Korea
Comments 22

The Carrot & the Stick

One of the numerous bridges & typical unkempt bank

I had a brainwave a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve griped about those Thursdays and Fridays at N2, my dreaded second school, more than once on TGTW. I’ve described how my heart sinks and my spirits drag around my ankles as I approach it — like going to the dentist or a colonoscopy exam twice a week. For a year.

These flowers are peaking now

Every week I was leaving the apartment for my 45-minute walk a little later, sneaking into the Fortress of Solitude at the last possible minute, glancing at the textbook, and cranking up some tunes on You Tube to squeeze some adrenalin into my system before those hideous chimes summoned me to my fate.

Grass heads & tower blocks

So then I thought, why not leave earlier – 45 minutes earlier — and take the river route? Make it a 90-minute ramble, pausing wherever you want to smell the flowers and take a few pictures, get some exercise and do something useful with your day?

Sepia Summer

And so far it’s working perfectly.

Wasn’t expecting hollyhocks in Korea

Four times now I’ve done this morning ramble, and I actually arrive at N2 feeling relaxed and calm. It keeps me away from the noisy road with its hordes of students, and provides a soothing morning brush with nature.

Morning gardening

I’ve been scathing about the Daecheong River in the past, and it’s still a severely degraded, polluted waterway. But Spring and Summer transformed it somewhat, and I enjoy its banks now.

Freshly harvested beans drying

It really pumps after rain, transporting much of the garbage downstream and into the realm of Someone Else’s Problem. Rushes and reeds thrive in its shallows and there’s an exuberantly blooming weedy  jungle along its unkempt banks.

Roadside colour above the river

The Koreans perplex me, though, as ever. Dusk will often find groups of kids in martial-arts uniforms training with their teacher near the water…

After-school class

..or older folks strolling the banks, sitting in groups eating, drinking and even cooking.

Worst part of the walk — guess why

Underpasses, no matter how dingy and dank, are favoured locales, with their shade and trickling water.

Typical unkempt bank

But the concept of taking your garbage home with you has not widely caught on here. In fact my riparian reveries are frequently disturbed by technicolor explosions of RAGE amid scenes like this:

“Oh Happy Day!” — birthday party aftermath

In general, though, it’s very pleasant — not picturesque as such (although I never tire of the brilliant green of young rice shoots in the endless acres of paddies) but teeming with life and sound, the banks strongholds of urban biodiversity.

He arrived too late for my last post!

I have fun trying and failing to photograph insects without a macro lens, and particularly enjoy the unseen cuckoos whose resounding calls leap out from hillside thickets, all through the day.

The canine pilgrim path

Eventually I leave the river, skirt the rice-paddy plains, pass through a manure-fragrant dairy with a vicious cur and a joyously crowing rooster, before it’s out into the paddies again as the awful road comes into sight.

Heading home in the afternoon cool

This is one of my favourite spots. You often see a lone tree of prodigious size and age standing guard over the paddies, a prized specimen left to stand when its peers were flattened long ago. There are often benches or a pergola where the old farmers rest, shoes off, in the midday heat, as they must have done for generations or even centuries.

Shade tree & distant goods train

This week at N2 was a weird one. It was oddly stress-free, and surely not just from my morning commute? The classes were relatively well behaved; the boys mostly subdued and occasionally even polite; the girls didn’t even curse me too harshly as I confiscated mirrors, brushes, combs, sprays, lotions, scissors, ointments, moisturisers and styling wands.

A very LONG goods train…

I have one class of utter deadbeats, 3rd year boys without any redeeming qualities whatsoever. A few weeks ago I gave up, seven or eight minutes early; “Enjoy the rest of your day!” I announced, and walked out, my co-teacher lashing them as I strode cheerfully down the hall.

Under the same tree that (bright) morning

A fortnight later they started better but soon deteriorated. I ended up thrashing them — unfortunately only verbally — throwing one punk out of the class and writing “OXYGEN THIEF” on the blackboard.

N2 on the right & ubiquitous construction opposite

But yesterday they were almost angelic. Most necks remained vertical and mouths shut. Even the Oxygen Thief seemed almost humble. One punk amazed me with not one but two questions. They were annoying, but quietly so.

Setting sun on my way home after a post-school coffee

I smelled a rat. They’d obviously been spoken to.

“What did you threaten them with?” I asked my co-teacher after class. “Talking to their parents?”

Still half an hour from home

“We used a…umm…? I can’t remember the word. Carrot?”

“Oh, I see. What kind of carrot?”

She seemed a little embarrassed.

“Ummm…ice-cream.”

I laughed out loud. I have six more months with these darlings.

“You’d better have a bloody huge ice-cream budget,” I said.

Traffic was a bitch on the return journey

It’s my birthday today — a Saturday! Tonight I’m hiking up into the student-free hills to spend the night on the ground somewhere with a good view. A raging, raucous party of one…

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote

22 Comments

  1. Yes, another hallmark Goatpost! Life on the margins. Brass amidst the muck. An almost surreal view of human life as if seen from a visiting Martian. The humour and the horror. The solo, celebratory dance in the tent.

