Sunday, April 25, 2010

One week down...

I made it through my first week!

No, it wasn't easy, but it was (kind of) fun. Kind of.

Monday/Wednesday/Friday I teach 4 classes. Each class is split into 2 40-min segments with a 5 minute break. The first and last class is the same level, with 2 different ones in between. Tuesday/Thursday I have two classes. These are split into 3 40-minute segments. Different levels.

On the whole, my students are respectful, smart, and a-dor-a-ble. Only one of my classes gives me trouble. Figures it would be the last class on M/W/F.

After having that trouble class for the second time, I felt quite defeated on Wednesday night. Close to tears, even. I just could not figure out how to get control of the class. But....Mom to the rescue! We happened to have a Skype date set up that evening and she gave me pointers from her many years of teaching. I went into that class on Friday and took control. Well, more control. ...It's a work in progress. :)

On Saturday, I ventured to Seoul, all by myself! I was on a mission to make it to Insadong, a cultural district of Seoul. Anyhow, the bus and subway were a breeze. However, when I emerged from said subway, my not-so-trusty sense of direction took ahold. So, I went right instead of left. Aaaaand proceeded to wander for a couple of hours.

The wandering was great! Exactly what I needed and why I am here in South Korea--to see new things, people, and places. I am determined to embrace the unexpected and take every bump as happens.

My walk took me in a huge circle (thank goodness for maps) and allowed me to take note of the temples, museums, etc. that I would like to visit on a return trip.

At the end of my journey, I found Insadong. Yayyyy!

Pictures:

The palace (temple?) I aim to return to...


A quite lovely park showcasing the cherry blossom trees in bloom. It was quite magical with all of the petals swirling in the wind.



I found a PlayMobile in Korea!!!!!!


You can't really tell from this picture, but the homes on this street were so so beautiful. .......Maybe I'll try to capture them again sometime. :)


I love that the colors are out in storm. This tree was in the gardens of the home of the Prime Minister. I was trying to be sneaky about taking a picture because there were a bunch of security guards/soldiers out front.

This is a fun piece of art in the middle of an outdoor mall-type place at my intended destination.

All of the people...wish I had gotten a picture of the actual street. This is just one shopping area.


Switching gears...This is what I see on my walk home from work. So many lights!!


And the pretty flowers that are out during the day...

Let's hope this next week is better....I think I'm finally getting the hang of this whole teaching situation.

And a Justin update for those interested: He received his visa code and will have a visa interview this week! Then, he'll make his way on over...by May 24th!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

For those interested in my new digs...

I snapped a few photos of the new home while I was procrastinating/not prepping lessons...

When you come in the door, the kitchen is the first thing you see! I discovered today that (a) I am silly and can't figure out the flame or (b) it doesn't work. Hmmm.


Turn right, go through the sliding doors, and you see the main room:



The bathroom is typical for South Korea: the "shower" is the shower head by the mirror. Everything gets wet, but at least the water is hot!


Through the sliding doors seen in the above pictures, you go to my laundry/refrigerator/closet room. I was told it is much larger than others. Wahoo! The washer buttons are in Hangul/Korean and I can't get it to spin. Yesterday, I tried to do a load but had to hand squeeze the water out. It is still in the washer. Hmmmm...


And that's it! But, I really feel the leafy wallpaper deserves a shot all of its own.........

It's as if I'm in a forest!!!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

And so it begins...

I have been in South Korea for a week. An entire week!

Last Sunday, the first full day, involved my roommate for training and I conquering the subway system in Seoul.

Finally, we made it OUT! (Are those not the best subway steps, EVER?)


We ended up in a lovely place called Children's Grand Park:

This is the fairy garden...


This is how Teralyn and I felt after actually getting somewhere on the subway:


This made my heart sing:



















Everyone was doing it...



I don't know who this character is...but I wanted a picture. While I was shopping yesterday, he showed up on toilet paper packaging!

View from the highest part of the park...


This reminds me of the fountain in Seattle...with Celine Dion music played in rhythm with the shoots of water...

After wandering the park for a couple of hours, we were starving. Thus, the adventure of finding (1) a menu with pictures, as neither of us read Hangul or speak Korean, (2) a restaurant with tables, as I was the idiot in sandals with no socks, meaning it would not be respectful to sit on the floor, where you have to take off your shoes. 

We wandered for a long time...

Eventually, we found something! And I found something...vegetarian...kind of. The broth was made with cow's knee, but the vegetable dumplings were delicious! 

Cutting up kimchi (love it!) with scissors. We didn't figure this out until the people sitting next to us did it...up until then, we stuffed huge pieces into our mouths. Love it. 

Managing the metal chopsticks is something I have yet to master...but I was pretty excited to have finally picked up a dumpling!! Later, we found out from a gal in our training group that *ahem* we didn't need to eat soup with chopsticks......Oh you live and you learn...


One thing about Korean food that I greatly appreciate is the color!!! Every meal is a delightful array of bold oranges, reds, and greens. I love it!
___________________________________________________________________________________

After that first day, Teralyn and I did not have any time for sightseeing. Luckily, I am living pretty close to Seoul and will travel up there often. 

We survived training by laughing a lot. As I am teaching for April English (the younger kiddos), and Teralyn for traditional CDI (older kiddos), we spent a lot of time comparing programs and the rigors of training. I was happy to be in my boat...she was learning about "skimming" and "scanning" readings while I was reciting, "The sun in YELLOW. What color is the sun? The sun is YELLOW." A bit tedious, yes, but much easier material to master.

