My school has officially opened. On Saturday we had what was supposed to be a ‘ceremony’, but it turned out to be a bunch of Koreans hijacking the six classrooms and finding some new and exciting places to consume alcohol and eat crushed pigs skull in what is normally a place of learning and education.
For the briefest of moments, board markers and erasers were replaced with bottles of the Devil’s drink, soju, and a few crates of delicious Hite. Middle aged Koreans made themselves comfortable in the same chairs students aged between 8 and 14 do from Monday to Friday. The mood of my pupils is often dependent on how many other academies they have to attend that night. The men and women here were significantly more jolly.
When I heard there was to be a ceremony, I half expected some hard core parents and students to be present. There would be the customary cutting of the ribbon you see in Western societies, and maybe a local celebrity or politician would say a few kind words. As he departed the scene, a brown envelope would be slyly passed his way. He would then make his way to another grand opening and say the same gracious remarks. Maybe…..someone would smash a bottle of champagne off the school wall. We would all stand and applaud as a plaque commemorating this special day would be unveiled. Flash bulbs and thumbs up.
But on the sixth floor, above Baskin Robbins, the ceremony was an altogether more familiar theme. Friends and relatives dropped by at 1pm to offer my new boss, a Korean, the very best of luck. They shared some beverages and tucked into the not so splendid food. About the only thing I can’t stomach in Korea is pig’s skull. If you haven’t tried it, imagine a relatively small and cold rectangular piece of hard, pink meat. Sometimes there is even bone in it. For me, the taste and texture is revolting. Thankfully, there were alternatives in kimchi, rice cakes, fruit and nuts.
By the time we left, at around 3, there were close to 50 people there, and rising. The foreigners, by that I mean my colleague and I, were segregated to our own little table with an English speaking colleague. I found it rather amusing that at the opening of an English school, where the boss has a more than decent grasp of the language, there was no-one else there who could communicate with us in the language their friend or relative hopes to make money off. Every woman was pregnant too, and the owner’s wife, herself one month from the due date, was the busiest person in the room acting as part time receptionist and waitress.
The school has two Christmas trees in the reception area. I loved how two of the school’s Koreans trusted themselves to decorate it. I’m not sure how used to decorating they were, but it was like they vomited everything onto one spot and left huge areas deserted of colour. But as the day progressed, the trees were well hidden by the constant stream of flowers, plants and wreaths, in all sizes, pouring through the door. These are for good luck in Korea, and seemingly everyone gives the same gift. The ribbon bears the name of the sender and in some cases contains a few words of luck. Within two hours, reception looked like a rainforest.
So, my school is officially open. Not how I would have imagined, but it was party with beer and food on a cold Saturday afternoon. I’ll be dreaming back to that tomorrow when I’m standing in front of my first class going over phonics.