CLEVER. hahaha. i totes want one of these
sunday 07/24 (a day of firsts)
starting something new or meeting new people has always been nervewracking for me. i like it and i get excited about it, but it scares the crap out of me. i spend all day worrying about who i have to meet, what i have to do, whether or not the people will like me and if i’ll fit in. sunday was all kinds of this. preparing for the first day of class and meeting my host family made me really anxious. i wasn’t sure what to expect and if i’d do the right things. but after meeting my host family, all my worries kind of went away. my homestay family consists of a mom, dad, little sister (2nd year of middle school = 8th grade) and a younger brother (1st year high school = 10th grade). they are seriously one of the best things of this whole experience. they make me feel at home, feed me delicious food and help me practice my korean (like holy shit is my korean tested with them).
monday 07/25 (opening ceremony)
twas my first day of class and it was pretty okay, i think. i didn’t actually teach anything. it consisted mainly of the opening ceremony (which meant hella introductions and picture taking) and introductory games with our homeroom class. the day before, i had had issues with finding a working classroom so i had started monday feeling kind of unsure about how the day would go but i ended up getting a legit classroom so ultimately, no real issues or worries.
tuesday 07/26 (telk’s first day)
the first real day of teaching. what a HOT mess. i felt like i didn’t really know what i was doing. i wasn’t sure if i was being understood by the students or if the english was too hard for them, but i somehow made it through…but by the end of it, i was exhausted. it had only been one day of actual teaching, but i had gained huge respect for teachers. there’s so much that goes into teaching: keeping the class under control, making sure that they continue to be interested and making sure that what you’re saying gets through to them. it may not sound like a lot but even just doing one of these things successfully is difficult…it takes a lot of patience and willpower.
after classes, we had lunch at the government office (which we do everyday) and then went to this amazing traditional korean home (한억) that belongs to the jeong family. SO FREAKING LEGIT (pictures to be on facebook, i promise). people still live there and while it’s very traditional, there are a lot of modern touches such as tv’s, water heaters and your basic appliances…anyways, after that, we went to another older traditional home of the shin family and then went to this village with a bunch of wall murals. i wish i could speak about its awesomeness but perhaps its better shown through pictures than words (so just wait for me to slowly update my facebook).
after getting back to my homestay house, i ate dinner and then had to peace out super quickly to make it to a middle school dance festival for the middle school where the program was holding its classes. it was super interesting…there were different types of dances but the only ones i found intriguing were the ones of covers of kpop songs and the old ladies doing jazzercise routines to interesting music.
wednesday 07/27 (pottery in nature?)
korean pottery in the middle of nowhere (and by nowhere, i mean a freaking lush forest with awesome trees and plants). that is all.
thursday 07/28 (ohhh yeaaah kimchi!)
went to korea’s most famous kimchi manufacturer. they dominate the majority of the domestic kimchi market and also a good part of the international market. the visit consisted of a video presentation, a factory tour and making our own kimchi (super dope for sure!). we got hella free swag in the form of kimchi and other banchan (반찬).
friday 07/29 (swimming and VIP status?)
near/in Geochang, there’s an area of a river in the mountains that’s a popular place for swimming and playing in the water (which is also known as 물놀이 which literally translates to water play) called 수승대. so anyways, we ended up going to 수승대 for the opening night annual Geochang International Theatre Festival. since we were already at 수승대, we decided to also play in the river. as we were playing in the water, some little kids approached us and being the congenial person that i am, i ask them their names and ages and then they call me a freaking AJUMMA (married women). i felt affronted. i thought i looked young but i guess not…anyways, we ended up talking with the kids and then playing games. shortly afterwards, we headed to the festival to watch a korean adaptation of the tempest. it was very…interesting to say the least. i hadn’t read the tempest before so i wasn’t quite sure what to expect but according to the other teachers, not all of it necessarily corresponded to what they remember reading. but yeah, before the actual play had set off, there was an entire opening ceremony during which we teachers were also introduced (since our program is essentially a city government sponsored program) and it was really weird to have to worry about where to bow and when to stand up. it was also just another reminder of how VIP we’ve been treated this entire trip. even from the first day, everything has been very much “we’re here to serve you/make sure everything runs smoothly for you.” and oh my goodness is the stanford card pulled out a lot. SOMUCH.
saturday 07/30 - sunday 07/31 (busan)
BUSANNN. so there are essentially three ridiculously large cities in Korea: Seoul, Busan and Daegu. Busan is located right next to the ocean and is known for its beaches and of course, fish and seafood. when we first get there, we head straight to 태종대 which is the location of a yummy restaurant with baller 냉면 (cold noodles) and a mountain that was the site of the APEC summit a few years ago. we ended up taking a shuttle car thing all around the mountain and stopped at a few places including the APEC site, a small temple and a vantage point viewing center with a Choi Ji Woo (famous Korean actress) photo exhibit…yeah, i didn’t understand either.
