Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Officially in Busan one month today. Where does time go?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Good-bye, vacation

Well, Chuseok is done and what a week it was. I'm actually happy I didn't end up going anywhere because I feel like I really got to know Busan better. I met some new people, made some new friends and created a ton of memories I know I'll never forget.

As I mentioned before, I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish over this break, and I got to mark a majority of them off. I had my first noraebong experience which was nothing short of amazing. There were about 8-10 people in one room dancing, eating, drinking and singing karaoke. I have never experienced anything like it and I think I was laughing a good 95% of the time.

We also went to a temple, although I'm not sure the name of it. It was so beautiful and serene, unlike any part of Korea I've seen yet. There were a lot of people there that day which I'm assuming was because of the holiday. I would like to visit another temple when it's not so packed because it really did make me feel at peace. I feel like you could do a lot of soul searching there.

I feel like this break solidified the fact that I'm going to spend the next year in Busan and I know I'll be just fine. I've met some amazing people who have helped me get through the somewhat challenging transition to life here. I've been here for almost a month even though it doesn't feel like it all and I really feel like I'm almost completely transitioned. I know that's a bold statement and trials will still arise, but it's definitely getting easier. Even small things like using the subway or getting the right garbage bags was an overwhelming thought 3 weeks ago, but now it's no big deal. I can direct a taxi driver to my apartment with no problem and I'm starting to learn the language more and more.

Although I had a great break and I'm happy I got more acquainted with the city, I'm happy to go back to work. Normalcy is welcome at times.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Happy Chuseok! I have the entire week off thanks to this wonderful holiday, which is similar to Thanksgiving in America. I hope all those who celebrate it have a wonderful time with loved ones.

Liana and I had a little adventure today and discovered another part of the city we'll call home for the next year. We went to Nampo-dong and I really liked it. It wasn't as bright and overwhelming as other parts of the city. There were several open markets and a lot of people shopping at them, but I enjoyed myself. After we shopped for a while we went to a small Italian restaurant we stumbled upon and had some delicious fettucini and bianco pizza. There was a park next to the restaurant so we wandered over and went to the top of Busan Tower for some great views of the city. You don't realize how big it is until you see it in such a way. It really is remarkable.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Go Lotte Giants!

We went to the baseball game on Saturday and I had a blast. It really is just like American baseball but so much more fun. For one, they have cheerleaders and they lead the crowd in chants and cheers throughout the game. When I go to games at home, it will get exciting at times when something is really going on. Here, it was fast paced and loud the entire time. Every player has their own chant. But they're very simple and usually to the tune of songs I recognize. The beer is also very cheap and the woman who walked around selling it also sold dried squid, but I wasn't brave enough to sample it. Don't be alarmed by the sight of us with plastic bags on our heads. Employees will pass the bags out toward the end of the game to tie around your head then we use them to pick up our garbage when the game is done. How clever and convenient. We went to dinner afterwards and ate galbi, which is kind of like strips of meat you cut and grill yourself. It was delectable.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


There are a lot of updates now. I just kind of copied everything I had been writing down so far. I don't think I'll have this much to say at once every time, but I talked about what I thought was interesting so far. Still having a great time and slowly becoming adjusted to life in South Korea. Stay tuned!

Korea Day 4

I moved into my apartment today. Jeff picked me up from the motel and helped me move all my stuff. I'm so happy it has an elevator. I got everything moved and settled in a bit, but there's still more I want to do. There are so many things to get used to. How to deal with the trash, how to pay with bills, etc. Still so much to learn.

Today was my first day teaching and there are a few things I noticed.

I really need to do the workbooks before I expect the kids to. For the most part, my books didn't have answers written in them but I figured that would be okay since it was basic English. No. When I'm doing 13 things at once it's hard to pay attention to the story and try to take attendance and make sure everyone understands what's going on, etc. Someone would ask me what a word meant and I wouldn't know where they were in the story or there would be a problem but I didn't know how the book wanted the students to answer. There was one point when I even told the kids to do a problem the wrong way and they knew I was telling them wrong. They laughed at me. I felt so dumb.

Some of the words are difficult to explain. For example, I had to define the word mineral. I know what a mineral is, but it's kind of hard to describe to smaller kids. A little one named Joseph whom I adore looked it up in his dictionary and showed me what it meant. Again, I felt so dumb.

I think the funniest part of my day happened outside of the classroom. I wanted to make a nametag for my desk, so I got a piece of paper and wrote my name in red and put some stickers on it. Julie, the teacher who sits next to me, said that it's not good to write my name in red. I didn't know what she was talking about and then I suddenly remembered reading that in Korea, you only write the name of dead people in red. She told me that was right so she flipped the paper over and told me to write the name again, which I did.

And now, a few pictures of magnificent Busan so far.

Korea Day 3

Finally able to sleep through the entire night. Unfortuantely, I ate lunch at McDonalds. I told myself I would avoid familiar food as much as possible, but I was hungry and I knew what a cheeseburger was so I decided to eat it. The menu is a little different here. They have what's called a bulgogi burger. Bulgogi is just a popular meat dish here and they made it into a burger. Clever. It also serves a shrimp burger, which I thought was different. And the happy meals come with corn instead of fries. Everything comes with corn.

