Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Way of teaching

This is not very surprising to many people conscious about the world. However hearing about the thing is one, and seeing it with own eyes is another.

Here in Seoul, and in Korea in general, students are forbidden to ask questions if they don't sufficiently understand the issue once explained by the professor. It changes with time, as the more foreigners are employed the more they understand that one should be able to ask the question, yet I have many Korean friends who complain that they need to spend long hours self studying through the subject.

Currently I teach english one of my neighbours, and I had inquired if he could ask his tutor a question related to the study or write an email to one. The answer was: "Well, if I new one and there was any previous contact I could, but now...".

For my experience, only one person I know in Poland would not reply to an email from a stranger, and this is a man who genuinely hates internet or any other modern inventions.

Here in Korea, and I suppose in East Asia in general, position of an older person is unquestionable, despite of actual achievements or real knowledge. It is an offence to get in the elevator together with professor or to sit at the caffeteria too close to the one.

Is this issue related to eye contact? I don't know. I am not skilled in social research that much yet. I am only wondering if this might be the reason of such behaviour. In class, everyone watches the booklet instead of a teacher.

This is considered a lack of respect to the superior or to anyone if one avoids an eye contact in anglo-saxon, roman or slavic background. I don't look at you, means I have something to hide, I lie, either I don't like you at all. Here in Asia if I dare to look at someone older straight then it means I don't like him or don't respect him. This prooves that however universal some rules might be, they apply to just about one cultural background.

Yet, the question is, might this "watching, observing" issue be the reason for not asking for help during the class? I don't know...this is one to explore.

Copyright: Agnieszka Piasecka, Seoul, 26th August 2009

Next post is coming soon.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Changes to the world

And so it is. I have finally arrived to Korea and settled down a little bit. It is 11 p.m., a nice quiet summer evening, a good moment to start this blog I planned for so long.

I had a very nice trip. Whole plan was realised, well almost.
I reached Amsterdam so quickly that I no onger believe it's 1000km from Warsaw. It seems so close.

At Schiphol I was greeted by a long time unseen friend. We spent far too long time at the airport drinking coffee and wondering around all the shops there. Before I got in the IC to Amsterdam Centraal it was noon and too late to visit Rijksmuseum, I went for a walk around the city instead.

Amsterdam is a city which used to be my home for a long time. A place where I felt well and lived on my own making independent ways in life. Magnificent experience!

However lots of change has occured since I visited the city last time in 2006. Changes all around, and to my disgrace for worse... The economic crisis has stroke Netherlands very severely and it is visible all around. Prices of all goods doubled during that time, everything what I remember is now twice more expensive. Economic crisis in the west was highlighted in the news, but this is something one must see with own eyes... The unfinished constructions, smaller number of cars around, etc. Compared Poland is doing very well, I wonder if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is using that fact anyhow...?

As I've mentioned above I had fulfilled my plan almost totally. Besides the fact I had to walk myself with a very heavy hand luggage to the train station because my friend suddenly felt homesick and got angry with me for some reason. O Tempora, o Mores!

Stoptrein, local airport service train gets into Schiphol in 20 minutes, so 10 past 4 p.m. I could start my check in. Train was almost empty as everyone usually gets to Schiphol by bus 300, which is usually very crowded, or by taxi.

KLM is served with no check in, and after not very detailed passport control I could wait for boarding. I haven't bought much in Amsterdam, or other words, I bought almost nothing.
All my favourite brands are not available there. Apparently noone believes that someone wishes to buy Roger Gare instead of Max Factor. But I have my own tastes and marketing spin doctors cannot do much with me :)

While boarding I was lucky to get in the plane as the passenger no 1, because the Economy Class was let in as first. Most of the Economy Class passengers were Korean, there were some fellow students, 3 Europeans going for holidays and that's all. As for the Business Class, these were Russian people, and among them women breathtakingly beautiful and also very luxury. They say Polish women are pretty, but Russian emigrants...I cannor find words to describe it. The picture of those people waiting had got gentle and noble scent of the Upper Class in many meanings.

In Netherlands the richest people are Russian so it's not surprising they just fly arround the world.

I got the seat next to the window. Astonishing!! I made the photo of the borderline between the day and upcoming night. And the projection of the setting sun on the clouds somewhere above Petersburg. I had planned to do these photos for a very long time...

I couldn't do a sunrise and I am very sorry about that. KLM policy says to shut down the window covers, so I obeyed. I saw Gobi desert and Northern China. It was one of the most beautiful flights in my life...

After arrival it appeared my cellphone is dead. I forgot about the differences between Western and Korean GSM frequency. Luckily my fiend Chang heard his name being called by the Information Desk. Later on I was taken care of as the hounourable guest and taken by the hospitality of my Korean hosts. I was shown the laboratory and the University Campus.

First glance and first impression...Seoul is a giant Zakopane. It reminds me of San Fransisco as well with it's roads climbing many mountains. The city itself is situated in the mountains 600m heigh but impressing in their features due to the big differences of the relative altitude.
The city of churches and buddist temples, very modern cars and subways next to the old markets where everything is sold on the ground . City of very brutal business and fierce competition to survive next to very nice and welcoming people, who always take their shoes off before entering somebody's home.

Seoul is copycating New York, a lot of tall high rise buildings which spoil the skyline everywhere. 20 floors, tall, narrow with small, uncomfortable apartments.

For now I've got the studio hired 30 minutes walk from the Campus with the window to the noisy street, but the building is not that tall and people are very nice. Surroundings are more accurate to the center of London, if compared.

Subway station is just next to the building I live in.

That is all for now. Next post is coming soon.
Agnieszka Piasecka

Seoul, 16th August 2009