Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Aimless wanderer, spiritual uplifting, and...Confucianism??

I recently went websurfing (shouldn't websurfing be considered a pasttime, like shopping, or going to the beach in this day and age?) Anyhow, I came across this great quote that sums a good part of my reasoning for travel, adventure and solace in worldly experiences that stretch my mind, my conscience, and my soul... here goes.

As a part of my experience hiking up Mt. Gatbawi, traveling around Daegu, and feeling a strange sense of spiritual uplifting over the course of the past week, I've felt the need to inquire not only about my own religion that I have long since subscribed to, but to understand other religions as well (like Buddhism, for example), and how it affects the way people act, think and just live from day to day.

It's hard to describe the feeling of accomplishment that one gains after tackling a mountain, sort-to-speak. It's difficult on one hand to move suddenly into a country you know nothing about (like I have!); but it takes much more than that to sit down, research that mountain, and realize how to integrate yourself into it and actually become a part of it.

I think I've tasted this confucian culture in more ways than one (though many would contend that Confuciansim in Korean society is no longer taught). Take for example, the simple act of giving and recieving in Korea. Now, unless you actually paid attention, or studied the Korean culture, you wouldn't notice the 'second hand' that accompanies the one that gives or recieves as a sign of respect. Here's an example that hits home; the students I teach.

When I request my students to give me their papers after a test, they each give their papers to me with both hands, or, whereas one hand gives, and the other accomplies---like holding the wrist, or slightly touching the forearm. This gesture is also included with a slight, but slow bow. I am their teacher, and Korean kids are taught to be respectful to others' of authority, such as myself, or an elder family member, friend, or even sometimes a stranger. Whomever the person may be, this actually transcended from Confucian thought, turned into local customs, as indicated by South Korea Travel Guide:

"Koreans are expected to follow the wishes of their elders. Age is very much respected. Married people do hold slightly more respect than single people. When extending a greeting or saying "thank you," the person holding a more junior position within society bows lower than his or her senior counterpart."
This was all very strange to me, until I started reading more into Korean society and culture. I needed to understand why my students remained so quiet in class, why they hardly ever spoke a word directly to me, and why they responded nearly 180 degrees opposite of what I had expected of them at their level in class. Preparing for my daily conversation class is nuts! But, it remains very interesting indeed. More info on just how my students respond to my American/Creative/Free-thinking teaching method in the next post!

Look to these links for more info on Confucianism & Korea:
1. Confuciansim in Korea
2. Korean Moral Philosophy

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