Imagine you are me. It's Saturday and I was lying it bed half asleep. I think it was 8 am, and since my window was open all night, I could feel that that day would be particularly sticky. Aside from that, out of the middle of nowhere, a siren began to blare. Keep in mind this siren comes less than 2 weeks after North Korea detonated an underground nuclear bomb on May 25th. The siren blares and a man begins speaking in Korean. I started to think about airports, highways and ferry terminals shutting down. Yeah, I've got enough food for a couple of weeks but that means nothing as I might as well stick my head in a microwave before the other radiation gets to me. Luckily, the siren stopped and I would later be told at school several days later that the siren was a remembrance for the national memorial day.
Imagine you are me. Half way through one of your classes a siren goes off, someone starts speaking an incomprehensible tongue over the intercom. Five words into the message your students start screaming, they hit the ground and scurry under their desks. A few students hurry to the windows and doors locking them in position before they slide under their desks. You spot your best English speaking student from across the room and ask the 11-year-old, "Um, what's going on?" Through the stress and confusing, he battles to find the English words, "Umm. six point five ... earthquake!" At this point you think, well I didn't feel anything but perhaps there was an earthquake elsewhere triggering a tidal wave heading for your little coastal town. Another thirty seconds elapse and the intercom voice continues, the children stop screaming and the boy says to me through his heavy accent, "Teacher, six point five earthquake ... um ... practice!"
You're probably thinking, "Garrett, we have these drills all the time back home." It's true but I've come to the painful realization that while I'm landlocked here without family nor do I have possession of the native tongue, I'm very dependant on others for safety. With that said, if shit hits the proverbial fan, in Korea's eyes, how high on the list do you think English teachers are?
As my work weeks have quickly trickled into work days, and as we approach the final stretch here in the land of Oz, it's become movie showcase cinema in my class. Because I hold my co-worker brethren in high esteem here at the country school, beforehand I asked Jinsun if it be ok to show the kids "Wall-E" for my last two classes. You know, to take a breather from the blitzkrieg teaching pace I'd paved months previous. She obliged and according as such, the students are even more so excited for English class - no work. Since the students have known for about three weeks that I will be leaving, they have given me random hallway hugs and written me goodbye notes. A group of four boys went as far to try and physically restrain me from leaving the classroom. Perhaps what I was most caught off guard by were the prepared English statements, with help help from the Korean English teacher, said to me as a as I walked out the classroom door following our final class together. To this point I've heard, "We'll miss you!" and "Have a safe trip back!" but the one that I heard 10 minutes ago takes the rice cake.
In Korea, classes begin and end with "insa." The class captain will stand, say a couple of words in Korean, and then the class will bow silently as one. After Wall-E, and true to form, the class captain of my third grade boys class rose accordingly just like he has for the previous eight months. With the captain standing and the other 38 boys seated and quiet, a rouge student tried to steal the groups thunder by personally delivering me the message that they had rehearsed with the Korean teacher a few days previous. "Thank-you for TOUCHING me!" he said proud as a peacock. If you could have only been there. I roared with laughter and the Korean teacher smacked herself in the forehead with her palm as she chuckled. "We practiced that some many times! Thank-you for TEACHING me," Hyun Gung said as she then offered them an explanation to them in Korean as to my mania. As you could imagine, the 15 year old boys thought it was one of the funniest things they'd ever heard and I'm sure that student won't hear the end of it for quite some time.