Let me start off by saying that Koreans are not exactly the ‘warmest’ people you’ll encounter. By that, I do not mean they are cold, mean, disrespectful or anything like that. In fact, they are very polite but the communication gap is huge and not much can be done beyond smiles. I just think that it is rare to actually feel anything from Koreans beyond pleasantries until they really get to know you (which is part of their culture and I think, to an extent, American culture).
Silly Student Love
When I first came to the school, I would hear shouts in English that were usually in this order “I want you. I need you. I love you.” So I’m fairly convinced they were just quoting songs. (K-Pop loves to throw in English phrases into the chorus of their songs. Another song is “shut up boy” which I’ve heard quoted a lot in my classes as well.) Most of the shouts of “I want you, I need you” stopped after the first month. I still get the occasional “I love you,” but it’s not often and usually it’s from particularly outspoken boys. They are also the class clowns. It’s much rarer now, but I still think it’s funny.
So after school on a Friday, I was up in my room when I got a phone call from one of my co-teachers. She wanted me to meet her outside because she had a student who wanted to give me something. So I headed down, and one of her students (in one of my classes) gave me the sweetest letter and a box of candy! I couldn’t believe it. It was so unexpected, and truly one of my first full-on experiences with an individual student that cared about me as a person. (Her letter said something about wishing that we could become close friends and she’s feels bad because she thinks I’m very lonely since I’m not in the USA.)
Almost every single one of my English classes had a class day where instead of an English class, they went to the home-ec room and had a cooking class. They made some traditional Korean dishes and some dishes that were truly their own creations…it was all delicious. The students were so proud of their creations and wanted to share with me. There truly is nothing like being fed by students–literally. They would run up to me with food on their chopsticks and shove it in my mouth. 😀 They would also pour me a drink and hand it to me, and they would give me cups/plates with generous helpings of their food on it. It was awesome; I love my students.
Free Hug in Daegu
Halloween weekend, I went with friends to one of the major cities, Daegu, in South Korea. It’s south of my town and I love going there because the weather is significantly warmer and there’s a McDonalds. Anyway, walking through the downtown area, I noticed two Korean guys in the military uniforms holding a free hug sign. With some not so necessary prompting from my friend, I decided to go ahead and take him up on the offer. ^.^ The guy was actually a very good hugger; I got a good solid hug. For those of you that are unaware, Koreans are not big on hugging. For instance, whenever I’ve seen family members greet each other (like brothers, nieces, nephews, aunts, mothers, etc.), they bow. Hugging is rare; so this was my first of two hugs I’ve received from a Korean.
Surprise Artwork/Pepero Day
The Monday after Halloween, I found a picture of a cartoon character in a Halloween costume waiting for me on my desk. I know it was meant for me because of the English writing. 🙂 There is no author and everyone (even my co-teachers) wanted to know who did it. I still don’t know, but I was very happy that someone left it for me. The same happened on on 11-11 –Pepero Day…which has something to do with the shape of the sticks resembling the “1” and people give each other Pepero sticks (the Korean version of Pocky sticks). Anyway, another cool picture was left on a box on my desk by an unknown student. Also, I felt some love from my 3 of my co-teachers and 2 students who gave me either a box of Pepero sticks or a large Pepero stick (5 gifts–so 5 total).
So I got some love from two co-teachers. One co-teacher gave me a small present of some sweet muffin type things along with a sweet note complimenting my smile and thanking me for helping her. My other co-teacher…check this out…had her senior class throw me a birthday party! It was awesome and a complete surprise. I can’t thank her enough for it and for the students…it totally made my day. We ate cake, drank soda, and ate some random crunchy snacks on the table (4 kinds: cinnamon, fish-flavored, salty/light seasoning, and sweet). The students sang me happy birthday, put a ridiculous birthday hat on my head, and they also had written Happy Birthday messages on the board. …I love my students. ^.^