Saturday, September 03, 2005

"Nor-Rae-Bong": the singing hall of shame

I like Fridays. They're the best day of the week and it's finally the start of a nice, long weekend. Though I'm thoroughly exhausted, I know I don't have to prepare for the next days' classes; no kids, no screaming, no short 10 minute breaks between back-to-back classes. It's simply--tranquility.

Curiously though, I find myself spending less and and less time going out---going downtown I mean, like I used to over a month ago. My ex-co-worker, Angelina (who just left for Canada) used to take me out quite a bit on the weekends---we'd head down to 'SSi-Nae' in a taxi, downtown Daegu where everything was 'happening.' And just like my college days, we'd drink, check out the clubs, and have plenty of girl fun in general. Now, I find myself wanting to just relax. Maybe it's because I have alot of classes, so by Friday, I just want to take it easy and coast into the weekend. Or, perhaps, I'm reaching that point in my life where I feel like I'm getting old; going out until the break of dawn, drinking, smoking and spending lots of money just doesn't feel or seem appealing anymore. It's rather strange.

In any event, my co-worker Seungbo and I went to a Nor-Rae-Bong this evening. "Nor-Rae-Bong" is Korean for "Karyoke Hall" and it's a blast! Funny enough, we usually go to the Nor-Rae-Bong after drinking "Dong-Dong Ju" (Korean alcohol made of rice--very delicious!) so my singing ability always seemed better while drinking. Tonight my voice cracked on several occasions and I wish that I had a drink or two to keep myself from being embarrassed. Then again, I'd overhear other people's horrible singing next door to our singing room, and I'd realize that my singing wasn't too bad afterall.

Actually, I like to think of the Nor-Rae-Bong as the 'singing hall of shame:' people that don't have a chance in the world to become real star-singers, come together in clusters to express their otherwise suppressed selves through off-king singing and screeching. Ouch.

It's interesting; Korean students are really suppressed, though. By this I mean, even the kids at my school---the 10, 13 or 16 year old kids not only have regular school hours that usually last from 9 am to 3 or 4 pm--but many of them have OTHER Academies that their parents oblige them to go to. It's sort of the thing to do here in Korea. If you want your kid to do well in school, you have to send them to a Hagwon to improve their English. If you want them to go to college, they have to go to SEVERAL academies. Crazy.

Wow.. it's already 4:30 in the morning. Really late already. In 5 hours I will be on the train heading to Busan to meet Kate. I'm thrilled. But now I'm tired; the songs I sang at the Nor-Rae-Bong are still ringing in my head...


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Anonymous said...

I don't think suppressed is the right word to describe Koreans.

They want to get ahead and make their country a more advanced place compared to everyone else... they're helping their kids to be prepared. I don't think there's any suppression going on in that respect.

Imagine if people in the U.S. got as much formal education and moral training... would the decadence that you see now be expressed so liberally? I think we need some suppression too, then!

Chelsea said...

Free ipods--no thanks. I don't want to be spammed.

Spark--thanks. What is the "Peanut Butter Jelly" time all about??

Anonymous. I wonder who're you? ;) What I meant by 'suppressed' concerning Korean kids---it's simply that. It's disturbing to find out that the older the Korean kid gets, it appears the more Hagwons (Acadamies) they go to--for Korean, English, Science, Math, Art, Piano, even Taekwondo or Hapkido. There's even a few elementary students at my Hagwon that go to something like 5 different academies. And they're ONLY 6 or 7 years old!!

SO I don't think you're Korean.

Needless to say, Koreans indeed want to get ahead. They strive and work and study, then these parents enforce such grueling study sessions on their kids---they're kids, by the time they're in highschool--they've long since forgotten what it means "to be a kid." It's rather appauling. I know I'm not the only expatriate that thinks this way; many Koreans have told me this themselves, that the Korean school system has many problems... that it SUPPRESSES the students. So in this light, they're SUPPRESSED or REPRESSED from being creative, thoughtful, wholesome. They're TOLD what and how to think; what the right answer is turns out to be more important than the creative process to get there.

And it's CERTAINLY NOT formal training in that respect. It's called lecturing, really--and these Korean kids have no room nor training on how to be creative. If I ask 5 Korean kids, all the same age, how to solve a problem, I guarantee that almost 100 percent of these kids will solve the problem in the same way. They're subscribed to think and act in a certain way. But creative is not a word they are accustomed to; that is why it's terribly difficult being a teacher, teaching the "free-thought" method that I do, encouraging the students to think and wonder, and not try to just memorise answers. It's an entirely different method--the SOCRATES method if you will--and I think it's slowly working and changing them.

Take for example a cafe joint I went to yesterday while in Busan. There's regular coffee, caramel macchiato, and espresso, for example. I asked the waitress to put caramel in the regular coffee for flavoring--and she drew a blank. Otherwise, she had no clue what I was talking about. She had no idea how to make it--because she was not taught how to. Even if I described to her how to just put some sirop in the cup of regular coffee, she still didn't understand. I don't believe this takes creativity; but I believe Koreans in general are nervous about trying new things, things that were not taught to them, and things which they don't readily understand.

As far as the US getting formal or moral training--those are two completely different subjects. They're on two completely different sides of the spectrum. If you want to talk more about that, just email me. ;)

Anonymous said...

You know, I'll have to start asking for more details on what you meant before I post any replies... all you mentioned in your post was the fact that the kids have a high workloads and expectations from both the school system and the parents themselves... or maybe the high expectations from the parents has made the school system the way it is?

Regardless, I think that again, I have been misunderstood. If I take your post literally, you complained that the high work load is suppressing: I don't consider this to be true. I think children have far more energy than adults when it comes to learning and working. Therefore, why not expect them to get farther, younger? There is so much to learn nowadays, in our societies, that you cannot expect school to be just as long as it was 80 years ago. Out methods of teaching would have to improve tenfold before this happens. In order to keep up and graduate as a thinking person, the child must be taught hard from the beginning while their brains are still in 'sponge' mode.

In this regard, I bring to light what you stated in your reply to my post... as sponge like as they are, they are picking up on the methodology of the school system: do it the right way and it'll be easier to keep with the flow. Keep the right of way and you won't be picked out from the crowd.

I can see how this can leave little room for the child within, and to be honest, I have no practical solutions: How do you teach kids MORE in the same time but in a creative fashion? Creativity involves thinking and trying out different methods, it involves trial and error, and all these involve time and repetition of failed tasks. This is not practical in a modern world were the student:teacher ratio keeps rising in favour of more lucturing methods: This is the way that works and we don't have time for other methods.

The only solution I can think of is not practical: more teachers, more personal attention, and possibly a live-at-school methodology. Maybe a method where children learn in guilds where 24/7 all they learn is one subject, until they can move into a different guild. Drawing a black here!

As far as the coffee lady: Ineptitude is not supression. Obviously she wasn't trained that the customer is always right, and if they ask for the lime in the coconut then that's what you give'em.

As far as emailing goes, you email me! You're overdue for emailing. If I charged pennies a day you'd owe me many millions of wons!

Anonymous said...

I think the term 'thinking person' was a little vague. I meant 'informed person'.

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