Yep, I’m back with more Black Barbie adventures in Korea Land. This is one is when I get schooled in using three VERY dirty words, Sea of Japan. Enjoy.
F. M . Laster
“I’ve been things and seen places.”- Mae West
Korean Teachers, Black Barbie, and The Sea of Japan: The Trifecta from Hell
Every Monday I have the challenge of starting my day with over hyper 1st graders (6th graders by US standards) and ending it with a small group of teachers and staff wanting to improve their English. In other words, it gives the teachers a chance to gawk and sneak pictures of the New Foreign English Teaching Monkey! Yes, I saw a flash go off one time in class. Hell, the teacher class is considered one of my classes making up my 22 hours of teaching time, it’s done during school hours, and quite frankly, I could use the good karma.
The only problem is, I actually prefer the damn 1st graders; they require significantly less work. My students look bored? My lesson tanked? No problem, baby! I just put on an episode of Mr. Bean or The Simpsons, complete with “worksheet” to answer “English comprehension questions” and I’m good. No muss, no fuss. Not so with my teacher classes. Those bastards actually make me put in some work and thought into the classes. If they look bored I cannot just slap on an episode of The Simpsons and hope for the best. They’ll see through my bullshit.
Again, I really think the Koreans think I travelled all this way to work and not play. Oh the things I have to go through to get a paycheck. Totally not what I came here for! As a result, I like my 1st graders better be cause you know, less work. However, I do find that my teacher classes actually teach me a lot about Korea; like when a male teacher decided to open the library and read me about the “Sea of Japan”.
When I teach my teachers, I usually have some boring ass topic of the day for them to review and discuss. Now these topics are broad for a good reason. The usual set up is a brief, and I do mean brief, PowerPoint introduction followed by a flipping handout. I need the hand out and here’s why.
The very first class I taught, the teachers wondered why there was no handouts to take home and study. They told my handler I did not give out handouts. I did apologize, since I did no think it was necessary to have handouts for a simple introduction lesson describing hopes and dreams, but hey what do I know. Anyway, lesson learned; always have a bloody handout!
For this topic of the day I am assuming that I was still hung-over from the weekend because I elected to talk about the weather. The weather morphed into discussing natural disaster, because, that’s a Black Barbie class for you. I told you my lessons were broad. The reason I used this particular lesson was it was on my desk and for some reason I could not drag my sorry ass down 1 flight of stairs to make copies to role play for class. Color me lazy, so what happened next should be surprising. Then again, I thought, it’s weather, what the fuck could go wrong? Well Black Barbie, a LOT! My thinking was the equivalent to Custer thinking, “where the hell did these Indians come from?”
During the natural disaster portion is when I made my fatal mistake. I am chitchatting with the teachers about Korea, her four seasons, blah, blah; you know making small talk. I am telling my teachers that by Busan being close to the Sea of Japan instead of smack dab in the middle of the ocean can cause some pretty weird weather. I think I was rambling or something, but I did catch something out of the corner of my eye.
One of the teachers had this look of purse hatred on his face and scowling at me. Naturally it was the cute PE teacher I had the hots for and told me of my transgression. He “corrected” me and told me it is “the Sea, just the Sea”. Well color me fucked? The only thing that I could do was look at him, smile Korean style and thank him for his help.
I did apologize and blamed the whole thing on America. I got a lot of looks of agreement from everyone in the class. What I appreciated is that no one wanted me to explain why it was America’s fault. They just took the explanation at face value. Then again, America has done some pretty fucked up shit in her history, so maybe this is to be expected.
I vaguely remember hearing or reading why the PE teacher had that look on his face. Korea had for centuries of being under the thumb of some invader over her long history. The Japanese just happened to be the last of Korea’s abusers. Even today, the knowledge of Japanese occupation still cuts deep with older and some younger Koreans. I can understand not wanting to have a constant reminder of what a country subjected previous generations to. Having the term Sea of Japan and seeing Confederate monuments is pretty much the same thing. No one wants to be reminded on the daily of a statue or label glorifying your ancestors’ oppressors; it’s just in bad taste and I know that now. Still waters run deep.
This teaching gig is weird. I have good days and bad days, these I can handle. Then I have days where no fucks are given; where I have zero inspiration. Surprisingly enough, zero inspiration is the subject of my next Black Barbie in Korea post