Thursday, December 8, 2011

Things That Have Happened


My host sister's reaction to a bowl of cereal

     Sorry that is has been a while since I wrote anything.  Everything has been going well.  Since I last wrote, I have been spending more and more time with my students.  In mid-October, they decided that I was not as intimidating as I seemed.  Now, they want my advice on everything from American music to buying clothes and asking out girls.  They have also wanted my opinion on topics, such as the FTA Agreement between the United States and Korea and which member of Girls' Generation (Korean k-pop group that my students idolize) is the most attractive (I always tell them that I prefer 2ne1).
Just chilling.
Isn't he great?

Part of my club class

    In mid November, I had a great opportunity to take some of the brightest boys at Geumseong High School to a Youth Diplomacy and Activism Conference in Gwangju (pretty much a model-UN type even that my friend organized).  Before the event, I worked with the guys and helped them create a presentation that other students had debate over.  My guys wanted to talk about the controversy surrounding Dok-do island.  Dok-do is located between Korea and Japan.  For hundreds of years, Koreans and Japanese have debated over who Dok-do belongs to.  Naturally, all the students supported the proposal that my students created.  Despite being nervous, all of my students spoke very well.  I was very proud.
The guys giving a presentation on the FTA (check out the smirk on the right)

At the conference with my students
    As far as traveling has gone, I have made trips to Seoul (for a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner with the ambassador to Korea), Busan, Daejeon, and Gyeongju.  In Busan, I visited a fellow schoolmate from Middle School (small world!).  While in Daejeon, I spent time with some of my closest Fulbright friends and, in Gyeongju (which really happened in October- not November), I attended the Fulbright ETA Conference.  Gyeongju is one of the most historic cities in Korea.  It was the capital of the Silla Kingdom.  Thus, there are many historic sites to check out in the city.  We saw several graves and ancient temples.  The most impressive one was on the side of a mountain.  While walking around, an old Korean woman saw my friends and me.  She decided that she would give us a tour.  She laughed at everything I said, in Korean and English, and was constantly reaching over to give me hugs.  Turned out to be some hilarious cultural immersion.
Some tired ETAs on our intense tour of Gyeongju
At an ancient temple in Gyeongju

This guy would guard the temple

Downtown Busan

World famous Busan fish market

      When not teaching, at the gym, or with my homestay, I now frequently go to coffeeshops and meet with friends from Dongshin University, the local university in Naju.  The other ETAs and I met people by hanging up signs around the campus saying that we wanted to start a language exchange.  In theory, we  would teach the other students English and they would teach us Korean.  In reality, we spend about 25% of the time on Korean and 75% of the time on English (it's really fine because we are making some good friends).  We even met up with a few of them at the Dongshin University festival (equivalent to Gettysburg College's Springfest).  The girl group Girls Day performed at the event.  I was excited to see a k-pop concert but left the event very disappointed.  The dance moves were terrible and the girls lip-sung for only half an hour.  Between each song, they would also strike about 50 poses for pictures.
     When not teaching, at the gym, with my homestay, or at a coffeeshop, I now volunteer.  In early November, other nearby ETAs and I began teaching English to North Korean defectors.  This experience has been one of the highlights of my year so far.  I taught a class to elementary and middle school students with two other ETAs.  That opportunity ended, but I continue to teach another class to students ranging from 14 to 29.  Most of the North Korean defectors left North Korea by going into China.  Typically, they spend a few years in China and save money in order to come to South Korea.  Before we began teaching, we were warned that North Koreans see a lot of anti-American propaganda and may be suspicious of us.  So far, there have not been any problems.  In fact, they are extremely curious about our lives and the United States in general.  All of the students have a strong urge to learn English because they know that it will not only help with job opportunities, but also with adjusting to life in a democracy.  Unfortunately, it is likely that many of the students we teach in this program have gone through some major hardships.  Defectors from North Korea are often victims of human trafficking.  Families are frequently split and, in extreme circumstances, children are abandoned.  I do not know what my students have been through, if anything.  Regardless, they are still excited to come to class and are always smiling and laughing.
    In a few weeks, the semester will be over (AH!).  I plan on spending Christmas with the host family and then going to Thailand for New Years.  After a short vacation, I will spend January interning at the Fulbright office in Seoul.  I will be creating a documentary and short promotional videos for the 20th Anniversary of the ETA program.  In February, I plan on doing some more traveling (which is TBD at this point).  I will also get to bring some of my students to a leadership conference in Seoul hosted by the US embassy.

Hope all is well back home.

Stay warm.

Some holiday cheer at a mall in Gwangju

1 comment:

  1. That all sounds wonderful, Anskar!
    What a great opportunity for those North Koreans! You will have to update us on their impressions on the death of Kim Jong Il and his son's appointment to power