I learned a lot just from going to the school and watching Amy teach the classes. And it's a lot different here than in America. In one class, there is only one high school student named Krista that I really like to talk to. She told me that one time she decided to shave her eyebrows off, just for fun. When she went to her public school, the teacher pulled her out of the room, sat her down and slapped her a few times. For shaving her eyebrows off! I guess Krista's mom wrote a letter to the school, but not much else was done.

Education is extremely important here and Korean children are always in school, it seems. Amy told me that after they finish their day at public school, many kids will go to "academies," math, art or science for example. As well as their English lessons. They literally learn all day. I was even told that when they take their tests to determine what university they can get into (sort of like the ACT's in America) planes aren't allowed to fly over the schools since it might disturb or distract the kids. It's that serious.

Not only is the schooling different but the students are as well. Whenever you ask one of the students why another student is missing that day, they say he or she "died." They think it's the funniest thing ever. They also sharpen their pencils with razors and act like they're shooting each other with guns. This is just normal every day behavior for them. But I think this is because you aren't allowed to have guns in Korea. Crimes, at least gun crimes, are pretty low here from what I gather.

I know that I'm going to really like the children. There are a few brats and that's natural, but they're all sweet and do some hilarious things. They all have English names and I'm able to remember several of them because they're the same names of my friends. I even had the privilege of naming a new student and he picked Kyle, which I gave him as an option since it's my brother's name. He's an awesome kid. It's the funniest when talking to the young kids because they're not afraid to tell you how different you look or how big you are.

Korea Day 2

I followed Amy to all of her classes today to see how she teaches and interacts with the kids. Each class lasts about 40 minutes and the number of kids in each class really varies. As the day went on, the kids got older and spoke better English. Her and I also went to a kimbap shop by the school for some bibimbap, which is a hard dish to explain. It has rice, egg, lots of vegetables. It was delicious and even better... cheap.

I made it back around 10:00 pm and don't have to be in til 2:00 tomorrow. I plan on watching TV for a bit then gradually falling into the best sleep of my life.

Korea Day 1

First, I'll tell you about the flight. I thought this was going to be the worst flight I've been on yet since it's 14 hours and then some. But I was surprised. I had an empty seat next to me the entire flight so I could stretch out more than usual which helped tremendously. But overall, the plane was just very comfortable. We got warm towels and slippers as soon as we boarded which I had never received before. Not only that, our plane was the perfect temperature. Normally I'm cold and wiping my running nose the entire flight but I didn't have that problem this time around. I was able to sleep a good 6 hours which I hope will aid in the jet lag somehow.

Once I arrived in Korea I knew it was going to be an amazing year, but a challenging one as well. I would like to think I'm an accomplished traveler, having been to Europe twice and navigating through several countries on my own. But Korea is different. I actually feel like I'm in a new place, a foreign place. For the first time since I've been out of the states, I feel like I'm a foreigner. The biggest problem thus far has been money. I wasn't going to get money at the currency exchange, but I'm really glad I did. I have enough to get me through a couple days, but I'm definitely going to have to use an ATM at some point to get more cash out. Apparently international ATM's aren't that common here, so I'm going to have to go on a little search to find one. Spoiled me, I thought they would be as common as they were in Europe. This is something I have to get used to. Europe and Asia are both different continents than North America, yes. But just because Europe and Asia are foreign to me doesn't mean I can expect the same from the two of them. If that makes sense. I need to begin to separate the two.

When I got here my boss Jeff met me at the airport. He's very nice, but shy and soft spoken. He took me to the motel that I'm staying at until Amy, the girl I'm taking over for, leaves on Thursday. It's a nice, quaint place. I felt bad because I didn't take my shoes off when I came in the room. Jeff explained to me that in Korea it's very rude if I don't take my shoes off before I go inside. I knew that, but it didn't occur to me when I was struggling to bring an 80 pound suitcase inside. And even though he's not here anymore, I still take them off before I come in. So I don't feel so bad anymore.

He also did an indirect mention of "fan death." If you don't know what that is, google it. Basically, it's a strange superstition Koreans have about fans, heat and dying in the middle of the night. He told me that I shouldn't keep my fan and air conditioner on all night with a closed window. I kinda of giggled to myself because we don't have this thought in America, but apparently people have actually died due to this. And you know what? I don't doubt it for a second. Why? BECAUSE IT'S REALLY HOT AND HUMID HERE. I'm not kidding, as soon as I got off the plane I was amazed by the weather. I don't know how to explain it. It's just a sticky, muggy, heavy, wet feeling you get as soon as you step outside. It really is unbelievable. My hair is a mess.

Other than the humidity, I think I may be slowly falling in love with Korea. I met up with my friend Andy that's here and we went to lunch. We ate at a chicken place but I'm not sure what the name of it is. He ordered a chicken dish and asked me if I liked spicy, but I think my definition of spicy and Korea's definition differ. It was hot, but very good! It was just pieces of chicken and some sort of noodle in a hot sauce served with rice. Yum. He also told me there was a button to press if we wanted the waiter's attention and when it went off it sounded like a chicken. I wanted to press it but didn't have reason to.

I'm a little overwhelmed at the moment just because I have absolutely no contact with the outside world. My phone doesn't work and I can't connect to the internet from the motel. As soon as I move in I'll be able to get online which I'll feel a lot better about. It's a little hard to hear everyone talking about events, places, things they know about Korea. They all seem so familiar with the area and culture and I'm so unfamiliar with it. But I know it will get better.