Monday, November 19, 2007

My international Korean class

Me, Merek (my class partner from Kazakhstan, aka Borat) and the woman from India.
My teacher Ji seon Yang (Korean) in the middle, Guatemala and Venezuela.
Krystal (American) and my teacher salsa dancing to Julio's singing!

As it's been 2 years since I first came to Korea, I thought it might be a nice gesture to the country and my coworkers (who are all Korean) to try to learn a bit of the language. Currently I know bits and pieces; functional Korean, if you will. "How much is it?", "I'd like to order..." "Where's the bathroom", "Help me", "Turn left", "shut your f*cking mouth", know, just the necessities.

Now just so you don't think I'm an ethnocentric jerk, let me explain something to you: it's absolutely non-essential to speak Korean to get by in this country. I'm here to teach English, afterall, so my job does not by any means require it. And more often than not, I encounter people who would rather practice their English skills than allow me to practice speaking Korean.

Because I don't plan to live my life here (3 years max, I promise!), and because Korean isn't spoken in any other country, I don't feel that it's a great use of my time to learn to speak Korean fluently. The basics are just fine. So I sound like a cave(wo)man--so what? ME SHANNON TEACHER.

This leads me to my first Korean class experience. It's really cool actually. Only 3 American professors (like me) are in the class while the rest of the students are diplomats of various countries! They work at their respective country's embassy in Seoul. Let me just give you a sampling. We've got Guatemalans, Venezuelans, a Pakistani, Kazakhstanis, Indians, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Bangladesh citizens. (sorry if I didn't use the correct label- I really tried).
I sit by a guy named Merek. He's from Kazakhstan. Of course I've had the Borat conversation with him. Evidently their country at first hated that Borat claimed to be from Kazakhstan, but decided in the end that it was good for tourism. (Evidently it put them on the map).

Among all of these ethnicities, I feel decidedly un-exotic. That's surprising, because usually I feel pretty foreign being the only American among all Koreans. Let me give you an example. One night our Korean teacher told us to bring a food or drink native to our home country. The man from Venezuela brought a rum/brandy/congnac made in his country, a man from Kazakhstan brought these chocolate-covered dates with Russian writing on the wrapper, and I brought Dunkin Donuts.

Another interesting tidbit~ the man from Venezuela is actually a famous singer in his country! He brought in his album and let us listen to it. His name is Julio Ceasar Gonzalez. Cool. You should hear the stories I tell them about what I used to be in video just hasn't been released yet.

Anyway, it's pretty cool meeting and interacting with all of these amazing diplomats! How much Korean I learn is secondary...I'm here to socialize, not LEARN! The pictures are from a Korean culture cooking class. We learned how to make "Chap Chae" (a noodle dish). It was fun!


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