After months of work and planning, Sara and I finally arrived in South Korea. We are currently living in Tongjin-eup, a suburb of Gimpo City. We are approximately an hour from Seoul, the capital city of South Korea. A lot has happened in the last 6 days, so let us start by sharing our 13 hour flight.
We left Barrie at 10am for our fight from Pearson International Airport in Toronto to Incheon International Airport at 2pm. After 13 and a half hours of flying we landed in South Korea. After flying for 13 hours all you want to do is move around. Sara and I moved quickly to the baggage claim area after a series of escalators and a quick subway ride. Yes, a subway in the airport.
Mr. Kim (Kim is a very common name) was waiting for us with a sign like we had been told by our recruiter Teach ESL Korea. He spoke only a few words of English. Sara and I went to his van, which was a welcome surprise because of my bike, rock climbing gear, and lots of clothes. The ride to our apartment was about 45 minutes. During this time I wondered why there weren’t any stop signs and just a general “what the hell is this guy doing” crossed my mind more than once. He was texting non-stop, had a TV on his dashboard, and an extra large GPS. Driving in Korea is aggressive and fast (if you drive a cab), but then incredibly slow. The Koreans clearly have not figured out how to check their blind spot, and generally understand right of way, which only exists as they inch the front of their car slowly into the intersection until oncoming traffic has no choice but to stop. I wish I could drive here!
After the interesting car ride we arrived at the apartment. Our first impressions were good as fellow Canadian Sarah and her husband David (a Kiwi) helped us move our bags into our new place. It is fairly large for what we expected, 3 bedrooms and modern. The apartment complex is Singlia House (pronounced Shin-gri-ah) and comes with its very own guards, who are very friendly by the way. We have quickly learned that this apartment is more of what the Koreans call a “rich” area.
Sara and David understood how tired we felt after our flight and took us out for what could be the best pepperoni pizza I have ever had. Pizza School is the restaurant and it is awesome. We bought another pizza on the weekend during our unpacking and cleaning of the apartment. We went to bed early that evening and went to work the next day.
On Friday morning I went with Sarah and Sara went with David to be introduced to our schools. I work at Tongjin Elementary school and Sara teaches at Seoam Elementary School. We both walk about 10-15 minutes in the opposite directions. Our walks to school are quite different, to be honest, Sara’s is much more scenic and truly embraces the juxtaposition of Tongjin’s dense city to rural landscape. My walk consists of crossing Tongjin’s five point intersection, which instantly reminded me of Barrie’s five points but a little more of a cluster… You know.
Sara’s walk consists of going through farmer’s fields, with the rolling hills, and a mountain (which we think is in North Korea) as her backdrop. The road is narrow but unique, showing a more traditional way of Korean life surrounded by the apartment buildings and general non-stop city life that is Tongjin. We can only imagine what Seoul is like.
My arrival at Tongjin Elementary school brought a lot of starring and annyeong-haseyo (hello). I then met my co-teacher Sang Ho, a man in his early thirties and that works hard and eager to improve his English. I watched in the back of the class as I was briefly introduced to the students that came in. I am teaching grades 5 and 6. Austin is broken down into 3 syllables: Au-s-tin in Korean, so it ends up sounding odd at first. I stayed the whole day (six classes) which was fine by me because I did not feel any effects of jetlag.
Sara on the other hand was feeling jetlagged. Lack of sleep and waking up at 3:30am Friday morning for her first day was exhausting. She had a short day with David which was 2 classes because of student elections. She was able to see the entire school and meet the staff.
Friday evening we went out for dinner with Sarah and David which was their last Korean meal as they were scheduled to leave for the airport Saturday morning at 7:30am. We had our first real Korean meal which consisted of a bunch of rice dishes and other names of things I cannot remember. Kimbimbab was excellent. Consider it to be a Korean sushi that is cooked. I also found my new favorite pickled food, yellow radish. Sweet and bitter, I love it. Friends of Sarah and David also joined us for dinner, we will have more to show with them later as we plan to reconnect for a baseball game in the near future. We then went to Baskin Robbins for ice cream cake to have an early celebrations for David’s birthday, way too much food was consumed that evening.
The following morning we said our goodbyes and we both really appreciate all of the information that they gave us about the area and during our school days.
We will be posting soon about our first day of school soon, a lot has happened in the last five days.