As you may have gathered life has not been at it’s easiest over here recently. Fortunately the past week has been a vast improvement: work hasn’t changed very much, but my ability to deal with it seems to have picked up somewhat. If there’s a way to overcome teaching issues in korea it’s to focus on the students not the hours: I doubt very much there are keener language students anywhere in the world. Which is great, if a little energy sapping. We really should prioritize language more back home – in my experience they seem to fall somewhere about on a par with Art and Religious Education in terms of priority. I certainly never felt it was promoted to me as something important until well beyong the point of secondary school that I could have started to take it seriously. Seeing as Art is something you tend to be either good at or not, and religious education in England could easily be renamed ‘Christian Propoganda and why other religions are wrong’ the situation is obviously stupid. I mean seriously, whoever thought the teaching of RE by a priest or church affiliated individual (which the teachers invariably are – an atheist wouldnt be interested, and can you imagine the outrage if a non-Christian was given the job?) is as important and worldly relevant as learning to communciate in another language is crazy. Telling these teachers to ‘treat all religions equally’ is like telling the Americans that international events are of equal importance regardless of the precense (or not) of oil in the relevent countries. As far as I’m concerned passing an exam on something like this is irrelevent to real life. In Korea, on the other hand, you can’t get most high level jobs without speaking another language at upper-intermiedate level. I wish I’d come through a system that requires (and so facilitates) that. Having said that, Korean is about as useful outside Korea as speaking Cling-On, so I won’t be putting much effort into that. Also, the Korean education system is very floored in many ways, so I should be careful what I wish for…
Anyway, the main purpose of putting this post up today (apart from the fact that I’m feeling particularly opinionated) is just to let everyone know I’m alive and well and feeling a bit less sorry for myself. I have a mother of a weekend coming up – I’m finally doing the DMZ tour, I’m going to see Jason Mraz with backstage press passes tonight and Mike from Warwick is in town. So apart from a couple more sad goodbyes it’s all good, but I’ll fill you in on all that after the weekend.
I’ve also just booked a trip to North Korea on the 12th of April: a wopping 130 quid for a one day tour, but then it’s North Korea, I’ll probably never get another chance and I can’t think of a more interesting place to visit right now. I’ve managed to do this the same day that Kaseong – the city I’m visiting – has thrown out all the South Korean managers (link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7315881.stm) and those North of the border (which is only around 40 miles from Seoul incidentally) have test fired a whole load of missiles (link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7317910.stm). It’s also around now that – and partly a consequence of – the new South Korean government thinking, which will likely change the previously soft policy on the North (link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7317086.stm). I will be visiting here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7132660.stm (sorry for all the links – it would take far too long to explain the situation in full!), which is quite a political hot potato in itself: my tourist dollars (some at least) will be going to the North Korean government, which is obviously more than a little dubious. I’m not even going to try and justify that, morally it’s just wrong. I’m too much of a traveller, I’ll go with a strong sense of guilt but I can’t help going. It’s an experience I just can’t resist.
I’ve never lived somewhere – even India – that felt as politically volatile as Seoul feels right now. There’s so much going on and it actually adds up to quite a terrifying situation, though due to the strong international stance on North Korea I can’t imagine we’re in any danger. I just wish the dodgy news from the North wasn’t quite so volatile and regular. Not that there’s a chance it’ll stop me going to Kaesong. Looks like it’s shaping up to be an eventful one!