Wow, so it’s definitely been a while since I last updated and so many things have happened I’m honestly not even sure where to start.
For my birthday I went to a small town in Gangwon along the east coast as well called Ingu… the two girls that live there were hosting a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner/slumber party so I went with my friend Robert (one of the fellas in the next town over). It was raining like crazy, but I love the rain so I found it very peaceful and calming. Just as an example for how friendly and wonderful people in Korea are, especially in the small towns, Robert had gone into a convenience store to buy an umbrella since we had a 30 minute walk to the girls apartments from the bus stop, and the owner offered to give us a ride. Just like that, he closed down shop, we hopped in his car and he pulled up as close as possible to the entrance so we wouldn’t get wet. This type of things would NEVER happen in Los Angeles, and if it did, you would be calling the cops for kidnapping.
At one point the girls gathered everyone around and started a “what are you thankful for?” circle and in the middle they stopped everyone and surprised me with a birthday cake. It was very sweet and funny since I had just had my turn and announced my birthday. The foreigner community in South Korea is so welcoming and wonderful, I’ve met so many great people already from all walks of life. I forgot to take a picture pre-eating the cake, so here it is post:
I slept there and hung out at the beach with everyone the next day, it was a fun weekend. The following week I went to a workshop for my province and got to meet even more cool people. My co-teacher is married to my friend’s co-teacher in the next town over so I expect the four of us will be doing plenty of work related outings and activities together. I really like my co-teacher and his wife. On the way to the workshop we went out to eat at a Japanese restaurant…. I got Udon soup, it was really good!
The workshop was actually very informative and prepared me with some good questions and discussion points for when I met my co-teachers from the other THREE schools I will be working in. Yes, I will work in 4 schools total, 3rd – 6th grade. One of the schools is a Waldorf school… so that should be interesting. This upcoming week is my first week teaching and I’m still not really sure what to prepare in terms of lesson planning… let’s all hope for the best!
The next day after the workshop John gave me a tour of Sokcho, you can walk from one side of it to the other, it actually has some very pretty parts. We went on this tiny raft across a river (?) not really sure what to call it… and had some delicious squid sausage (I know it sounds gross, but it’s really quite tasty!) and I tried corn wine for the first time as well which was good too.
Then we went down to the fish market where we saw all sort of interesting things including this:
Here’s a picture of my office in my main school. I sit in the green chair and Yuni (my co-worker that I really like and get along with) sits next to me. She’s been great helping me with everything.
The following weekend I went to another Canadian Thanksgiving dinner in Sokcho (closest city to me w/ large foreigner community – about 45 minute bus ride). It was really fun and that night I spent my first night in a Jjimjilbang! A jjimjilbang is basically a sauna/spa where you can also sleep overnight. There are pools of all types of temperatures (gender segregated) and you have to go in naked – eek! It’s $7-12 depending on how nice the jjimjilbang is. You go in and they give you a shirt and shorts to change into and you get a locker to keep all your stuff. You sleep on mats on the floor with a pillow the shape of a brick – feels like one too! The next day we went into the saunas (not gender segregated) so then I was stinky and had to take a shower… I got over my fear of being naked in front of a bunch of strangers… next step is to be able to go in there w/ friends and hang out. Definitely a different culture than the states.
We met up with my friends since I kind of sort of organized that day to be my birthday celebration, we hung out at the beach, went out to eat some Korean BBQ and then went to noraebang (karoake). Definitely an action packed weekend, but I had a ton of fun.
The following week I had a teacher’s field trip and dinner. We went to Seoraksan Mountain for a hike, out to dinner, and then to a noraebang. The teacher’s dinners culture here is very interesting… you go out to eat and drink soju. Usually people will pour you a drink and you have to drink it and then reciprocate by pouring them a drink… so you can imagine you can get drunk really fast this way. However, my co-teacher and I came a little late so we were kind of removed from the group and sitting on our own so not many people approached me. Also, my co-teacher has told me that people are intimated to speak with me because they don’t want to use their English (a very common thing in Korea – people understand it, but don’t want to speak it – hopefully I will change this mentality with the students I teach!). Eventually I got tired of being isolated so I approached my vice-principal and co-workers and made them drink soju with me and this sort of broke the ice. The Principal and Vice-Principal were really drunk and on the way to noraebang the vice-principal was holding my hand the whole time and talking to me in Korean… no clue what he was saying but I kept hearing “Korean Culture” so I just nodded and smiled and gave him a thumbs up and said “yes, it’s good.”
That week I also went to visit the other three schools I will be working at and the homeroom teachers of the grades I’ll be working with. Everyone was very nice and pleasant and I look forward to seeing how things go… my classes will range from 5 – 23 students. Most are between 5-10 students though.
Here’s the view from one of my schools, this one is a 30 minute walk from my house. The others I have to take a bus, and my main school is a 15 min walk from my house.
That Friday we went to a conference where there was a woman from Finland speaking about their education system. Finland has one of the most top rated systems implemented for teaching English, yet students only go to school for 4 hours a day and receive little to no homework, but have amazing English skills. Korea is the opposite, way to much school and homework and pressure and emphasis on good grades. It was an interesting and informative lecture, but the whole entire system of education would have to change in order for that to work here and I don’t really see that happening in the near future.
On the way to the conference we stopped at a restaurant that’s in the middle of nowhere on a chicken farm and had some organic chicken soup… my co-workers surprised me with a birthday cake! It was very sweet of them, I was definitely surprised.