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Published: March 16th 2009
Apec center overlooking the harbor bridge
I have been in Korea for a little over two weeks now. I flew into Seoul and immediately went to the other domestic airport and flew to Busan where i am living now. Within a few hours, I was sitting in front of Korean parents whose child i would be teaching. I was asked to lie and say i had been in Korea for over a week and that i had previous teaching experience in the US. I met my co-teachers. Jim is from Missouri, and a really nice guy. the other teachers are all from Korea and very nice as well. I was a bit jet-lagged, so they gave me the afternoon off.
The first night i went up to Hwamyeong where my friend Conor is living, and we had dinner at a typical Korean BBQ place where you cook your own meat on a grill in the middle of the table. Around the table are many different side dishes including gimchi (pickled cabbage), onions and chives in a soy sauce mixture, garlic for roasting, lettuce to wrap the meat in, typical Korena bean paste to dip the meat in, some sort of oil with salt also for dipping,
said to be the largest convention center in Korea. pronounced bexico.
and tongs and scissors to prepare the meat. Of course i love interactive eating, so i have since been to BBQ places at least 3 times a week.
I am now living in my own apartment, but i stayed in a love motel for the first 3 nights. it is a nice motel room (bigger than my place now) that is used primarily for trysts since most children live with their parents until they are married, so for some people that could be mid thirties or never like one of my co-teachers. My place consists of an small entryway to take off your shoes that leads into the bathroom or to the left is my main room with kitchen area. outside of this is my 'atrium' with washing maching and fridge. in the corner with the fridge also serves as my study where i have found free wifi. But, i normally only get a signal from above the fridge with my computer on top of a box of kleenex and lonely planet guide book with window open and me standing over the computer. Honestly while Skyping a family member i closed the window and the connection started to fade.
Haeundae beach that will be super busy in a few weeks. there is said to be more than 300,000 people on a weekend day.
Between work and play i spend very little time in my apartment.
My typical week day consists of waking up and getting an iced coffee at one of many, many mini marts along my 5 minute walk to work. From 9:30am-2:00pm i teach little 5-6 year old korean kids english, but really it is just gloried babysitting. We have snack time and eat typical Korean porridge or soup. I teach a few classes and try to keep their attention for as long as possible. Lunch is provided by the school for all the teachers and students. I prepare their little trays, and we say a chant and eat. If i get the kids ready in time, i have 10 minutes to prepare for my next class. The afternoon are more relaxed, and the kids are older and generally their english is a little better, with the exception of one class where their english is not so good and they really dont seem to care if they learn or not. I get off at 6:30pm, and walk back to my apartment or into the city to have dinner with friends.
The first two weeks have gone by quickly, and
random korean guys on army liberty that wanted to take a picture with me
i have really looked forward to the weekends. Last weekend i went hiking by taking up a cable car to the top of a mountain that over looked the city and then hiked down. Afterwards, a group of us went to a Spa/sauna known for being the biggest and best in the world. Korea is known for their spas and a Korean experience wouldnt be complete without one. inside you get a locker and strip down to your birthday suit, shower, and hop into the baths. there were scented tubs, and really hot ones. We spent a few hours there, and then ate at a good restaurant where we prepared tableside a duck or possible chicken stew/soup. This past weekend, Conor and I went to a temple on a hill called Beomosa. We ended up following this path that lead up the side of the mountain. At the top was a great view of the city looking all the way down to the ocean. 10 miles later the hike was over and we headed to Seomyeon, which is basically the downtown area of Busan. We went to our favorite BBQ place that we ate at the night before and ordered
the best beef we have eaten in Korea. Also, they serve normal mushrooms that you put on the grill, when they have warmed up you put water in the hole and let that start to bubble then add a little sea salt and eat it whole. Sunday i went down to the ocean with some friends and did a little hike along the coast through a pine forest. Afterwards, we went to another well known spa overlooking the water. You can stand on the balcony in the buff and look out onto the ocean, but i couldnt do it for too long because it was nearly 40F. Also, i have been to a Buddhist temple a couple times to try and get better at meditation. It was started by another foreign teacher, and we read texts in english and then meditate. Afterwards, we have dinner with the monk.
All and all I am settling in nicely. The Korean people are very helpful when i stick my hand out first. the hard part is undertanding what they are saying, and trying to communicate what I am trying to say. I have resorted to shirades and lots of pointing and nodding.
I now have a better understanding of what the students I am teaching are going through. This is not like South America, where i could almost always read and understand signs. Here, all the signs are in hangul or a romanized version of their alphabet, where i still dont know the meaning of the word. But i am picking up words slowly, and will hopefully be able to add to my vocabulary of please, thank you and hello, how are you doing?
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Hola from Espana
Hi Rob, Glad you're getting settled in Korea! Sounds like definite culture shock. Stacy and I are in Sevilla, Spain right now and getting ready to head to Cordoba or Granada. Spain is fantastic, but I'm definitely feeling the communication barrier. I could use your Spanish skills here! Anyway, great to hear from you and I hope you continue to get settled and enjoy the experience. Ciao! Nick