My First Real Week in Korea

Since my last post I have successfully ridden the bus to and from school and got off and on at my correct stops and transfers, I’ve figured out the heating system so I have taken many a hot shower in my smelly bathroom, I figured out how to open my washing machine after washing one load twice because I can’t read the Korean on the machine, I’ve gone grocery shopping for some necessities, and even cooked myself dinner last night and breakfast this morning. Looks like I’m settling in.  Here are some pix of my new digs and my new friend Marky Mark as the model.

ANYWAYS, here I am, sitting at my desk, doing what they like to call “desk warming.”  Basically, this whole first week I’m doing nothing.  My 2 co-teachers teach their classes English lessons for the week while I kinda grab my bearings, though I must admit, I’m still completely lost about where to begin.  I haven’t observed any classes, but I’ve perused the teacher’s manual from a couple years ago because it’s all in English, but I haven’t really seen a class book or anything.  However, it wouldn’t make a difference because their English books are in Korean.  It’s weird, but I guess it works for them?  Thankfully the previous English teacher left tons of powerpoints and lesson plans to go off of.  Thank you Shana!

Now let me recap the past week or so since I’ve lagged hardcore on the updation (yes I made that word up) of this here bloggy blog. This past weekend was my first official weekend out on my own in this big city. Luckily some of my friends live within a few subway stops from me, so we all met up at Nowon Station (2 subway stops from most of us) and then headed out to Hongdae on Friday night.  It took us a little under an hour to get there.  We started with dinner, where I got mad at Jason (my Aussie friend) because I really wanted Korean bbq, but he just hopped up, pointed at the concoction on the next table over’s table and said “We’ll have THAT!”  Turns out it’s soldier’s soup and it has something like cut up hot dogs, Spam and ramen noodles and it’s in a spicy broth. I did not eat this because I don’t do the pork sitch.  We did however also order some bbq so that satisfied my craving.  Between 5 of us, we downed 4 bottles of soju and went on our merry way to the bar Zen. This was a fun night for all, and an interesting night for some boys who cry in alley ways. It ended up being a 35,000 won cab ride back to North Korea (aka Danggogae aka my apartment), and luckily I had a homeless friend to split it with me.  We couldn’t take the subway because it doesn’t open til 4am and we were pooped.

The next day my new friend Mark, who might be one of my new favorite people, played tour guide.  He was here 2 years ago, so he knows a thing or two about a thing or two. We went to see the huge golden statue of King Sejong which lies in front of Gyeong Buk Do Palace. It was so breathtaking to see, because I really have always looked at Asian palaces in textbooks and could only imagine the magnitude and intricacies of the structures, but now I was standing in it. Pretty sweet. Here are some shots of me and some of my new seoul sistas in front of the statue and then in this gorgeous and serene (and humid) palace.

Later that day we went to a Canadian bar in Itaewon, and turns out my new friend Liz had a friend who was going to the same party as my friend-thru-the-Dicecca’s, Andrew.  I don’t know if she met her friend because we were literally there for maybe an hour, but I finally met Andrew in person for like 5 minutes and then we were off.  Hopefully I’ll get to hang out with him more before he leaves (he’s been here for 3 years!) We ended up meeting up with a bunch of other people from orientation, went to some Korean BBQ and then went out to the most ghetto bar ever. It was super weird and had quite the poopoo platter of people. Itaewon at night kind of reminds me of Hollywood Blvd.  Super dirty and kinda grimy.  But it was awesome during the day!  But I was in a funk that night and my feet felt like I had rocks in them and I just wanted to bounce.  So after some super spicy schwarma we bounced on back to North Korea.

Now for the reason I am living here!!  My school! I have such an amazing classroom that these pictures don’t even do it justice.  One of my co-teachers told me that my English room is the best in Bukbu.  So much for the name “Nowon” because apparently they spent Lotsowon on this room.  Check it out!

I have 2 co-teachers and their names are Chan Young (or Leni) and Jin.  Leni is 27 and Jin is 29 and they are both single and both super sweet pretty girls. I’m so excited to get to work with them! In the classroom the students are supposed to call us Miss Danielle, Miss Leni and Miss Jin.  This is different because everyone else tells me that the students say your name and then teacher, so Danielle teacher.  I think that’s more fun, but whatevz.  Since I haven’t been teaching, the students are still super curious about me.  During their breaks they poke their heads in my room and yell “HELLO TEACHER! WHAT’S YOUR NAME?”  Some ask how old I am, most stand and giggle and stare, some come in and run around the room and play tag, and one little boy already told me he loves me. Aw shucks.

I took a break from Facebooking for the day on Monday when Leni and Jin took me on the long haul down to the Immigration office to get my Alien Registration Card (ARC).  I don’t know how I would have done it without them since I don’t think the people there speak English.  I also probably would have gotten stuck making the trek back 2 weeks later, but Leni told me to pay 4,000 won so I will get it mailed to the school within the week!  Then I can get a cell phone and open a bank account. AHH!!  Aside from me getting to be a real person in Korea, it was a great trip because we had lots of girl-talk, figured out that Jin and I are both obsessed with Dexter, and even talked about our blood types.  In Korea, asking someone “what is your blood type?” is like asking someone “what is your sign” in America.  Blood type tells a lot about you apparently.  I’m O+ which according to Korean culture is very desirable and means I’m outgoing, trustworthy, loved by all, and will never get passed over because apparently I stand out very much.  Well, blood type, thanks for the ego boost!

Now it’s Wednesday, I’m still sitting at my desk keeping it warm and attempting to figure out how to put together a lesson plan.  I think I know what to do but I feel like I don’t have a jumping off point.  I’ve also been working on my About Me power point for when I officially start teaching next Monday.  Tonight I’ll be going to dinner with the other teachers since it’s my Vice Principal’s last day. I’m sad because she has been so sweet to me in just the few times we’ve met. My co-teacher even told me I didn’t need to come tonight because they will be eating pork and they know I don’t eat that (proving to be quite difficult!). I told them I don’t want that to be a reason I don’t come to things and she was so excited and told me I’m awesome 🙂 So, I will be eating rice and kimchi for dinner. Tomorrow I will also be broadcast to the entire school and introduce myself to them. The school has a fancy broadcast room and I sit at a big chair behind a huge desk.  I feel like I look like FDR having a fireside chat or something.  I will be doing this every 2nd 4th and 5th Monday of the month.  I guess I’m supposed to tell 5 minute stories and play true/false games to get the kids excited about learning English.  Wish me luck!

Well, I’m off to go try and do some work.  Hopefully the next post will be sooner and not as long.  Sorry, I’ve just been running around like a mad woman. Oh, and Jeanette is coming to visit me this weekend! AHHHHH!!!

Ok, PEACE!

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