after 태종대, we headed to the hotel which was actually a motel by the name of “Special Motel.” even from the parking lot, you could tell that this motel was most likely used for shady purposes what with plastic yellow chains dangling from the parking lot’s ceiling at the entrance. right when we checked, we each get two bags with amenities (INCLUDING two condoms per person). we get to the hallway with our rooms and it looks like one of those themed motels that i remember seeing in “blue valentine.” as we walk towards our room, i start feeling a little apprehensive since all things point to love motel. as we open the door (im sharing a room with sabrina, another stanford student on the trip as a teacher), it looks pretty normal and actually kind of nice…except for the glossed glass thing that makes it kind of possible but not to see into the shower room if someone is in the shower room. and the tv seems good except for the tv guide book that has 2+ pages about the porn selection. to be real, this motel wasn’t bad: it was clean and well-equipped albeit super sketch…
after dropping our stuff off at the hotel, we headed over to the fish market where we had dinner (including 회, which is sliced raw fish and also SOO FREAKING GOOD) and walked around. we also went around the night market across from the street market which was really awesome. i regret not trying more street food and buying more stuff from vendors that night. totally missed out.
the next day, sunday, we went to 해운대, which is probably the most famous beach in Busan and apparently has the world record for the most umbrellas on a beach. there were SOMANYFREAKING people on this beach. and so many freaking umbrellas for like a few kilometers. and you have to rent the umbrellas to sit under them. it was interesting to see how many people could be on a beach and how much personal space was NOT respected. it was so different from american beaches with people renting floaty tubes and rafts to use in the ocean. it was also the one place in Korea that i saw girls in bikinis swimming. most of the time, girls are covered up when swimming but this seemed to be an exception. there were also hella foreigners too, which was also fun to see. after a few hours there, we had like a 10 course (literally) traditional Korean meal overlooking the ocean. it was delicious and the view was GORGEOUS. and then we left Busan to head back to Geochang.
——-end of week 1——-
i swear, writing even about one day or trip takes FOREVER. i don’t know how i’m even going to begin writing about weeks 2-4 and the trips to Jeju-do and Seoul after that. BAH BLOGGING. but i know i’ll appreciate this later when i want to look back and reminisce about this amazing experience.
will update soon, i promise.
as most of you already know, korea was a place that i had wanted to visit for a REALLY REALLY long time. i wasn’t sure how i’d visit it or get the money to do so…until i heard about the telk (teach english, learn korea) program in may. the name kind of threw me off a bit (considering the weird construction) and the fact that it was going to be in a small city made me really…nervous about its legitimacy. it was also a new program so i wasn’t sure what to expect. even after the info session, the application and the orientation, i still wasn’t exactly sure what the program was all about.
plus, any expectations that i had were kind of overturned. i thought we’d be doing one thing (teaching straight up english) and found out we’d be doing something else (teaching subjects…in english). i thought we’d be teaching 5th and 6th graders but found out that we’d be teaching 8th and 9th graders instead. i thought we’d be teaching a set curriculum but found out that we only had resources and a very loose outline. the only expectation i had that seemed to be right was the expectation that i’d be in korea…somewhere.
the weeks following up to my korea trip weren’t especially…special. the best part was living off campus in a house with really good friends. the worst part was slaving at research for the last three weeks and by slaving, i mean working numerous 10+ hour days a week. there were also meetings for curriculum for telk but to keep it real, i felt like we hadn’t really finalized finalized things until the days right before we left…and even then, the curriculum hadn’t even really been finished.
and so finally, the day came to leave for korea and regardless of the bagillion korean people on the flight to korea, i sort of couldn’t believe i was going to korea. i had thought about it a million times and wanted to go so badly but didn’t think it’d actually happen…and then here it was…a dream about to become reality.
even after entering the airport and walking around, i hadn’t realized that i was actually in another country. maybe it was because i was with other americans or maybe it was because i had watched so much korean television and listened to so much korean music that everything seemed familiar…
while i had had my korean skills tested on the flight to korea, my first actual test of my korean was at the airport while trying to rent a cellphone. i can’t say that i understood everything but my skills were enough to get by…as in, actually rent the phone. i also understood most of what she explained about the phone and prices (yay me?) but that’s not saying much since she tried to explain it simply.
after getting our luggage and renting our phones, we stepped outside. it was freaking humid and sadly, the humidity just got worse as we moved inland towards geochang, which is where im currently teaching. in addition to the weather being kind of whack, i’ve noticed that fashion is such an important thing to some people (especially girls). on the way to geochang (which is ~3 hours away from inchon airport), we ended up stopping at a rest area and in the bathroom, i ended up seeing girls dressed up in heels and short skirts and with loads of makeup. it was also like 11PM at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere. while i can understand wanting to look good, comfort has always been my first priority…unless i have no choice to dress formally or nicely.
anyways, after we arrived in geochang, we ended up staying at the “best” hotel in geochang for the night and woke up the next morning, ready to go to school and meet our homestay families…