Sunday, July 01, 2007

Paju Star

I took a short excursion to the Paju English Language Village on the weekend (can't remember if it was Saturday or Sunday). I heard this place is a pretend city where only English is spoken.

Indeed this is a re-construction of an American (or I should say Western) town. At first it seems to be kind of like a small amusement park, but quickly that notion is dispelled. Actually it is a working English language teaching venue. From what I could observe in the short 1-1/2 hours I was there, they have both day tours of student groups and also longer-term groups (I saw some student dormitories). They must offer English language “camps”. It all seems targeted to the elementary or middle-school students, and as a result it was not to interesting for adults. Basically all I did was walk around a short time, eat an over-priced lunch at an “English Pub”, and then leave. Although it was a little heavy on my stomach all afternoon, I must say that I haven’t enjoyed fish 'n chips with malt vinegar in a long time.

Now the wild part…. Apparently these kids have an “assignment” to accost every westerner they see and ask for autographs and photos! I could hardly walk 1 block without kids running up to me and shouting “hey mister, sign please”, or “can I take a photograph with you?” It was mildly amusing the first time, but after 10 or more times, it got downright annoying. You hate to be rude to these young eager kids, but I couldn’t stay all day and sign autographs either. The last time I was stopped, I took three photos with some of the kids, then I was thankfully rescued when another westerner walked by. Suddenly the group of kids took off after this poor guy, shouting to him “hey cheeseburger, can you sign please?” As I was walking away, I heard him protest "why are you calling me a cheeseburger?" I just chuckled and kept on going.

Since the purpose of the village is to teach English by total immersion I suppose, recently here on the news there was some scandal involving this place. Apparently sometimes the workers in the English village would (gasp) speak Korean to the visitors! I must say that I heard this happen a few times, but for the most part the workers I saw only used English.

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