For anyone new to Korea, you may be unfamiliar with the long list of literature previous expats have left behind. While I've yet to see a definitive list (and probably never will), let's simply say the story of the English teacher that comes to Korea has been written about in many different ways. This blog has reviewed a few different versions of the story - from Chris Tharp's excellent and informative Dispatches from the Peninsula to a gonzo-inspired "The Dog Farm" by David Wills. There's been a few others along the way, some more memorable than others. The story can be told in many ways, however, which brings me to the beginning of the book review.
Happy Time Go Fast is more than just a Konglish saying. While calling it a philosophy on life in Korea seems awkward, most everything in Korea does move fast. Wes Weston's book about "Invaluable Lessons from Teaching English Abroad" covers standard ground to start, primarily focusing on the experiences had by most any new, inexperienced teacher in Korea. While being in Daegu may give the book a bit of local flavor you wouldn't find in Seoul or Busan, the story ends up being fairly uniform across the board.
Wes starts as a hagwon, gets trained by watching a co-teacher get kicked out, faces down students with names like Flower and Rambo and Tomato, while eventually being caught by the dreaded ddong chim. He reflects at length on an incident involving lots of candy (not the best reward ever, as he finds out), buys a motorcycle, and explores the breadth of Konglish throughout everyday life.
Most of the first act plays out like e script most hagwon teachers find themselves reading - waking up sleeping kids, handling disciplinary issues, eating Korean food, and drinking Korean alcohol. Par for the course, really - there wasn't much about Wes' time in Korea that varied much from the typical expat.
This begins to change in chapter 9, when an interview at McDonald's eventually nets him a new job at a university. Before long, Wes finds himself drinking with his students - not an uncommon proposition, although one that understandably must be approached delicately. His recollection of the Image Game is funny enough, and naturally brings a cultural note along with it. Chapter 13's take on Korea's jimjilbang (day spas / saunas) adds in an interesting angle of the teacher washing the student's back - an element often talked about or observed by teachers, but rarely engaged in. The next chapter involved a "Man Conversation" that few other teachers have likely candidly shared with their students. Other chapters involve a look at Korea's obsession with test taking, and what happens when a boss tries to invent a law to save face.
First written on my blog, Chris in South Korea.
I like this book, I really do. Here's someone who's taken the time and allowed himself to partake in the bizarre things that make life in Korea so... interesting... He reflects a lot on his own ability as a teacher, while at the same time freely recognizing his own limitations. At the same time, the under 200-page book feels all too short. Happy times do go fast, but this one ended too soon. As a primer on what to expect from your upcoming time in Korea, it's fine. I would have loved to see more unusual stories or elements to the life, but that might have scared off part of the readership. For anyone familiar with the scene, there isn't much that makes it different from your own story.
Recommended for newbies or people not yet in Korea.