Saturday, August 31, 2013

Apartment video

Ok so I made this video on my first day in my apartment in Korea, sorry it's a bit shaky, but you can see what my apartment in Korea looks like!!! It's pretty much one bedroom but I have lots of space and I don't have a roommate this year, which is really weird for me!

I might more pictures once I get everything all set up, but I'm still shopping around for things to make it more homey.



So it's been a bit of whirlwind of meeting students and incredulous looks. The most common questions I got were my age and was I married! I also got some blood type questions thrown in (it's a personality indicator here) and questions about my appearance, like why my face is so small or my nose so tall!

Nothing makes you feel more like a celebrity than walking through a building and having people shout your name and run up to you just to say hi. But it's also quite isolating and you are consciously aware that you stick out like a sore thumb. Elementary students will adore you and you will get looks of wonderment from them. But the Ajummas (old ladies) on the street will stare you down, sometimes a bit menacingly, and it does feel awkward. It's also awkward when you're waiting at a bus stop and people start taking pictures of you while you're just standing there. Yeah, that happened. 

I was excited this weekend because I went out and ordered something for myself. Granted, it was at Taco Bell. And granted, really all I did was hold up three fingers and say what I think is 3 in korean and pointed to the ground to mean for here. But hey I got my food. But even Taco Bell is a plethora of new experiences. I couldn't figure out how to get into the building, first of all, so I had to wait until someone else went in while I fake texted on the side. Turns out it was an automatic door. Then I couldn't figure out what to do with my garbage, because the garbage can had three separate doors with different words on them, none of which I can interpret. SO again, I waited awkwardly till someone else did it to copy them. It sounds silly, but when you're alone and surrounded by people and words you can't understand, you become quite the observer. 

Another thing I have learned is that you should not come to Korea unless you are prepared to ride a bus with you and 200 of your closest friends jammed in like sardines, because that happens annoyingly often. It is something I will just have to learn to live with. 

So far it's been a pretty great experience. My students gasp in excitement when I can say things like "twin" or "father" in Korean (sorry dad, they thought you were my grandpa and that ted was my uncle...) They applaud furiously when I can say a simple sentence. My co teachers are patient with me and my helplessness when trying to order things online that only have Korean descriptions, despite being and English site. I even got to go to a teachers dinner with all of the teachers, and the principal poured me soju! Major breakthrough guys. 

Here are some pictures of my adventures in the first week of school

It's not weird to discuss bodily functions in Korea.
And so, these statues are pretty normal to them. 

This world cup stadium has been
transformed into a mall! Great use of space

Gotta change my shoes at work!

I went without hot water for 3 days until
I figured out this panel turned it on

one of the Korean subject teachers left
this note for me. Isn't that sweet?

Korean kindness is a big thing guys. Lots of them will go inconveniently out of their way to help you out if you really need it. Like my coteacher did some hardcore negotiating to get my immigration papers through when the office screwed up. She complained vehemently to someone on the Chinese immigration side and got her to push my papers through! Can't wait till my alien regisrtation is all set so I can get a bank account, internet and an actual phone contract!


Caved and got Taco Bell


Plus side, I live about 10 minutes away from Hongdae, a bustling hangout spot. Complete with Taco Bell and H&M, so my american basics are set

My $5 macchiato I bought so I could
use the wifi

I was adventurous yesterday and went and saw Les Mis in Korean. It was AWESOME. I'll probably rant post about it later because I like to geek out about theater, and this was my first foreign language production of a broadway show (I've seen operas in other languages, but they're subtitled and expected to be in another language, this was all Korean, no English!)

I even got a free poster!

Then Sarah and I hung out and went out to a Korean restaurant where we discussed how Koreans don't usually converse much at dinner (while we were yapping away). I'm mooching off of her wifi right now, but it's also nice to hang out with a friend and decompress about the week, since living on my own is a bit odd and sometimes lonely. I do know there are americans in and near my building, mostly because I heard classic ballads like "My Heart Will Go On" blaring friday night. I think we are all gonna get together for dinner to get to know each other better. It will be nice to have more people I can get advice and tips from!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

First few days!

Hey all!!!

I'm updating this blog from my desk at school!!! Unfortunately, I don't have wifi in my apartment, and I won't be able to get it until I get my Alien Registration Card, for which I have an appointment tomorrow. The card takes at least 2 weeks to process, probably more now that there's an influx of applications, so don't expect tons of updates for about 3-4 weeks, till I can get SUPER FAST wifi in my apartment.

The good thing about Korea is there is lots of free public wifi, and I have an internet connection at school. Sadly, I won't be able to post pictures or videos for a while, unless I visit a cafe with wifi or a friend who has it in their house, so you'll probably get a big pic post in a couple of weeks.

So far so good, as far as school goes. Most of the teachers are impressed that I can say anything at all in Korean, even if it's words like "Where, how, why, what?" or family member names like 엄마 (oh-mah, mother) or Oppa which is brother (but can also be used for older guys in general or boyfriends- at kpop concerts, most girls scream OPPA for their idols... so yeah). Honestly, I think everyone is amazed I can say more than Hello! I still feel like I'm a fish out of water (because everyone still stares at me, from the time I leave my apartment till the time I get home), but I hope after a month or two everything will feel routine.

