Cultural Musings · Korea · Teaching

American City Village

It has been an interesting first week at school. Can you tell what we were learning about this week?

That’s right kids, mug shots! Last week’s field trip to Everland, the Korean equivalent to Disney World, was cancelled due to the fact that nobody wanted to walk around an amusement park in 10 degree weather. Instead, the kids went to American City Village today. This is not a joke, there is a place outside Seoul called American City Village. It is a Korean’s idea of what Virginia, yes, Virginia, looked like in 1930. Why 1930? I have no clue. Why Virginia? Again, no clue. But at $32 per kid, I consider it a racket, it’s $8 more than Everland. The school convinced the parents that it would be more “educational” and all week I taught lessons from the boxes and boxes of materials American City Village sent over. The kids did role plays of a supermarket, hair salon, bank, and police station. Hence, the mug shots…

I am a spontaneous teacher, making things up as I go along to suit the needs, interests and attention spans of my students but teaching English to kids who don’t understand much of what I say is challenging. Fun, rewarding but definitely challenging. My humor is hard to understand even if you do speak English so when I make a joke and nobody laughs, I feel like a big dork. I find myself on every night, looking for new ideas and games. I am basically a rotating substitute.  My school has advertised that their students will spend a certain number of hours per week with a native English speaking teacher, that would be me, and I go to different classes each day, continuing the classroom teacher’s lessons and adding in a little of my own fun and games. All the kids have American names so there is a Tom, David and Jenny in every class.

I didn’t go to the American City Village, although I know what an American City looks like firsthand. After my kindergarten session this morning, I had to stay at my apt. and wait for the internet guy and the maintenance men for my broken water heater tank. My director was not happy I wasn’t going but a leaking water heater tank took precedence over teaching me about 1930s Virginia. Although, from the brochures and fake newspapers something tells me the Korean version of 1930s Virginia is nothing like the real thing.

CMOD Cultural Musing of the Day – Fast forward to 4:00 PM today – I am sitting at my now-fixed computer while not 2, not 3 but 4 people are all on my back porch, in their socks, in 10 degree weather, because Koreans don’t wear shoes in the house – ever, are staring at a broken water heater tank. It takes all four of them, 2 apt. maintenance men, 1 water heater tank repairman and my landlord, a fifty-something woman, to decide it’s broken and needs replaced. What makes this an even more interesting situation is the fact that it seems they are all yelling at each other. Since I can’t tell what they are saying, they may be yelling at each other but no matter what the conversation is about, it always sounds like Koreans are arguing. The dramatic pitch changes and the noises in agreement and disagreement are not something I have ever heard before. Asian languages are completely indecipherable to someone who has only ever studied European languages. Asians make sounds I can’t even begin to discern. I imagine people who have never heard Hebrew before feel the same way. I can’t wrap my mind around this language.

Tomorrow night while Joe works his last night shift of the week, I am going to dinner after school with my two new Korean coworkers, Kate and Ally. When they chose their American names do you think they knew about the TV show from the 80s? They are so nice and have gone to such great lengths to make my first week as seamless as possible. I’ll let you know how the kids’ trip to American City Village was in my next post.


One thought on “American City Village

  1. WOW — again, a fascinating tale of life in a far away land. Your cultural musings are fun to read, fun to imagine living through, and I have been doing my best to immerse myself in Korean culture vicariously through you. Dad and I are excited about our vacation plans!! Love you!! Mom

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