    And I’m wondering — what on earth are you going to do with all that cosmetic loot?

    • Thanks as ever, SW, I enjoyed writing that one (though by God, it took ages). I’m thinking of conducting a raffle. At least I’d have their complete attention for a few minutes.

  2. Carl says

    Happy birthday, Goat! Hope you find some solace on your stroll today!

    • Thanks, Carl. That turned out to be one of the best birthdays ever. Who would have thought that’d be possible with no company, no booze and no presents?!

  3. Simon says

    You wrote oxygen thief on the board. Man.. That is GOLD! Enjoy your day man.. You deserve it..

    • Ha, thanks Simon! One of the things they don’t tell us in teacher training, we just have to pick it up along the way!

  4. Stonking post! Happy birthday to you. I hope you enjoy your night under the stars. I found this post very cheering. I too have a daily toil that can’t be escaped, of a different sort but equally irksome. Remembering to enjoy the moment is what helps the most. You have found the good things in your surroundings. For me it is particularly interesting to see what here are choice garden plants, the platycodons (balloon flowers) for example, growing like weeds over there.

    • That was stonking, not stinking, right, Rachael? I just got back from what turned out to be a fantastic weekend adventure. The fact that it was my birthday just made it better. Great night and terrific morning/afternoon, though I ended up getting stymied by an impassable mountain and resorting to a cab home. Can’t wait to look at my photos.

      I have become very good over here at seeking out the good and making the most of my free time. It wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it suits me. And yes, one thing about Korea: things GROW here! Thanks for identifying that flower, too.

  5. Happy Birthday, Goat!

    Sure do like the “typical unkempt bank” photo. There is so much to see and learn from the perspective of a walker.

    Great idea you had about the 90-minute walk. It’s true for me that the longer I walk, the better I feel. I’ve been in an almost all-around slump lately … haven’t even felt like walking … but can feel something shifting in a positive way in the last few days. The problem seems to be … ME. There’s not much else I can pin it on at this point (-:

    • Thanks, Am. Well, we all get in ruts — I’m a master, er, rutter. I have to walk now, it’s the only time I feel really calm and inspired at the same time. Hope the “shift” continues to develop and that you find your old self soon.

  6. ZowiesArtBox says

    Happy Happy Birthday Goat! Your pictures are beautiful, thank you for sharing your gorgeous surroundings, definitely leaves you with a feeling of sunshine :)

    • Much appreciated! It was an excellent birthday and post-birthday, a weekend of walking, taking pictures, music and exploring. All the great comments on this post really added to it as well.

  7. Happy Birthday! Your photos are lovely as usual! Good way to make a chore more bearable, I usually bribe myself with chocolate of some sort :).

    • Ah, well, chocolate and walking complement each other quite nicely! Thanks for the good wishes, I had a terrific weekend, which just makes Monday look worse than ever!

  8. Happy birthday for yesterday. I wonder why they left those trees? Just to serve as tea-break shade? In the UK, in old managed woodlands, individual big trees (“standards”) were left to grow ship’s prow-shaped branches for ships. Everything round about was coppiced to supply withies (a forestscape known as “coppice with standards”).

    I’m not sure how much teaching you’ve done in the past (if it’s more than me then ignore this!) One of the best ways I’ve found of dealing with the unruly is keep the pace of the lesson high. Prepare more stuff than you need. Don’t think you need to make it easier because of their unruliness – sometimes the answer is make it harder. Then, if one or two try and succeed others toe the line because they don’t want to look stupid. Oh, and never smile before half term.

    • Thanks, Dominic. I found a couple more of those giants yesterday as I walked homeward after my birthday camp-out. Very beautiful and they make you wonder what the original forest must have looked like. I can also report that at least some of them are zelkovas.

      Thanks for the classroom tips, but it’s especially weird here as I only see the classes at the Hell School once a fortnight. And if I go too fast I lose EVERYBODY – they’re all low, even the well-behaved ones, much too low for students of any age that have “learned” English for a few years. For example, they can neither ask nor answer a question about what they did on the weekend… But low combined with utterly disinterested and unmotivated: a winning combination indeed.

  9. Robert says

    Always good to read one of your posts, but especially good an a bleak Monday – had me chuckling a few times!

    Belated Happy Birthday, Goat!

    • Thanks, Robert! Glad I could deliver. Had one of the best birthdays ever (see next post) and all the nice comments this post attracted left me especially chuffed.

  10. Hey there, whilst gallivanting about the last couple of weeks I missed your birthday. So, better late than ever, here’s a Happy Birthday! Nice to see you got outdoors again for the day. The question is, did you have a tipple or two?

    • Ha, thanks, I really was tempted. It would have been transcendental indeed – check tonight’s post (if I finish it)!

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