The Seoul Train bravoing my life...

정철주니어 어학원

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I have spent an ungodly amount of time in this classroom. The majority of my 30 classes each week, for the past 46 weeks, have been conducted within these walls. The room itself is Spartanly furnished with the bare teaching necessities. It has a view. A view of the apartment building we are backed up against. The room is located on the third floor of a five story building in Sangdo Dong, Southern Seoul. The fourth floor is a gym and the fifth floor is an indoor golf driving range. The first floor is the local super market. "Supermarket" sounds so much cooler in Korean. They shorten it to "super" but then change the pronunciation. "super" - "er"+ "uh" = 수파. As if that makes sense. I cant just say "sup" + "uh" because then you would naturally think they say "supper" over here when they were on their way to buy their cucumbers and cabbages. Nope, keep the "soup" sound and add the "uh". 수파. I love that word.
I frequent this market often. I would say it averages out to thrice, weekly. Recently I have sought out their services to provide me with my low budget lunch. I have again, recently, (two months ago) become more conscientious about my spending. This abrupt shift relates to my resolve to study in Korea after my teaching sentence (contract) is up. Once again, my saving style- like other newly adopted "great ideas"- follows the purge/binge routine. So for lunch I can purchase two packets of 비빔면 for 880원 or $.88. Damn cheap lunch, no? Even though taste is decidedly less important in the sacrifice of saving, my lunch choice of instant cook soba-like, barley noodles with spicy 고추 like sauce is not too bad. Not bad at all.

But then I go and get the occasional morning latte and rock the budget with a 5050원 purchase. $5.05.

Here is Miles Teacher on "Market Day" in our language institute. As the photo was snapped I was surreptitiously giving away our monetary reserves. You see, the students had- for months- been accumulating points for various classroom activities. For instance, showing up with your homework completed: 1 point. Correctly spelling words on daily vocabulary tests: 1 point for each correct word. And so on. Then on "Market Day" these points could be exchanged for laminated, miniature copies of US currency. The students would then enter the "market" and "purchase" from a wide selection of cheap toys, stickers, cards, dolls, etc. and, the more popular than I thought, teacher-cooked Dokboki.
I had two roles. First, and foremost, I was to regulate transactions between the student and the market. I would wait for the students to approach me with hastily crafted English sentences and then I would respond in turn. You see, before the students could 'purchase' a desired item they had to ask the price in English. Here the system broke down. The students were to young or maybe apathetic to care about the difference in bills- 1 not being the same as 20 and so forth. They would whip out a question and shove a bill in my face. Waiting for the answer never crossed their mind. Negotiating, for that matter, never did either. So I used the "prices" listed on the items as a suggestive price. This market was not so strictly regulated.

My second obligation was to act as market teller and exchange big bills for smaller denominations. This means I was walking around with millions of market dollars! What can I say, our reserves were at the mercy of my students. I just wanted them to have a good time. At the end of the day my boss summed it up with the comment, "Wow. That was the first time we have ever sold out all of the items in our market..."

Tony, Joe and Jim. Joe, the unlikely lad with hand in mouth, is the miscreant who caused me to age prematurely. He is escorted into class every Thursday by his mother (escorted because- due to his youthful age of just now 4- he would never be able to make it there on his own). He enters the room, standing just inside the closed door, always suspicious of what he must think is the "oddest Korean man I have ever seen." He will then take his bag off and slam it on the table and then terrorize the room at full clip. Knocking things over, dumping trays, dropping phones, throwing remotes... Things are better now. We have instituted a meritocracy for my kindergarten and young elementary classes. You would not believe its effectiveness. Night and Day. That story deserves its own post.

John (right) and his buddy. His buddy is not a student at our Hakwon. No, he just comes to hangout. John is a diligent worker. He is always eating. Always eating spicy dry ramen. "Ahhhh!! Teacher! So hot! SOO HOT!" Crunch crunch, "Ahhhh!" as sweat pours down from his temples. What a cute kid. His shirt though is what seals the deal. I almost offered him money for it. He doesn't remember where his mom bought it. Absolutely brilliant.

Class #6. Always uncontrolable yet respectful. It's hard to explain.

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