Tuesday, 1 September 2009

First Impressions – Hyeonseo Middle and High School

“Have you had enough?


As I eagerly awaited to be picked up for my first day at Hyeonseo Middle and High School, I couldn’t help but be antsy. I had had enough instant Maxim coffees (in cups the size of shot-glasses) to outdo a cow.

As the sliding door of the teacher’s lounge rolled open, a small, daintily-figured woman stepped into the teacher’s lounge and glided straight up to my desk. She introduced herself as Mrs. Bak, a highschool teacher and my co-teacher at Hyeonseo School for the year.


As we traveled the roads towards Hyeonseo (-seo meaning East), Mrs. Bak kindly asked, “Did you know that Cheongsong is famous for its apples?” I laughed inside of my head. “Oh no,” I replied in a curious tone that begged for a more elaborate explanation. So it happened. I listened intently again, to the same apple story.


At our destination, Hyeonseo Middle and High School rose up from the dusty ground. As Mrs. Bak quickly pulled into her parking spot behind the school (Koreans are fast but instinctual drivers), I noticed again (as I always do), the abounding number of white and silver cars that seemed to be the shades of choice across most parts of Korea.

We entered the teacher’s lounge, and I was quickly greeted by all of the teachers. I received their names and teaching subjects all at once, and was quickly asked by all, “So, do you remember my name?” I think I have a short-circuit in my brain whenever it comes to memorizing Korean names, so the task of memorizing twenty Korean names in thirty seconds was a little more difficult than I had anticipated.

I was led to my desk, which was coupled with the snack table right next to it – wonderful. The teachers quickly made me a coffee, sliced two whole apples and handed me a bowl full of walnuts (that they had broken open with the end of a large butcher’s knife…Koreans, eh?).


Second period (my first class) was about to begin, and I was bubbling with anticipation. I was ready to wow the students with the grandeur of Niagara Falls (or Niagara Po-Po in Korean) and the exquisiteness of Montreal. I was ready to answer their questions and have them laugh with me…and at me :).


At lunchtime, I was hungrily waiting to eat and I looked on with sheer joy at the food in the cafeteria line – tang-su-yook (honey-glazed, battered pork), spiced sausage slices in a delectable crimson hot sauce, little bitty eggs in soy sauce, glazed-soy sweet potatoes, and fried rice. Oh goodie, goodie, goodie :). I was able to stop drooling by the time I reached the front of the line. As I held out my metal tray, my intense hunger was silenced by the kilogram of rice placed onto my tray (at Hyeonseo, you don’t serve yourself :S). My eyes seemed to get bigger and bigger as I shuffled down the line, and a heap of food was deposited onto my tray (which was gaining weight considerably quickly). Being the welcomed Westerner, I seem to invite my body weight’s worth of food at both Andeok and Hyeonseo school.

I had had one day to practice at Andeok (thankfully), so I was able to finish my lunch only five minutes after all of the teachers were done. They had all stayed behind, however, to ask me countless questions about my life, my background, and to tell me about their lives. I had tried to talk, chew, and swallow through the entire exchange between teachers. After I had finished my glorious meal, Mrs. Bak softly asked, “Have you had enough?”

I thought she was testing me, or making a joke (…I would’ve laughed), but none of the other teachers even snickered. At Andeok School, I tried to pull off jokes, but they haven’t worked out quite to my advantage. I’ve decided to stop causing confused stares and awkward moments by ceasing my attempt to be a comedian.


Be weary of students who have parents owning apple farms. It’s apple harvesting season, and wow, “Did you know that Cheongsong is famous for its apples?”

I’ve received over 30 apples from students and teachers, but this day takes the cake so far. Mrs. Bak came to my desk today, holding a heavy bag of something. Guess what it was…a bag of about 15 apples. Thank-goodness I love apples.

Once again, I bedazzled the middle and high school students with the many wonders of Canada, and my day was complete. Mrs. Bak drove me back to Andeok, curiously asking me questions about my classes, and I couldn’t stop talking. With the scorching sun beaming through the windows, draining my energy, the only finishing touch I could make on our conversation was, “They’re diamonds in the rough, they are. One of a kind.” And my first experience at Hyeonseo School ended just like that – with a warm, but confused, “Diamonds in the rough?” from Mrs. Bak as she drove away.

- Jess

1 comment:

  1. You're from fine stalk Jess and can handle just about anything! A pillar of strength you are...