Hello from Daegu, South Korea! Well, actually I sort of live in Chilgok, which is a suburb of Daegu. Anyway, my first two weeks in Korea have been crazy busy, which is why I haven’t been able to update much.
Let me start at the beginning…so I landed in Seoul on Sunday, March 31 and found it to be mass confusion. Thankfully I met up with the other new teacher, David, at the domestic ticket counter and we were able to figure out how to get our tickets and get through security. Once in the domestic area, we had a long wait for our flight, so we got to know each other before getting to the school.
The flight from Seoul to Daegu was quick and we landed and found that all of our luggage had arrived (thank God!) so we went to the main airport area and found a representative from the school waiting for us. He put us in a taxi and prepaid our fare so we were on the road fairly quickly. It was about a 30 minute drive to the school and when we got there, we found some of the other teachers waiting outside so they could welcome us and help us with our bags…it was really nice! After being shown to my room, I put the sheets on my bed, took a shower at my sink (yes, that’s a real thing here) and passed out.
I hit the ground running the next day…breakfast was at 8am, there was a mandatory staff meeting at 9am and then my training started at 10am. For the first week, they had us observe classes, work on developing our own lessons, and practice teaching the kids. We also had to have immigration health checks at the local hospital and that was what threw a bit of a wrench into things.
The Tuesday after we arrived, one of the Korean staff took both David and I into Chilgok to the very rural hospital there. I always thought the health check was just to make sure I wasn’t a cokehead and I didn’t have HIV…wow, was I mistaken! After I paid my 90,000 won (about $85) I saw a dentist, an ENT, an eye doc and then I had my blood pressure taken. They took it using one of those grocery store, electric cuffs (not a nice one, literally one like they have by the pharmacies in Shopko and Walmart). They didn’t have me roll up my sleeve and I was sitting at a really weird angle. Sure enough, my blood pressure was higher than they liked. When the Korean staff member told me that, I said, “Of course it is…I’m in a new country, I just travelled for an entire weekend, I’ve barely been eating and I’m jetlagged beyond belief. Yeah, my blood pressure is going to be high.” Apparently the medical staff didn’t understand, so they told me I had to return on Friday for a re-check before they would sign my immigration papers. I was pissed, but as it turned out the other teacher needed to return for more tests too, so it kind of worked out. Before I could leave, I also had to give a urine sample and the only toilets in the restroom were squat toilets. The title of that part of the afternoon was ‘Sue Makes a Mess.’ After that was the chest x-ray and then we were finally able to leave. When we returned on Friday, my BP was lower and they finally signed my paperwork.
I took it pretty easy during my first weekend in Korea. I had already been to Diaso (Korean dollar store) and Home Plus (Korean Walmart/Target) so I had gotten all of the little things I needed for my room and it was cold and rainy so there was little incentive to get me to leave my cozy room. Plus, I had been running around like a crazy woman for the past two months and it was nice to just relax for a few days.
On Monday (4/8), my contract officially began and I taught my first classes. For the first half of the week, I taught the grocery store situational class, which is a classroom that is also a mock up of a real grocery store. There are sections of fake foods, a cash register and baskets for the kids and you can imagine how fun it is to try to keep the kids from going wild. During the second half of the week I taught my ‘Women in US History’ academic class, which was fun but I think it’s a little bit too advanced for the kids…I’ll probably spend some time this weekend paring it down a little.
It’s taking me a little while to get used to being here…I’m starting a new job in a new field in a new country, so it’s a little overwhelming right now but everyone here has assured me that’s normal. There have been a few times where I’ve been ready to hitchhike back to the States, but thankfully the saner part of my brain has won out and I’ve stayed here. Being able to Skype with friends and family has helped that. What hasn’t helped my adjustment is having missiles pointed right where I’m living.
It’s weird, no one in South Korea is worried about the North and no one here really talks about it. The leadership here at the English village hasn’t addressed it outright and the teachers talk about it in hushed voices. Regardless, the staff here is somewhat worried; most of us have ‘go bags’ packed and ready to go in case we have to evacuate suddenly. Mine has a change of clothes, my medicines, my passport, my wallet, and cash in it and I always have my iPad with me. I hope that I won’t have to use it, but it’s nice to know that I’m ready to go in an emergency. Thankfully I’m never more than five minutes from my room.
Well, that’s it for now; I will try to post some in-depth observations and thoughts in my next posting, but for now I’ll leave you with this:
~Apparently the mountains that surround the English village are filled with wild boars and they sometimes make it into the village…it got so bad last spring that the school hired hunters to go into the mountains to get them but it didn’t work. The Korean staff has told everyone to make sure to carry an umbrella at all times because the sudden opening scares them away. I’m not sure if that’s for real, or just a way to make the English staff look like morons but either way, I hope I never encounter one.