So much has happened in the last few days, it seems impossible to keep track of it all to share!
The first week of school has been an adjustment for both of us. We have had to plan lessons, some of which have been successful and some of which need a bit of improvement. Many of the students and staff have become used to our presence in the schools. One of my teachers in my school has taken to teaching me Korean words and phrases at lunch time. Austin found out only this week, that he will be teaching a kindergarten class once a week, he is very excited (NOT).
Austin was invited to play in a student vs. Teacher soccer game at his school on Thursday; yet he was unable to play because he did not have any sports clothes. We have quickly leant that information in Korea is given on a need to know basis one of our favourite new words is “Maybe” because it is used so often when someone is unsure. Austin’s teacher was also taught the phrase “play it by ear” which is another way to describe the chaos we are learning to live with. You have to relax and hope things work out.
Let’s rewind and look back at our first week. Our first full week here was busy we went to the bank, and the hospital as well as taught our first full week. The bank was not too difficult and only required a passport, signature of the co-teacher, and a few forms from the school.
On Tuesday we went to the Hospital which on the other hand was more of an adventure. We were subjected to a urine sample, a height and weight check, a blood pressure check, vision test, a colour blindness test, hearing test, chest X-ray, and my favourite the blood test. I have never had an easy time getting blood taken in Canada and the New Korea hospital proved to be just the same. After the first younger nurse gave up on finding a vein in either of my arms; the second older nurse was able to find a vein in my hand. This was a pretty painful experience for me, and I was glad that only one syringe was needed. Leaving the hospital we were informed by my co-teacher that she was unable to drive us home and we needed to take a bus or taxi home. After a few minutes we were able to find a taxi driver who would take us home. He stepped out of the taxi to introduce himself and shake our hands with his four fingers. He asked us where we were from, and when we responded with Canada he became even more eager to talk to us as we navigated the streets of Gimpo. He spoke some English and told us he loved to learn more, we spoke to him about our jobs as we drove. Once we arrived at Singlia house we were told that we were entitled to a discount. Overall the taxi ride cost us 5,000 KRW, which is less than 5$ Canadian. We thankfully took his card and plan to use him next time we need a taxi.
Our official introductions to the school come this week. Austin and I were both introduced at our respected schools on Monday. When a new teacher is introduced it is done over the broadcasting system. When I was introduced it was a bit of a surprise as I had been told I would be introduced on Tuesday. My co-teacher who drives in from the Hangda district of Seoul (about 2 hours every day one way) is usually a bit late. So when it came time for my introduction she was not yet at the school. Luckily another teacher who has very good English, whom I had met the previous Friday, was able to assist me with translating to the school.
On Wednesday Austin had his formal introduction to the staff, this occurred at the staff meeting. He was welcomed with traditional Korean music. He was able to introduce himself and describe some of his hobbies, and was then given a gift of Jasmine tea.
On Thursday I had my formal introduction to the staff, and this also occurred at a staff meeting. A new Korean teacher and myself were being welcomed into the school. This meeting took place in an ornate boardroom. We had to sit front and center. We were then told how cute of a couple we looked. (The Korean teachers and staff seem to like to make jokes to the fact that we are not married, at Austin’s school the principle told the female teachers that they were still allowed to hit on him.) During our welcome words were spoken in Korean (none of which I understood), and we introduced ourselves and said a few thanks. We were then told it was time for cake and a toast. The cake which was bought at a bakery chair called Paris Baguette was cut by the new Korean teacher, myself as well as the principle and vice principle. After the cake was cut a toast was given which I could only guess was about the new teaching year and the new staff. I was then ushered back to my English wing, sadly without cake. I continued on with my lesson planning only to be surprised by the delivery of cake, with chopsticks. This I didn’t think I was prepared for as I was just mustering the courage to eat with chopsticks at lunch in front of the other teachers. After the delivery of the cake another surprise came, it was the giant bonsai which had been at the staff meeting; I was told it was a gift for me. The fairly large bonsai had a beautiful pink ribbon which said welcome Sara. I was told I could take it home if I could get it there as it was fairly heavy, luckily for me (I know again) I get a ride home every day from school by my co-teacher.
On Thursday evening we ventured out on our first Costco run with our new friend. We ventured out to Ilsan which is another suburb of Seoul and is about 15km away from our home. Upon arriving we discovered that Korean Costco is HUGE, 5 floors of parking and 2 floors of shopping. Once inside we began our journey on the moving sidewalk/escalator type device. The wheels on the cart magnetically lock, which is very useful on your way out when you have a very full cart. Korean Costco is very much like the Costco in Canada except with Korean products. We were able to find some of the staples that we could just not find in any of the 6 local grocery stores. We finally found, cheese (impossible to find in Tonjjin-Eup) pasta sauce we actually like, peanut butter, (although it’s expensive we think we got enough to last the year) cream cheese, crackers, and a few more essentials. Once we completed shopping we had some dinner, Costco style. A hotdog and pop was 2,000 KRW (Which is less than 2$) and was actually pretty good.
Next we went to Home-Plus, basically a cross between Wal-Mart and Sears. Here you can find all the essentials as well as some pets. We found an Iguana for 20,000KRW less than 20$ Canadian, a dung beetle, and the cutest little hamster (which I may go back for, and make a classroom pet), who was 3,000 less than 3$ Canadian.
Saturday was another big day. Austin decided to go for a bike ride, while I went for a run. We explored a bit more, we found the Tonjiin library, what we think is banana spider, and an abandoned motel, then before we knew it, it was time to meet some of our new friends for dinner and a movie.
We were introduced to their 8 month old dog who is a terrier. We then decided to head back to Ilsan, where we went to our first outdoor mall in Korea. Here we saw a horse and carriage rides (Yes, a real horse in the mall) as well as many Western shops.
We had our first non-Korean dinner out at a restaurant called “On the Border” which is like American Tex-Mex. We had a bulldog, which is a margarita with a Corona tipped in the glass. We also shared a platter of assorted tacos, enchiladas and rice and beans. Then it was time for our first Korean movie, which was actually in English, we saw Snowpiercer. The Korean theater is much like a theater in Canada.
Sunday was once again market day. Here we are able to pick up our favourite Korean cookies, and assorted fruits and veggies, as well as many other items. Today we picked up some cookies, potatoes, lettuce, and apples. We enjoy the fresh and local aspect of the market as well as the reasonable prices.
This is what we have been up to in the last 11 days!
P.S we also found a wifi spot not far from the apartment, which is free. We are able to sit on the curb and use the wifi.