Friday, July 29, 2011

Orientation: the good, the long, and the shocking

Week 1 is done, and we have been through quite a bit. First off, our Korean guides have been phenomenal. Jenny has been very kind and obliging, making sure we are on schedule and taken care of, even as far as ordering "no meat" dishes for us and writing Korean phrases for us. Terry has been very helpful, driving us to the med clinic, restaurants, and the immigration office, and acting as our liason with these offices. Jeff has been wonderful, watching over us like an older brother and making us feel at home.

We have been introduced to Cheonon, the Best city in the world.
We have been to the medical clinic for a full physical (oh, and medical here is really affordable and awesome).
We have been to supermarkets and restaurants.
We have visited with professors and even Dr. Im, president of KNU.
Finally, we visited an English teaching clinic who leads students through English speaking scenarios.

So, to the shocking. At this clinic they had the students put on goofy plays using English dialogue. The first one was a news report interviewing people at fairly mundane places. It ended in a post office with a patron tossing a "surprise" package. Then a picture of a nuclear explosion flashes on the screen, and all the kids fall down. The news reporter exclaims, "Now that is breaking news!" SCENE

The second was a restaurant in which patrons order special soup. The first patrons spill it on the ground, and it is mopped up. The mop water is put in soup bowls and set aside. Te second set of patrons order soup, and then think the bowls are theirs, so they eat the mop water. Upon realizing it, they grab the waiter, guns, and run to the back... SCENE

I was shocked by both of these. At no time would I find this appropriate in a school.
Don't they understand the danger of school shootings? Don't they understand the extreme nature of bombings? Isn't laughing at this kind of violence a bit desensitizing?

However, one must realize that this type of violence is practically non-existent in Korea. Tey are a gun controlled country in which only the military has guns. The cities are also generally violence free. I can run at 10pm without fear. for these students this violence is distant and foreign. It is so extreme that it is either exceedingly awful or exageratingly funny. Here, it was used as hyperbole for A)what is really news, and B)outrage at a restaurant's mistake. In these ways, it is almost slap stic in nature.

But, it shocked me because these sorts of things are close to home. In America we fear the danger of guns and the th reattach of bombs. We heighten security and inconvenience ourselves out of fear of these violent acts. To see them used in such flippant ways seems offensive. It also made me cringe because the explosion was a nuclear bomb cloud. As an American, this cloud is a symbol of an atrocity we committed. YIKES.

Yet, realizing that these violent scenes can be used humorously speaks volumes. This violence is so distant from Korea that it can be used as overblown humorous situations. I wish that I could come form a society where this violence was so distant that it became absurd for our everyday lives.

What an interesting lesson the first week here. I'm sure there will be more.

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