Cars in Seoul. I don't get it. There is always traffic, there is so much pollution... and yet, they have the BEST subway system. there are literally hundreds of subway stops throughout the city and surrounding suburbs! Apparently there is a bit of a car culture here. Everyone has one, and they are all jamming them into the smallest parking spaces.
The actual street
I even saw my first car elevator! You know, that ferris wheel for cars to get stacked vertically? It was AWESOME (and at the hospital where I got my registration card sorted out... I'll be getting my card it in 10 days or so!!!)
I have learned a couple funny things about the car system here. The first lesson I learned while climbing an impossibly steep hill heading to a friends apartment. The streets leading up the hill to the apartment are super narrow (about the width of a car and a half) and steep (the cement is scored so that you can get a better grip while walking up). Yet cards are parallel parked all along the way up and down it. So I wondered : How do cars pass up and down when they arrive or need to leave?
Turns out every car has a sticker on its windshield with the phone number of the owner. If you need to get by, you call them on your cell phone and they come out and move it. That would suck for the person at the top of the hill trying to get down!
Not the actual parking lot
The next weird car thing regards underground parking. I was in a car with my boss (for registration card) and she went to park underground. Trouble is, the lot was full. I noticed right away that cars has parked perpendicular to the cars in parking spots. Again, I had to ask her: What do the cars in the parking spots do if that have to get out?
She told me that they leave their cars in neutral when they park in the aisle- if a car needs to get out, it is their job to push the other cars out of the way. I immediately pictured one of those tiny old Korean ladies pushing 3 sedans out of the way to get her car out. Strange.
And still, everyone here has their car in a city that doesn't seem ready for the volume. Subway works fine for me~!
Today I went in for the first step in getting my alien registration card.
This card is essential for me in two ways. With it, I can (1) open a bank account, and (2) get a cell phone. Both of these are becoming more and more important as the weeks wear on.
not actually my korean doctor
The first step is a health check-up. I originally thought it would be a simple check with a doctor, who would ask me some basic questions such as "do you do drugs" (no) "do you have avian flu" (no) etc.
Boy was I wrong!
This health check included chest x-ray, height/weight measurements, eyesight assessment, blood pressure, urine sample, blood sample, and interview with a doctor. They also asked me if I gave permission to share the results of the health test with my employer (I know for a fact that would not fly in Canada!!).
The results take a couple of days to complete, at which point I have to make a visit to the immigration office to fill out more forms for my card. Then, 4 days later- Voila! I can finally start living here!
Over the weekend I became acquainted with a social/running group known as the Hash House Harriers of Seoul.
On saturday morning I headed down to the meeting spot with two girl who were already experienced hashers. Being the "first timer" I had an initiation ritual when I arrived (along with two other newbies)
It's hard to describe, but, according to the website:
"The Hash House Harriers is an international social, non-competitive running club. Hashers frequently describe themselves as 'a drinking club with a running problem', and the social element of hashing is of equal importance to the running. The seriousness of the running and of the drinking varies with each club . The original idea was to mimic the Hare and Hounds or Fox and Hounds style chases that have been around for centuries in one form or another. Some "gentle-men" substituted men for the game in an effort to add something different to the sport. There is evidence of this in colonial America as well as in England. It seemed a logical development then, to substitute the hounds with runners as well."
So a group of about 25 of us began running on the unmarked course, following the trail of the two "hares" (fastest runners with a head start making chalk marks on the ground). Unfortunately we got caught in a rainstorm and had to cut the run short.
Afterwards we sat down for a meal of cheese and chips, cookies and cupcakes, and plenty of BEER.
It was a great day and I look forward to going again next week!
I can honestly say I feel exponentially more comfortable and prepared for my classes than I was even a week ago. In this short window there have been a couple of lessons that I have been forced to learn pretty quickly:
Lily and Diana
1. Keep it Simple (Stupid): it's classic because it's true. No need to complicate classes by varying the routine every day. By keeping it simple (Hello's, names on board, date today, weather, check homework, give out points, teach lesson, play game), the kids know what to expect of me, and reward me by not going bonkers.
2. Take it slow: This is a lesson I should have remembered from my days in french class. It was reinforced by Melissa when she was training me. No matter how simple the material seems to me, or how repetitive the 10 or 15 vocabulary words may be in a lesson, one can never move too slowly. If a unit in the book is 6 pages long, I will go through 3 pages in one lesson. When I move any faster I can tell the material is not learned as well as it should be.
3. Rewards: A democratic reward system is the single biggest motivator of children. It is amazing to see how much kids will perk up when you entice them with "Points" (me marking a line on the board beside their name). At the school that I work, points go towards "Stamps" that they collect over the month. Stamps, in turn, go towards "Talking Club Dollars" which can be redeemed for toys and candy every three months. The kids love it, and will do anything I say when 'Points' are hanging in the balance!
