It’s Thursday afternoon – two hours to go until I can head home. It’s a bit of an odd situation here at school. Unlike in Canada where the major school break traditionally takes place over the summer, Korean pulic schools do their big break in the winter time. This means that graduation happens now – tomorrow actually.
The big break happens at this time of year, I would imagine, because of the weather. Most schools here are old, and not particularly weather-proof. They are cement, cavernous, and not well-insulated. I have been told that the big break happens now because it’s simply too damn cold to run classes at this time. That’s pretty true – especially when the schools seem to insist on leaving the hallway windows open in -10 degree weather. Snow collects in corners of the hallway, but nobody seems to notice. Students are still asked to mop floors – even though it almost instantly turns to ice. Strange.
Why it’s been weird this week is that we just had a vacation – sort of. The second semester ended (in a practical sense: exams finished etc.) back in December. Then, it was vacation time – except for myself and those few teachers who were running extra courses through January. My Winter English camp ran for three weeks, then I had a week and two days off, and yesterday, I came back to school to teach for two days before going back on Vacation. This happens, apparently, because parents don’t like the idea of teachers having two solid months away from the school. So... teachers come back to their schools, we have two days of nothing classes and then a grad cermony for the grade 9 students.
It’s odd to be here at school right now – it’s limbo: it’s not the end of a semester, nor the beginning of a new one. What it is, is me trying to teach while ALL of the other teachers are showing movies in class. I’m not exaggerating – I walked down the hllways a lot today and yesterday and what I saw in each room was a flat screen TV playing a movie while groups of students gathered and chatted together, did each other’s hair, or played cell phone games.
Really, I don’t mind – I would resent being asked to come into school for three days in the middle of my vacation too - I do, in fact. Unfortunately, I have been told that I need to teach. It’s my role as Native English Teacher – they “NEED” to hear my voice. Sadly, when the lesson I planned with a friend didn’t go over as I had hoped due to students not giving a rat’s ass at this time of year, my co-teacher approached me and said, with a bright smile, the following:
“The students expect games and movies, so they don’t want to listen to your lesson. Maybe that’s why you’re frustrated...”
Anyway, this week was a bit of a write-off as far as school went. There’s not much to do as plans for next semester won’t be in place until March. It’ll be interesting though – our school (and specifically the English department) will see some welcome changes then. Getting through yesterday and today though was a chore – for students and teachers – especially those teachers who were expected to actually teach.
Anyway, it’s vacation time – officially – after the ceremony for the graduating grade 9s ends at around noon, I’ll be helping Seong Sook pack her things (she’s moving to a new school next year) and then heading to Myeong-dong for one last dinner with a few people who will be going home at the end of this current contract – in others words, but the end of the month.
It’s been a decent January – aside from the frustrations that came with the territory. I went on a couple of hikes, had a birthday party with games and friends at my place – that’s becoming a bit of a tradition here – and went to Avatar in 3D IMAX with 15 of my closest buddies.
Getting tickets to Avatar was tough to pull-off. In Korea, people are mad for their movies Avatarv is the hottest ticket in town. Tickets go online one week before, any time between 4 and 9 am. Therefore, there was Seong Sook, days after surgery, waking up at 4 am to continually hit “refresh” on her computer until the purchase button actually lead somewhere. She snapped-up 16 tickets for a Sunday matinee, and after she logged out, the entire week – including our show – was completely sold-out. Online forums were reporting that people were scalping their Christmas Day Avatar tickets for upwards of 50,000 won (roughly $50.00 CAN dollars).
Anyway, we all went and it was well worth it. If you’re curious, you can read my review here. The best thing about all Korean movie theatres (IMAX or otherwise) is that you can book your seats in advance – no zany lining-up hours before the show.
Another cool thing that happened this month was baby-sitting a friend’s sweet puppy while he ran off to Thailand and Cambodia for 10 days. Bodie is a Miniature Schnauzer and he’s about 7 months old or so. Black with white paws, ear tips, beard, and eyebrows. He’s got a lot of character in that face. Sweet as can be – completely loves to be around people. He got attached to me pretty quickly and loved when I came home. He doesn't lick, but he enjoys sniffing at your from very close range for a long time. If I lie down, he’ll get up on my chest and just press himself down until his chin meets mine – staring into my eyes and sniffing. I love it. At night, he waits until I’m under the blanket, then he hops-up and settles under my arm like an arfing teddy bear. When I wake-up, he’s right there sniffing and staring at me eye-to-eye, starting to wiggle, as if to say “What are we gonna do now?”
We had some adventures – went for walks by the river, took him in his carrying case to a friend’s place in Hongdae, and introduced him to many people. Johnny came to pick him up lat night, and I’m going to miss him for sure. It already feels empty in my place – no, I won’t miss the pungent smell of puppy accidents, but I will miss the snuggles and muffled woofs when he hears a neighbor. Bye for now, Bodie.
Anyway, big plan for this month is that I’m heading home for a visit. I believe I mentioned before that I had been battling with the idea of maybe doing another adventure somewhere in SE Asia this winter, but – well... it’s a long story, and this is getting long enough. Short answer is, I miss my family, and it’s important for me to be home with them for some decent length of time. I know it’s February and all, but hey – it’ll mean ice-skating, visits to my nephew’s school, taking them to plays, movies, coffee, and dinner with friends, and just BEING home.
For a while, I could say that I wasn’t exactly excited to be going home – excited wasn’t the right word. I had already surprised people once, and this that was at Christmas. That was exciting. This time, until today, I could say that I was more simply “happy" about ging back - it was a Christmas Eve Feeling as opposed to Christmas Day. Well, now you can consider me happy AND excited. I got a hand-drawn card in the mail from my little buddy, Christian James Taylor today. It said that he missed me and that he hoped I would come back soon. I am planning on suprising those little guys. That’s going to be exciting. No big plans for great gatherings. I’ve naturally lost touch with more than a few people over the past 2.5 years, but that also means I’ve strengthened the relationships I have managed to hold onto. Visiting home feels natural – that’s kind of weird. I wish my Rabbit could come with me. There's so much I want to show her – next time for sure.
See you soon, family and friends back home.