Saturday, December 19, 2009

Episode 42: In Which DFM Watches Cooks Fight, And Stays Up All Night

While last Thursday was just a final day to get pictures of everyone at that school, Friday really was my last day at my other school.

I haven't really talked much about this "other" school or shown many pictures of the children, but since I figure one or two of my readers may be interested I'll show a few pictures.

Here (above) is the class from hell. I have a class of four year olds who are possibly worse, but at least they are easily entertained. This class is two years older, and if they aren't instantly gratified with the most exciting games or songs, they rebel. The boys in the third row (second from the back) are absolute monsters and at times they made their Korean teacher leave the room and cry (I saw it). The girl in that same row, with the striped sweater trying to look sweet, spent a few years in Australia and can speak English fairly fluently. However, instead of using her power for good (like translating for me), she prefers to announce "this is boring, I'm not going to do it," even before I start my lessons. All that said, for half an hour, two days a week, they're my monsters and so I still love them and already miss them.

Here's Min-ji. This is one of the most independent children I've ever seen. She typically sits at a table by herself, and is usually the first person done any assignment. One time the Korean teacher who helps me out tried to draw a picture for her and she started bawling.

Some time ago I wrote about Seon-gyu. Here he is (on the left) in his Taekwondo uniform, as usual, with his partner in crime In-young (on the right). He looks sweet, doesn't he?

(Wham! You just got lulled in to a false sense of security and now you're going to pay.)

(Wham! You just got it again! By the way, did anyone notice how all the students in the background are working hard while Seon-gyu is posing for all of these pictures?)

And that brings us to Jae-hyeun. Jae-hyeun is a year younger than Seong-gyu, but they're both in my "special art class" that I teach in the afternoon. I believe they're both in the same Taekwondo club, and Jae-hyeun seems to think that this makes Seong-gyu and him friends. Seon-gyu seems to think otherwise though, and views Jae-hyeun as an annoying little brother who needs to be beaten up regularly.)

(Merry Christmas!)

* * * * *

This day I also found myself back in Myeong-dong, for the second time in 24 hours.

My friend Hyeun-a was disappointed that she wasn't able to get me a present when I left Korean back in May. She told me at that time, that if I ever came back she would take me out to one of Korea's finest performing arts productions, Nanta.

First shown in 1997, Nanta is the longest running stage show in the history of Korean theatre, and it has also drawn the largest number of paying customers of any Korean stage production over its 12 year run. It won the best performance award at the 1999 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has been playing on Broadway since 2004. But what is Nanta?

Nanta is essentially a show about some cooks at a restaurant who have to make a lot of food really fast for a wedding. There are some conflicts between the characters that prompt said characters to engage in "cooking battles" involving a lot of banging in an interesting rhythmical fashion.

As boring as I made it sound, it is every bit as good as it was billed, and was probably one of the most entertaining things I've seen in Korea. Was it unbelievably good? No, but it was much better than I expected, and surprisingly funny.

In conclusion, I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening at Nanta, so I feel comfortable giving Nanta the coveted "high five" award from DFM (the highest honour a person, performance, etc., can receive). It's so good that if you come to Seoul and you can only do one thing, make sure it's watching Nanta.

* * * * *

After Nanta, I went to the MEC Christmas Party that had already started earlier in the evening. Since the subway closes at about midnight, there was no way for me to get back to my house afterwards (I didn't even know where I was, since I got picked up from a subway station). As a result, I decided to stay up all night and catch the morning train back home, but what I saw on the ride shocked me.

At 6:30 in the morning on a Saturday, in most cities, I would expect the subways to be pretty empty (I've not been to many large cities), but not in Seoul. The notorious Line 2 was again standing room only, and even more surprisingly a good number of the people riding the train were middle school students going to Saturday school.

I remembered reading that Korean children go to a half-day of school on Saturday, but I thought they wouldn't have to start until 10 AM. Actually seeing the poor kids freezing on a Saturday morning when everyone (including myself) should have been home sleeping, really shocked me. Though, it's better than having them hang out at the mall I suppose.

No comments:

Post a Comment