A Travellerspoint blog

June 2006

Gracious Losers

...damn those reds! damn them!

To say that Korea loves soccer is an understatement. According to one source, there were apparently 1.5 million people in the streets around Korea to watch today's game against Switzerland. And while soccer is not my favorite thing in the world, I will cheer and scream and jump and sing if in a huge crowd watching the game together.

Due to the crappy time difference between Korea and Germany, however, the last two games started at 4 am. Kids were coming into class exhausted because they a) stayed up all night or b) woke up just before the game.

Even though this game was at 4 am, it was on a weekend night so we finally made it to City Hall in Seoul for a World Cup viewing. Seven of us (me, Wayne, Scott, Matt, his gf, Mina and Eunice) piled into Matt's car to hang out in Seoul until 4 am when the game would start.

Eunice and Mina squished together

I had to sit on Wayne's lap. He is a dirty, dirty man.

Here is the traffic going into Seoul. I don't even remember how long it took, that's how long it took.

We went to Dongdaemun Stadium, a major shopping area, first to buy red shirts and other assorted accessories. Then we had dinner in a tiny little booth. Street food is the best.

Dongdaemun from the "restaurant."

Then we made our trek to Gwanghwamun, near city hall for the major celebration. After waiting in traffic for a long time and a few illegal maneuvers, we made it and got a parking space less than 50 yards from the Sejong Performing Arts Center.


Wall of mini-Korean flags.

The fancy flag on the Sejong PAC.

We had to pass behind the big stage to get where we were going and this was the first performer to keep everyone awake...circa 1 am.

Then we came to the part that was definitely the most uncomfortable of the night: trying to find a place to sit among hundreds of thousands, according to one source 700,000 in Seoul alone, of screaming, tired, and many of them slightly drunken Korean soccer fans.
This is what we had to work with:

This image is from Chosun Ilbo, but it's the only one I could find of an aerial view.


So you can imagine how much elbowing, pardoning ourselves, trying to ignore dirty looks, and squeezing past policemen and security guards to get the good seats we finagled (deceitful, indeed).

Statue of...that guy...completely surrounded by a sea of devil-worshippers. Er...Korean soccer fans.

Looking the other way. All you see is red.



Fireworks, not fire, to celebrate kickoff. Is that even what it's called? I don't know.

Scott and I were the only white people as far as I could see.

Since the game started at 4 am, of course around halftime the sun started coming up. You can see the mountain in the background.

As you can see from many of the other pictures, there are lots of buildings with these huge soccer posters/advertisements. I don't know what Cheonggye Plaza is, but apparently it's straight ahead.

See? More advertisements. There were also three huge TV screens to watch the game in this general vicinity, depending on which way you were facing.

Statue of the one guy again in the morning.

And thusly, the game was over. Notice that there is nobody jumping up and down and screaming? No fireworks? Neither pomp nor circumstance? No other such celebration?

Yes. You are not mistaken. There was none because..well. We lost. We lost pretty bad. To qualify for the next round, Korea had to win their game or France had to lose theirs.

Korea lost.
France won.

And so Korea's place in the 2006 World Cup is over.
I will say this though: Korea is full of the most gracious losers I have ever seen. Until about the last 10 minutes or so, energy was running high and no one really gave up hope. That last 10 minutes, people started lining up to get out of there.

And when everything was said and done, everyone bent down to pick up their trash, quietly, respectfully, put on their shoes, and left without another word. There were some general murmurings, yes, but had it been in America, and had it been any sport other than soccer, fires would have erupted, cars would have been tipped and the foreigners beaten down.

I had a good time, and it's a good thing I went because I will probably never do anything like that for the rest of my life.

Neat, eh?

Posted by lrbergen 00:02 Archived in South Korea Tagged events Comments (0)

More Essay Fun!

...i still love engrish

On Fridays I teach one high-level writing class. It's a refreshing break from the low-level, high-energy classes I normally teach (I am, above all, a clown for these children).

So while these kids are higher-level English, I seem to forget that they are still the same age as all the rest of my students. I guess I expect better essays from them. Some are really great and others? Well, let's just say at least they're amusing.

