Pressing the refresh button!

3 May

This weekend was bittersweet!  It was great in the sense that I completely relaxed.  Went out with friends on Friday night and Saturday night.  Saturday was spent mostly in bed watching movies and eating pizza.  On Sunday I ventured over to Duryu Park and explored!  the bitter side of the weekend stuck its face out on Friday already.  All the Native English Teachers in Daegu had an in-service training session at a hotel near downtown.  It was great seeing all the Epikers that I don’t bump into every now and again.  Its amazing to think that two months has passed since I’ve seen so many of those folks.  But anyhow, after the whole seminar we had a general Q & A session were the NET’s and the Korean co-teachers were separated.  During that session someone asked about school holidays.  Each school receives two days from the DMOE every semester that they can use at their own discretion.  We were notified that even though there will be no staff at the school or students during those day that if we as Native English teacher want those days off we have to take our paid leave.  This totally sucks!  As my school already informed me about our two school holidays in the first week here I already made plans.  So this whole weekend I just new my school was going to cancel my two days and make me come into school those two days.  Sitting here all by myself doing absolutely nothing!  Urgh!  Korea is definitely not the place to come for a good working experience!

It seems that my “shouting” has helped!  On Friday during lunch at the seminar the supervisor of the DMOE pulled me aside.  The two DMOE coordinators that handle all NET related matters proved to be powerless and I clearly stated in my email to the DMOE to please forward my letter to their superiors.  It helped.  And although nothing will change my situation my intention of the letter was to inform people of what a crap school i’m at.  The supervisor told me that he as shocked to read my letter and could not believe that something like this has happened.  He also said that he has never heard of anything similar.  He apologized and said that he will make contact with my school.  Its a bit late for that now.  But then if its not for me at least for the next NET that will come to my school!  So thoughtful of me I know!

These past two months has been hard and I don’t think I ever got to experience the so called honeymoon period.  From day one things just went wrong.  I am hoping to start fresh now!  As I feel I have done what I could.  It’s time to press the refresh button!

A Walk in the Park

Yesterday my camera and I ventured over to Duryu park.  The park is actually closer to my place than I thought.  Its about six or seven bus stops away and then a bit of a walk.  Different areas of the park is occupied by different people.  There is an old peoples section, a kiddies section and then just a general park goers section.  My entrance to the park was at the old peoples section.  I could immediately feel the glare.  All eyes were on me as I navigiated my way through the drunken senior citizens smoking and playing Ba-duk (바둑).

As I continued on I was really able to take the scenery in.  Living in the city, any for of nature is appreciated.  The only other time I’ve been to Duryu park was on the dog walk and my attention was pretty much on the dogs.  This time around I could really appreciate the park in all its glory!

Duryu park

As I continued walking in th park and taking pictures I noticed an old Korean man trying to get my attention.  My initial reaction was to ignore him and just walk on.  But as there were many thing I would like to take pictures of I just turned my back on him and hoped he would go away.  I really did not have the energy to deal with this man tight now.  He was probably drunk, going to touch me and try and have a conversation with me in Korean.  This will all be followed by laughter and me walking away in fury.  My feelings towards this culture isn’t too  good at the moment so no more fuel to the fire is needed!

The old man reached me and started talking. Oh dear, here we go!  “Where are you from, America?”  As this is a regular question and prety much the extent of most Koreans English knowledge I dod not make much of this.  I replied with “no I am from South Africa” and added the Korean Nam-a-gong.  He was truly amazed by this and asked me whether I worked at a Hagwon.  I told him that I worked at a Middle school and he said “aah, you are an intelligent young man, lets walk”.  All this was kind of weird and although I was hesitant to walk through the park with this man I was completely mesmerized by him.  He is very old and his English was perfect.  If he had any alterior motives for stiiring up a conversation with me they wre unclear.  He talked to me because he was nice!  And thats it.  We ended up walking into the cultural centre and he showed me an arts exhibition.  He explained the meaning of the chinese charachters to me and then he showed me the simplicity of hangul.  He did not not explain it to me in a “korea is the best country in the world” type of way, he just stated the facts.

Art exhibition

Chinese characters

I was very curious about where he learned to speak english so well.  His english was way better than some of the English teachers at my school.  I asked them and his reply had me hanging on his lips.

The tale of Mr. Yun

Mr Yun

He asked me I had any grandparents.  I told him that I had two grandmothers and they were 83.  He was 86.  “So you are used to being a grandson, so you can call me Mr Yun.”  So I did.  Mr Yun served in the South Korean army during the Korean war.  He was a lieutenant.  He complained about the level of the education her received under Japanese rule.  He blames the Japanese for the fact that people his age are unable to speak English.  As we strolled through the arts exhibition Mr Yun explained to me how he had to go to America for training and thats where he learned English.  During that time he made many American friends and to this day they still send each other Christmas cards.  He was in America for 21 months.  When he returned to South Korea he was an interpreter.  I had so many questions, so many things I wanted to know, but I did not know how to ask him!  What was the war like, what can he remember . . . but it seemed inappropriate.  The conversation steered to religion.  When he was younger he was Buddhist but he does not have the energy to go to the temples anymore so now he doesn’t ascribe to any particular religion.  He has been living in Daegu for almost 60 years now and he told me how the place has grown.  Daegu 60 years ago was like a village compared to what it is now.  But he enjoys it here.  When we left the art exhibition I wondered where we were going next.  But out of nowhere he announced that he will go his i and I should go my way.  As if our meeting was destined to end there and at that time.  It was perfect, as I he did not want me to feel uncomfortable in any way.  I could have listened to his stories for the rest of the day, but the time we spent together was great!  Just before our ways parted he apologized on  behalf of all Koreans.  Why, I asked.  Because some Koreans are lower class and others are not.  The lower class people behave badly towards foreigners, he said, and he would just like to apologize for that.  I appreciated it because as a foreigner in this place things can get sticky!

Mr Yun pressed the refresh button for me and I realised that the Korean people are not all bad!  It will take time for me to grow accustomed to how things work here and why thing happen as they do.  But Mr Yun restored my faith in these people and I am ready once again to absorb this culture.  I am going to try and put the past two months behind me!  I’ve got 10 more months to go, and before i know it I”l be back on a plane to Africa!  Let the fun begin!

Cheers from Kimchiland!


3 Responses to “Pressing the refresh button!”

  1. GRRRL TRAVELER May 3, 2010 at 17:41 #

    Glad to hear the shouting has helped. Right now i’m wishing you shouted about this b.s vacation time they’ve taken from us too (and err, let us know about on Friday after we already made plans! I’m furious)

    But incidentally, glad you had a positive refresher with Korea. Sometimes we don’t get enough of those kind of positive experiences to make Korea feel normal.

    • christodewit May 4, 2010 at 08:34 #

      I know right! Something gives me the idea that this is what is in store for us for the rest of the year! The Korean work ethic regarding foreigners is pretty screwed up! But i’m not one of those people who is going to lay down and take it. I sacrificed too much to get here so no way are they screwing me over! And about the documentary- I had the exact same idea, I even thought I would ask all our fellow Epikers to write a little report on their experiences so far, good or bad! But for now, we have at least one public holiday that we can enjoy!

  2. Mike May 4, 2010 at 22:22 #

    You had me hooked with the story about Mr. Yun. I was convinced somewhere he will say “Christoson, wax on wax off!”

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