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Today, I made one of the most life-changing discoveries I think I will ever make.

I was looking through our Hagwon's website, because some pictures were posted, and I glanced at the message board. Occasionally, some of my students write in English, so I write back. But all of the messages were in Korean. Clearly, this isn't good enough.

So, curiosity getting the better of me, I ran the messages through a fantastic little site (my discovery) called www.worldlingo.com and I'm so glad I did. Here is what it translated a message entitled 'Thank You So Much'...

"The lunch was delicious and it held?
The play Boe ni the again grateful thought listens to the teachers to
do with the children together from the room and it raises the writing.
With Hog children it is to it rests, well! the example bedspread.
I sleep and the auntie ~ the egg i know.How many brat it admits, him_tun_ci"

The EGG I KNOW???? Here's another,

"How are you?The house which is a mischievous child fluorite hereupon the
bedspread.
The map it does eagerly and it gives, from Thank you.The fluorite should have been being followed well, the anxious
bedspread.
There is a day when I do personally and it sees well and week quality
it cannot, the bedspread. It does to do oneself the place swip position it appears not to be
being.
When and also the method it will be able to apply the car three reel
leaf effectively to inform, under thanking keyss U..
Toil ^"

I'm not entirely sure what this means, to be honest. But I'm a big fan of the ending "Toil". It sounds like a commandment from some fire-eyed biblical prophet. There's more...

"The ball lye does sons and daughters observatioing the wool case
moving example bedspread..
Wool case s morals it does not know and also the mom does not know...And is it possible at only school hours.. to see.
Will not if not and it will heal and simplicity the case song which is
the possibility which it will see..
The wool case to teach anti- name..
And the wool case does homework how and must give..
Only the tape it repeats and if it is listening to, the bedspread..

And it meets again and..."

AND WHAT?????????? Don't end there. The story of the wool case had me on the EDGE of my SEAT!!!

That's it. The best thing is, the more posts that get made on the message board, the more fun I will have. Wahey!
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Korean TV is pretty much as you'd expect - lots of gameshows that I'm sure make perfect sense to people who speak korean, but look the the single most complicated thing ever invented ever in all the world ever. Ever.
There's this one show that held my attention for months, it left me in the sort of daze that only an evil hypnotist probably could. There are three men and a woman in a row in front of a swimming pool. And they CHAT. They just CHAT. Only every now and again, seemingly on some malevolent whim, one of the men will be catapulted up into the air - probably a couple of metres - into the swimming pool. While the woman looks on, sort of impassive. Then the man swims back - he hasn't had enough humiliation yet, oh no - and someone else will go flying, waving their arms like a bad stuntman falling out of a window. Turns out (I asked my students, you see) they are all assigned a secret word, and if they happen to say it, it's 'click, boom, flail, splash, ho ho' time. In fact, 'Click Boom Flail Splash Ho Ho Time' might even be the title of show. For all I know.
But the mighty ridiculousness of Korean domestic TV falls down to it's knees and WORSHIPS the gods of TV stupidity - English speaking channels. There's a cable channel called Star World which as far as I can see only shows that have either been cancelled in the US, (The Drew Carey Show, Just Shoot Me), or Cheers.
Which is fair enough, but what sends it into the league of genius are the trailers for other shows. They were quite clearly made for people who need to sat down and VERY SLOWLY told about a show before they watch it. This is the real life trail for Nash Bridges - "If crime is a curse, then Nash Bridges is the wizard that's gonna send it back to hell". WHAT!? HE'S A WIZARD??? NO? YOU STUPID, STUPID PEOPLE!!!
And then there's AFN, the channel for the US military based in Seoul. AFN is actually quite a good channel as they show recent programmes, but instead of commercials you get information ABOUT SOLDIER THINGS!! Which are genuinely BRILLIANT! 'SOLDIERS - Have you returned your library books on time?' FANTASTIC! 'SOLDIERS - Don't get drunk and start fights in Seoul, everyone thinks we're dicks without your help' EXCELLENT! 'SOLDIERS - Where are your kids? Taking DRUGS, probably. DRUGS ARE BAD!!!'. 'YES!!!! They ARE bad, AREN'T THEY! Then there are the military propganda ads, including the genius one where an evil terrorist (an arab, obviously) brags about being able to blow up stuff because he read a soldiers e-mail or something.

