Three times I’ve realized this is a small provincial town.

One of the funniest things about living in Yeongwol Korea is that everyone else lives here too. By everyone I mean everyone that I work with, including all my students, coworkers, and Principal. And they probably notice you every time you leave the house, because you’re that foreign girl (the one that always wears sunglasses) that lives in Sam Ho apartments, and therefore you stick out a lot.  So here are a few instances where I’ve run into people from school when least expecting too.

  1. There was that time we all went for duck at the Duck restaurant with the other Native English Teachers (NET’s) and as I was taking my shoes off at the entrance, I notice a boy lying on the floor of the restaurant doing his homework/watching TV. He sees me and says Hello Amelia teacher!!!! That was my first week of teaching and at that time I couldn’t recognize any of my students if I saw them anywhere. So I just blindly waved back and said HIIIII back to him. He didnt think it was so strange though, he went right back to his TV watching. He’s probably used to seeing his teachers everywhere. His parents, who owned the duck restaurant, asked him who I was and I assume he said I was his English teacher. Still cant say which school he knows me from since I teach at 3 elementary schools nearby.
  2. On Sundays, Vanessa and I decided we will go grocery shopping together as an incentive to actually have food in our fridges every week. So we are walking back from the supermarket with our shopping on Sunday afternoon and this car pulls up next to us and it’s the Administration lady at the Trout Academy that I go to on Wednesdays and Thursdays. She doesn’t speak any English at all, but usually we just  smile and say hello, and offer each snacks. We say hello, and she asks if we are walking home from the supermarket, and we said yes (I was carrying a pack of toilet paper along with my food items) We said goodbye and she drove away, and then after she left I realized my outfit was the weirdest, most mismatched combination of prints and colors. I looked like Laundry day basically.
  3. This last sighting is perhaps the funniest, and it happened just last night. Vanessa, Ngozi, and I had gone out for Korean BBQ, and leaving the restaurant we decided to swing by the Donut Grandma to see if she was still making any donuts because they are so good and warm and sugary. We get to the donut place and she is scrubbing all her pans and donut paraphernalia. We were just standing there feeling sad when a bunch of people came stumbling out of the restaurant next door all talking pretty loud. They were older looking important people in suits. Ngozi recognizes one of them as her principal at her school, and then I realize MY principal from Trout Academy is there too, along with my 5th grade Co-teacher. We wave at them and they all come over to talk to us. So we all introduce each other, and several awkward handshakes ensued. We knew they were drunk because many Korean adults will pretend they don’t speak English most of time, but when they’re drunk they have a lot more confidence in their abilities. They asked us what we were doing, and we said “No more donuts!” and made sad faces as we pointed to the Donut Grandma still closing her shop. They said “AAAAaaaaaahhhhh” Then my principal gave us all high fives, and then they walked away.

 

I just keep thinking I’m going to be here for a whole year, and come spring and summer, i’m going to be outside all the time. My apartment is way too cave-ish to be in when the weather is nice. So I guess I have a lot more of these funny interactions to look forward too. My students are probably going to know everything about me, including where I live, what I do on weekends, and where I buy socks. Should be fun.

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On snacks, fires, and trash.

There has been a major triumph that occurred this week. One that several of us newcomers are relishing in. We finally mustered the courage to throw out the trash. You may laugh, but garbage disposal in Korea is such an ordeal. You need to sort all your trash, and collect it in specific official yellow bags. If you use the wrong bag or throw things in the wrong bin, something awful might happen. I’m not sure. If you’re throwing out food, it needs to be sorted into its own special bag, and preferably kept in your freezer until you are ready to take it outside. My concern was I didn’t know where the garbage disposal was in my apartment complex. I tried spying on my neighbors to see where they took their trash, but I just never seemed to catch them at it. Vanessa never saw them either. Finally the other day she located the disposal area, where there are bins and specially marked areas for various trash,recyclables and compost. It was funny when we realized that many of us in other towns or regions had been intimidated to take out the trash. CRISIS AVERTED.

This past weekend we had some friends from Wonju and Pyeongchang come to visit. The plan was to go see Beauty and the Beast all together and generally show them around our super cool awesome town of Yeongwol. Since last weekend was so hectic what with travelling to Seoul and being touristy, it was nice to kick back and hang around town. Then we realized the weather was going to be excellent and pretty warm so it was decided to have the first bonfire of the year down by the river, organized by the Yeongwol teachers who had already been here when we arrived. They are a diverse and lively group, some of whom have been here for several years. Apparently there is a rich tradition of riverside bonfires once the the weather gets warm. I never thought that I’d come to Korea and still be able to go to bonfires and eat s’mores, hot dogs and other American snacks. It just didn’t seem likely. We had a fantastic time, and It was very pretty down by the river, watching the speed trains go by every hour or so, and the stars that slowly appear in the sky. It will be even nicer when its not so cold and we have more firewood.