4. Trouble Makers: My glorious epiphany in punishment came only yesterday. I have a class of a girls, with one boy who is the trouble maker. He literally has spent all of his class just doodling, speaking korean (which is not allowed), with a little bit of aversion to authority mixed in. So yesterday I wrote "n o k o r e a n" on the board, and told the class that every time I heard Korean being spoken, I would cross out one of the letters. If all were crossed out by the end of class, no one would get any points. The next time the boy spoke Korean, I began crossing off letters. The girls YELLED at him, thus taking the disciplining out of my hands and into my students. Problem Solved.
I still make many mistakes, but these shortcuts I have realized in my week of teaching make the job SO much easier! I have more time to joke around with the students and worry less about classroom management each time.
I also found out that the staff room at my school has daily stocked baked goods! Best. Discovery. Ever.
Today I felt well rested, and with a better idea of how to prepare: show up earlier and rehearse the lessons more.
I also felt like it was time to immerse myself in the culture a little. It was a bright and sunny day, so, like any other true Korean, I grabbed my umbrella. Not gonna lie, it made a HUGE difference. In 33oC sun (before humidex) an umbrella can really make the difference between arriving at work drenched in sweat versus just normal sweaty. So I felt pretty good about that.
I also was able to have a conversation with Melissa about questions from the previous day: how to handle misbehaving kids, reward systems, games that work, and general filing and admin stuff. I felt much more prepared on that front.
When I arrived at work I immediately hunkered down to pre-listen to audio CD's, have games ready, and become familiar with what I was actually teaching.
It paid off. My second solo day of teaching was less stressful, used class time better, and was waaay less tiring. I am now officially called "Teacher! Teacher! wrawla Teacher!" Next lesson: pronouncing L's and R's.
After work I went straight out to a goodbye party I was invited to that involved more than 20 people in adult-sized animal onsies, excessive amounts of booze, and dance off between me and a korean man (guess who won). More on this later!
One day of training with Melissa seemed short- but she gave me enough information and prepared me. Armed with a folder of notes from Melissa, detailing the behaviour of students in certain classes, administrative notes, and classwork prepared for the next month, I put on my best "Laura Stanley Business Casual" (aka lulu lemons and a v-neck with black flats and makeup) and hopped on the bus bound for school.
Every class went well- the kids seemed to not be afraid of me (no crying) and were not too disobedient. Minus my last class of 14 year olds who were too-cool-for-school. They sucked. But I was warned about this. My impression after the day ended was that it would get better with time. I know I work well with children- especially smallish ones; the key is just figuring out how the classroom works well.
I was a little stressed by then end of the day. More than anything, though, I was HUNGRY. Lucky for me, there is a massive Costco not even 15 minutes from my apartment that accepts Canadian Costco cards! It was heaven. And expensive. But more importantly, delicious. Granola, cheese, green apples, bread, peanut butter, spinach tortellini, avocados, a nut wheel, and (most importantly) yogurt, were all lugged home in my arms. Sweet, sweet comfort food. My home away from home. I came back and stuffed my face. Then fell asleep. It was awesome.
Today was my first full day in Korea. I went to school to shadow Melissa (the girl I am taking over for). We went out for lunch and I had my first taste of Korean Food!
The two vegetarian dishes we ordered were Bimbimbap (Pictured- a rice dish with spices, veggies, and an egg on top) and Mul Nangmyeon (a cold noodle soup)
They came in two huge bowls, with about 6 side dishes.. My total came to around $5. Not too shabby!
The teaching was very interesting to watch, and very overwhelming! 6 different classes taught in one day. Tomorrow I will be flying solo and teaching by myself for the first time. I'll post more on that later.
Today I am going to try to actually use korean words when communicating for once!
I am posting this late in the day and am quite tired so it may not be interesting/detailed. But I can tell you this: my first day was GREAT!!!!
Arrived in korea at 4:30am and was picked up by my principal and her son. I was settled in my apartment by 7:00am and unpacking. (pictures to come)
At 10:30, after calls to loved ones back at home, I met up with a friend who graciously decided to show me around. Successfully took the subway for the first time to meet up with her, and we went on our way. Grabbed a sandwich for lunch, walked through downtown, and into the shopping district. She gave me advice and tips on how to behave properly, things to look out for, and how to not offend anyone.
when giving money to anyone, cover your elbow with your other hand
when accepting or giving something to a superior, use both hands
bow to everyone except your students
She also assured me that I have many adventure and sports opportunities awaiting me! I think I will join an ultimate team, and a soccer team. I will also try to buy a bike, run along the river, and participate in a running/drinking event called 'hashing'. Look for more on this later.
At around 4pm I went back to the apartment, exhausted from jet lag and heat. I napped until about 7:30pm, and then went back to meet up with friends at a CANADIAN pub. what a great way to spend an evening! Though two korean men gave me a shot of tabasco and tequila (prairie fire?), which was disgusting.
So I finish off my first day in Korea optimistic and looking forward to the upcoming year!!!!!
Tomorrow is my first day of teaching... we'll see if my stance is the same after that
Here is where I live. The station is 1minute from Yangpyeong Station (along the purple #5 line). Due to my lack of photo editing software, it is shown on this map with a fuzzy dot. But that is where I live!!