Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lost in Translation

The area of Bucheon I live in

In some ways it is hard to believe I've already been in Korea for six weeks.  At the same time, it's hard to think that it has only been that long.  Time is definitely going quickly for me.  But, I've been fortunate to do a lot in a little amount of time, including working a month now, so it can at times seem like it's been longer than only six weeks.  I'm starting to learn some of the language and can fully read and pronounce all the letters in their 40-letter alphabet.  Now it's time to focus on figuring out what it is that I'm reading.  

I do feel a little out of place sometimes when I'm walking around the city.  Bucheon has over 900,000 people, and from my experience so far the foreigner population is very small percentage of that total.  It is a very weird feeling when you can spend an entire day walking around and not speak a single word to anyone.  I have no idea how to have a conversation in Korean yet so I can't just walk up to someone and talk to them.  I do know that there are quite a few people who speak English, even if it's very little.  But I've been told that they are too nervous to approach a native speaker and try out their English abilities.  So far, the only interaction I've had outside of my school is with kids.  Kids are generally studying English in school so a lot of them will yell "Hello!" to me from across the park.  After a very brief exchange, they usually just run and brag to their friends that they had the courage to talk to a foreigner.  My students have been my saving grace so far. They've all been very open to hanging out some outside of class, taking me to different restaurants to eat traditional Korean food, or just hanging out at the coffee shop and talking for a while.

 Soccer field close to home

Saturdays on the Seoul Subway

Street Art

Coworkers on a random sidewalk couch

13 of my awesome students out for coffee

I mentioned before that I live very close to work which has definitely been a huge blessing. It only takes about 5 minutes or so door-to-door.  I also lucked out and got one of the nicer apartments I've seen so far.  It's very spacious (for Korean standards), and has a kinda modern feel to it.  I haven't been able to furnish it as much as I'd like so far, but another paycheck or two and we'll remedy that issue.  

Kitchen and washer. Near the entrance is my closet

My desk and my dressers behind

My loft where I sleep (and still don't make my bed)

My all-in-one bathroom/shower

Overall, I'm thrilled with my decision to come to Korea so far.  I've met some awesome and adventurous people from all over the world.  The Korean students and people have all been wonderful and very accepting of me.  I've been able to play tourist on the weekends and see a lot of amazing things.  Although, this weekend we're headed to do some teacher training so no weekend fun for another week.  I'm getting excited to start planning my first trip outside of Korea in a month from now.  The hard part is deciding where to go.  The adventure continues...

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fish and Elephants

It's been another great week in Bucheon.  I am now two weeks into teaching, and have officially been in Korea for a month!  This past week was a great one with my students.  Besides teaching them English, I was able to get to know them all a lot better this week.  On Wednesday, I got to go out with a few of my adult classes.  One class took me out to coffee and lunch and I got to eat an amazing dinner with another class.  And then on Friday I had a third class take me out for lunch.  I'm being spoiled by them quite honestly.  They are all so eager to hear about why I decided to come to Korea and what I think of it so far.  And as soon as we were out of the classroom, they all wanted to know if I drink!  I told them I don't, at least until they aren't my students anymore, and then things could possibly change haha.  I've gotten lots of great tips from the students, and I even signed up to start learning Korean on Friday.

I've also had a very fun weekend.  On Saturday a group of teachers from other SDALI (the school I work for) locations all got together to take some students on a field trip in Seoul.  We went to the COEX Aquarium.  COEX is a crazy-big mall, large enough that it has an enormous aquarium inside of it.  It was great to see some of the teachers I went through training with again, as well as meet some teachers that have been here longer.


Earlier today I ventured over to Incheon to catch a Korean Basketball League (KBL) game.  It was a hotly contested game between the Incheon ET Land Elephants and the Anyang KGC.  This was my first professional game of any kind in Korea, and I was not disappointed.  Anyang was leading pretty much the entire game, up by 10 even in the fourth quarter.  But Incheon kept the home fans happy with a come-from-behind win, 72-69.  It was quite the experience for me going out on my own with nobody who could help me with Korean.  Even just getting a ticket proved to be a little tricky.  But for just under $20, I was able to land myself a 2nd row ticket, hamburger and a beer!  The crowd was absolutely nuts compared to an NBA crowd.  They were all chanting and clapping the entire game.  And a simple layup was enough to get people to stand and cheer.  It was a great experience and makes me even more excited for the coming baseball season.  Did I mention I was the only white guy in the 7,500 seat arena?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Settling in...


A view of Seoul

Last weekend was my last weekend with my training group in the eastern part of Seoul.  On Friday, we were celebrating a birthday in the training group so we all went to North Seoul Tower and out to dinner together.  It was a great time.  One of the traditions of the Tower that was really cool is that couples will take a lock up to the top and lock it on the fence (or anywhere for that matter) to symbolize their love being locked forever.  There's even a place to dispose of the key to make sure you really mean forever, haha.

Michelle and Micah locking it up

 Cathal and Debra claimed their spot

 Thousands and thousands of locks

 Some long-lasting love

We stayed up at the Tower enjoying the views until after sunset before we all went into Myeong-dong for dinner.  For me it was a great way to spend the day with my new friends. I was surprised that we had such a great group of people in our training group.  People from all over: Oregon, Idaho, New Jersey, New York, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, Chicago, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand.  I had a awesome time getting to know them all and I look forward to being able to visit them all over Korea.

 City view at sunset

 Making our way back down

A view of the tower

I've made my way to Bucheon, my new home for the foreseeable future, and I've just finished my first week of teaching.  Honestly, everything has been great so far.  My apartment is really nice and much more spacious than I was expecting.  Don't get my wrong, this is still small by American standards, but I have a loft area which I'm using for my bed currently and it really helps make the whole space seem bigger.  Although, the loft is about 4 feet tall at best which requires some ducking just to make my way to the bed! The bathroom is the biggest adjustment, because the bathroom is essentially in the shower.  There's no dedicated "shower" just a drain in the middle of the bathroom!  The shower head is above the sink so I can shower and brush my teeth at the same time if I need to.

The apartment is really close to the school, which is a great advantage.  It's probably a two minute walk.  The longest part of the commute is waiting for the elevator at my building. The other teachers all seem to be cool enough, and they all get along which is always nice. I've been out to dinner/lunch with them already 3-4 times this week, and they seem to be willing to help me adjust to my new home.  My schedule is pretty favorable, for the first term anyways.  I work with adults from 10a-noon, elementary/middle school students from 4p-7p and then one more adult class at 8:30p.  It does make for long days but I'll be able to take advantage of the breaks to get a lot done.  And, I'm done at noon on Fridays!  Huge bonus.

I really haven't had much free time since I got here last Sunday night, but this weekend I'll take plenty of pictures of my neighborhood and apartment and get them up here soon.
지금은 안녕

Myeok-dong at night