By the end of the week, one (out of 7 total trainees, only two of which were there for April) guy gave up. Another guy did not technically pass, but is on probation for the next 2 weeks. The rest of us did it! Wahoo!!!

Immediately after training was over, we were each whisked off to our respective branches. I am the only trainee remaining in the Seoul area. Bummer! 

So, I make Suwon my new home.

The area I live and teach in is called Yeongtong. It is much quieter and smaller than Seoul (thank goodness!) and I live by a park! Wahoo! More pictures will follow, as well as updates about my first week as a teacher. 

Today, I am prepping for several classes for tomorrow.........wish me luck!

Oh, and an update about Justin! He has a job in another part of Suwon, probably about 20 minutes away(?) that will begin in the end of May. He sent off his contract on Friday and is now awaiting his visa code. I am so happy that he will be here soon!!



Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Training

Is...hell!

Surviving, so far...

More later. :)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I'm alive!

I made it!

Let’s begin with my flight(s) over. I would just like to comment on the differences between United and Korean Airlines:
1. On a 4.5 hour flight with United, there was no food service and two beverage services, whereas on an almost 13 hour flight with Korean, I received 2 (vegetarian!) meals with complimentary wine, multiple beverage services, and two snacks. The meals were delicious.
2.Korean Air gave me a fresh blanket, pillow, and bottle of water. United? Nothing.
3.Pretty sure I had the choice of over 20 new movies to watch, as well as various other forms of media on my personal tv screen with Korean. United showed one movie that I had never heard of.
4.The flight attendants were SO SO nice on Korean. Not so much on United.

I am very thankful that I flew with Korean. We all know I don’t exactly love flying, and the airlines made, what could have been an unbearably long flight, almost enjoyable!

When I got off the plane, I made my way towards customs, then to the baggage claim (one my bags ripped on the adventure over, but luckily nothing escaped) and then through another customs line. It was all very efficient and easy to navigate. They didn’t even search my bags. From there, I wandered outside towards the buses and bought a ticket (warding off the taxi drivers!). The bus ride from Incheon Airport to Seoul took about 50 minutes and was fairly relaxing. Unfortunately, when I got off in Seoul, at the COEX stop, I must have gone into the wrong building……because this began almost an hour of toting my 100+ bags around, searching for my taxi. Finally, an older Korean couple took pity on me and offered to help…and they did! (Others had tried, but to no avail.) The gentleman even rolled one of my bags for me and led me in the direction of the CITY AIR TERMINAL (I had been in the COEX building) where my taxi was waiting. Woohoo!

When I arrived at my hotel, I checked in and went up to meet my roommate. Her name is Tara Lynn and she is from South Caroline. I found out that those tricky cab drivers at the airport got her and she ended up paying $130 to get to the hotel. !!!!! I only paid 19 in total. She’s at the point where she can laugh about it, though. ☺ Tara is very nice and we seem to have a similar sense of humor, so we’re having fun. After settling in a bit and brushing teeth (best feeling ever) we collapsed into glorious sleep.

We woke up this morning, went down to the complimentary breakfast, and then set off for a bit of exploring. Our mission was finding the route we will have to take to training beginning Tuesday. Tomorrow, they provide a van, thank goodness.

This was quite the hilarious expedition, as neither of us have a clue how to read Korean and we could not find any of the streets printed with English in our guidebook maps. After wandering for probably over an hour, we gave up and went into a Starbucks (I know, I know) where a very wonderful gal helped us with directions. We were able to find the subway and made our way to the Children’s Grand Park exit. Little did we know…the exit led us to a most spectacular, huge, wonderful, GRAND, park! In the park are many attractions such as the “fairy garden,” a zoo, and a botanical garden, all which were free of cost.

After a couple of hours wandering around the garden, we were both starving so we found a lovely café of sorts. This particular café was chosen because the menu had pictures! There were no vegetarian options available, so I chose, instead, a beef-based soup (a cow bone leg, in fact) with vegetable dumplings. Those dumplings were simply DELICIOUS. Oh, and the kimchee wasn’t too bad, either! I rather liked it, actually.

Anyhow, we finished lunch and made our way back to our hotel to do some much needed studying. Tomorrow, we will have training orientation and will take a few tests on Chungdahm culture, grammar, and something else (?). HA. If we don’t pass, there are opportunities to retake them. I’m feeling fairly confident, so that’s a good sign.

Okay, it’s off to dinner and then back here to sleep. Ahhhhh, sleep.

This is probably the longest post that I will ever do. My apologies for all of the details…it’s probably not that important to others.

Pictures will follow when I get to them... :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

I'm off!

Okay, I sent out that email and haven't updated in a couple of months.....

I am currently sitting in the International area of LAX, anxiously awaiting my flight to Incheon. I say "anxiously" simply because (a) I don't particularly care to fly, and (b) I'm still having minor panic attacks that I'm leaving my comfort zone for a year.

Too late to turn back now! My $760 flight leaves in 40 minutes, and I'm too cheap to just throw that money away. ;)

Justin has a few leads with positions and I'm keeping my fingers crossed (and asking you all, too) that he gets one ASAP and is on his own adventure in mere weeks.

Until then, I hope to:

1. Survive training.
2. Move into my apartment.
3. Begin teaching.

....Allllll on my own!

And now, it is time for me to close my computer, take a few deep breaths, and remember that I am a strong gal, and capable of everything!!

HERE WE GO!