It is rare to see a Korean without friends, very rare indeed. Apart from the times when there was a Korean sitting on a coffee shop, busy studying, you never see them alone in a restaurant or the like. Even at school you will very often see two students going somewhere to do something that only requires one student. One student will do the actual task while the other is just accompanying him or her.
If you keep this in mind then you will immediately start noticing the students who always seem to be alone. Of the five hundred students on my school, I can only think of two students who are always alone. When I was in school you would often see students eat alone, but often they chose this, for what ever reason. I very much doubt a Korean child would choose to be alone as desired option.
There is one student who really breaks my heart when I see her. I suspect she might be teased or just treated very badly because of a skin condition she has. I will admit that it does not look nice, but I don’t really see the problem, other than the visual appearance, that is.
At lunch this particular student always sits between the teachers, or at least at the teachers’ tables. The first tables in the cafeteria are reserved for the teachers and only when we start clearing out do students fill the cleared table, but not individually cleared seats,
What this particular girl does is pick a spot at our tables where the does not have to sit right next to a teacher. This way she is not really invading the teachers’ space and she does not have to sit with other students. Fortunately for her, her class is late in the feeding order that she normally comes in when a few teachers have left already.
A few days back she finished dishing up her food, but when she arrived at the tables, most of the teachers were still there. This meant that she would have to find a seat deeper in to the cafeteria and would therefore have to sit next to the other students. I noticed her stopping to look for a table and I noticed she was standing a few seconds to long. I glanced at our tables and realised what her problem was. There were no suitable seats available. She looked really anxious to find an open seat and I think she was hoping some of the teachers would stand up soon.
When no one immediately stood up she moved deeper in to the cafeteria, but I think her fear overcame her because the only made it to the third row before she turned back, looking hopefully towards the teachers’ tables. I was pretending to glance around the cafeteria. I am always looking around, so I don’t attract attention any more. All the time I was peeking to she what she was doing. As sorry as I felt for her, I wanted to see how things would turn out.
I kid you not when I say the girls stood there for five minutes, pretending to be looking for a seat the whole time. Eventually a teacher stood up and left. She moved to the first row again and milled about some more, unsure of she should risk taking the seat right between all the teachers.
At this point I could not take it any more and I nodded to her to take the seat. After we left the cafeteria I mentioned this to my English co-teacher and how I’ve been watching this girl for a few weeks now. I did not tell her to gain her sympathy, but essentially to inform her that I will be inviting this girl to take a seat between us whenever there is a spot and when I defend her I will have someone who understands the situation and is capable of translating for me.
Considering the Koreans society and how it is structured, I sincerely hope she gets in to a good University where she can make good contacts and long term friend, because if she doesn’t then she might have to leave this country to create a future for herself. The girl is not a bad student at all and has the confidence to greet me at the table ever day with a “Good Afternoon”. With a bit of help her English will really improve a lot. I will surely be rooting for her.