Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I'm awful at this blogging thing...

So I have been in Gwangju for two weeks now and I have yet to actually blog about it. So here it goes. I officially came here on August 27th which feels like a life time ago. When I got to the office where we were meant to meet our co-teachers I was super nervous. I wasn't sure what to expect. I walked into the hall expecting to be treated by two co-teachers, one from each school. And of course I assumed they would both be female. So of course all of my expectations flew out the window when I saw one guy waiting for me. He briefly introduced himself and we sat in silence for the rest of the co-teachers' meeting which was entirely in Korean. So we native teachers just looked around and made eye contact that just screamed I don't know what the heck is happening now. I was trying to get a read on my co-teacher, but I got the feeling he could be a pro at poker because I just got a solitary vibe from him and was suddenly afraid I had walked into one of those co-teacher horror stories.

As soon as the meeting ended my co-teacher sprang to action and started asking me questions about this and that as we walked to his car. He literally had his car parked in the perfect spot for the luggage so I appreciated that. I hoped in and departed on the next leg of my adventure. I was no longer surrounded by other foreigners. I was now in the hands of a complete stranger and it was scary, but I excepted it and moved on. As we talked I discovered the other co-teacher was out for the day and that at least the co-teacher I had met was absolutely awesome. He has a want to learn more and a desire to help in all possible ways and I could not be happier with who I have been working with. First we went to my main school Gwangju Dongseong Girls' Middle School. I met the principal, who I was surprised was a woman based on my previous understanding of Korean school and social structure. She was very proper, but very nice. I then went to meet the vice principal. He was equally nice and welcoming, of course, and I find him rather endearing. 

Then I was ushered to have lunch in the school cafeteria. As middle schools were already in session I was subjected to the cafeteria lunch which actually included a Korean-ized corn dog among essentials rice and kimchi. It wasn't bad, but I was a bit jealous of my friends placed in elementary schools, which were not yet in session and meant they were taken to a restaurant for lunch. 

In the whirlwind of the day I made my to new apartment with my co-teacher. Like everyone else, I'm sure, I had delusions of grandeur in my future. Of course I got the expected one room apartment. I can't say I wasn't disappointed, but I have come to call it home. It's simple with a decent sized entrance way with a shoe cabinet and a bathroom with the shower hose attached to the sink faucet. Honestly, nothing can be worse than what I experienced in China, so it was all welcomed. My one room is actually a decent size and provided me everything I was contractually obligated. It is especially better since I rearranged the furniture, with some help of course from my follow newbie down the street. 

It was fantastic to learn that someone else was in the same area seeing as most people ended up about an hour away from here. I slowly learned that Pungam-dong, my neighbor in Gwangju, is about 15 minutes from anywhere worth going to. It's also a fantastic neighborhood that will provide you with most anything you would need. It helps that there is a giant Lotte Outlet at the Gwangju World Cup Stadium, which is only a 20 minute walk down the road. Of course downtown is where everyone goes to meet and experience some things unique to Korea/Asia. 

Back to the first days...I unpacked and my co-teacher came back after school ended and took me to the Lotte Outlet, which was very kind of him. I have to say that Korea really isn't as inexpensive as I was led to believe in some cases. I suppose it's because I seek out things similar to where I am from, but still a small head of broccoli for nearly $5 is ridiculous. Sure I don't have to pay anything for my apartment (I am one of the lucky few that don't even have to pay for utilities and cable/internet), but I still find it hard to fork over that much money for only enough broccoli to feed one person. But I digress...

I made sure to ask every question about how to work everything in the apartment. I suggest you take advantage of your co-teacher being in your apartment at every opportunity (water heater/floor heater, tv remote, air conditioner remote, washing machine, everything!). My co-teacher and landlord were sitting on my kitchen floor translating my washing machine and actually writing on it so I wouldn't forget. I also must add that my landlord and landlady are absolutely awesome and adorable, but more on that later. 

So the next day my co-teacher picked me up to go to school because I had no idea how to navigate the bus system. upon getting there I was given a lovely new laptop to work on, which does not commonly occur, so I was surprised. Of course it's in Korean, but that gives me good practice. I don't trust my slightly older laptop since it crashed a while back. Technology tends to agree to rebel against me so hopefully there is a language barrier between all of my current tech and the Korean laptop that has come into my possession. So I got the feeling there was an assumption that I might start teaching that day, but after a few words of my not being quite ready that Thursday and Friday were turned into "desk warming" days, or rather sit at your desk and plan all day days. So I made an intro PowerPoint about me and looked into making lessons to support what my co-teachers cover. I basically provide the spoken practice through games and activities at my schools. I don't see the students often enough, being at two schools, to take primary teacher role, but it works. On Friday, the co-teacher from my second school came to do the similar introduction at Daeseong Girls' Middle School. Luckily my schools are only one bus stop apart and you could walk to one from the other. Of course there is a massive hill or two in between, but in theory you could walk from one to the other. 

I did the same old meet everyone routine and then my co-teacher showed me how to take the bus to my apartment, which was not as awful I was thought it might be. I of course am completely spoiled by having my own car at home, so reliance on public transportation takes a little getting used to. (I can't wait to get a bike!) And that was my first experience.

That weekend was about getting to know the neighborhood and venturing briefly to the downtown area and getting briefly lost and intimidated by the area. I am slowly gaining my confidence in navigation of the city. Of course I learned from my friends that I basically had one of the smaller apartments, but I am happy with my area and landlord (who brought in a toaster oven at 10 pm one night along with his wife and they stayed to have a chat which involved the need of the awful translator on a phone. 

During the week I got more comfortable at my schools and started doing my intro lesson, which is basically all about me, but gives me a good idea of what everyone's English level is. It went well enough. They love to say how pretty I am, so of course I'm getting a gigantic ego. They also love to ask if I have a that's always fun to answer in the negative. So kids have amazing English ability others look like they will explode if you ask them a question in English. So that is going to be a challenge, but I am up for it. 

I think this post is long enough for now. I swear I will update more often! Well, more often than every two weeks...probably. Hopefully. Well bye.

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