a tiresome lesson in South Korean work ethic

Thursday (Korea Day 25)

Today at school we hosted a mini “English village”. Normally these are short-term immersion English experiences in a live-in environment where only English is spoken. It is my understanding that they focus around real world situations that “big people” deal with like going to the bank, grocery shopping, doctors visit ect.  The intention is to promote English leaning and to build students’ Anglo-American cultural awareness. The premise today was international travel. Being that there are four of us American teachers, the students had the opportunity to “travel” to Florida, Kansas, Kentucky and  Wisconsin – of course our respective home states.  In theory a great idea, I was initially rather excited to exude my Dairyland pride.

It was one of my first few days on the job in a teachers meeting that I first learned of English village. Being that it was a month and a half away I gave it little thought. Then at some point last week it was determined that the event would be moved ahead a few weeks. Each of us foreigners was paired with a  Korean partner at a meeting late in that last week. Last Friday I found out my partner had been switched.

So with less than a week it was on me to decide how to present WI in a less-educational more-entertaining way. Needing an overall theme I decided to focus on the tagline “America’s Dairyland”. I created a short 11 slide ppt. explaining dairy products, WI’s location and proximity to Korea, and its seasons. Naturally an interactive eating component had to be included. Due to time and cooking limitations grilled cheese was out. Cheese sandwiches were suggested but later decided against due to lameness. So “canapes” it was.  Needing a fun activity the final component was to color cow tails and then play a round of “pin the tail on the cow” with their mothers (sometimes overly-helpful) guidance.

Monday night I stayed at school till 11 pm making for a 12 hour work day. Tuesday night I realized I still had a long way to go on my room and stayed until after midnight while my “WI” room counterpart was MIA a second evening in a row. Crunch time – Wednesday night. There were still room decorations to be made, and hung. The orientation of the room had to be finalized and I began realizing the complexity of the competing state rooms and I was still operating solo. 7 pm and fried chicken is delivered, its dumped in the middle of my meagerly decorated room. It was not long before hungry teachers descended, destroyed then dissipated. Not only was I solo and unorganized but I now had a carnivorous mess to clean up (fortunately a kind Indian and equestrian helped me out)  Midnight rolled around and Teresa Teacher said I should go home. She assured me that my partner would be in early and could work on the room. Having my doubts and own vision for how things should be I ended up staying till 1 am only to learn I had to be back at school before 9 am.

Morning of. My room looked exactly as I had left it less than 8 hours previous. Despite its lack of 3D elements (no hobby horses to ride, no palm trees or Micky and Minnie Mouse cutouts and surly no tepees or campfires) I felt it looked pretty good. Highlights were my Packers flag and jersey pinned to the wall below the arched (20ish’ long) text “America’s Dairyland”. Also a board with tantalizing images of our favorite dairy products  and my retired full sized WI flag which once flew at a local elementary school in Eau Claire, WI.

The first set of “tourists” entered my room around 10 am. My spiel was unrehearsed and uncertain in a crowded room of at least two dozen. After my ppt the canape materials were not yet ready so I did the game first and then was pressed for time during snack making. As the day progressed my presentation became more lively and more inclusive of the bored mothers. It didn’t take me long to realize the second a  mom took out her camera I should be behind her kid flaunting my WI flag t-shirt and smiling ridiculously.  If monetary tips were a thing in Korea id have payed for my upcoming flight to Shanghai.

Us four foreign teachers left that evening with daylight to spare (something that had no happened yet during week despite a late sunset). We did a Thai dinner to celebrate and exchanged stories of the day. I don’t think ill ever forget that Seoul, South Korea is 10,353 kilometers from Madison, WI.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Barb Baumgartner on July 17, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    You do have your work cut out for you. So many challenges!


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