Saturday, March 18, 2017

I Am Tempted To Ludditism

What in the name of all that is reasonable, logical, and financially prudent inspired the parents of two first graders in my class to purchase them Apple Watches?! They are six-year-olds, for crying out loud, and six-year-olds have a hard enough time paying attention in class. And these are my two most naturally squirrelly students, of course. On Friday they were so engrossed by the technology they were wearing on their wrists that they had no clue what was going on around them and they had no interest in doing what I wanted them to do. The duo were too busy snapping photographs of random things, and fooling around with other apps at their tiny fingertips to copy out letters A through F of the alphabet on a single page in their textbook. The other four students in the class were discombobulated by their colleagues' toys, and one girl sought to make herself feel better by pulling out her own pendant communication device and phoning her father on it in the middle of class just to chat. I felt like I was in charge of a three ring circus. I took the ultimate step and picked up my own phone and rang down to the administration, and the daughter of the director came up and relieved the two small fry of their digital devices, but much of the instruction time had been irretrievably lost by that point. What makes this particularly sticky to handle is that one of the small offenders is the offspring of one of the Korean teachers at my school, a person with whom I share office space. How, without offending that nice coworker, might I break the news that this only child, who is a sweetheart otherwise, needs to be denied electronics for the time being and learn to stay in the general vicinity of one desk and seat?

I'm getting sick again. At least this time I know it's not exacerbated by the mold in my apartment – my dehumidifiers have been working beautifully, and I have not had to Clorox the walls as often. No, this time I have a small lineup of likely suspects in mind, mostly boys in the fifth, sixth, and seventh grades who were coughing juicily this past week without covering their mouths. One of them was sitting right in front of me Friday afternoon, complaining of illness. I have a sore throat, my nose has been running, and I suffered a mild headache this afternoon. The throat and nasal symptoms seem to be worsening, though, thank God, the headache has disappeared for the time being.

Although I knew I was under the weather, I also knew I needed some fresh air and exercise, so I went on a long walk with June this afternoon. Nothing too fast, and we frequently paused to snap pictures as we followed along the sea coast west of town. We were walking on the shore road when I heard my name called, and I looked up to see one of my older adult students standing in her stone-edged garden and grinning at me. I introduced June, and told my student that we were out walking. Over 7 miles, it turned out, though at a slow pace. We did happen upon two places that were astoundingly litter free--one was a small cove overlooked by a modernist mansion, and the other was a turquoise blue water inlet that's officially part of the UNESCO natural preserve. Other than that, the sheer accumulation of garbage along the tide line was shocking. 

One of the stranger things we saw was out in a one field of seaside boulders there were taller asphalt black volcanic rocks whose many rough indentations were covered with pools of clear wax, where people had been burning candles and incense. It was odd to think of conducting some sort of rite among the pieces of mildewed styrofoam, broken soju bottles, plastic vessels, lengths of dirty rope, snack wrappers and other debris. I don't know if they were makeshift shrines or if there is a less creepy reason for offerings there. June said she felt a burdensome atmosphere around the place, which I am disposed to credit, given her keener sensitivity to such things. We also passed an archery school, where white garbed groups were aiming at large numbered targets 100 meters away. And we met a quartet of fuzzy puppies, who lipped our fingers and wagged happily, but who were too shy to admit petting.

This week five of us Western teachers and two of the Koreans lunched at a traditional restaurant, where the staff loaded each of the two tables we shared with 15 side dishes in addition to individual bowls of rice and seaweed soup. One of the things on the table which I first thought was some sort of slimy grey sea creature turned out to be garlic-sauced fern. I didn't know that one could eat fern, but it was quite good, once I got over the sketchy appearance. I also went twice to a great kimbap place between my apartment and school to get delicious tuna kimbap for 3500w a roll. 

June and I climbed another oreum as part of today's walk, and as with the first we ascended, there was exercise equipment installed at the top. It is as if the planning committee had a diabolical mission: "Congratulations, you've made it up the incredibly steep hill! Now you can begin to work out."

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