This week’s teaching schedule (for anyone with a horrible busy week look away now):

Monday: midterms, no lessons
Tuesday: full day of teaching
Wednesday: grade 4 picnic, no lessons
Thursday: grade 6 in Seoul, no lessons
Friday: grade 6 in Seoul, no lessons. And Korean class is cancelled.

The week’s not been a complete holiday though, as even on those days where I’m required to do nothing more than sit in front of my computer – like today, like right now – I still have to be at school. Monday was pretty productive: I planned many, many lessons; and after school I had a long overdue haircut (more on this soon). However, in all my time since then, I’ve been sending the occasional email and making cartoons on the internet. You should be able to find my first attempt in the blog directly below this one, if not then here’s a link:

My First trip to a Korean hairdresser

It’s about my haircut. I arrived after school and rang Elizabeth from outside. “It looks a bit girly here… can you help me?”. I entered, sweaty from my cycle there, and starting unpeeling layers of clothing as the trendy (read: camp) fella gave a speech in Korean. It was clear that he didn’t speak any English. There were no clippers in sight. He ushered me into my seat and whipped out his phone. “Bread Pit?” he asked. I nodded. He took off my glasses, rendering the image that stared back from the mirror in front of me blurry and therefore moot. I sat there and thought back to my day at school. How many ridiculous Korean haircuts had I seen that day? I was powerless to resist succumbing to a similar fate. The necessary tools to prevent this – sight and language – had either been taken away from me or were missing from the start.

I’m always happy to see Elizabeth, but never more so than then. “What does it look like? Tell him I don’t want Korean triangles!” I pleaded. (At school, at least 90% of the boys have these giant triangles of hair that between fringe and ear. I don’t know what purpose they serve, but they look ridiculous.) She passed me my glasses. Why didn’t I think of that?! It looked alright actually, apart from one side of my hair being much thicker than the other. We tried to convey this to the hairdresser, who responded by washing and drying my hair, and then styling it with wax. Problem solved. Not the perfect cut, but I imagine it could have been much, much worse.

Or maybe it couldn’t. The next day at school (by happy coincidence Tuesday, my only teaching day this week) I was bullied all day. I’d ask the kids at the beginning of each lesson whether or not they liked my new ‘do, only to be greeted with a choruses of ‘no!’ and ‘teacha big forehead!’; accompanied by 32 students x 2 thumbs x 5 lessons = 320 thumbs down. To make it worse, grade 5 had oral classes with their Korean teacher during my lesson, so I was in control of the lessons alone. The students were given tests to do in silence and I was to check their answers afterwards. The answers to question 1 were in Korean. After every “how do you say ‘she is running’ in Korean?” the kids would see an opportunity and grab it with both hands, shouting ‘funny’ Korean answers back at me. There was usually one kid in each class who would take pity and translate for me – a couple of the nicer answers were “she is drowning in the swimming pool” and “she is eating her friends”. At least they were using the present continuous.

I mentioned before that Friday’s Korean class is cancelled. It would have been the third one – I go every Friday for two hours at seven. It’s really hard. The teacher whizzes through material and jumps all over the textbook we use, from introductions to jobs to grammar – but she’s pretty funny so we don’t really mind. I can give directions in a taxi and I know how to say pork, beef, chicken, fish and beer. There are subtle distinctions between certain sounds that I can’t even hear, let alone pronounce. Maybe I should do a Rhiannon Brooksbank-Jones.

Anyway, I’ve just found out that one grade 6 student has been left behind – for behavioural reasons I think – so he’s at school sitting in the English room reading a book. I’ve got to go and correct his grammar on the summary he’s to write. Maybe it’ll give me a chance to learn one of the names of the 700 students I teach, and possibly even have a conversation with him. Off to Busan this weekend for the fireworks festival there, so hopefully next time I’ll have some pictures that aren’t my rubbish cartoon (let me know what you think!).


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