Sunday, September 18, 2011

50 hours plus tourism

So, the adventure of working in Korea has been underway for 3 weeks now. I have met all my classes, and all of my teachers. The students remind me a lot of Ponca City High, except that they speak Korean. I teach for 21 official hours, and plan for the other 19, with an extra after school class everyday. One of the most intimidating things is when a flood of students all tell you their name and then ask you to remember them. 700 students. I'm doing good to remember the 30 students in my after school class.

My biggest mistake is my inability to snap out of teacher mode. If one of my co-teachers talks to me immediately after a class, I sometimes respond as if I'm still teaching: speaking slowly and way too simply. It's embarrassing. However, all of my co-teachers are amazing, and they are all looking out for me.

The students are all really excited to have me around. But the typical conversation is:
"Hello! How are you?"
"I'm fine, thank you. And you?" ... Giggle, laugh, embarrassment.

It's really cute.

The most awkward conversation is when they try to get me to call a taxi. I have to explain that I don't use the taxis, and also avoid advertising my phone number.

My students are the lower scoring kids. This is hard for me, because they have been told by the system that they aren't smart enough. However, every one of them is really talented, and some of them are phenomenal at English. I wish the was a way I could really affirm the goodness that is in them.

Enough of the sap.

My trip to and from school is awesomely ridiculous. It is either an hour bus ride, or a half hour train/bus ride. The problem results in getting home. My first trip back on the train back home was interesting. The train went down one stop, and then a lot of Koreann speaking came over the intercom. Most of the people left the train, yet I remained. Then they shut off the lights, and I was in the dark, both literally and figuratively. Apparently most of the trains terminate at that station. So, I was kicked off and stranded with two more stops to go. It took two more trains until one came that took me all the way home. The next day I took a bus, and it took me an hour to get home, but I got to read the entire way.
Once I tried a different bus route and got lost. When I got off to backtrack, I discovered an entire underground shopping city in Cheonan. It felt very 80's cyber-punk. Oh the wonders.

And with all this craziness, I'm still finding time for tourism. Katie and I have been swimming in the Yellow Sea at Deachon beach, which was delightful. We also took a trip to Seoul in order to see Gyeongbokgung (palace), which was gorgeous. Apparently the only buildings that can have the colors and design are the temples and the palaces. It seems that they hold both the royalty and the deity in similar standings. There will be pictures to come.

The best part of my travels have been to the American sectors (Songton) near the military base. It looked like every 80's china town movie you can imagine, but with American products. In a country with no guns and little crime, this was where I felt the most threatened... In little America. And afterwards, walking to the train, it felt like a Zombie flick town: fog, darkness, random lights. But, the Mexican food. Oh, the Mexican food.

In the days to come we are going to a traditional mask dance festival in Andong. Check it out:

More to tell later and pictures to come.


The Wanderer said...

All of this sounds awesome. I miss your face. Are you still able to check your gmail in Korea? I've emailed you a couple times, and haven't heard back. If it's just because you're busy, I understand, but I wanted to make sure.

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