One of the advantages of being in Korea is that the snow really isn’t much to speak about. Don’t get me wrong– I don’t mind snow (otherwise, I’d have a serious problem being from Montreal) but there are two things that I don’t like about it. First of all, I don’t like shoveling snow. This isn’t usually a problem because I don’t drive a car, so I largely don’t care, but because in Montreal I lived with my family, that meant that I had to shovel for the two cars that my parents drive. The second reason is because snow really gunks up my bike’s transmission wherever I park it.
In Korea, we had snow a few days ago, but today was just rain.
But I’m getting ahead of my little update.
Yesterday night, I asked a Korean co-worker of mine to help me write a letter to my Gwanjangnim (taekwondo instructor) asking him if it would be possible for me to pay extra to have some time in the dojang so that I could practice. My Korean friend told me “He probably won’t ask you to pay.” I said uhm… are you sure? Well, write that in anyhow, because I don’t want to be rude by not offering.
So I brought it to the Gwanjangnim, not really expecting much. I mean, the dojang is built into his home, and he also instructs at a prestigous university. He actually spends very little time at his home gym. On my end of the table, there are my strange sleeping hours and the fact that I only finish work at 10pm, and I really just didn’t expect it to be possible. I figured though that I’d take my chances, nothing to lose by tring so long as I’m polite about it.
“Anyong hashimnika…” I stammered. It’s funny how though I can pronounce this properly, I still stumble because I’m so self conscious around him. “Igoh… chingu byunchi-i sun… chon… na hangukmal yangchi-i…”
He gets most of it, which basically translates to “Hello sir, this is a letter that my friend wrote since my Korean is weaksauce.”
He reads it, and he says a few words to his wife. His wife speaks more english than him, so she translates every now and then. But this time, I don’t need a translation. “Good!” says Gwanjangnim. “Yes, okayyy!” Then he asks me something in Korean which I don’t understand. She translates the question to “day which”.
“Anyday!” I reply, suprised and excited at once. “Ichung (before)…” I point at 2pm on the clock on the wall, since despite having been here for over a month, I still can’t count higher than four for some reason and “…ihooh (after)…” 10:00pm. He laughs, showing me 10 fingers to confirm that really I finish that late.
In any case, he doesn’t just let me come one day but he tells me to come twice a week. And he doesn’t ask for money. So now, instead of 2 hours per week, I’ll get 4 hours. He won’t be instructing me during the two extra hours, but it will be very nice to have a space to myself just to bounce around and move. Private space is really something that’s a premium in a place as crowded in Korea. Everything from the way food is communal to the way that there are more computers in Internet cafes than in homes reflects this. Perhaps this is also why I’ve felt compelled to make my home my own.
It’s such a small detail to be given permission to be in a dojang unsupervised. Not just because of the advantages for the training. I just mean, because this is the teacher’s home. I don’t mean it figuratively. The dojang is built on the second floor of his home. In the next room is his office, and in the room next to that, is the changing room which is in fact the piano room for his children. His children sleep in the next room.
There is something genuinely beautiful about this country in the way that things here are so safe, and with that comes a elevated willingness to trust in people, and a generosity that keeps going outwards without much thought of personal gain. I’m sure that it sounds like I’m stereotyping, but my honest apraisal of the situation is that Anyang, and in some degree Korea as a whole, are a lot more trusting than anything back home.
This morning, the adventures continued. One of the teachers who is finished her contract and is heading back to Canada and was basically liquidating her apartment. Among some of the things I bought from her include an ethernet router (non-wifi), two plant pots and a rocking chair. I’m going to be hooking up that router later on next week after I go to Seoul’s electronics district to pick up about a hundred feet of ethernet cable, then a fellow teacher and I are going to run a the cable outside our back windows. Indiana Jones techniques may or may not be involved.
Anyway, the teacher selling me all this stuff is moving out today so I had to pick it up this morning. I got it all right… but what I thought would be a simple, single piece rocking chair (like the kind grandma might use on the front porch while toting a shotgun and telling tresspassers to get off her property) turned out to be this rather large, fancy import chair with a spring loaded base. The thing weighs about 20 pounds.
Now, 20lbs isn’t all that heavy. But considering it’s size, it’s rather cumbersome. And, return to the begining of my post: rain.
It’s thunderstorming in Anyang today. So this morning when I went to get the chair, I did get it alright, but not only was it a real challenge to carry down the stairs but it took some doing to get through the front door. When I hailed a taxi…
… it did not fit in either the trunk or rear seats.
So, I threw it over my shoulders, propped the backrest against the top of my hiking bag, held the arm rests military press style, and hiked the kilometer and half home in the pouring rain.
That was, surprisingly, kind of fun.
(Though, I don’t think it would have been possible if I hadn’t been watching Hajime No Ippo for the past few days.)
After getting home, I just dumped the chair in the apartment, got a spare set of clothes which I dumped into my bag, and headed to work to use the internet. My clothing now is hanging in front of the heater of my classroom, soaked right through. I biked to work in the rain. I’m really glad that I have my scooter helmet from Taiwan with me, the adjustable visor is lightyears ahead of anything goggle technology has to offer in terms of rain travel.
Once you accept the idea that you’re going to get wet, biking in the rain is actually one of the most awesome conditions to do it.
So, it’s been a long 24 hours so far, but it is friday, and strangely the events have left me not with a feeling of tiredness but of invigoration.
Yesterday, I was teaching my middleschool students a lesson about inventions. The article we were reading was basically about the steps to success as an inventor. When the last paragraph came up, I told them: “Alright, and if there’s nothing else you remember about this lesson, remember the last paragraph of the text here. What is the main idea? What is the author trying to tell you? This main idea has to do with inventions, but it can be applied everywhere. What idea here can be applied even to your life, every day? Now? Tomorrow? What is Thomas Edison’s idea?”
“Success isu won pursentu inspirashun, ninteenine persentu purspurasyun?”
“And what does that mean?”
“Teacher! Ideu isu, dreamsu… enubu (enough) no. Weu (we) mustu woku (work) hard!”
Live as you dream. Have a good weekend folks!