Its taken me a while to get round to writing this but I thought it time to share my experiences so far in South Korea, starting with my first few days here!
I will apologise in advance if this ends up being a long entry buts it hard to be brief when so much happened and I had so many experiences.
After a very long full flight I was met at the airport by John Lee and his wife. They were both really nice and John gave me a bunch of information that he thought I may find useful to refer to. His wife spoke very little English and I would find that that would become a common theme here in Korea!
It was about an hour and a half drive from the airport to my school in Deokjeong and as it was still daylight and thankfully not raining I was able to enjoy the views on the drive. My first impression of Korea was how green and mountainous it was. There were mountains on all sides as we drove and the towns and cities we passed through were build against their backdrop. We also passed a number of rice fields on the drive.
Once we arrived at the school I was introduced to Jong Sool who is the school owner. He seemed really nice and spoke reasonable English which was good news! I also got to meet Jill who is the teacher I will be replacing. Jill finished at the school the day after I arrived but has been staying in the apartment with my the last month or so until she starts her new job in September.
After visiting the school Jong Sool walked me over to my apartment while John and his wife drove round with my bags. On the way to the apartment we met Sara, Jong Sool’s wife and Mrs Cheung who is the director of the school and Sara’s sister. Once in the apartment they pretty much left me to things as they knew I would be tired, which I appreciated!
After they left I decided to start unpacking and got a bit of a second wind. Jill got back from school about 8:30pm and we talked about lots of things - the school in general, how things worked with the lessons, the kids at school, the town etc.
The next day I slept until late as a result of staying up late the night before and just being generally exhausted from travelling here.
I headed over to school just before 2pm with Jill and she showed me my office which is really quite big, and I have now got it all organised how I like it so I have loads of room to work! Jill then showed me the books that we teach at the school and the CD that runs along side the books. After this I felt much more prepared for teaching and really pleased that the general structure of what I was to teach was already there in the books and I just had to decide how to teach it and when to add to it etc.
At 2:30pm it was time to start classes. We had 6 classes that Friday and the kids were all really interested in me and they all seemed really enthusiastic about everything! Jill ran the lessons and I was there to assist in anyway I could and just generally get a feel for things and get to know some of the students! Some of the students seemed really upset that Jill was leaving and I was a little worried that they make some winning over, but I needn’t have worried as they all seemed to take to me really quickly!
After classes finished at 7:30pm I gathered up some of the books I thought I would be teaching on Monday so that could be as prepared as possible for my first proper day on Monday.
As we were leaving Jong Sool announced that we were all going for dinner! I have found that these is common practice over here - it seems that no notice is given for anything - but that’s ok with me as it unlikely I will have any fixed plans that I can’t move around.
Me, Jill, Jin Sun (Mrs Cheung’s daughter who is just a couple of years younger than me), Jong Sool, Sara, Grace and Sunny (Jong Sool and Sara’s daughters) went to dinner at a restaurant not far from school. The place we went to was a BBQ restaurant which seem to be quite common in Korea. The tables had hot plates in the middle of them where you cook the meat yourself. We had pork which seems to be the main meat here, and this pork was pretty lean. Strips of raw pork were delivered to the table along with a pair of tongs and a pair of scissors which they use to cut up their food rather than knives!!
We also had delivered to the table a large number of side dishes. One was a vinegary coleslaw dish which we each got a portion of. I didn’t want to be rude so I ate mine despite it being disgusting and because I finished it Jong Sool got up to get me some more!!!! Thankfully I stopped him and learnt my first lesson of Korean culture - as soon as something is finished they automatically refill it, so if you don’t like something and are only eating it to be polite, make sure you don’t quite finish it!!
Another side dish we got given was Kimchi, which is the Korean national dish. Its basically a spicy cabbage and not really that nice, but I tried some anyway!
BBQ restaurants have the best way of eating food I have ever seen - you get served a plate full of lettuce leaves and you take one, add a piece of meat, add some sauce and any of the side dishes you want, then you wrap it all up in the lettuce leaf and pop it in you mouth - awesome!!
Then helpfully got me a fork, so I wasn’t dropping things everywhere, but they seemed really thrilled when I tried out the chopsticks, even with limited success! Jong Sool even gave me a mini chop stick lesson!
A bit later during dinner, they brought out a Korean savoury pancake - it was very similar to an omlette back home, and it was delicious!
During dinner we drank water and it seems usual that this a drank out of small metal beakers - which feels a little like you are in a school canteen!
After dinner, Jill took me round the supermarket which was useful. I have found that it isn’t that difficult doing food shopping here, but you do pretty much have to rely on sight as the English labels are non existent!
It was about 5am before I got to sleep Friday night - have been really struggling with the jet lag, which is not helped by not needed to be in school until 1:30pm at the earliest so no real reason to get up early!
On the Saturday Jong Sool, Sara, Grace and Sunny came over around 11am and they showed me a few things around the apartment, including how to use the washing machine which was really helpful!
They then took me out for lunch to Pizza Hut!! We then walked back to my apartment from there which gave me my first proper look of the main street. The shops are on all floors of the buildings so the neon signs go all the way up the fronts of the buildings - it makes it really colourful at night!
Sunday, I finished unpacking and basically did nothing, allowing myself a day to try and get adjusted to things before starting my first proper day at work on Monday!