After over 18 months of living in South Korea, I guess I am becoming slightly immune to the weird and wonderful ways of the people. When I came back from Thailand, I was shocked by how much it felt like coming home. Of course, it is not home, and it never will be, but I feel extremely comfortable here. Even if things annoy the hell out of me at times.
When I think back to how I was when I first arrived in Geoje all those months ago, naive, confused and scared shitless, I feel like a completely different person. Whilst I'm sure I make social faux-pas on a regular basis, I think I am starting to understand how things work.
I have been given two pieces of advice that have helped me throughout my time here and I would not hesitate to pass these on to any newbies in this country.
The first came from the other native teacher at my school, Mr Kriska. He told me early on to keep my head down and not draw attention to myself. He was right. We have a very odd existence at work where we teach our classes and interact with our fellow teachers but have very little to do with the Principal or Vice-Principal or any of the upper echelon in our school. And this suits us just fine, because we have found ourselves having extra vacation days here and there due to us being completely under the radar. We just smile, bow, play the game and do our own thing and I'd advise anybody else in my position to do the same.
The other piece of advice came from Mr Wonderful, the quite hilarious writer of An Idiot's Tale, a blog that puportes to be about living and teaching in Korea but is actually so much more than that. One of his mantras is 'don't get involved in Mongol bullshit. You can't win'. That is so, so true. You can't change the way these people are. We are outsiders in a very close-knit and introspective society and nothing that we do really matters anyway. So sometimes, if not most of the time, you just have to suck it up and get on with things. Korean society and the rules that govern it will very often seem completely bizarre to the average Westerner, but it is their society and they ain't gonna bend for us. Either live with it, or go home.
Which is why, when I was told by a colleague earlier today that 'we have to go outside and pretend to clean the school for a picture,' I just smiled to myself, rolled back my chair and strolled outside.
Ah, Korea. You strange little country.
Have a nice weekend, and Happy Easter to you all,
Love, Smithy x
Posted by Smithy at 2.4.10