As part of my schedule, I teach at two different public schools. It was supposed to be 3 but the Principal of the school I am at Monday, Tuesday and Thursday says he likes me and I should be there Monday-Thursday. I suppose this is fine as I only have a ten minute walk to school and it's pretty much the only activity I've engage in the last week that has felt quasi-familiar. This leaves us with Friday. Friday is my journey out into the sticks for a little rural teaching.
Yuna told me yesterday that I would be picked up promptly at 7:50 a.m outside of an Optometry business by my rural co-teacher Kang Jin Seon. True to form, Jin Seon showed up at precisely 7:50 and quickly we whisked away to the school. The windy 20 minute ride from Masan to wherever was mildly scenic, and was the closest to "the old country" I have seen since I set foot on Asian shore. We apparently arrived before most students as their presence was pretty sparse. This school looked much like every other school I've been in but nothing could prepare me for what would happen inside.
Jin Seon brought me to first meet the vice principal. His ear-to-ear smile was trumped only by the Principal's. Through translation I was asked the obligatory do you like Korea, do you like my school questions. After about 1 minute of exchange, the principal told me that I he liked my face and I will be a good teacher here. After my meeting with the principal I was brought into the teacher's lounge. Now this was actually a pleasant experience as I didn't feel overwhelmed because there might be all of 15 teachers here. The principal asked me introduce myself on the microphone to which I was aided by Jin Seon with translation. They clapped, we bowed and the rest was Korean business as usually.
Scott had told me previously that he really enjoys his girl classes. He says they are less jittery and they "are complete Angels (it helps to imagine it in his robust English accent). My first class was girls so I considered myself fortunate. After the initial screams, yes screams, had subsided from my classroom entry, the girls were indeed angelic. They paid strict attention, there was no hitting of one another, and they asked many questions. I don't think the euthanizer at the pound has seen so many pairs of puppy dog eyes. When class ended, some of the girls (about 10) stayed and wanted to shake my hand to which promptly they began to scream after they did.
I thought I had escaped the situation relatively unscathed. No, this was just the beginning. This group of 10 took it as their responsibility to escort me to the teachers lounge all the while screaming, telling others not in the entourage to move. A couple of students even went as far as to try and walk arm in arm with me. I politely thwarted their attempts while the only thought it my head was "I've only got to make it to the teachers lounge."
My next class were with the boys, and of course, the proved to be more noisy, more aggressive and just generally less pleasant than the girl classes. By this time it was lunch, I had pretty much forgotten about the antics that had previously transpired. That was short-lived. First rule of Korean Club: Never let your gaurd down.
As we walked into the cafeteria, each girl table turned towards me until I could literally feel retinas burning the fabric of my shirt into my skin as I ate. I sat facing towards a co-teacher mindful not to look back at the minions heeding strict amorous attention towards me. After lunch my co-teacher took me to the teacher's lounge via an out door route. Why not walk through a narrow corridor while the German's shoot down on us? It was an onslaught, an absolute massacre of the highest proportions. There must have been 40 girls waiting for those doors to swing open, and after they did, they took no auricular mercy.
I couldn't bear to look up. It was one of the most uncomfortable situations in my life. It would have been different if I'd scored a Game 7 goal, received a purple heart, or cured cancer but this was solely because I was a westerner. I felt like a movie star leaving a night club. The only thing I was missing was a coat draped over my head and a cocked left fist sighted in on a nosey paparazzi. Looking at the concrete made me uncomfortable but looking up only added fuel to the fire. I was stuck and I knew it and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. I made the terribly horrific mistake of thinking about how ridiculously funny this situation was with the screaming, the fanning of the faces, and the gah-gah eyes. It was then in a brief moment of weakness I cracked a smile and it was all pandemonium from there on out ...
T.I.K - This is Korea