blogging because.

Monday, September 27, 2010

a classroom comparison

To date the majority of my posts have showcased the differences between East and West, however, I have yet to highlight how classroom life varies in Busan from my own educational experience in Toronto. The most notable are:

1) Washrooms. Staff and students alike share these facilities. It would be an exaggeration even to say that stalls are divided by sex. On more than one occasion I've been forced to engage in conversation with one of my students mid #1 or #2 - fortunately a plywood door separated toilet and urinal. What is more, there is only one western style toilet in the entire building. In the event that it is occupied, I am shit out of luck (ha), and face 2 options a) hold it and refrain from subsequent water intake or b) straddle a porcelain hole ('squatter') in the ground. Tell me how squatting is possible wearing jeans/spandex/stockings without getting completely naked?

2) Bells. The all too familiar chime that beckoned us in from recess as kids, ushered us to move onto our next class in high school or symbolized freedom at 3:30pm does not exist in Korea. Instead, classical music fills the halls at Seongnam Elementary (and from what I've gathered everywhere else too) every 45 minutes. I am sure there is some academic rationale behind this, but one would think that replaying the same several bars would do very little for one neurological stimulation? For me, I just want to put my head phones on and block it out...

3) Lunch. I have accepted that rice and kim chi are a meal time staple, however the day that the ever changing mystery meat finds its way onto my plate...deport me. Perhaps its the claustrophobic atmosphere of the cafeteria, or the fact that I have to sit beside children that I know have not washed their hands. If you are looking for a quick fix and rapid weight loss, move to Korea in the Summer.

concrete beach - UWO
4) Curb appeal. Busan feels like what I imagined living in an Asian city would be: congested, cramped, chaotic and culturally alive. After a year here, I know I will walk away with an authentic experience. Nonetheless, despite the vibrancy of a lot of architecture in Busan, schools are quite simplistic and blend into the grey Pacific horizon. These characteristics pose a sharp contrast to what I know back home. What attracted me to Branksome and Western was the fact that you could feel the history in the beautifully preserved campus buildings and manicured green landscape. I suppose if the latter is all you know, then you don't know what you are missing...the outside the classroom richness. Sad really.

Jeongju University

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