This week, I have been introducing myself to just about everyone in the school. I even had to go on the televised morning announcements to introduce myself today!!! Scary!!! Thus far, I've just shown them a simple powerpoint about myself. They laugh when I show them pictures of me when I was young, and they also always guess that my dad is my harabuji, which means grandfather. So I tell them "no!!! Abuji!!!" which is like, No!! That's my dad!!! Thus far, I think they like me. They like to run up to me in the halls and say "Christina Teacher, HELLO!!!" and then they hug me and run away. Or they shout "Christina teacher, pretty!!!"  Koreans are really flattering when they meet foreigners, I guess. I'm trying not to let it go to my head haha!!!

I have a lot of free time at school this week, since I'm just introducing myself. I usually have a block of 3 or 4 lessons in the morning, lunch, then one or two more lessons. These end around 1 or 1:30, and I  will be teaching 22 lessons a week. I basically have 22 individual classes, ranging from 3rd graders to 6th graders. But I'm contracted to work 40 hours, which means sitting here until 4:30 every day, just bopping around on teh interwebz. I actually start teaching next week, so my 3 coteachers (yup, 3 co teachers!!!) and I will start working on things. My lesson for the 4th graders next week is days of the week, and the 5th graders are learning "I want to..." so I have to start thinking about that. Thankfully, I only have to plan 4 lessons and repeat them about 5 times each.

In the meantime, especially once I have internet, I plan on studying more Korean so that I can kind of understand what the heck the students are yelling, or what my co teachers are saying to them.

My apartment is actually really nice, but I need to fix a few things, like the fact that I have no curtains and no hot water. Wamp. I'm kind of roughing it in the heat, though I do have an air conditioner. It's right above my bed and it drips, plus I'm trying not to have a sky high electric bill, so I've only used it to cool the apartment a bit before bed or if I'm dying. Hopefully the weather and CRAZY humidity will be transitioning out soon, so I can start walking to school. I don't mind the bus, but it's a bit awkward when I can feel everyone staring at the waygook. That's one thing that's hard about living in Korea- I will NEVER fit in as a local. In Italy, I could sometimes pass for a European. No chance here. It will take some getting used to, but I want to do my best to represent Westerners here in Korea.

Until next post!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Seoul field trip

So for our cultural field trip of the EPIK orientation, we headed out to SEOUL! Here are a bunch of pictures and random tidbits about our trip!

yes. Gangnam style water. 

Korea House, where we saw traditional performances

cool ceiling

O-go-mu or Dance of the 5 Drums

The next few are of Korean fan dancing, which depicts peony flowers. This was probably my favorite, but I loved the drums too. These pics are from a bunch of other people's albums because they were closer and had better cameras so enjoy!

performers of a farmers percussion

Playing the daegum( I think), a traditional bamboo flute

Then we headed out into the city to explore the Namsan Hanock village

Namsan Tower

handmade straw baskets

the village

Chinese stuff is pretty integrated into Korean History,
hence the Chinese characters

and then in the middle there's a vending
machine. Oh Korea...

Playin games

Pretty flowers!

Lunch consisted of Bibimbap! Don't ask me to explain exactly what that is. Bap means rice tho. I think it's traditionally supposed to be served in that kind of metal bowl. You add chili paste to make it spicy, and it's delicious

Koreans are very into clean teeth- this is
mouthwash in the bathroom


Anyway. Next stop, Gyeongbokgoong!!! I think goong means palace, so you either say Gyeongbokgoong or Gyeongbok Palace. It was here that we discovered that our lecturers weren't lying when they said we would be the celebrities of our schools and probably the city. A large group of westerners was apparently an amazing sight, because our group of EPIK teachers had their picture taken at least 50 times by other random tourists. It was quite humorous because they were unabashedly staring. Definitely going to take some getting used to!!!


You can see a woman taking a pic of our group in the background

my bad for my finger being in the pic, whatever.
These pillars are where the servants had to stand
when the king was around

the middle is blocked off cause only the king
was/is allowed to use that staircase.

I think this was supposed to represent the

again, see how the center is blocked off?

PS, Korea doesn't have a king anymore. Ergo, NOBODY GETS TO WALK THROUGH THE CENTER

This is apparently where the king greeted foreign dignitaries 

I love this pic. So serene

Tiny doors that I still fit through!


some of decorations in the King's mom's quarters

not sure what this we, we spotted it on our way out

A changing of the guard ceremony

We then headed to the Museum of Contemporary History

Anti Japan liberation propoganda!

Being the president of the ROK

here's to many more!!!
 Driving out of Seoul I came across this mural:
Yup. 1 day in Seoul and I spotted something
Phantom related

tried this at dinner today. It was
chewy but not bad!

So there ya have it, my first trip to Seoul, which was nice to see since that's where I'll be living! Can't wait to get there Monday!