Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kyung Hee University

I am here:

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I could write a lot of minutiae here about daily life during orientation but it would be too boring.  What's interesting--as a disgraceful spectacle--is the nightlife of the recent expats, some of whom I think will be destroyed by Korea's serious drinking culture.  There's a college freshman/fratboy first-time-away-from-home vibe when they gather.  Like the old rules they had to obey, e.g. no drinking in public, no getting drunk every night, no passing out on the street, etc. are suddenly suspended and are therefore all being broken.  The problem is that Korea will not say no to these oafs; it will encourage them, selling them enough rope to hang themselves. 

We've been at this university for 7 days.  There has been a major drinking expedition every single night and it doesn't go very far:  just across the street, in fact.  Directly across from the university entrance is a GS25 convenience store (basically a 7/11).  Like all such conveniences in Korea it sells alcohol, and not just the watery stuff.  Dozens of recent SMOE hires head over there every night and achieve varying levels of drunkenness from tipsy to absolutely stonked.  Right outside a convenience store.  They stand, or sit on cheap plastic chairs or the curb.  I don't think they'd do this at home even if it weren't illegal.  Getting drunk outside a 7/11 is done in America only by the unemployed, mentally ill, homeless, etc.  The dregs of society.  The phenomenon was so repugnant I had to document it in pictures:

The scene by day.  The GS25 is below the PC zone, right of the Dunkin' Donuts.

By night:  foreigners abandoning class and dignity.  This was a slow night.  I've seen twice as many people here.

One night it rained, so the crowd occupied the store like an invading army.  The slow ones can be seen sheltering under the store's sign.  Very uncouth, undoubtedly intimidating to the locals.  By the way, Dunkin' Donuts is an upscale joint in Korea.

Some drunken incidents:  
  • One of the South Africans went streaking around the campus.
  • A girl (American, I think) made a very loud scene outside the women's dorm.  She eventually passed out and had to be carried back to her room.  The locals complained about the disturbance and we were all lectured about it the next morning.
  • Failing to find his way back to his room, a guy slept on the soccer field.
  • We were all assigned groups and had to present (to an official observer) a demonstration lesson.  Many people worked hard on this, wanting to give a good impression, myself included.  I know of one undoubtedly very cool dude who went out the night before, got trashed, and came back just in time for his presentation.  Yes, he was literally out all night drinking before an important work-related presentation.  I'm told he was sober enough to get through his part of his group's presentation.
These people were hired and flown over here at considerable expense to teach in public schools.  They are representatives of their home countries, and they are the reason why this job gets harder and the reputations of foreigners decline every year.  They can't even behave responsibly for a week.  The real problem cases are a minority, perhaps a dozen out of the 340, but their behavior is the most memorable.

And once everyone's on the job things will get worse.  In Seoul there is no such concept as "closing time."  Alcohol is available at all hours.  Some bars will close but some are always open.  Any 24/7 convenience store will be happy to sell you soju at your pleasure and you can sit down right outside to drink it.

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