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Published: August 20th 2006
Two days ago, I took a six-hour train ride from Seoul to Yeosu with my co-teacher and principal. Beforehand, we had a ceremony where we all got introduced to our school officials. My co-teacher (Mr. Kim) and principal (Mr. Woo) flew to Seoul the night before and met me with smiles and kindness. All of the Fulbrighters and their school officials then had a joint luncheon, and it was very nice to start getting to know more about my school, my colleagues, and Korea. After that, I said goodbye to my fellow Fulbright ETAs (minus one, Colleen, who was going to Yeosu, too) and headed south.
So far, it has been fabulous. I was nervous about meeting everyone (school officials, my host family, et al), but it has all turned out very well. My co-teacher has a wonderful sense of humor, my host family is very nice, and my host-sister is nearly fluent in English (so she translates for the rest of the family). My house is on an island that is connected to Yeosu proper by a giant bridge (that lights up in multi-colored shades at night), and it is practically right on the water. There are mountains and
hills on all sides (looks like it will be good hiking), and the ocean breeze takes away some of the heat. Everyone has been very kind to me-- I feel like I will be well taken care of! So, overall, I am quite pleased.
I also have already gotten the chance to see my school. I start teaching on Monday, and I'm rather excited. I know it will be a difficult job, but I think it will be fun and rewarding, too. I teach class for 18 hours a week and then will have time between that for planning and other school work. I get to meet my fellow teachers on Monday, too. I hope I make a good impression!
As for all the other exciting things going on in my life (as if there could be more), my pre-departure time in Seoul (two days before going to Yeosu) was quite a fascinating and eventful two days. The first day, we had a meeting with Mrs. Shim, Fulbright Korea's executive director. After that, I went out with Christina (my roommate) and her family (cousins, aunt, and uncle) to dinner, a tea room (I tried several teas-- five flavor
tea, a citrus tea, jujube tea, and some others-- very delicious!), and then to a norae-bang (karaoke). It was a very fun night. Then, the next day, we went on a tour of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone), which was quite a sobering and educational experience. It saddened me to be in a place where the tension of the conflict was still so evident. We learned a lot about different skirmishes that occurred there, the places where meetings were held, etc. We mainly went to the JSA (Joint Security Area), which is a place that houses both military personnel from South Korea and North Korea, though their properties are divided in half. It is in the heart of the DMZ. We also saw other important places-- Freedom Bridge (where in the past families from both sides have been allowed to meet), the railroad line that connects the two countries but is not yet running, the Bridge of No Return (where POWs crosed to go from one country to another once they were released-- but could not go back whatever they so chose). It was all very moving.
After the DMZ, we returned to Seoul for a cookout at the US
Ambassador's house. Yes, that's right. Unfortunately, the ambassador couldn't make it, but we got to meet several other embassy personnel, swim in the Ambassador's swimming pool, and eat delicious American food (macaroni and cheese, hamburgers, hot dogs, fresh fruit and salad, cookies, tater tots, and many other things--what a feast!). Later that night, I met up with my Korean friend Songyi again. I went out in Seoul with her and two of her friends. It was very fun. They are all fluent in English, so it was quite a good time (and I didn't have to worry about the language barrier).
So, it is nice to be in Yeosu. It is a lovely place, and I am very happy to be here. I look forward to my future explorations of the area, it's people, my school, and everything else in between! And hopefully, I'll be able to put up some of these pictures in the next week!
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