Saturday, April 4, 2009

Every day is a winding road

We've been in Busan almost a week now and are both loving it so far. Jet lag has finally caught up to us - on friday night we were supposed to go for drinks with a group of people from our orientation, but a 6:30pm power nap turned into a full night sleep - sorry guys!
After a weekend of rest I'm feeling a bit more alive, and the incredible dark circles under my eyes require a bit less cover up. I think maybe I'm finally on Korea-time...?
The past week has been crazy - we've been busy setting up our apartment, bank accounts, getting medical checks and applying for Korean credit cards so that we can get cell phones sooner. Our free time has been limited so far, but I can't complain, our coteachers have been incredible! They've spent hours after school each day helping us with all of the things we need to do, and we really would not have managed without their help.
We got a real taste of just how spoiled we'd been when we went out for dinner alone last night. We were just hoping that the restaurant had pictures on the menu, or that a server had some english, or that we'd be able to translate a menu item using my Korean phrase book - we were wrong on all counts! It was the first time since we've been here that we'd been on our own for anything. We were taken care of by the orientation leaders and then our coteachers, and finally were in a situation where the language barrier was insurmountable. Somehow George got the point across to our server that we would like her recommendation, so she pointed to something and said beef, and we agreed. What followed was one of the better meals we've had so far. Some kind of soup with mushrooms and beef that you simmer on a burner at your table - delicious! We'll definitely be going back there.
An update on work - I haven't really started yet. I go to school each morning, and sit in my office, but my teaching duties won't begin until tomorrow morning. Also on the schedule for tomorrow, my official introduction to the students and staff. I'll be giving a powerpoint presentation to the entire school tomorrow morning to show them some pictures of who I am, where I come from, and what my interests are. There are only 59 students, and and no more than 15 staff members, but I'm still a little nervous. So far my only real contact with the students was on Wednesday when we went on a field trip to a nearby farm to pick Sok (wormwood) to make a special soup. Mostly the students just ran up to me, screamed hello, then ran away laughing hysterically, but I did manage a few conversations. At my school the students don't have English names, so learning the Korean names is definitely more challenging. I leaned 5 that day, and I think once I'm in the classrooms, seeing these kids a few times a week the names will come more quickly (I hope). It was a really nice morning, enjoying the sunshine out in the country, and I really enjoyed myself.
On Friday I was allowed to sit in on the classes of my afternoon coteacher, and chaos ensued! The kids refused to focus on the lesson with this stranger at the back of the room. Linda, my coteacher was very gracious about the interruption, and let the kids ask me questions, then incorporated me into the lessons, which thrilled the kids. I'm sure in a week the novelty will wear off, but for now, they're pretty excited. From what I understand, they've had 2 foreign teachers before, both male, so I think I may be the first female foreign teacher that many of them have dealt with. Also, these are rural kids, so in their small town they aren't exposed to foreigners like the kids in the cities are.
I think I'm really going to enjoy working at this school :)
After our accidental early bedtime on Friday we were both wide awake by 5am on Saturday and decided it was the perfect opportunity to walk to the beach to see the sunrise. About 15 minutes later we got our first view of the famous Haeundae beach - gorgeous, but I can't even imagine how millions of people can fit on it. The morning was completely overcast so we didn't see much of a sunrise, but being near the water was nice just the same. As we were leaving the beach I saw a woman down at the water running along the beach in a wetsuit and bathing cap, appearing to have just finished an ocean swim - I'm thinking a triathlete! She was headed in the opposite direction, and was too far away to catch up to, but it gives me hope that I'll find a club to train with here.

Just some other points of interest:
  • More examples of Korean kindness: we went to check out the gym next door, and were having troubles communicating with the receptionist, so a random guy came over and spent 5 minutes translating for us; last night we needed a break from Korean food and decided to hit up McDonalds (gross, I know). We asked a women on the street, and she let us follow her there, then gave us a coupon for a free big mac!; We were looking at plants and the storekeeper gave me a free small potted cactus because I admired it!
  • Korean food: so far, so good! I still don't think I've acquired the taste for kimchi, but since it's served at every meal I think I'll get there. Our school lunch are great - my favourites items this week: picked quail eggs and salty dried seaweed to wrap rice in.
  • Our apartment is almost fully furnished. We have a living room chair, tv stand, a sweet tv (just delivered 5 minutes ago) and are just waiting on our futon to be delivered tomorrow. Yesterday George's coteachers took us to an area with rows upon rows of plant shops (nurseries, greenhouses ... what's the correct term?), and we picked out a tree for the living room, and 3 smaller plants for the bedroom.

I think that's it for now, we're heading out to do some exploring .. if I can ever drag George away from our new tv!

Miss you all


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