I usually post something toward the beginning of the semester, sort of as a way of kicking things off once the initial hecticness dies down. Well, here we are at the end of March with the semester well underway (past the quarter mark at this point, in fact), so my update is long overdue. I’ll make this a relatively quick one.
The cherry blossoms are beginning to show themselves now—in some places they look to be almost in full bloom already, while in other places they have yet to emerge from their buds. The pond next to my office has a number of very large trees, but the blossoms only started to show themselves today. Nonetheless, spring is most definitely upon us. While we might have some cool mornings, we don’t really have those “knife winds” that you associate with winter anymore.
The country seems to be very slowly emerging from the pandemic mindset as well. The masking requirement for public transportation was recently lifted, now leaving only health care facilities (hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies) with a mask requirement. A frankly surprising number of people are still wearing masks outside (which, to be clear, was never a requirement here), but the numbers are definitely down. I haven’t been on public transportation since the lifting of the mandate, but I have watched buses go by on my walk to and from school, and most people still seem to be wearing masks. There are the occasional brave souls going bare-faced, and I silently cheer them on whenever I see them. Given the history of mask-wearing in Korea (prior to the pandemic, it was pretty common to mask up on days when the air quality was poor, for example), it may take a while for some people to muster the courage to doff their masks, but progress is progress.
Classes are going well so far, too. I have the usual 50+ students in my Korean culture class, and they seem like a good bunch (although I can’t say I’ve ever gotten a bad bunch yet). I’ve already had one student ask if I am teaching any other undergrad classes in English next semester, which is nice. Usually I do get students asking that toward the end of the semester, but to have a student ask that only a few weeks in is a good confidence booster. Sometimes it can be hard to judge what students think of a class, especially when there are so many of them.
My other class this semester is a graduate folklore (technically, “oral literature”) seminar with eight students. Three of them are oral lit majors, three are other classical lit majors, and two are modern lit majors. This is a good bunch as well, and I’ve been quite pleased to see that they have taken my statement that this was going to be a discussion-oriented class to heart. Just last week, one of the students said he had never been in a class with such lively discussion, which was good to hear. Already we’ve had some really good discussions about a number of important issues, and I look forward to more of the same in the rest of the semester.
So that’s how things are going so far. Although there are the usual stresses, just writing out this brief note has made me realize that things are actually pretty good at the moment. I don’t always feel so positive, but today, for some reason, I do. I guess I’ll take it when I can get it.