the sun.


Kimberly said...

Hi George,

Sorry to do this in a comment, but I didn't see an email address for you anywhere on the site. I'm a former native English teacher (lived and worked in Korea for two years) who is now a Master's student at the University of Glasgow. The reason I'm writing to you is I'm hoping that you would be willing to complete a questionnaire that forms part of the research I am conducting for my MSc Information Management & Preservation dissertation.

My dissertation will examine the role of blogs in helping to form and shape a sense of community identity amongst expats living in South Korea. This is being done in order to determine the archival value of these blogs and examine if, and how, they should be preserved.

Basically, I believe that today’s archives are rife with personal diaries and papers which allow us a glimpse into the past. But, what of the archives of the future? How many people today actually keep a pen and paper journal or write letters home? More and more native English teachers living in Korea have replaced diaries and letters home with blogs. Furthermore, due to the nature of the native English teacher community in Korea, much of the information about this community can only be found on the Internet on sites such as blogs (like yours). Therefore, a failure to preserve blogs may create a black hole of information for future generations of archives users.

You can read more about my project as well as fill out my questionnaire by visiting I’d really appreciate it if you could find the time to complete the questionnaire. Some of the issues I'm examining are what happens to blogs when their authors decide to stop writing and if blog authors would be willing to have their blogs digitally preserved, so I'd be interested to hear your views on these matters.

(Also, if any or your readers would like to fill out the questionnaire that would be great too!)

Thank you,

Des said...

This blog is excellent man. I used to live in Seoul and browsing through your blog brings back some great memories.