Sorry if this post jumps around a bunch, my life is chaos. Imagine moving to a city of 10 million people where you don’t speak; imagine not knowing what all those settings on your washing machine say, imagine going shopping and choosing your groceries based almost entirely by what the pictures on the package depict. Then on top of that imagine that about 3 days after unpacking your bags you are thrown not a hand full of elementary school classes to teach but 18; Yes, I teach 18 classes. That is 4 groups of 24- 3rd graders, 5 groups of 24- 4th graders, 5 groups of 24- 5th graders and 4 groups of 24- 6th graders, WHEW!, sounds rough , I still haven’t finished; I have to teach two after school classes once a week, thankfully I get to choose the topic, so I am teaching English through photography, I also just began today teaching English for teachers, which i will teach once a week. and my final class is once every two weeks lead the English club which is about 10 high level English speaking girls and one poor or lucky boy. So said succinctly I have been plenty busy and apologize for not being able to keep up the blog.
Just now I am coming home from an FC Seoul soccer match. one of the other Native English teachers got discount coupons and organized a small group of us. The stadium was where the world cup was played a few years back and was meant to hold 70, 000 people but tonight I think there may have been about 3,000 tops. that turn out may be a result of both teams playing, being in the bottom of the league standings or I think after Korea’s terrible world cup run the people lost interest in soccer.
It’s been hard to get adjusted to the pace of work here after how slow and laid back everything was in Spain, but finally I feel like i’m no longer treading water in a storm and am finally holding onto a piece of floating debris and its only a short time before wash up on the shore of some tropical island where I will be greeted with bottomless fruit smoothies. So, to celebrate by small success I messaged some friends and we got together in Gangnam, a hip neighborhood to get brick oven New York style pizza. Seoul being the metropolis that it is, offers a little of everything if you know where to look and are willing to fork out a bit extra.
Rewinding now, When I last posted I believe I had just left orientation and was headed to Seoul on the big bus. Here are the only pictures I have from orientation:
I got off of the bus and people’s co teachers were waiting for them… mine was not, not immediately. But I minute later they came around the corner, there was the girl Ellen who I was taking over for, Eunyeong, who would be my co teacher and one other teacher who essentially was just acting as a choufer, since Eunyeong doesn’t have a car.
They took me to my apartment to show me a few things, then we went to the school to meet the principal. I was just following Eunyeong and hoping to not make any faux pas. I sat down and Ellen began translating questions my principal had. He spoke in a nearly inaudible tone at a pace much like a wise elder would. He seemed impressed by my limited knowledge of Korean
We left the school and went to do a few errands and then Ellen, Eunyeong and I grabbed a coffee. I don’t drink coffee or caffeine usually. Ellen had to go meet a friend and was heading to the USA the following morning and Eunyeong had to go back to work so I was left to figure things out and told to report to work not the following day but the day after that.
After being up in my room for about 20 minutes I had barely began to clean and unpack and I started to feel a rush of anxiety. Unsure where I was, what I was doing and if there was anyone that could help me in an emergency, how would I even communicate with them. So I went down stars to the 711, which has tables and chairs out front along the street in hopes that having bodies around would help ease the nervousness but my heart and mind was still racing and I was feeling even more panicked so I went and used the internet at school. Some teacher walked in and offered me another coffee, this one I would refrain from drinking since I had just realized much of that anxiety I was feeling was probably related to the caffeine.
This is my Place, It”s my 150 square feet of tranquility, my place where its my rules. If I don’t want AC, I don’t turn it on, if I want to leave the dishes dirty over night I can. Mainly I just like that it’s modern, after Spain’s atrocious sense of style. I also Think a major factor is that I am facing the back of the building. My window looks out over a park with a fountain where there are always kids playing. One day I was riding my bike home from a small grocery store and I noticed the kids throwing a badminton racket into the tree trying to get the birdie down. I parked my bike and climbed the tree and got really funny ohhhs and Ahhhhs then when I got everything out of the tree they applauded and in a tiny kid voice one of them said thank you in English.
I don’t want to give away too much about my location. but I can say I live in a neighborhood that is really laid back, I almost never see a foreigner unless I look in a mirror yet I am near one of the busiest metro stations in Seoul so I am really well connected.
The Han river that runs through Seoul is very close by. I bought a bike, it’s not as nice as my bike I had in Spain but it will do. I took it on the metro since I was running and went to meet some friends. They rented bikes and we rode along the river. there were so many people doing all sorts of things, one group was a band jamming another was a group or R/C car enthusiasts who were sending their cars over a ramp, 10 or 12 feet into the air.
Only a week or two after we started working we got our first holiday, Cheusok, which is like Korean Thanksgiving. Our friend Travis came down the city where he lives and we all went out to Itaewon, an area known as the foreigner’s town. It was the first place I have felt unsafe since I arrived in Korea. there are MPs walking around looking for American soldiers who are breaking curfew. The metro stops running at midnight so we had to get a taxi after staying out. The taxi over charged is but we all made it back to my apartment and since i have a huge bed and a futon that converts to a bed I had room for all 5 of us.
In my first two or three weeks here I searched for a rock climbing gym and joined. When I walked in I couldn’t speak to anyone but there was one German guy who spoke fluent Korean and English too so he helped me out. I also met a Korean guy who speaks English and every time I go in I meet a new person and learn a new word or two in Korean.
Just this Friday, like the last Friday of every month, they held a climbing competition. It was free to enter so I figured why not, plus afterwards everyone was going out for food and drinks, socialize with some Koreans and eat good food, sounds excellent. Unfortunately I had gone to the gym twice already, once on Tuesday and then the day before the competition. In the two previous days I had been trying a problem that I couldn’t get repetitively and must have strained some muscle in my arm so I wasn’t able to climb at the top of my game. I didn’t come in last in the intermediate division and wasn’t too far from moving up 3 places. Give me a month or so and I will be in the middle of that group.
The vice principal at my school retired a few weeks ago so we had a Huge gathering at a fancy restaurant and everyone’s dinner was on her, backwards right! I also had to get up and wave and bow to everyone after I was introduced. that was also a reoccurring thing, the introductions. I had to go on a school wide TV news program and introduce myself then at an after school meeting i had to introduce myself again to all the teachers and new vice principal.
They have that good OJ here, too bad I wont spend 8 bucks on a tiny bottle of juice, maybe for Christmas. this stuff is made like 30 minutes or and hour from where I lived back in Florida.
Typical street scene around the neighborhood
Beautifully painted building of a palace
Wonder how much rent is? I would live here.
Dongdaemun Design Plaza looks like a space ship landed in the middle of town. It comes with blinky flashy lights and pulsing auroras. Watch this to see what I mean.
I got to use my new climbing rope finally. I went with some Korean guys and climbed lead on a big outdoor wall which was fun but I felt vertigo, which never happened back in Spain.