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Published: January 6th 2009
Hwacheons' local market no idea what to do with!
When I registered with travelblog about 4 months ago, I had totally convinced myself that I would be writing regularly and that my entries would be interesting and full of my adventures in yet another part of the world. The reality is not that I simply havn't had time to write more that I havnt had much to write about.
In August when I arrived I had high expectations of seeing and really settling into a country I would spend the next 12 months. The first 7 days were spent at an orientation in Seoul. The long days that week meant that I saw about 2 blocks of Seoul at 11pm one evening.
Then on to my new home for the next year. On the last day my friend and I were told we would be living in a town called Hwacheon. In my excitement I grabbed my fold-out map of Korea and began searching Gangwon-Do province looking for my location. Eventually.....there it was... smack bang in the middle of nowhere. Luckily I had arrived with a friend so at least I knew we would have each other for company.
It didnt take me long to realise that Hwacheon
is smaller than anywhere I've been before, never mind lived! On a positive note, the apartment I was given in a high rise block was HUGE and amazingly new. Something as modern and large in London is reserved for the super rich. Another plus of this apartment is that all of the native teachers live in the same block and in a place so small where no one else speaks a lick of English we have gotten to know each other quite well.
So school began at the start of September and live has flattened and work consumes 5 days of my week. The 30 minute walk to the bus stop has become a part of my routine. Knowing that there are no shops closer than the town centre again makes me realise how amazingly spoiled I was growing up in London. It seems there is little to do in Hwacheon, I'm not sure what I am expecting but it really is a small local town.
The job itself is easy enough and not as challenging as I expected having never been a teacher before. The area is very remote once you take a bus out of Hwacheon
taken from Bongee Island.
'town centre'. My school is about 20 minutes by bus to a place called Papori. I would reference Papori as a village but in all honesty - Im not 100% sure what a place must have to qualify as a village but there are about 20 scattered houses among fields and mountains and a shop at the end of the dirt road which leads to my school. Being lucky enough to be near this shop during my first week I went in to buy a Coke and found a fridge full of cans covered in dust and dirt and havn't been back since. As one would expect, the school is incrediably small. Its a middle school with a total of 40 pupils over three grades! This is not my only school I also have two elementary schools one day a week each, both equally as small. My first few weeks I spent wondering how I was going to become a teacher overnight with no training and no knowledge. Of course once I got into it and got to know the kids and their level of English it became easier and my lesson planning became something I could do without stress.
The job is pretty good. I was a bit disapointed with the lack of motivation among the students. I had this belief that all Asians were amazingly hard working genius'. Many of the students understand so much more than they pretend to although the standard is not as high as I thought for 15 and 16 year olds.
Outside of work, where have I been? Well the nearest city is Chuncheon, about 50 mins by bus. So most weekends that is the trip made by most of the teachers here. E mart is really our closest proper supermarket. Hwacheon has a few small stores, slightly bigger than a Family Mart or 7Eleven. So spending a few hours in Emart is a common event. Of course taking three or four boxes on the bus home is not as enjoyable! Chuncheon is a nice enough city. Myeong-Dong houses my closest McDonalds which wouldnt norally make headline news for me. However the Korean food is not my taste and I have never enjoyed a cheeseburger or fries as much as I do now!
Over the Choesuk weekend I went to visit a friend in Daegu. A much larger city - which
This was 7.30am outside my school when about 300 army soldiers trooped by!
I could not see much of in two days but it was great to go out in the evenings and enjoy the bright lights of a city!
So it is already 2009 and I have been here 4 months already and school is closed for vacation so I can finally explore this country and see some new places. I can now say I am settled and have learned to accept the annoyances and difficulties that a foreigner living in Korea faces. I can look back on the first semester and feel that I have improved the English ability of at least some students.
The decision about what to spend my vacation doing was one which took me and my friend about a month to reach a conclusion. We researched so many places in Asia and eventually decided that there is so much here in Korea we want to see and do and already 4 months have passed where we havnt made it further than Chuncheon. So my decision was made and I will spend 7 days in Seoul and then go skiing for a few days as well. I am very excited about both these trips and hope
This was the first day of snow in early December.
that I have made the right decision to stay in the cold weather rather than head to a lounge chair on a beach soemwhere.....
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