Once the fire died, we made our way back up to civilization with the remainder of the snacks and went to the movie theatre to watch Beauty and the Beast. We were incredibly hyped, and had bought our tickets earlier that day. We all really loved it, and enjoyed watching it together. The film was in English with Korean subtitles. Tickets were only 5,000 Won (5$)  so I’m planning on going to the movies whenever I can, and probably watch some choice Korean films too.  On Sunday morning I took my friends to the bus station so they could get back to their towns and lives.

Walking home from the bus station, I realized how warm, sunny, and quiet it was. Very peaceful and Sunday-ish. I thought about how nice it would be to sit in the park or on a bench anywhere in town and enjoy the sun and draw.  Maybe do a series of drawings around town. I seriously can’t wait for summer.

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Wait, so who’s President?!

So its been about a week and a half since my last post. I would have preferred to update more often but I’ve been experiencing some technical difficulties at home. Ive been living like Emily Dickinson, just pondering and reading and writing. Not much interaction with the outer realm. Hopefully the issue will be resolved quickly because it did not end well for Emily Dickinson.

Apart from that, a few interesting things have occured. Ive survived my first week teaching, and I’m halfway through the second week. Ive decided that I like two out of the three schools that I teach at. On Mondays and Fridays I teach 5th grade English at the elementary school in town. Its easy, its walking distance, and the kids are always happy. On Wednesdays and Thursdays I teach at another school, grades 3rd through 6th. I think I like this school the most. I have dubbed this school the Trout Academy because of its infamous Welcome Dinner last week. So much trout. (I’d like to add that we had a second Welcome party at a pork restaurant the other day) On Tuesdays I teach at a super small school in the next town, and I dont like this school. The students don’t care about English, and the teachers don’t care about English. I am forced to go by the textbook and it’s so very boring. The textbook isn’t that bad if the students are participating, but at this school they are zombies. Zombie Elementary School. I tried playing a fun game with these zombie children but they didn’t enjoy my fun game. Here’s to hoping that all fire drills, school holidays, election days, and field trips occur on Tuesdays.

This past weekend a group of us from EPIK Orientation (English Program In Korea)  met up in Seoul for the 2 days. It was really nice to see them all again. We had spent our first week together getting acclimated in Korea, and then we were all bussed off to our respective towns and cities and left to our own devices. Seoul was totally insane, I expected to be mindblown, and I was. It is so ultra modern, whacky, and fashionable, but also traditional and stately. The first place we went to was called Myeong Dong, and it’s an outdoor shopping district that is comparable to Harajuku district in Tokyo. In fact, I dont understand why people never talk about Seoul the way they go on about Tokyo. Even if you dont care about shopping, go to Myeong Dong to people watch, eat cheap street food, and just look at everything. We also encountered a very orderly protest against the Impeachment of the Korean President that happened the day before. In general I wished I had 12 more sets of eyes. I was so amazed and in disbelief at the artistry that went into the layout and theme of the shops. We also found Itaewon, which is a district filled with fusion restaurants and markets. There was food from all over the world, including many Greek and Middle Eastern places. There were plenty of other foreigners there so we just walked around, got dinner, and left so as to not be confused with other obnoxious Westerners. There were many.

(As I write this in my cubicle, the Vice Principal keeps tapping me on the shoulder and offering me biscotti or Oreos or hard candy. This office always has the snacks)

So after our delicious Korean BBQ dinner (that we split 5 ways) we headed back to our hostel which was at the Hongdae district (pardon if the spelling is incorrect). I recommend staying in Hongdae if you’re young and want to party. I cannot deny, it’s a fun place. We walked to a Norebang (Karaoke house?) a place where you can rent rooms for you and your squad to sing all the Jams at an hourly rate. There were comfy sofas, microphones, a small stage and fun percussion instruments. I sang a Whitney Houston classic along with Beauty and the Beast (in honor of Emma Watsons upcoming singing debut) On our walk home we stopped at a Korean Mcdonalds and got soft serve and french fries. It was the perfect end to our first day in Seoul. In the morning we struggled to wake up and get out the door, but we made it to Gyeongbokgung Palace aka the Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven. It was much larger than we anticipated and we kinda ran out of steam mid-palace. So we sat on a bench and admired the ambience. We still had a great time, I’m sure we will visit again in the spring when everything is green and pretty. We have some days off coming up, and we will be going to the Cherry Blossom Festival, as well as Jeju Island when it gets warm.

That concludes our first adventure in Seoul. It takes Vanessa and I exactly 2 hours and 15,ooo won (15$) to get to Seoul, so we will try to go as often as we can. And to those smart and lucky individuals wanting to visit me this year (AHEM Chris, Danae, and Paige) I will know how to use the bus ticket machine ASAP so I’ll be ready to guide you anywhere you wish to go. I know I haven’t posted any photos but I’m too lazy to do that now, so I’ll post them in a day or two.

 

Weeknd

March 4th 2017

This was the weirdest most hilariously confusing week I’ve ever experienced. Before I get into some of the highlights of said week, I would like to add some visual documentation to this blog as requested by my avid readers.

