fond memories from March teaching English to Samsung Engineering employees~
we were housed in clean dorm rooms with pillows filled with plastic popcorn.
the food, which makes or breaks an overnight camp teaching job, frankly, was awful. one week, the entire staff of five teachers fell ill with what i think was MSG poisoning. three hours after breakfast, vomiting, diarrhea, heart palpitations and rashes ensued and endured for the week. in my best Dave-Chappelle-does-Rick-James-voice: “MSG is a helluva chemical.”
oddly, none of the Korean students were affected. perhaps they are all pickled.
i had a wonderful birthday celebration, thanks to the students and my co-teachers. the following day was White Day, for which the other female teacher Julie and I were feted with chocolate and other candies from the basement 7-11.
(White Day is men’s answer to Valentine’s Day, on which women are supposed to give their men candy. on White Day, March 14, men return the favor to their ladies. to take it further, yesterday was Black Day, when the unattached are supposed to eat Chinese black bean noodles jja jjang myeon.)
this camp was a wonderful cultural experience. i learned
- Korean men unabashedly love pink.
- jokbal, marinated pigs’ feet, is not very delicious. but if you dip anything in salty shrimp sauce and place it in a lettuce leaf topped with soybean sauce, it’s going to be edible.
- lower level students may have the best attitude. oo-rah for underdogs.
Los Angeles class thus practiced for their oral final exam out loud with their partners in class far more than upper level classes did. LA had a mix of personalities led by three no-shame-in-our-game students Jack, James and Tom.
our students came to this camp to learn subjects like Business English, my class, and Conversation Strategies, but the truth is, they were all there to increase their OPIc scores, because their bosses told them they had to. the OPIc test is a computerized language proficiency test with 15-16 different questions about topics ranging from self-introduction to hobbies to sports to pop-up questions like “tell me about a farmer in your country.”
employees whose jobs haven’t required them to have a high level of English proficiency are sent to camp to increase their score by one level in 30 days. then, they can be promoted and/or sent overseas.
the students’ levels do increase, if for no other reason than they are immersed in English for 8+ hours each day, but i wish increased fluency were the goal rather than a score on a computerized test. it’s a stick vs. carrot approach.
the majority of students weren’t expected to “level up” as the students say, given a combination of the very high expectation and the very short runway.
we saw many of the students back at headquarters after camp finished. some felt good about their OPIc scores; some didn’t. everybody said they were happy to have camp behind them and were positive about the whole experience, so we shamelessly milked them for free coffee~
finally, my homeroom Durham class celebrated the end of their month of suffering with, what else? pork neck and pork belly accompanied by several rounds of soju bombs.
(i take a tiny high five for this night, because i wanted to say “no” to avoid being the only English teacher at dinner. i didn’t want to make my guys uncomfortable speaking English all night and don’t like being the center of attention.
but i didn’t chickensh!t.
then two hours before dinner, teachers Julie and Jae decided to tag along, and it ended up being a wonderful night, one of my favorites.)