In a TOEFL essay about the Vikings vs. Columbus (who discovered America first?) here are some gems:

Many historians say Columbus was crazy wrong.

However, in itself, Vikings were ridiculous. Why didn't they observed the USA well? Today, of that reason, Columbus is the second who discovered USA for the second. There's one. An early bird catches the worm. However, there's sometime it's wrong, isn't it?

- Both from little Jennifer. At least she was paying attention when I talked about Native Americans being first.

We must really look up to Columbus even though he is already dead.
- Simon

I think Columbus is discovered the Americas, because Vikings was pirate.

Important thing is Columbus discovered most lands, so Columbus is 80% and other explorer is 20%.
(apparently some "ghost explorer" discovered it instead.)
-Jun Hyoung

I think he was afraid of die so he go to sail and comeback with no (hand?) and told a lye to king. So I think I don't reached to the america.
- Andy

At 1492, Columbus opened to the door for European settlement. (I bet they were happy.)
-Kyle, the one who says "I bet" a lot.

I wish, I wish to but, I'm a girl, and, and, I don't have braveness just like them.

The essay is pretty much laid out for them in the book. How to write an introduction, the pros and cons of each topic, etc. Where they got these crazy ideas, I have no idea.

Posted by lrbergen 23:51 Archived in South Korea Comments (2)

World Cup Mania!

who cares about soccer?!

When I lived in America, I had never heard of the World Cup. Strange, seeing as how I lived in Spain for 5 months or so. Americans don't really seem to love their soccer. Ok, that's a generalization. Americans living in South Bend, Indiana don't really seem to love their soccer. Everyone has a high school team. But those are nowhere near as popular as the American football teams (heretofore known as "fake football").

People watch the SuperBowl like it's their job. With Notre Dame being a big source of the economic structure in South Bend, college football is also huge.

But soccer? Nope. There isn't even a blip on the radar.

I'll be honest. When excitement about the World Cup 2006 started rumbling around Korea, I was left in the dark. Apparently, the 2002 World Cup was held in Seoul and Korea went on to be the champions. [Editors note: another testament to how ignorant I am about World Cup soccer, Korea didn't even WIN the championship in 2002. They got to what...the quarterfinals? Semifinals? Thanks, Paul.] I own a "Be The Reds" shirt, but only because it struck me as funny that a democratic country would be promoting Communism, especially with the whole North Korea/Kim Jong Il thing looming as a problem. Apparently though, Korea promotes its soccer team as the Red Devils, so I was mistaken when I chuckled and shelled out the $10.

I didn't even know America HAD a national soccer team. Let alone that they were ranked 5th.

Yes, my friends. Seoul has a major case of World Cup fever. Nearly all restaurants have banners advertising a chance to view the games in their establishment (based on my powers of deduction). Kids come into school every day with some form of Korean paraphernalia (face paint, flags drawn on their hands, hats, shirts, shorts, notebooks, etc., etc., etc.). Buildings have huge advertisements including pictures of players and of course ever-present is "Dae Han Min Guk!" which is the formal name for the Republic of Korea.

Tuesday night Korea played Togo and our school had a party to watch. My friends and I ducked out about 5 minutes into the game to go celebrate in a different way. There is a big park between Sunae (where I live) and Seohyeon. They had a huge screen set up and thousands of people showed up to watch. Never have I cared about soccer more. You can't help it...the excitement seems to spread by osmosis. Here are some pictures, taken by Scott.





We are so excited.

Fireworks/sparklers EVERYWHERE. This nice young gentleman gave me a sparkler to play with.

This is after Korea won 2-1.

Yay. We won.



Afterwards we went into Seohyeon. I cannot tell you how many pictures my friends and I are in because we are foreigners clearly supporting Korea, with our devils' horns and red t-shirts. We were famous, if only for 15 minutes and only in Seohyeon.

Hundreds of thousands more gathered in front of City Hall in Seoul. We were going to go for Monday's game but unfortunately because of the stupid time difference between Germany and Korea, the game doesn't start until 4am. Some of us have to work the next day. Stupid Germany.

