Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day One: A Success!

It's 5:30 in the morning here, and my body has decided it's finished sleeping. That's incredibly annoying, seeing as at 8:30 last night, I was half-passed out on Billy's couch, and couldn't even keep my eyes open enough to make decent conversation. Anyway, since I have three whole hours before I have to be ready for work, I thought I'd give you a painfully detailed rundown of my first 36 hours in Korea. You're welcome, all!

Yesterday morning, I got to talk to an array of family members before getting ready for work. I plan to do that again today, but it's not quite 5 in the afternoon, so no one's going to be ready to chat just yet. Also, despite the fact that my body refuses to sleep any longer, my mind knows it's before six in the morning, and my mind HATES being awake before six in the morning, so I'm not feeling particularly chipper just yet. I'm hoping once I am finished with this post I'll be ready to chat. This is also random (I promise I'll get back to the story soon): I'm actually hungry. This is the first time since I've arrived that I've wanted to eat. I've been eating, of course, but right now I actually WANT to eat. It's a surprisingly good feeling. (I'm eating leftover pizza from last night and girl scout cookies. It's amazing.)

After talking to my parents and family, I realized that perhaps I needed to shower before work. Okay, so I really needed to shower before work. My problem was that my bathroom looked like this:

Toilet? Check. Medicine cabinet? Check. Sink? Check. Shower? ... Shower? Hmm. Look again.

Perhaps my shower is this thing?

Indeed. That is my shower. I decided that the only way this shower contraption would work would be to hold it in my hands while I washed. Of course, I have no pictures of this, but you can rest assured it was complicated as heck. I don't think I've ever laughed so much in the shower. When I was finished, I hung the shower thingy back in its place... and that's when I realized that I could probably leave it there and shower under it like a normal shower.

That's the plan for today :) Additionally, I couldn't figure out how to get the hot water to work. YJ told me to press a button on this thingy:

I tried that, but I couldn't get it to work, and I forgot to ask him yesterday. Today's shower will be equally cold, but less comical.

So after my overly complicated shower, YJ picked me up at my apartment and walked me to the school. When I got there, he introduced me to a handful of administrative people, took me to my classroom, and peaced out. My Korean teacher, Hana, was there, so I got to meet her and chat. She's maybe the nicest person in Korea. She's ridiculously cute and tiny, and she's spent the last two weeks decorating our classroom. It's not quite finished yet, so I'll hold off on posting pictures until things are a little more organized, but rest assured it's one of the prettiest classrooms in the building.

Since I didn't have any students, I decided to wander around the building and try to make friends. I walked past a few classrooms until I found someone who acknowledged me in the hall and invited me in. My new friend Meghan.

Meghan is from Canada and has been in Korea for a couple years. She was one of the original teachers when GATE opened, so she's really a wealth of knowledge. She introduced me to her kiddos, and here are some of the outstanding responses I got:

"Your hair is very comfortable."
"Are you from North United States or South United States?"
"Is there a West America, since there's a South America?"
"Yeah, I already know you."

I spent much of the day in Meghan's class, watching her teach and trying to figure out how the heck I'm going to do it. Much of the work comes straight out of workbooks, which is horribly sad for the kids, but kind of a relief for me. Meghan gave me her lesson plans for the week so I don't have to worry about them, but I still have no clue what I'll actually be doing with the kids. My class starts today, and only one of them has ever been in school before, so this might be a bit of a challenge. On the bright side, I only have five students (five! hahaha) as of right now, so there's little likelihood of being overthrown. Today will probably consist of routine-building. I have no idea what the routines will be yet since I just arrived and can hardly figure out how to bathe myself, but we'll just wing it. I'm guessing people kind of expect me to fail a little bit this week, so I'm not worried about it. I just need to survive until the weekend and I can plan something better then.

After school, vice principal invited all the teachers out to dinner, so my other new friend, Kat, and I decided it would be fun. The other girl who lives in my building walked me home so I could change, then Kat and I headed out to locate the restaurant. When we arrived, everyone else was already eating and chatting... and they were all Korean. None of the other foreign teachers had decided to attend. The table they were sitting at was already full, so Kat and I had so sit one table over. Sarah, the vice principal, came over to our table and helped us order. Before long, more Korean teachers arrived and sat with us, so we didn't look so much like unwanted step children anymore.

