Existing Member?

Maggie Love's Travel My journey traveling the world. “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” You’ve got to find the treasure, so that everything you have learned along the way can make sense. “ The Alchemist

First Month in South Korea

SOUTH KOREA | Friday, 18 March 2011 | Views [547]

Friday March 18, 2011

I am slacking majorly on my blogging. I finally have internet at my house so it will be easier to write now. Something I'd rather do at the end of the day and not while I'm at work. I am totally connected now! I have cable, internet and a cell phone. It only took a month, but I got it. I have great group of friends here, orientation was the best thing for all of us. Got an opportunity to meet over 400 people from Ireland, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, UK, and South Africa. This is were I met the people I spend the majority of my time with. We just randomly went out to dinner and dancing at a club called 'gettho club', so that is what we call ourselves now. Probably only entertaining to us, but we don't care. In orientation we had classes from 9am until 9pm at night (most days) so it was long and at a lot of points very hard to focus. Koreans work and go to school like no one else, I swear. The students start school at 8:30am and goes until 3:30pm. Then they go to an academy until 7-10pm ish. It just depends. Some have private lessons after academy, and then there is homework. These kids are up until 1am every night, and only have Sundays off. The whole system is based on tests, not so much grades like I was accumstom to in America. These tests determine everything for their future. What school they will be allowed to go to, what careers they will be eligible for etc. The pressure is too much for me to even think about! The teachers at my school are not only teachers, but the government assigns them second jobs that they are required to do. For instance: Mr. Bae is head of the International Education Program at my school. He was also told by the principle that he is in charge of me which includes all my paperwork, issues, getting settled, payment, bank account, etc. He has to make the schedule for all the English teachers (including me there are 4), coordinate all the events (foreign culture, foreign etiquette + more throughout the year those are just months 1 &2 ), and teach his class of 2nd graders. Mr. Bae is married with two sons, and is in school working on his Doctorate. I have no idea how he does it and is still so nice. He looks great too, very handsome and has a young spirit about him. All the hard work and stress don't show.

I heard today from another NT (native teacher aka foreign teacher), one of the students in his last class yesterday killed himself last night. I also heard today a teacher at a high school killer herself from the pressure of getting the seniors ready for their final exam. It is just so crazy. I am glad that Korea values education more than the USA, but I think it is taken too far. All work and no play... literally. It seems all the stores are open until 10pm-midnight if not later. Which means people work very late (obviously).

Enough on the depressing stuff. So far I can say I have experienced that Koreans are the nicest people, and so gracious. I have been given candy, snacks, cards, nail polish, a free cell phone, taken out to eat traditional Korean food, and many other random small acts of kindness. A little sure does go a long way. I feel very appreciated, more than I ever have, but maybe because it's in such a way i'm not used to. People give each other gifts all the time, its ordinary here.

The teachers all love me, it's only been three weeks and my 3 co-teachers and the lady who I share my office with all say they miss me on Saturdays. They work on Saturdays! School 6 days per week seems a little excessive donesn't it? A lot of the staff is too shy to talk to me, but they all are so interested in me. If I go anywhere with a co-teacher EVERYONE asks them "where is she from" over and over. I am popular, they weren't lying when they said NT's would be famous here. It's true. I cannot go anywhere in Daegu without getting stared at or touched. In school it's amazing how many times a day I hear my name. I already have a fan club which consists of three of the cutiest 5th graders who are some of the smartest in the school. They speak fairly good English so I can actually talk to them. I ate lunch with them on Monday and it was the most I've said to anyone at lunch at school, it was actually really nice. Today I was asked to go hiking with them EVERY Sunday at Daesil mountain. My little 5th graders, so freaking adorable. At least two times a day someone tells me they are envious of me because my eyes are so big, my nose is long and sticks out, I have such long legs, or a small face. It's so funny to me, but in reality it shouldn't be funny. Korean people seem to be very vein. They are way too concerned with looks.

Koreans are blunt, they will just say whatever they want to. Its only to help  you out because saving face here is everything, they are not trying to be mean. In USA people get offended with things like that. Last Saturday the crew and I went hiking and while we were waiting at the bus stop to head back to Daegu there was this group of old people staring at us. Then, Mari, Kristin and myself got rated by a man who had to be at least 78 years old. Not joking. He pointed at Kristin and said 'numba 1' and showed us with his finger, pointed at Mari and said 'numba 2' and held up 2 fingers, then pointed at me and said 'numba 3' and held up 3 fingers. I was just too short for him and Kristin had a big booty. ( She is also African American so she is always the most popular no matter what). He then gave us candy from his bag, I got 2, Mari got 3, and Kristin got a handful. He then proceeded to give the rest of the bag to Monica, who is half Korean, turned to Kristin and said 'Miss America' and gave her an assortment of candies. Welcome to Korea. We were all dying of laughter. The elderly here are in great shape. I cannot even describe it. You see people who are at least 80 and have obviously had a stroke and are still inching their way up the side of the mountain. Never seen anything like it before. On our way down from the hike, which was seriously up the side of a steep mountain (we didn't even make it to the top), a 79 year old and his two buddies were trail running down the mountain, on the tail and off the trail. We were having a hard time, ankles, knees, pain, so we were making our way down slowly. We eventually asked to take a picture with them because they were so adorable and rockin it, and one guy told us he was 79. Crazy.





There are so many things that are different here, okay basically everything not gonna lie. I will be making lists at random times so get ready!

1. the garlic is much sweeter and less stinky.

2. There is absolutely NO cleavage allowed, but these girls wear mini mini skirts, or booty shorts with tights under them and high heels. It is crazy. I'm still not used to it.

3. If you wear a backpack you are definitely an English teacher.

4. The coffee shops don't open early. I cannot go get a coffee before school.

5.The apples are the best i've ever had.

6. The carrots are the best i've ever had.

7. Pretty much everything is cute/ adorable.

8. Don't be late. If the bus is leaving at 5:05, the bus is leaving at exactly 5:05. No exceptions.

9. They love sweets here. Some places i've eaten even have free self serve ice cream cones.

10. They recycle everything, so you must separate out left over food, paper, cans etc.

11.The subway is almost too clean.

12. You are not supposed to say 'bless you' when people sneeze, but they do all day long and it's difficult to refrain from commenting.

13. Everyone is impressed with my chop stick skills and kimchi eating abilities. They say i'm Korean and not American. Then ask why I can use chop sticks.

14.  Pedestrians don't have the right away and share the sidewalk with automobiles and motorcycles.

15. Trash can fires are not just for the homeless anymore.

16. I stole this one from Mark "Every city bus will have at least 2 teenage boys sitting in each other's laps and playing with each other's hair." So true.

17. Little kids travel alone on public transportation.

18. This country is fairly safe.

19. I cannot find a dryer to save my life and I have dust and lint on all of my clothes.

20. Through all the frustration and time it took to get here and then to become settled with internet, phone, apartment etc., I am very happy and sooooo glad I made it to South Korea to teach English!







This I have come to realize…3-20-2011

...I might miss the most. (Except of course my family and friends)




1. Clothes dryer. I wake up every morning sounding like I have a cold from all the lint and dust. Going to probably buy an air purifier.

2. Green chili

3. Refried beans

4. cheese (real cheese)

5. burrito man

6. Helen

7. Snowboarding

8. Microbews (mostly I.P.A. beers)

9. sriracha hot sauce

10. whole grain bread

11. wireless internet

Tags: daegu, english, expat, getting settled, living abroad, new beginnings, south korea, teacher, teaching english, travel



Travel Answers about South Korea

Do you have a travel question? Ask other World Nomads.