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So Thursday was my first day at school, and as I mentioned before, I was to wait outside my apartment and ride the school bus with the little kids. I couldn’t help laughing at their faces when they saw me get on their bus and walk to the back row. They kept turning around to look at me and say HELLO!! HELLO TEACHER!! They really are very happy kids so that’s a relief. On that day there wasn’t much teaching since it was the first day of school for the academic year. There were 2 identical welcome assemblies in which the new teachers were introduced, songs were sung, and cake was had. I’m not sure why the same assembly was held twice, but everyone was too busy to really tell me what was happening. I just followed everyone else. Anyway, after those assemblies my co-teacher sat me down and gave me my teaching schedule, and told me that I did in fact have a class to teach that day (SURPRISE!!!) so I should prepare an introductory lesson, as well as some activities for two after school English clubs. I’ve been told lots of things happen last minute in Korea, and its very important to be able to go with the flow here. They went alright. I was prepared, but my lesson plan was too advanced for the after school kids, and they didn’t understand me. I’ll be ready next week.

After school, my co teacher told me we were all getting in a van and going for a faculty welcome dinner. He said “Do you like the trout? River fish!” I said “suuuuuuure!” We all went to this restaurant where we had a big private room, where everyone sat on the floor at a huge table of raw fish and other accoutrements. It was like a Korean Hogwarts feast. I have no photos of this event because my phone had died. But, there was raw trout, fried trout, steamed trout, dried trout, and trout soup. I liked the trout soup, but I’m not sure river fish are my thing after all.

During all this trout, Soju was being poured all around. Soju is the Korean answer to vodka, but its a little sweeter, and therefore easier to drink. Drinking culture is huuuuuuge (HUUGEEEE) in Korea, and certain etiquette must be followed, especially if you’re sitting across from your principal and you want to make a good impression. First, you should never pour your own Soju. People usually come up to you with a bottle and a shot glass, and they pour it for you. Then they give you the bottle to pour a glass for them. Then you cheers and drink. I liked how during this dinner people kept getting up and moving down the table. It was like musical chairs. That way you get to drink and talk with everyone present. It reminded me of Greeks when they get together at weddings or family events.

Overall, everyone at work seems really nice, and genuinely curious about me and where I am from. I am surprised no one has asked me about Trump yet, since most Koreans totally despise him. I know some of my friends at other schools have already been bombarded by Trump questions. Anyway, Its a weird feeling to never know exactly whats going on around you, and I think that’s going to be a big part of my daily life at school. Its not as unnerving as I expected it to be, Its pretty comical at times, like watching a movie on silent.

Today (Saturday) I will be reorganizing my room, eating chocolate cereal, preparing for lessons next week, and maybe getting back into Netflix. Later Vanessa and I will check out an art supply store in town. For those of you keeping track, my shower is still broke.

#korea

Amalia

 

 

 

Here I am…

This is pretty surreal. Today is my first day in my town of Yeongwol Korea. We are about an hour and a half east of Seoul by bus. Not bad, totally manageable. I arrived last night, and was shown around by the Gym teacher at my elementary school. His English was not good, but we managed to have pleasant conversation. he told me about all his travels, and asked me if I wanted to join his soccer team. I said suuuuuuuuure! Anyway, he introduced me to the Principal, Vice Principal, and the administration ladies. My school is small but colorful. It is two floors with a small recess area in the front. To get to school, I will wait outside my apartment at 8:30 am and ride the Kindergarten bus. Yes, I’ll be riding to my new job in style, with the cool kids.

After a lot of logistics and paperwork, I was taken to my new apartment, which is just out of the main downtown area. A nice 5 minute walk. My place is a studio apartment on the first floor. There are some pros and cons to it. Its small, no windows, almost no storage, and the shower is currently broken. BUT, I have lots of blankets, heated floors, a second room with a sofa, TV, good bed, and a desk with a bookshelf. It’s a good thing I’m not the only English teacher in this town, Vanessa from LA lives in the next building and she has graciously let me use her shower. She is also educating me on the intricacies of K-Pop. I’m baffled.

So far, I feel a little far away from everything. If that makes any sense. I’m aware of how isolated I am. All in all that is a good thing, but last night and early this morning I really didn’t know what to do. I miss thinking about art, and this last week was so hectic with orientation and meeting new people that I wasn’t able to draw or even write too much. As soon as my job begins tomorrow and I establish a routine, the feeling of OH SHITTT HOW DID I GET HERE will melt away and everything will work out. Because it always does so why shouldn’t it again?????

This morning Vanessa, Lauren (from South Africa), and myself ventured into town to explore and purchase some food and supplies. I’ve been looking for Nutella but I don’t think it exists in this small provincial town. Unfortunate, but I’ve found other things to snack on such as green tea chocolate cookies, bananas, coffee, noodles, and clementines. You know the essentials. I’ve been told good pizza exists here also, which is so so so great. Please don’t think that I don’t like Korean food, I love it. Especially Bulgogi and Bibimbop. But we all need pizza every once in a while.

We have a meet and greet dinner tonight (I think) so until then I will continue unpacking and start making this apartment feel more inspiring. I’m thankful my Spotify works in Korea so Fleetwood Mac and Leon Bridges can serenade me as I work.