I am at work tonight, wrapping up some important projects before I take the day off tomorrow. As it is my anniversary, I probably will not write a blog entry tomorrow (if I do, I better give my wife a good reason). In fact, I could be offline for the next few days. Tomorrow my wife and I will go hiking, and we will have dinner at Bonasera Italian Restaurant in Gangnam, which I hear is highly recommended by the Italian Embassy (you can’t beat a recommendation like that). On Wednesday, I will start the day at work, say goodbye to a coworker who is retiring after 20 years of service, and then I’ll hit the road with another coworker. We’ll head to Daegu via KTX train to visit a couple of Americans in the afternoon, and then we’ll travel to Pusan to assist Americans on Thursday and Friday. It’s my first trip to Pusan, and I’m looking forward to it. My family will join me on Thursday evening, and we will tour Pusan together on Saturday before heading home. Although Korea is a very wired country, I do not know how much time or opportunity I will have to go online and update this blog. I will definitely be back online to update World Adventurers by Saturday evening, though. All commentators need to take a break now and then, right? One of these days I’ll invite a special guest or sidekick to write for me. Perhaps my cousin and ever faithful blog reader, Wade3016, will fill in for me. He’s been quiet here lately, but I’m sure with a mere mention of his name he will post a comment. His interests are a little different than mine, but he is very entertaining.
So, Dear Reader, until I can write again, I leave you with this observation:
As I drove to work tonight around 9 p.m., I saw a schoolgirl waiting at an intersection in downtown Seoul. Dressed in her school uniform, she was alone, not at all like the multitudes of schoolgirls I saw today wandering the streets at about 3:30 p.m. She carried a book bag. She looked tired. She could not have been older than 12 years old. To a Korean, she is considered diligent. She probably finished up her English lesson at the hagwon (학원), a Korean term for a private, evening English language institute. She will probably head home via the subway to her family’s apartment somewhere in Seoul and will study at home for another two or three hours. Around midnight, she may head to bed, or she might stay up later and study some more. Either way, four hours after going to bed, she will probably get up again to start another school day. Upon seeing this girl, an American would ask questions. Why is this girl walking downtown in a big city alone at night? Why does she have to study so long and so hard? Isn’t private tutoring expensive? Why are her parents allowing this or forcing her to do this? Isn’t it dangerous? How can any kid sleep four hours every night and survive?
This girl reminded me of how different Korean culture can be from American culture. While I understand the Korean desire to educate children, I never want my son to have to come home alone after 9 p.m. after a long day at the hagwon. I hope he will be successful, but I could never drive him to such excess for the sake of success. Korean children are brilliant, but I think the Korean education system is very hard on Korean children.