I've told you people riding public transport with your students is one of the most humiliating experiences anyone can ever have. But on further reflection, it might really just be my students. Specifically, my third graders.
At the museum, they weren't the worst to be seen. Some kid from another school got so excited at the notion of seeing a foreigner that his face literally turned purple as he shouted, "OH MY GOD HIYEE!" and jumped up and down with his fists clenched, like a little Korean girl spotting a member of SHINee out in public. My students just scoffed their little "chht" Korean scoffs through their teeth and shook their heads at him. Amateur. Another group of elementary school girls dragged their weoneomin over by the arms shouting, "친구! 친구!" My cos were confused, because the girl was maybe Chinese-American? -- she didn't look or sound gyopo to me -- but I ken the score because I'm smart like that. She seemed a little embarrassed. She had no idea how unnecessary it would be to be embarrassed of her students in front of me. Neither did I, until the bus trip home.
I specifically went out another way from the subway and waited a full ten minutes for the boys to make it onto other buses before crossing over. Nonetheless, when I strolled up to the bus line, there they were -- about thirty of my best and brightest. They scared the shit out of the handful of male college students and innocent young businesswomen standing in line by literally jumping over and shoving past them, shouting, "ELIJABESEU SEEEEEM!" Before anything too awful could happen, the bus pulled up and they turned, as a herd, in the opposite direction to shove back in front of everyone else and cram onto the bus first.
They went straight to the back, and I purposely took a seat by another woman at the front, hoping against hope that they would just pass out and sleep for the duration. No. They kept shouting "SEEEEEEM! SEEEEEM!" over and over until I would turn around and shout back, "WAE!" Then they would fall over into the aisles laughing or ask me something eroneous in Korean, like which stop I was getting off at, following it up with ooo's and aaah's about how I had understood. Everyone who was anywhere near the back of the bus quickly moved to a huddle in the front. They then proceeded to use some of the worst language I've ever heard out in public in Korea. They shouted at "cute" women on other buses through the windows. They abandoned their seats to sprawl out in the asiles. They made sure every new batch of passengers getting on were well aware that I was their teacher.
Eventually, I just put my head down and pretended to be a sleep. About five minutes later, I jerked my head up and backwards at the sound of an enormous pop/crash/thud. One of my students was standing in the middle of the aisle with his hands raised over his head, doing his best to look innocent. He had busted out the air vent in the ceiling of the bus. I just stared at him in disbelief. He stared back for a minute, and then took an enmorous bow, shouting out to the entire bus, "잘못했습니다!"
I got off the bus a stop early and went to a coffee shop just to avoid having to walk home with them.
Seriously. When it's all contained in one building, or one neighborhood, it doesn't look that bad. But when they're set loose on the public out in Seoul, it's a whole other ballgame. Spread out all over universities and restaurants and shops and public establishments all over Korea, some day my students are all going to be "that guy". God love 'em, as my grandmother would say, "because somebody has to."