Thursday, 22 February 2007

Holy Cow my student almost died last weekend!

So I came into class on Tuesday, the 20th, the first morning after a three day weekend. Here in Korea, Lunar new year is the second biggest family holiday of the year, kind of Thanksgiving to Chusok's Christmas. (Chusok is the Korean harvest festival, and it's amazing: EVERYBODY goes to their ancestral home/town/grandparents' house, offers up special foods and dishes to the ancestors in the old way, dressed up in the traditional hanbok clothes. I've seen the ceremony at a friend's girlfriend's house, and it's quite impressive.) The city empties out -- it's almost eerie. Even the street food stands are closed up! Then, at the end of the weekend, everybody returns to Seoul, and the gridlock begins fifty kilometers outside of the greater Seoul area, all the way into town.

{Tangential story alert: Once I travelled on a holiday weekend, and the trip took four hours out by bus, and twelve hours back, because of seventy kilometers (no joke) of stop and go traffic. Even better, the tour organizer had rented three movies to watch on the trip: X-men (not bad) Black Hawk Down, and Saving Private Ryan. That's comic book action movies: 1, Gory gory war movies: 2. Being trapped on a bus, in stop and go traffic, hung over (as most of the group was), with "Oh GOD IT HURTS" "I can't stop the bleeding Ty!" "You're gonna be okay, Eddie. You're gonna be okay. What's your daughter's name? You'll see her again, Eddie, I promise." "I feel cold Ty. I feel cold" for two hours is just hard to manage. So after Black Hawk Down (the noisiest, most overwhelming war movie I've ever seen: long and just gross), the guy was about to put on Saving Private Ryan (the second noisiest, most overwhelming war movie I've seen) on, and the entire bus vetoed the choice. At the next rest stop, somebody went to the DVD stand and bought "When Harry Met Sally" or "You've God Mail" or some Sandra Bullock romantic comedy, and the travellers were placated. End of tangential story.}

Well, some people go into the mountains, to see their ancestral gravesite, as did my student Lucas. As I asked about the students' weekends, this story came out, piecemeal, as Lucas remembered different impressions of his adventure. The total innocence in his eyes matched my own sheer disbelief at how close this kid came to being hospitalized, at least.

He saw a snake, and decided he didn't like having that snake in that spot. So, being a kid, innocent as all Eden, he chose to move that snake along by prodding it with his foot. "Teacher and then the tail is up and," he held his hand up and moved it side-to-side to copy a tail's shaking. Shaking a raised tail is a common warning signal for poisonous snakes (not just rattlesnakes, as I learned by research). He poked it again, and "teacher, it biting me in the pants" and he pointed to the cuff of his pants, right behind his ankle. Because it was February, and cold, the snake was slow; had he poked it in June, it probably would have had the speed and wherewithal bite him properly, but as it was, the thing missed his ankle. By then his father had spotted Lucas, and saw what was happening. His dad ran over and punted the snake, kickin it far clear of his son, but I don't think he saw the whole scene, because Lucas never mentioned an extremely angry father in the jumbled account of his story.

I was so incredulous I immediately went to the next class to tell Caleb about what had just happened. The kid never even realized how close he was to serious danger.

(Side note: there are four species of poisonous snake in Korea, in the viper/asp category. None are as deadly as the cobra, the black mamba, or the dreaded snakes of Australia, but none are to be trifled with either. Lucas being a child, the poison would have been more dangerous because he has a smaller body mass than say, me. Of the snakes in Korea, the one with the coolest name is called (in Japan) the mamushi. Just say that together with me one time. Mamushi.)

I'm glad Lucas made it through honouring his ancestors, without joining them. He's a sweet kid. Except when he isn't.

No comments: