© B.J. Waldern, 10.2011
Since coming to Korea in 2007, I have gotten to know many English speaking young adults among the Koreans I have been meeting. They are my students, tutors, assistants and friends and I am grateful for their confessions and inspiration.
The stories in this collection are based on my memories of some of my conversations with these as they opened up and shared their experiences, dreams and insights. This is not social science. Rather, it is creative non-fiction. It is not the result of a premeditated research project. Instead, the writing began as personal memoirs of these many precious exchanges, and lead to my imaginings about the unfolding of their life paths. I thus carried out a professional exploration as a result of the writing. The names and some circumstances of these subjects were changed. Therefore, the stories herein do not serve as a precise scientific record. Rather, they serve as a resident-abroad, EFL teacher’s reflection on real life experiences.
These days, teachers learn the importance of being reflective in order to be better, more ethical, and more socially responsible. That is the importance of raising their consciousness about who they are, who they are with, where they are, and what they are doing.
Language teachers especially have come to realize the value in cultural awareness and appreciation for cultural diversity, for example. In the context of globalization, cultural awareness and appreciation of both students and teachers can fend off assimilationist trends and policies while facilitating the improvement of the language learners’ communicative effectiveness.
Hopefully, a textbook like this can also help students to reflect on their identities, situations and plans. Humanity lives in a fast-paced complex world today where change is rapid, profound and constant. It is difficult to sort out meanings, values and directions in this context. Teaching aids that assist in these tasks can enhance teaching as well as the relationships between the foreign language and the learner, and the foreign teacher and student. Furthermore, they can help young adults make important life decisions.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
2. Nursing Dreams
4. Home Boy
7. The Singer
8. Walking Sideways
9. Honing Success and Edging Ahead
10. Turning Pages
11. Digging a Well
12. A View from the Other Side
Everybody wants to fly. There are different ways to accomplish it.
The youth dream of flying. They want the magic of dreams to come true. They want their journey to take them to great and glorious heights.
The youth are in a hurry. They have a sense of urgency. They want to get there quick.
The youth like are attracted to radical departures. They do not like being grounded. They seek new places, new feelings and new ways. They are adventurous and they are impatient.
At the same time, they are less conscious of time. The dream occurs outside the dimensions of space and time that elder and learned humans have drawn for themselves, which makes the dream all the more attractive. Anything is possible in a dream.
The vision of flying is a vision of existing outside conventions and beyond the reach of time and space. The space where one aspires to fly is limitless. It is magical. Gravity is not an issue there. Ability is not an issue. The physical can be stretched and altered so as to accomplish astounding things.
It is common to have dreams. It is necessary to keep hope alive. It is necessary for the bud of new things sprouts from the seeds of dreams.
It started with mountain climbing. If the spirits of ancestors like to inhabit the tops of mountains, it is likely to establish a launching pad to the stars and heavens and maintain the choice of flying back to Earth for brief inspections and perhaps occasional deeds. The higher elevations are the connections to the immortals and eternity. Who does not desire to go there? Climbing the mountain can bring mortals closer to eternity with its grace, splendor and wisdom. Now there is technology to take us higher.
In contemporary life on Earth, the accumulated knowledge and range of inventions, research and experimentations feed this imagination. Given the heights of wealth and technology so far achieved by mere mortals of bones and flesh of varying intelligence and dubious morality, the excitement about pressing forward into the future augments. “If we can do that, we can do more,” it is thought. More people ask, “Why not?”
Moreover, the flourishing technology of exciting and inspiring the imagination lures on the dreamers. The media are expanding and compounding. We have the tools to fly farther in our minds than ever before.
Perhaps the technology of movies is just as fascinating as the story of movies these days. Technology as movie-maker and star protagonist are fantastic these days, bringing darkness and light, horror and joy. The dream-weavers-for-profit egg on our dreams. Paralleling discoveries in science and the paranormal, they invite us to stretch our vision of reality farther and farther. The process of following visual explorers and travelling inside our imagination to new realms and dimensions may be more important a movie-going experience than curiosity, tension and logistics of plot, than quality and movies of characters.