AFN is the best. I know this because Chris Rock told me in an advert.

seoulesl@hotmail.com


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The majority of the time, there tends to be some kind of gigantic communication gulf in a hagwon. I'm yet to work out if this is down to the obvious language difference, or if it's a cultural thing, or maybe even a way for your (let's face it, probably evil) boss to control you. Or laziness. The fact is: I .Just. Don't. Know.

But it's annoying. Things get sprung on you with little or no warning. Direct questions are met with vague waffling or a quick subject change. Literally, this week in our school, we have a morning off for the election. We found out today. But we weren't supposed to. They were going to tell us last thing THE DAY BEFORE! In a fantastically misjudged "Guess what?" moment. Forcing us to scrap the preparation we'd been doing.

But, hey, great. A morning off. If you complain about a morning off, you're surely some kind of splatmonkey.

The thing to do, though it's tiring, is to keep asking and checking things for confirmation all the time. It's their job to keep you up-to-date. Make sure they do. It's talking. Talking's a bit like rapping, and let's not forget what Mr T said about rapping:
"Rapping is a way of saying 'Knock Knock!' 'Who's there?' 'Me! Now open the door and listen to what I gotta say!'"

seoulesl@hotmail.com
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The power of the parent....

One thing you'll find about Korean hagwons is that the people that the big cheeses, the all-seeing dark powerhouses that really call the shots in your workplace are the parents of your students. Whatever you think about the situation, the hard, crosseyed truth is that they pay your wages. And, more importantly, the wages of your principle.

There's this unspeakably rabid frenzy for learning English in Korea right now, and there's room on the bandwagon for anyone who wants to open a school. That means that there are literally thousands of English schools everywhere. That's great news for us - we get to pick and choose where we work - but the majority of hagwons out there are fairly new, and they're all desperate to build reputations and make money. So when a parent flexes their muscles and tells the school they're not happy with something, changes will invariably be made. They'll threaten to pull little Sujin out of the school and take them to one of the many others, usually promising to muddy the school's image as well. The hagwon has no choice but to bend to their whims.

No matter how neon-lit the spurious nature of the complaint may be, there will always be consequences. It means schedules are changed with no notice, or the most dribblebrained, sealfaced dollop of honking student in the school gets put in the top class, where they will without question do unbelievably badly. For which you will be blamed. I know of one girl who spent days making a display of fruit for her class. Painting fruit, painstakingly cutting out and sticking. Truly, it was a thing of beauty. But it had to be destroyed. A parent saw it, and told the principle - I swear this is true - that her watermelon looked too much like a ghost. Like a ghost!

Korean parents will make you want to leave your job, leave the country, question your worth as a human being. But never mind. After all, it's just a job.

Remember - seoulesl@hotmail.com
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Oh yeah, by the way. If anyone actually reads this and is so taken by my obviously SPARKLING personality, you can email me. seoulesl@hotmail.com
Cheers
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Six months into a 12 month contract...

Something a newcomer to Korea can expect is to hear a lot of Konglish. It's a bit like when you run something through Babelfish and then back into the original language. It's close, but it's not quite right. 'Dunkin Donuts', for example, is known by Koreans as 'Donkeen Donutt-UH-SUH!' Most words have a needless "UH" at the end of most words, in fact. It's all down to the alphabet, and the rules for spelling things. But it does sometimes seem like the first exposure the country had to the English language was listening to lots of records by The Fall, and thinking that Mark E Smith was the perfect example of conversation-uh.
Another thing the uninitiated will find out very quickly is that the margin of error in pronouncing Korean words is almost zero. Which is incredibly tough to get used to. Unlike English, where if someone is looking for a 'shoopameerkat', most people would recognise it as 'supermarket', Koreans are very fussy about how their words are pronounced. An example...
The Korean word for water is 문, (mool). After I'd been here for a couple of weeks, I felt cocksure of myself enough to ask for water in a restaurant. "Mool", I said to a waitress, and got a blank look in return. I tried it again, threw in a few variants to help her. "Mool. Mool? Mul. Mol. Mule. Mool. Mool? MOOL. MOOL!" A Korean companion stepped in to help me out, and had a quiet word with the waitress. " Ah", the waitress said, "MOOL!!" It can be exasperating.
They'll be more stuff like this, soon, I'm sure

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