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Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Thing about all these Blasted Children...

I recall sometime ago on one of those golden afternoons that now that I'm further down the road, stands out a bit in my imagination. It was a magical time, I was with 2 of my friends and we had wandered off from this conference in Germany we were supposed to be attending. A train had carried us across the Ardennes Mountains into a Belgium that we hardly knew. Somehow we got turned around, almost lost, in this small country and ended up in a city called Namur...and everywhere we walked down the streets, and across the open city squares...there was nothing but children. I remember thinking how it was like the place where the Pied Piper of Hamlin lead all the children to. Either that or maybe the Lost Boys from Neverland had come back to the mundane earth and set up colonies there. Countless theories abounded. -The infamous Children's Crusades in the Middle Ages had really ended in a secluded town nestled in the Ardennes Mountains where they ruled the government with ice cream and pie fights. But either way it was strange and bizarre.

I guess in alot of ways, where I'm at now, is sort of similiar.
Of course, Korea just has tons and tons of people to begin with. But it seems that children are everywhere. The area where I am now seems to be swarming with the snaggletoothed vermin. You can't go down a road, however small, without it leading you to a playground. Now mind you, our foriegn teacher "villa", where I reside, is situated near a bunch of schools. In fact, if I were to take a taxi home, I would tell the taxi driver, "Suji City Jun Hakeyo". Which means Suji City Middle School and he'd know the area to drop me off at. But, it seems that EVERYWHERE I've been in Korea thus far has schools around it. Some public; many, many private. And alot of schools just mean that there are alot of children. I mean you gotta keep them from conspiring and causing a ruckus and schools have always been just that...enough busy work to keep the galley slaves from revolting. Or at least those were my thoughts on it when I was going through school.

Needless to say, even though I am surrounded by schools...the private school or "hagwon" that I teach at, is a good ways off. So I have to catch a bus in the mornings. And every morning while I'm waiting for the bus, I noticed all the children rushing frantically, some not so frantically...minding their time, going to their schools. The majority of them are decked out in school uniforms. -Blue blazers. The girls wearing plaid skirts. The boys that wear glasses look like they're assembling for an Asian Harry Potter fan club. A few children might be so little that their mothers are with them. But for the most part such an hour in the day, you feel that some sort of kids parade is happening. And its fortunate that you're on the opposite side of the road for if you were on the other side, they'd be no room for you, you'd be knocked out into the traffic or stampeded by shoes that light up in red lights with every step.

It seems that this isn't exactly new to me. I mean, when I lived in Russia. The nearest Metro stop to my apartment was called Akademichiskaya. Which translated rather roughly means the Academy. Apparently, where I lived in Moscow was an area famous for all the schools. But what's funny, comparatively with my situatin now, is that I don't recall whole migratory throngs of children in the area. I do remember a high school up the street, where a few young teens would be outside smoking all the time. The only memorable thought I have when I think back on it, was how there would be girls who looked no older than 14 holding beer bottles in one hand and a cigarrette in the other. There seemed to be dark circles under their eyes. It seemed they were children, but they weren't really children after all for they would adopt adult vices at such a young age. There was something very depressive and stifling about them too.

But in Korea, the youth have some sort of vital presence. They travel with their parents or maybe other kids, but they always seem doing kid things. And seem to be cheerful for the most part. Some even saying "Hello" if you are white. I guess it is a sign of a promising nation, maybe you could even venture to say, that it is taking the pulse of a nation, if there are alot of children and alot of energy around them, then it is a nation that is in good health as a whole. I don't know if that's true. I just made it up. But it sounds about right.

Korea has a strong drive towards educating its children. This is a brilliant move. And if you look at their economy, they are doing really well, especially considering how small a country it is. Because of this, there is such an ecstatic drive for them to learn English. Which gives me a job currently. And as one finds out, there is a whole booming population of expats teaching English here, not always, but alot of the time to children. This hiring, in the entire spectrum of history, is quite a phenomenon really. Or at least I think so.

But as a whole, because of this swelling population of children, I am in Korea. Being apart of this nation's future. I'd like to think that years from now, when South Korea through their prodigious efforts in scholastics, have colonized the moon, a time when us Americans are out of the limelight and notoriously only known for being the experts in worthless celebrity trivia, the President of the New Korean Republic of the Moon will speak up and say "I remember my English teacher back in kindergarten. He taught me, not only English, but how to share and love life. I played Simon Says with the guy, he'd draw crazy drawings on the board. I loved the guy."
Okay, so maybe I'm wishful thinking here. But at least one brilliant scientist or successful CEO is going to pass through my class, and I don't know...maybe be somewhat, if just a little, inspired.


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