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Memories of my years in South Korea

It was a hot day in Seoul and I needed any excuse to leave the city, so I had signed up for a trip offered by the USO to the DMZ line. The DMZ line is the military division between North and South Korea. I thought it would be very interesting. During the course of my year in Korea, a couple of spies from North Korea had been captured in the area I lived in. The Korean War back in that time zone from 1994-97 didn’t seem that far from the present. There were still natives about who remembered the Korean War. Some of the younger University students had some very interesting views about the war and Americans. I remember at the time there were those who were very pro-Western and this was epitomized by some advertisements hanging over the city of Seoul. There was one which fascinated me endlessly. Every time I went by, I would just stare at the picture of three slender Korean boys with their backs to the camera and their head hung low, pants slouched like in a gangsta’ style talking to one another. I guess the ad was for the jeans and how cool they were and it was intended to appeal to the 20 something generation. I took a picture for posterity! And then there was the generation of University students who hated the imperialism and commercialism of the West and blamed us for the division between the Koreas. While I was there, a riot ensued with demonstrators and as I watched the police bearing down with tear gas, watching the “tsk tsking” of the bus driver, glad that I was not part of the demonstrations. Two sides and we were cautioned to accept neither and to keep plugging along as teachers.

So, a good day. I went along curious as to what I might see and who I might meet on the trip. I took the subway from my apartment and trudged up the steps to the USO. There was the bus in front and an interesting very small group. Some were definitely military families who were stationed in Korea, some were teachers, and some were Koreans. I grabbed a cup of coffee from the USO and got on the bus. As the bus left the city and the area became more agrarian, I was reminded of some of my trips by bus and by train to the countryside. For a short time, I had dated a military man and visited him at his posting in South Korea. The train I took to visit him was ancient. I rode it alone returning from my visit with him after a hamburger meal with fries in the canteen. It seemed like another country the further North we drove. When I rode with him going to the desolate post, I remember the respect and courtesy of the older Koreans aboard the train chugging slowly along.

There was a murmur of conversation aboard the train in the background of my mind as I watched the countryside fly by. The Korean driver drove with the usual haste and urgency that I found inhabited most of the cab drivers in the city. While working at a hagwon, I was often sent in a taxi to various places of business including hospitals to teach English to the Doctors and the medical staff.

I was given a text book, and an address. The rest was up to me which left me fairly creative with my lessons. TO be continued…..

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