Tangent: It's proving to be slightly challenging to understand the culture. For example, in my school, the teachers are referred to as either foreign or Korean. Each foreign teacher has a Korean teacher, and it's stated just like that. Not "co-teacher" or "assistant teacher" but Korean teacher. Apparently the Korean teachers make far less than we do, and their jobs are infinitely harder. Hana has already put in SO much time making our classroom beautiful; she's been there until midnight the last two nights. When the kids come, she'll be in charge of sending home detailed letters of what I do with them, contacting parents for any and all issues, gathering and serving all the meals, and a crazy amount of other tasks. I'm in charge of teaching. That's it. It feels ridiculously unfair, but there's not much I can do to change it. The foreign teachers have their jobs, and the Korean teachers have very separate jobs. They don't mingle much; not many of the foreign teachers are friends with their Korean teachers, and it doesn't seem to bother anyone. Hana is so very lovely, and I hope that we'll be friends. She tracked me down a couple times to bring me food because she knew I hadn't eaten since the plane and wanted to make sure that I was well fed. She's worked her butt off on our classroom, and won't accept any offers of help. She just tells me that my job is harder than hers and I should not worry about her. I really hate saying it, but it feels a little bit like having a slave, and it makes me slightly uncomfortable. I'm in her country, and yet I have a higher status that she does? How is that even fair? When I walked in the room, she looked at me and said, "May was right, you are so pretty. It's intimidating." This absolutely gorgeous girl thinks I'm pretty? I looked like a hot mess - I'd hardly slept at all, and my fight with the shower certainly left something to be desired. I'm pretty because I'm American... and that just feels wrong. I feel like I'm being rewarded for something I didn't do, and it's so very strange.

Anyway, so this post is getting really long. I'll try to wrap it up. After dinner, Kat and I headed out in search of Billy's hotel. Meghan had called the tourist line and gotten directions for me: Gangnam station, exit three, walk five minutes, turn right, walk one minute. Seriously. Those were my directions. Kat offered to help me find it, but I asked her if I could try to do it on my own and she could just correct me if I went terribly off-course. I think I amazed both of us by finding it right away. I didn't get us lost at all - just walked right to it! I literally skipped down the sidewalk (and received more funny looks from Koreans), and we went inside to call Billy.

He met us downstairs (how he knew I was there, I'll never know), and we went up to his room. There were only three of us, so euchre was a no-go. We talked a little, and I curled up in a ball on the couch. I wasn't asleep, but I was really close, so I was lucky that Kat maintained conversation well. A little after nine, I stole a roll of toilet paper from him and Kat and I headed home.

I directed us home without any troubles, which made me all kinds of proud. The second I got in my apartment, I changed into pjs and passed out on the bed. I thought it'd be no trouble to sleep straight through until my alarm, but that didn't work out quite as planned. That's okay. I'm planning to take an uncomfortably cold shower and walk up to Dunkin' Donuts to get breakfast for me and Hana. (Yes, I already ate half a pizza and I'm planning to get donuts too. Don't you worry about it.) Tonight, Kat offered to take me to the Wednesday night service at Jubilee, but I've already blown the last two nights without buying anything for my apartment, so I need to go do that tonight. I'd love to be able to unpack sometime soon. Next Wednesday, though, I'm totally there. :)


  1. I love you in Korea :) Miss you can't wait to talk when you're settled!!!

  2. I LOVE the shower story!

    also, the Korean teacher vs American teacher is how it was when I taught in Ecuador. and my co-opoerating teacher was coming up on 8 years of being an Ecuadorian resident so they decided to give her Ecuadorian pay, which was like 3 times less. She was not pleased.

  3. Your bathroom is baller compared to what mine was! :) Don't worry, you'll get used to it in about a week after a couple cold showers. This is hialrious. I feel like I'm reading myself from 2 years ago - all the same things happened to me - it's pretty funny how similar all us foreigners experiences can be. Sounds like you're making friends fast. GET TO JUBILEE!

    Oh, and I wasn't even close to unpacked until about 4 weeks in. Don't rush it - make friends first, unpack later. It might seem uncomfortable but what would you rather have: friends when you're homesick, or a neat room? :) Rock n' roll girl...

  4. I love reading your posts! Keep us updated and all the best in Korea!!

  5. miss you dear! Sounds like Korea is wonderful!

  6. ps. I have so much more to say than that piddly comment but im le tired. Love you

  7. Nikki, you make me adventure hungry.

  8. Yay! Glad that you are settling in so well! It sounds like everyone is really nice and really helpful. I love the stuff the kids said to you, especially North United States or South United States. Too funny! I check your blog often and usually giggle at the posts. Have fun and be safe!