March 14

Within my town there are plenty of buses— but if I want to go to Changwon which is 15 minutes away by car, I have to wait up to 30 minutes for a bus going in that direction. And certain buses only come every 60 to 90 minutes.

What is this, America? Every day a buying a car seems better and better.

Over in Changwon, met a friend for Chinese food and she took me around the bustling center.

“Where you from?“ Greeted a strange young man on the corner in possibly the rudest way to meet foreign friends.

I stared at him in confusion, trying to decide which approach I would take: pretend I don’t speak English like that time in Japan which worked exceptionally, answer in Korean, ignore him, or entertain him?

My friend decided for me and answered him curtly in Korean, “she’s from the US” before pulling me along.

We had Chinese malatang at my request and then she showed me around. As a planned city, there are a lot more parks and wider streets.

I love Busan but I could get down with Changwon. There certainly seem to be a number of young people my age, compared to the seemingly dominating demographic group of high schoolers in my gu.

My friend told me about her experience in the countryside before moving to Changwon. Many kids came from mixed families— their mothers came from Vietnam or Thailand or other neighbouring countries. Many children also came from single parent homes— mothers often left because they couldn’t stand being a farmer’s wife anymore.

There was a student with an alcoholic father and absent relatives who came to school unbathed. The other middle schoolers picked on him. The school later raised money to pay for his teeth replacement as most of them had rotted due to poor hygiene.

Another girl was bullied so much she switched schools.

“Ask a Korean teacher and they’ll tell you they would choose high school over middle school any day.” Another saying goes that North Korea would never invade because it fears middle schoolers.

I suppose working in a small town means that problems that are usually hidden simply become obvious with close proximity.

All of it made me feel sad. How can we, and how can I, recognize these problems and get address them for my students?

I have a few disabled students in fifth grade: they mostly seem quiet and unable to participate and I don’t know how best to support them. In the future I would like to get more special education training.

There is still a lot to learn, about Korea and teaching and life. I don’t have all the answers, or even very many— but I hope I can continue learning and growing.

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