Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Cell-phone is my life..."


This is nothing new, but for those that don't know - cell-phones are a key part of life here in Korea. Cell-phone technology has continued to be one of Korea's biggest exports and things move here quickly. A new cell-phone here will appear back home in Calgary in about 3 years, or longer.

Just a couple of months ago, South Korea finally allowed Apples iphone to be sold here and used on the huge wireless networks that exist on the peninsula. I don't have numbers for you, but after an initial fear that local companies such as Samsung and LG would take too much of a hit, things seem to have evened-out. I'm sure that even Korean companies appreciate a little healthy competition.

Anyway, part of the result of having a cell-phone aware populace is that everyone has a phone. Again, I have no numbers, but when you move about, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who isn't packing. The oldest of the elderly and the youngest students imaginable - all have them, and they are used all the time.

At school, this is a huge issue. Some schools have taken to banning them outright, while others take the phones from the students at morning homeroom, offer them access at lunch, take them away again, and then give them back at the last bell. Guaranteed, if my school is a good sample group, Korean students will take whatever free time is afforded them and apply their energies and attentions to cell-phone games, texting each other, or developing cell-phone envy when some kid whips-out the latest in Android phone technology. My wee little phone is often mocked for its age and weak capabilities, while I see it as a source of pride - bucking the trend of replacing my cell-phone every year to keep-up with the Kims, Parks, and Lees.

Our school's policy is to take a student's cell-phone away for a week if the student is caught using it in class. I've done this three times now - and never without ample warning. One particularly smarmy miss thang in grade 9 had hers taken away by me and she literally squirmed and writhed in her seat once she realized I wasn't kidding. It was the bold "I'm going to do it anyway" attitude she displayed for a couple of weeks leading-up to that moment. I thoroughly enjoyed her daily pleas to get the phone back early. Just for my own amusement, I allowed her to come to our office and check her messages once every day for exactly one minute. She looked like a Trainspotting outcast, eyes all blue and sunken - looking for a hit. It was remarkable what her fast-moving fingers were able to accomplish on her keypad in such a short time.

However, sometimes I'm even a bigger softy. I took one girl's cell-phone away this week, and she too squirmed, but when she lingered after class with sad eyes, I motioned her to my desk and let her know that this time, I would give back her cell-phone the next day, instead of the whole week later, since it was her first time (and since she was a grade 7 student who wasn't smarmy).

Or so I thought. The next day, she showed-up at my door in the first period with 3 of her friends, asking for the phone. When I told her that she needed to wait until the end of the school day, she begged me, and when I wouldn't budge - she did the classic stick-out-your-tongue-out-at-the-teacher routine. So, I let her know she wouldn't be getting her cell-phone back for a whole week. She looked like her heart had been ripped-out.

At lunch time, one of her friend delivered the following note on behalf of the victim:

Dear teacher Dave
Teach Dave hello.
Can I ask you a favor?
Please give me a cell phone.
Cell phone is my life.
I have bitter experiences from my mother.
Very Very sorry.
I do self examination. Teacher...
Very Very Very sorry.
Handsome teacher Dave.
I LOVE YOU!

I gave her cell-phone back after school that day. I appreciated the English effort. I'll never be in the position to rip-up a speeding ticket intended for a hot female motorist, but this I can take care of without guilt.

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