OK, screw trying to fill in the past. I'll never get anything done if I try to be perfect! Besides, the further away I get from any given day, the harder it is to remember the details. I'd rather start fresh, now that I seem to have a farily reliable internet connection.
So, here I am, it's Friday morning in beautiful Busan, South Korea. I can't wait for this day to be over and for the weekend to start! I realize that sounds terrible, it being my first week and all, but I've got to be honest. I realize that it's important to keep a positive attitude, and I'm trying, but not everything is perfect!
At EPIK Orientation we were warned that coporal punishment still exists in many schools in Korea. The advice that we were given was to try to roll with it. We are not here to change things, but to work within the system. Things are different here. That doesn't make them wrong. OK fine. But I'm having a really hard time with it. Tuesday morning when I arrived at school a boy was being paddled (I averted my eyes, so I have no details) in the hallway while a group of students stood around and watched. I couldn't even get in the front door it was so crowded. Eventually I couldn't stand it anymore and pushed my way through as far from the action as I could and came to my desk, trying not to get too upset. On Wednesday the guidance counsellor invited me to his desk for a coffee and conversation. Part of my job is to help the teachers with their English as well. His English is OK - he has travelled a lot - and I can usually understand him. He seems like a nice man. Here's the thing: he's the main punisher in the school. He walks the hallways with a large wooden paddle. Many of the teachers carry wooden sticks around with them. Mr. Kim (the counsellor) tried to explain to me that the heavy-handed discipline is a new policy implemented in the last couple of years! It seems that this school is mainly populated with students from the low end of the socio-economic scale: poor, broken homes, behaviour disorders, etc. The corporal punishment system was brought in to control the students. Mr. Kim feels that it has been a success. "At least the students are no longer so rude."
I find that I am taking it really hard. Not a morning or a class break goes by without hearing the tell-tale "whap! whap! whap!" Usually I only hear it and don't have to witness it, but this morning it took place right behind my desk. No, I didn't turn to look, but I was so overwhelmed that I had to get up, walk away, and stare out a window so I wouldn't start to cry. Yesterday, one of the twelfth grade girls (who have been coming to see me every afternoon at my desk in the teachers' room) showed me a huge, dark bruise on the back of her thigh that had been inflicted by one of the female teachers - with only one hit! I don't really know what to do. The language and cultural gap is so huge. I don't think I could properly explain my feelings to anyone, even if I tried. For now, my strategy is to breathe deeply and don't let 'em see you cry!