Posted by lrbergen 21:11 Archived in South Korea Comments (2)


...a relapsing dislike for children

[Note: this is more for personal reasons than anything. Also, it's mostly just pictures of students and me whining about how I miss my kids. So...there you have it.]

This week, we have started a new session at Avalon. Generally near the end of a session, you have HAD IT with the kids, the rambunctiousness, the utter hatred for learning. You just want to get the session over with and start new where you promise yourself, next time...next time will be different. Next time I am laying down the law and no matter what I'm keeping it that way.

But sometimes. SOMETIMES you have kids that grow on you...much like a fungus, or mold. No, no. Don't take that the wrong way.

I am by nature a sentimental shmuck and grow attached to everyone I come into contact with that I remotely like and spend any significant amount of time with. (Yes, I just ended that sentence with a preposition, but I don't care. I'm writing about kids and prepositions won't stop me.) This is the reason why I was so incredibly homesick my first month here. Why I bawled my eyes out over friends that I have known in any sort of personal context for merely a month. Etc., etc., etc.

When I came to Korea to teach, having a general distaste for children seemed to be my defense against this. But then I started actually enjoying the kids' company. They were funny. I could be a total goofball and act as stupid as I wanted and the kids found it hilarious and even joined in. Classes became fun, and I even started looking forward to certain ones. My second session here was bliss. I loved every single class I taught. They all had their unique qualities that made them fun in their own way. I began to care about the kids and enjoyed learning their little quirks.

So by third session, I was pretty immersed. Head over heels for these kids. Granted, they could be little snots sometimes, but that's true for every single person on the face of this planet and I refuse to believe otherwise. I loved my third session kids (many of them repeats). I'm sure the fourth (and possibly my last session at Avalon) will be fine, but I miss my kids. I even had one student, Michelle, that I taught since I first arrived in Korea. When I see an old student in the hallway they still come and bug me and one girl's face even fell when she found out I wasn't her teacher anymore. I had one girl give me a huge hug while I was sitting on my chair and again when she passed me in the hall.

So now...I am nostalgiac for these kids and I miss them. So here are some of them:

This is mostly Michelle. My EA class.

A testament to how crazy this class was. Eliot, Gabriel, and Jinny.

Eliot, me, Brenda Jang, Gabriel, Jinny, Selin, Joanah, Brenda Ahn (TWO BRENDAS!)

Sophia. Every once in awhile she'd let out some energy and surprise me but mostly she just chilled.

Jasmin and Ann. They were the only ones who actually paid attention to me in class.

Madeline and Penny from a different class, RA3101. I loved this class because although they were young, they were fun. They were just silly and I could be silly with them.

Justin is in contention for the cutest Korean child EVER. He was tiny and so silly/crazy in class. He would always walk up to my podium and put his head down. Or bang his hand on it. Or do anything else to elicit attention.

Again with Ron. Such a goofy little kid, but really smart. In this picture I told him he looked like a little grandfather and this is his "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" reaction. With the two teeth missing. And the chocopie in his hand.

My favorite EA class. They were so good and so smart and they improved so much and they were so sweet and so funny and geesh I just love them. The final day, which happened to be my birthday, I bought them a pizza party and they all wrote me little birthday notes about how much they loved me and would miss me. I think maybe the pizza was a factor.
L-R back: Louis, Bill, Simon, Sandy, Sally, Diana, Shane, Eunice.
L-R front..ish: Ashely (who told me how happy she was to be in my class), Rachel, Jennifer, Kevin (who is about as crazy as they come), me.

My 3-day RA class that were HILARIOUS and smart and fun. Geesh I just love them too. L-R: Tony, Sung Hwan, Tae Joon, Kevin, Seung Hyun, Sharon, Jin Ho, Jane, me, Sue. Yerin was giving me bunny ears and John, the one of the exacto knife fame, is kneeling.

So far I'm pouty and I don't like my new kids as much as my old ones. Sigh.

Posted by lrbergen 20:09 Archived in South Korea Comments (2)

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