Some critics may characterize the industry as an illusion mill that creates false hopes and misleading ideas. They worry that change and difference as portrayed in the media may be excessively violent and therefore unhealthy. They worry that the boundaries between dreams and reality have become blurred, causing too much confusion.
However, many philosophers question what reality is and who determines what it is. More often, reality is understood as experience. Experience varies as much as people do. Interpretation, narration and emotions have become more important, in actual fact, than material things. The makers and traders of things are probably lagging way behind the crowd.
For one thing, science means something else nowadays. Molecular and quantum physics have highlighted the uncertainty, flexibility, and movement of the universe at all measurable dimensions. It insinuates that the bizarre may be normal and the normal unusual and illusory.
Indeed, research and invention bait many a young person who wishes to create and find glory in solving problems and earning recognition. Then there are the builders who simply try to build mountains, ladders and flying machines to the sky where they aspire to soar. This is demonstrated by the ongoing plans to construct taller and taller buildings, where one might one day climb so high as to touch the heavens. Certainly, the space program hopes to go farther to penetrate the heavens and exist with the gods of the universe.
Not a few people will seek flight through the arts. The imagination offers escape, novelty, change and transformation. Such a journey may well lead to performances abroad.
The majority of young people in Korea want to take to the air and feel the wind beneath their wings. They want to be somewhere else and be somebody else. They want escape to a new life. They want to grow tall.
Most wish for international travel. They earnestly strive toward finding the time and the money to explore the Earth’s airways, see famous places firsthand, encounter different people and experiences, and taste a variety of cultures. They want to reach higher status and experience. They seek paths into international trade and industry that will provide launching pads for exploring the world by air. They apply to international study programs and grants for overseas training. They study related fields and languages.
Not a few young men actually become pilots. They usually find an avenue to do it through military work if they opt to join the air force. They must study and pass certain examinations, and then take specific training. They may pursue officer training and get support to complete academic studies including study of English and other foreign languages. They may alter their course and find positions in private airlines.
In the eyes of many young Korean women, becoming a flight attendant is the ultimate dream. It is fashionable to be a flight attendant. Flight attendants are considered to be exceptionally beautiful, graceful and intelligent women doing important work and serving the nation well.
Korean flight attendants are always female. They represent the height of grace and cultivation. They present an image of the ideal Korean woman with enviable beauty, precise etiquette and unflinching poise. They also represent the modern Korea and the success of its progress for they are working women doing an important job in the technologically advancing global industry of aviation. They serve the nation and make the nation proud. They are ambassadors for the nation and serve to raise the standards of Korean contemporary life and present it to the world with great pride. They represent the flying colours of the Republic of Korea’s rising status and power in the world.
Of the vast numbers of young women who dream of becoming flight attendants, only a handful will make the grade and be allowed to enter the field. Candidates go to great lengths in order to impress airlines recruiters. They overspend on ways to enhance their physical appearance. They have their faces reconstructed, they wear special lenses to alter the appearance of their eyes, they diet furiously, and they consult magazines and beauty experts for the best tips on clothing, hairstyles, cosmetics and accessories. They practice correct posture, gestures, facial expressions and gaits. In addition to all those efforts, they study foreign languages, especially English.
Despite all those efforts, most candidates will ultimately fail. Perhaps, in the course of failure, they may alter their perceptions of airline hostessing and learn. Perhaps they may come to understand the illusion that has duped them and see that the career is not as beneficial to women as they had first believed. Perhaps, though, they may never recover and always feel inferior, letting sexism and patriarchy again cheat and rob.
Indeed, it is to be expected that many aspiring fliers may fail, but failure will not daunt most of them. They will try out different types of wings and different flight plans and persist.
Despite exceptions when individuals shut down and give up, the dreaming will not stop. For those who can grow, their learning experience will fertilize new dreams. Those ones will find new vehicles and take off again. They will not abandon the dream of flying; they will merely find a new way to fly.