You really should have been in Gwangju, South Korea today. It was freakin’ gorgeous. We wore sunglasses, but took our umbrellas as a precaution. Fortunately we didn’t need them. Today reminded me of those Saturdays I use to spend at the bowling alley in elementary school called “Super Saturday.” Except we didn’t bowl or eat tons of hot dogs. But it was still super. It all started with the sun coming out.
It all started with language classes. Apparently there is a Korean saying that goes “Even a dog can recite poetry after three years at school.” I doubt this dog was learning poetry in Korean. Thanks to the generosity of our recruiter who landed us our sweet jobs we went to class downtown at the Gwangju International Center The GIC is a tiny 5th floor cubby that houses a small library of English books and a couple of rooms for programs. We crowded around a table this morning at 10:30AM to begin learning the secret language of our co-workers and neighbors. It was fun, for sure, but extremely difficult. The characters look entirely different than anything you are use to as an English teacher. If the Korean character happens to resemble something from the English alphabet chances it isn’t the same. For example, the one that looks kind of like a C actually sounds like a “d” or “t” depending on how it is used. If they wanted to put up a motivating banner in the classroom it should read, “forget everything you know, because you’re wrong.” It certainly gave us a new respect for our first graders who can pretty much carry on a conversation in English. Amazing.
Though at times frustrating ,we loved it still. The room was full of people from Canada, Austrailia, England and the States. I think we may even have some new friends from the group. Everyone seemed normal and interesting.
Last week when our vice principal came to visit us, she asked us not to attend the classes so as not to fratenize with foreigners. She thinks that “foreigners get together and drink, she is worried,” according to our translator. We are not sure if this is a common feeling among Koreans, but we do get the feeling that non-Koreans are definitely under a watchful eye. It certainly is hard not to be when most people here are of the same nationality, and when we Westerners come here with our different clothes, looks and ideas. Lindsay reminded me tonight about how we did the same thing in America with Middle Easterners after 9/11.
The rest of the day was perfect. The skies above Gwangju were finally blue and the sun was at its brightest. To make the world seem even better the weather was absolutely wonderful. Not quite summer and not quite fall. Warm, cool and breezy. We walked around town today in a state of bliss.
We picked the perfect day to buy bikes. Lindsay purchased her “hippie mover” she has been dreaming about all her life complete with a basket in the front. I got a cheap mountain bike that feels like a tank after pedaling around my road bike I could pick up with my finger. It was nice though, cruising through our city making things seem closer.
It was such a great Saturday in Gwangju that we had to top it off with our new favorite restaurant, the same one we filmed from the other night. We stuffed ourselves, paid our tab and went to visit our local grocer who seems amused by our nightly visits to her for ice cream or milk. Life in Gwangju was pretty sweet today. All we were missing were all of you. Annyong haseyo, friends. Have a great Saturday.
And enjoy the video: