The long awaited move has now come. Orientation is over and I’m settling into my new home for the next six months at DongSeoul. It is on the east side of Seoul just about 20 minutes from the main institute. I’m excited, but slightly intimidated by my responsibilities here. DongSeoul is a very small school with only 2 other foreign teachers. One is my coordinator, Marvin Yordan, a Pilipino from Texas. And the other is an older woman, Joy Hank, from Cape Town South Africa.
Between the three of us, we will be planning and facilitating all the activities of the institute. Teaching classes is the main duty of a foreign teacher at SDA, but not the only one. We are in charge of organizing all the weekend programs: vespers, afterglow, Sabbath school, worship service, the sermon and any bible studies, meetings or outreach activities in the afternoon. I just got the Weekend Service Schedule a few days ago and I’m giving my first Sabbath School presentation next week. The following weekend I’ll be giving both the children’s vespers on Friday night and the sermon on Sabbath—I think preparation for these will keep me busy for the next couple of weeks.
In between busy days at work, I stay in very nice apartment about 5 minutes walk from the institute. I was happy to find out that there are two other girls living with me. Their names are Nicole and Aileen who are both Korean teachers at the school. Nicole, however, graduated from PUC, so she is able to teach Level 1 of the 6 Levels of adult English classes. Aileen is one of 4 Korean teachers that are responsible for teaching Junior classes—kids ages 7-16 placed into around 15 different levels. The way these classes work is quite different from the adult classes. They start at 2:30 after most kids are out of school, yet they go until about 9:30pm depending on the level. I swear, never have I been to a country where everyone works so hard! I’m still getting use to seeing middle school kids out on the streets when I leave work around 10pm. Most of them are just leaving their around that time Hogwarts.
“Hogwarts?!” you may ask. “Isn’t that the name of a school one attends to learn about wizardry?” Well, not really. It’s actually just the name of any private institute that focuses on teaching one particular area of study. For example, SDA Samyook—the official name of our institutes here in Korea—is a Hogwarts for English. There are many different types, however. Some teach piano, some teach math, while others concentrate on sports or acting. The reason for these institutions is to ensure that every child has more than enough opportunity to be the best in their class. It’s also very common for a child to attend several Hogwarts in one day. For parents, it’s like a competition; the child next door can’t be smarter than theirs.
Interestingly enough, Korean culture can pretty much be summarized in two words: education and appearance. These two things seem to drive everything they do here. It’s sort of this way in the states, but nowhere close to the extreme it is here. I mean 13 year olds out from 8am-10pm everyday attending classes and then going home to do several hours of homework or instrument practice? It’s absurd! Yet, it’s just part of life here.
Appearance is an equally important aspect of Korean culture. Many people, including my house mates, have very nice wardrobes, cell phones and computers. Yet most of them make hardly any money compared to what they spend on their expensive trinkets. They charge up credit cards and go into debt to get $1,000 phones just so they can look the part of a rich person. Oh, and the technology here…don’t even get me started. It‘s around 2 years ahead of the US. When you get on the subway, everyone is either watching TV or surfing the Internet on their cell phones. There’s a cable network for cell phones called DMB and if you’re Korean, you probably have an app for it. Also, many phones have projector capabilities. So, if you want to show your friends a picture or a video, or if you want to watch TV on a larger screen, just point and shoot at the nearest white wall. A clear large image will instantly appear—but it works best in lower lit areas. So ya…Koreans are tech junkies.
Ok, enough about Korean culture. Let me talk about my schedule for a bit. I just finished my first week of classes at DongSeoul, and it wasn’t until today that I realized just how tired I’ve been. I usually leave my apartment with Nicole around 6:45 as we both have our first class at 7am. After my morning classes, I have a 3 hour break for lunch. My Junior classes run from 3-6:30pm followed by a break before my evening class at 8. I am all finished by about 9:30 and then stay to answer any questions from my students or chat with Marvin about my own questions.
Overall, my classes this week went well, but I still have a lot of learning to do. Orientation was great and I learned so much, but I’m discovering there are still so many more things I don’t know. For instance, I was trained to teach my Junior classes in a very specific way. Yet, when I was given the schedules for them this week, I discovered quite a few things have been altered. Luckily, Joy was able to help me get accustomed to the new methodologies. Apparently they decided some of the things I was taught in Orientation are “the old way” of doing things, so they changed the schedule. My pearl of wisdom for the week: open mindedness and flexibility is a necessity :)
ps. Sorry about no pictures of my place in this post. As soon as my camera gets back from being fixed in the states, I’ll post a bunch of DongSeoul for ya!
Anonymous asked: So, what is your favorite thing about Korea so far?
The food!!! I have the best jibsaneem (deaconess) in Korea! She cooks such yummy meals. Bibimbap is my favorite dish that she’s made so far. Also, yesterday I had some very yummy 닭갈비 (chicken galbi) at a traditional Korean resturaunt in Meongdong. There are so many new twists to the basic flavors here! Spicey is the main one, but sour and sweet are often in side dishes mixed with flavors only experience can tell.
I’ve only had one bad eppisode with the food here. It was during Orientation when Tasha took us to a Nak Won (Korean fast food place). I ate a REALLY hot pepper and hiccuped 3 times! I then discovered why Koreans eat such spicey food. It’s the only way to keep warm during the bitter cold winters here. When one eats something as spicey as the pepper I had, an instant heater developes inside your body. And it lasts a very long time. In my case, it lasted nearly 12 hours. I felt as though I had a fever and began to wonder if I still had an esophagus.
I don’t remember if you were a pathfinder or not but, no matter, I’ll bet you get the hang of the shower and toileting situation down pat really quickly! lol
So glad you’ve arrived safely and the fun has begun. What an adventure!
Our Adventure into downtown Seoul!
Well, today was my first official day of orientation. They seem to be breaking us in easy—which is good because most of us are suffering from a fairly bad case of jet lag being a whole 12 hours off our normal circadiun rhythms. We didn’t have breakfast until 9am which was nice, but since I woke up at 5 and couldn’t sleep, I needed a little snack to get me by. This whole time difference is really going to take some getting use to. Ok, well before I tell you about today, let me back up and cover my arrival.
Last night, I arrived at Incheon just after 7pm. I got all my luggage loaded onto a free cart and headed to customs. Then came my search for the SDA Language Institute’s representative who would drive me to my temporary home for orientation. When I entered the main greeting area of the airport, my heart sank as I saw the dozens of tiny paper signs (most of which I couldn’t read) waving in my face. Luckily it didn’t take too long before I saw the large foam bord with three very familiar letters: SDA. As much as I enjoyed my attempts to communicate with the Asain couple I sat next to on the plane, I was so greatful to see an American holding the sign. Aaron Proctor, the Adult Training Supervisor, gave me a warm welcome to Korea and helped me find a place to wait until the other two girls from my flight arrived.
I first met Janice D’Gracia (above). She’s a fun spirited Hispanic from New York who loves the Yankees. We chatted for a bit and then got on our laptops to check e-mails and facebook messages. Shortly afterwards Julyann Pagan came along to join us with her cart of luggage. Turns out that both Julyann and I went to Southern. She was a Health Science major—we probably saw each other in Hickman once or twice as we both found the other familiar, but we never officially met until now.
Aaron went to find the last person we were waiting on, Kenton, who had arrived on another flight. In the mean time, us girls got to know each other a little more. Aaron came back after a bit and hearded us down towards the exit to meet Kenton. Because I was the first person to arrive, Aaron was kind enough to push my 200 lb cart for me, while I got the priviledge of holding the 1/2 lb foam board sign :)
Kenton is Austrailian. Need I say more? Well to be a little more specific, he’s a 6’7” Austrailian who is extremely funny. He’s from an island I forgot the name of, but he mentioned something about Wyoming. Anywho, I told him right off the bat that I was going to be his best friend. I love cool accents :)
We then hustled our way to the van outside the airport. I had to rescue Julyann from near death once because her cart got stuck on something in the crosswalk. Unfortunately, pedestrians do not have the right of way here. One can easily get run over if he/she isn’t carefull. Once we got all our stuff packed in the van, we settled in for a 1 1/2 hour trip to the Institute. It was a pleasant ride. Aaron found out that Janice is a Yankees fan, which presents an interesting situation considering he’s a die hard Rangers fan from Texas. I don’t know much about baseball, but I do know that the MBL Championship games are a big thing and these two teams are playing eachother right now. Their rivalry is actually quite amusing. I think they enjoy the friendly smack talk just as much as we enjoy listening.
After getting us to our apartment at the Institute, Aaron showed us the ropes. Aparently Koreans don’t really use showers like we do. The shower is kinda like those kitchen sinks with the pull out handle that sprays water on hard to reach dishes. Litterally, the shower nozzle is an extension of the sink and you just stand there and spray yourself down while all the water goes through a little drain on the floor. Another big adjustment for me has been the toilet situation. Not the actual bowl, but the clean up process. Koreans have rudimentary sewer systems and can’t put anything but biohazardous material in them. So anything that doesn’t fall under that catagory has to be put in the trash, including all toilet paper! Gross! I won’t go into too much detail, but it kinda makes the bathroom stink if the trash goes for more than a day without being emptied.
Julie and Janice wanted to make some quick phone calls home at the main office, but I had taken 2 benadryl at the airport and was ready to crash. When I woke up this morning I was mentally awake, but it took a bit for my body to catch up for some reason. I read my Bible for a bit and spent some much needed quiet time with God.
At breakfast we got to meet the other new teachers. There are 2 other girls and 3 other guys. The girls are Natalie (Chinesse) and Rasheda (Jamaican) who are both from Canada. The guys are: Mark from LA (also Bio pre-med), Anthony from Floriad and Orion who is also from LA. There’s another guy, Justin, who will be coming on Thursday. There are a total of 10 new teachers in our orientation group. After getting to know each other a little over some yummy Korean cereal and soymilk, we went down to the Japanese Chapel to have worship with Aaron. Several other office staff joined us to introduce themselves. They were Tasha, a friendly 1 yr patron from Maryland; Leo, from South Africa is the most senior of all the foreign staff and is serving his 11th year here; Nonna, from the Philippines and Hetani also from South Africa. After a nice study on Moses we had a myriad of papers to fill out regarding our alien registration cards and bank accounts. Tasha then took us on a short walk to the bank to open our new accounts. I have 641,830 won in my account, which is just over $500 USD. This is suppose to sustain me for a month and 1/2 before my first paycheck arrives, so I hope it lasts.
With some Korean cash in our pockets, we hurried back to the institute for lunch. I enjoyed my first meal of rice, kimchi and seaweed. It was so delicious! After filling our stomachs we visited the boys “alley” as we call it. They live down the street from the Institute in a small vintage Korean alley way. After discovering that they have a nicer apartment than us, we were very upset. They did offer to let us use their showers though, which I thought was nice, despite it being kinda impractical…not to mention awkward. Despite the fact they have nicer appliances, poor Keonton doesn’t fit inside the showers or on his bed. He’s simply twice the size of your average Korean.
Soon afterwards, we headed up the hundreds of steps to the Samyook Hospital (above). Aparently Samyook means 36. But no one seems to know why both the school and hospital have a number for a name. At the hospital we had more tests done than I’ve probably ever had in my life. This is a slight exaggeration, but it was quite extensive. We were drug tested, poked and pricked, x-rayed, sight and hearing tested, as well as given an oral exam…aparently I cause a lot of trauma to my gums and need to not chew so hard. Very enlightening.
