Thursday, January 15, 2009

One of the worst things about teaching in Korea...

Is the other foreign teachers. Or at least, so I've been told by the Canadian guy who's lived here for several years now. I've done a fairly good job of avoiding most web forums and any place where I might be subjected to the bitching and moaning that inevitably happens when people are living in a foreign land and having any sort of trouble, be it personal, professional, emotional or otherwise.

Today, I was looking at something online... I'm not even sure how I got onto this line of searching, honestly. Anyway, I ended up checking out a few of the other blogs written by westerners here in Korea. And wow. They really do bitch a lot. It's ridiculous. One guy posts like 3 or 4 times a day, picking up news articles that are even remotely critical of any Western presence here in Korea. I mean, sure, there are probably xenophobes here just like any other society. Although I'd venture a guess (based on my very limited experience) that they are less numerous and less vocal than their American counterparts. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about this, mostly because I'm sure he has a very good reason for writing what he does... but also because I don't want to dwell on an unpleasant aspect of my life here. I mean, is my life here perfect? Of course not! But is it absolutely satisfactory? Hell yeah it is... I dunno. Some people aren't content unless they're pissed about something.

And the thing is, there are (probably a lot of) Koreans who don't enjoy the presence of so many Westerners in their country. I'm sure that lots of them, especially the ones who live near American army bases and have to deal with GI's out drinking and chatting up their girlfriends and daughters... well, not to denigrate our brave servicemen, but I hung out with a bunch of them at a bar in Seoul a few weeks ago and let's just say, I can imagine there are some feelings of resentment. But the vast majority of Koreans that I've met have been exceptionally kind, generous and helpful. At least, to the extent that they can be with the language barrier... you know. And also... I mean, hello! It's an entirely different culture; different worldview; different mores. I think the close proximity to American/Western culture in a number of areas (technology, education, bureaucracy) gives us a false sense of security in our knowledge about how Koreans view us and their world, when in reality it's extremely unfair of us to make any kind of judgment at all about the way in which they comport themselves, be it in daily life, the politics, or the media. It's ridiculous for us to bitch about their culture and say they're being unfair or confrontational to Westerners, or even merely xenophobic; it's ridiculous for us to make any kind of judgment at all based on our preconceptions of how people should behave in any specific arena. That's my two cents. I said I wouldn't get into it; I just couldn't help myself. Thanks for bearing with me.

I'm leaving late tomorrow night for Thailand. I'm packing light, which means no laptop for the next couple weeks. If I get access to internet while I'm away, I'll try to drop an update or two when I can; hopefully when I get back I'll have lots of pictures to share. Just a forewarning that new posts might be hard to come by till the end of January.

You know, normally I'm a stickler for grammar. Not so much to the point of correcting people, or even using correct grammar; I just notice it constantly. The curse of being an English major, a teacher, or just a big dork, I'm not sure which. But "hopefully" is one of the words that is most consistently misused in our language, and it's the one that bothers me the least. I know I used it incorrectly up there, and I just don't care. For what it's worth: hopefully is an adverb, meaning to do something with hope. Like, for example, I walked hopefully toward the beautiful Thai girl at the end of the bar. It's interesting that of the 3 sources of definitions provided on, 2 of them think that my usage up there in the previous paragraph is just fine; the 3rd offers a brief commentary on why it is still unacceptable to many critics, even though its usage in this way is extremely popular and widespread. I love shit like that. English is nuts... and this is the language I've been charged with teaching... riiiight.

Well, I need to hit the hay. Long two weeks of travel and adventure starting tomorrow, and I need to be well rested. So hopefully, you'll be hearing from me soon. Until then, a good night to all, and to all a good night.

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