My first week has been so hassle-free it’s hard to believe. Everything has gone so smoothly, it’s like I’m waiting for something to go wrong. And I’m sure something will eventually. But for now I am enjoying living and working in Korea. It is very beautiful and green here, there’s lots to see and do, and the kids are super cute (and super hyper).
My first week at school I have just been observing other teachers and planning my lessons for next week. On Monday I will be observed by the teacher I am replacing and then on Tuesday I am on my own! I think it will be pretty fun and easy, but also exhausting. Maintaining control over the students seems to be the most difficult part, since they are all so loud and full of energy. But they have been warned that Jen Teacher is very scary and mean! 🙂
My school seems really great, and I am excited about all the fun activities they plan. They have a birthday party every month where each class sings a song they have prepared, everyone eats yummy food and cake, and the birthday students get presents and lots of attention. There are also field trips… this month we will be going to tie-dye.
A lot of people have asked me how I am going to communicate with the students since I don’t speak Korean, but rest assured that will not be an issue… these kids are so smart! My kindergarten classes are 4-6 year olds (in Western years… in Korea I would be 29… it’s confusing) and read and write English on a 2nd grade level.
Another thing people were concerned about is that I won’t like Korean food. And they are pretty much right. We have a cook at school and I have been out to lunch with my coworkers a few times so I’ve tried lots of new things: bibimbap (rice, vegetables, and minced beef with an egg and red-chilli paste on top), hotteok (a pancake with peanuts and syrup inside), jajangmyeon (a supposedly Chinese dish with rice, vegetables, and black bean sauce), kimchi pancakes, and rice cakes (not like the rice cakes you think of that are crunchy – these have the most awful chewy texture you can imagine). Mostly I end up eating rice with the sauce on top and none of the weird, unidentifiable vegetables. The hotteok was yummy though.
Eating with Daniel has been less of an adventure. We went to a Vietnamese restaurant where I had chicken fried rice, he brought home pizza one night, and the groceries in our apartment consist of spaghetti, Pringles, yogurt, and ramen. Yesterday at the zoo we got street food: pineapple on a stick, chicken on a stick, and some kind of yummy fried dough dessert.
Also in all convenience stores they have an Orangina-type drink (orange juice with sparking water) so I am now addicted to that. I haven’t had too much alcohol, only a few Cass beers (tasted like Bud Light) and some Korean raspberry wine Daniel bought me (very strong and best mixed with cranberry juice).
So far this weekend has been pretty exhausting. Right now, my entire body is sore and I have a head cold. After work on Monday, the director took all of the teachers and staff out for dinner to welcome me and say goodbye to the teacher who is leaving. We went to VIPS for steaks and salad. It was very expensive and pretty yummy. I got a steak with Gorgonzola sauce, which was good but the sauce did not taste very Gorgonzola-y to me. The salad bar was very extensive, with Asian dishes, pizza, fried chicken, a pasta station, bread, desserts, ice cream, seafood, lots of salads, soup, etc. We stayed for about two and a half hours and then at the end they gave the teacher who is leaving her presents: a nice jewelry box and a scrapbook. It was very sweet.
After the dinner I met up with Daniel at an expat bar in Bundang called Pub 210. I hated it. It was everything I hate about America packed into a tiny room. A bunch of drunk, obnoxious people doing jager bombs and military guys starting fights. Ugh. The only upside was the free stuff: it was the bar’s one year anniversary so we got t-shirts and won a free Corona in a raffle.
Yesterday we went to Seoul Grand Park. It is a massive zoo, definitely the biggest I have ever been to.
It was lots of fun to see all of the animals but after walking around in flip-flops for eight hours I was ready to cry! I really don’t see how Koreans can do it in high heels. Today we are going shopping for groceries and necessities for the apartment.
And that’s about it for my first week in Korea. I think I have finally gotten over my jet lag and am back to a normal sleep schedule. After the 13 hour flight my ankles were so swollen, it was really scary, but they returned back to normal too so that is a relief. On a random note, Korean hospitals are extremely efficient. I went to get my required medical exam on Friday morning and it took a total of 30 minutes to check in, do sight and hearing tests, measure my weight and height, take a blood pressure test, talk to a doctor, get blood taken, pee in a cup, have a chest X-ray, and pay and check out. Sweet!