After all that fun, Tasha took us to the hardware store to buy adapters for our computers and other electronic devices with foreign plugs. We walked around a bit afterwards to several other shops. Janice and I both need a purse. During our search, I discovered that many streets in Seoul are very similar in smell to those of Paris. If you’ve never been there…it stinks like 2 day old urine. Not a very pleasing smell to the senses. I don’t know why it’s this way, but I suspect it has something to do with the rudimentary sewer systems.
After an unsuccessful search for purses, we headed back to the room for a chance to charge our computers. Then it was time for supper…which was very similar to lunch. I have a feeling I’ll be seeing a lot of this stuff. After supper was cleaned up, we made a plan to meet at 7:30 to do a little trip into the city. We boarded a bus and headed to a nearby train station that Nonna had told Natalie about. It was a point of interest due to the big shopping mall inside. Our little excursion was very enjoyable and I took a few pictures. The shopping center had really cool artistic decorations both inside and out. It also had many western stores like Dunkin’ Donuts, Cold Stone, and TGI Fridays. Additionally, it had a Wal-Mart type super store inside called Lotte Mart. We walked around for a while, but soon got tired and decided to head back. It was fun taking the bus, but can be very crowded at times. I’ve been practicing my Korean too…mostly just the 2 words I know. “Anyong-haseyeo” is hello, and “comesahamnida” is thank you. I need to learn a few more as you may realize, but I’m making progress :)
Well, now it’s almost midnight and I have to be up in a few hours to start my day again. Oddly enough, I’m not that tired…maybe because my body thinks it’s only 11 am. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll adjust sooner or later. So I’m off to bed, but more exciting things will come later via this blog. Maybe not in this much detail though. Goodnight!
So this morning (if you can call it that) was about as I expected. No sleep in 19 hrs—due to a lack of diligent packing and excitement about this trip. Now I’m waiting for my next and final flight in the San Francisco International Airport (SFO…don’t ask me what the O stands for…maybe ornery).
I’m flying Singapore Airlines from San Fran to Incheon. I had 2 checked bags—perfectly weighed to 23 kilos—and a smaller bag and my backpack. Aparently the carry-ons can only be 8 kilos and both of my bags were around 13. Any type of packing/unpacking has to done in a designated area about 250 feet from the ticketing booth. Thank goodness mom had previously convinced me to get a luggage cart! I felt like I was in a relay race or something…the lady at the counter knew my informaion by heart by the time it was all said and done.
I had to rearrange things 4 different times! Despite all my efforts—and stubborness to not throw anything away—I still ended up paying the $110 fee for checking an extra bag. Ugh! Such a tragedy! Oh well, those sandwiches and cookies were worth it. And I wasn’t about to throw away my new books, my Bible and my prayer journal. I guess everything here comes with a price. I’ve paid a total of $170 for my luggage today. Silly regulations! I remember the good old days when everything was free! Even water!
My first flight was very short and cramped. The plane was hot, like Arizona in July, which made the dirty men smell 10x’s worse. Yuck! Glad that’s over. The good thing about it was the two pilots were very nice (even though I think they contributed negatively to the aromatic pleasure onboard). My second Flight was much better. I think I was able to sleep for some of it…either that or the time difference threw me off. It simply didn’t seem as long as 5 1/2 hrs should be with 200 other people in the same small space as you. Both flights I had a window seat, though, which is always a plus!
In line for security here at SFO, I started reading my long awaited for Francine Rivers book: “A Voice In The Wind”. It’s so good, I started crying right there in line! I hope the security guards didn’t think I was cooky. Of course, being sleep deprived and recently violated financially can make even burly men emotional—not to mention me!
Well I popped some Diphenhydramine in the bathroom about an hour ago. Don’t worry, I didn’t get an allergic reaction on the plane. It just helps me sleep through the mayhem all around me. I’d love to be awake and sociable during this flight, but I know I’d be dead tired if I did. We’re beginning boarding in a few minute so I should probably finish up my food and get my stuff together. I’ll put more up once I’m settled in my room tonight. Thanks mom for all the yummy food! I saved money on that at least :)