A full week in South Korea. Literally feels like the blink of an eye and an eternity at the same time.
Why don’t I know Korean yet?
I guess the more I write these posts the more I’ll get used to what I want to talk about. I’ll give a recap of this first week abroad.
After leaving Chicago I loaded onto the plane and was seated next to a girl around my age, definitely not Korean. As everyone gets comfortable, turns out Lisa is going to teach as well – just with a different company, on the opposite coast as me. Basically, I couldn’t have asked for a better travel buddy. It was great being able to share the same emotions as we left our homes. On her right was a lovely Korean woman named Bertie(Birdy?), who ended up helping us get our luggage and made sure we caught the correct bus to each of our destinations.
So I head to Seoul. The bus ride is a lot longer when you don’t have thirty friends equally as excited as you are. It’s also WAY harder to know if you are getting off on the right stop when you don’t have your best Korean pals there to tell you. Eventually I make it to the hotel and as I get out of the taxi, Wonjoo’s brother is right there waiting. AJ, his wife, and Wonjoo’s mom take me out to dinner in Gangam – where my hotel was. Gangam was a completely new experience from our other trips to Seoul. Not exactly sure why, but it might have had to do with the amount of bars and giant LED tvs.
Spent the next day pretty much relaxing and talked to the family. Wandered around for lunch and after a while realized, “Nick, no one else is here to have an input. No one else is going to make this decision.” And so I walked into a random place, ordered a random dish and was content.
Training was a blur. I wish I could explain it, but 1) I can’t per contract, and 2) it wouldn’t make sense anyway. Basically, it was everyday from 9:30-12:30 with some special hour sessions after. There were about eleven or twelve trainees staying in my hotel, several of which are teaching in the same city I am – just in a different school.
In particular, Monday we had our medical exams. Talk about an experience. We were told it would be similar to a conveyor belt and it sure was. Into one room for X-rays. Met a doctor who asked me basic questions, one of which, “Have you ever been to Korea?” “Yes, this is my third time.” “So you must have a Korean girlfriend by now, right?” he laughs. Onto an audiology test, which unfortunately was so easy. I love having my hearing checked because every time I do the tester person is blown away by how well I do. Not in Korea. Blood pressure test times three. Blood drawn. Urine sample. Eyes checked. EKG – which was freaky, first time I had ever done that. And a dental check. Took the better part of nearly two hours or so (maybe longer?). We went to grab food after and didn’t get back to the hotel until almost 6 and still had a lot of work to study. Each night was filled with online prepping and lesson preps as well. The best partner for those things you ask? Milkis, of course.
In my small group for training I had three others. Two from Boston and one from New York. Yuri and Morgan, and Lauren. I could not have asked for a better group. Our trainer was from Canada and definitely helped facilitate good vibes all week.
All in all training week was a test. The past few days in 김해 (Gimhae) have been awesome. Night one consisted of a sex motel, coffee, making an awesome Korean friend and discovering the Korean PC cafe. Until I get a phone I can’t compete with Koreans, but oh…I shall play games with them.
Day two I got my apartment and walked around the blocks of my apartment. I’m in a very fun area filled with dozens of restaurants, bars and the like. Last night (Saturday) I went out for a few beers solo. Sat down at a bar and several Korean girls try talking to me in broken English. We made our way through topics. I ended up learning the days of the week, how to count through the twenties, and how to piece together the date or birthdays. The most important thing I learned was, “8 out of 10 Korean girls NO like that,” as she points to my beard. Also, more than three tattoos are “terrible”.
My Sunday consisted of lunch with my fellow Gimhae teachers – Baylee, Elaine, and Schulyer. We ran into my friend 수미 (Sumi) from the first night and she helped us find an delicious and cheap place to eat. We followed that up with an excursion to Homeplus. I don’t know how to explain it other than thousands of Koreans and foreigners in a store the size and quality of Walmart. So. Many. People. It was unreal. On the second floor, yes, two floors, were nearly a dozen restaurants, a kid’s play area, bookstore and small thrill rides. The electronic department was jaw dropping. Needless to say, I will be going back.
I am currently sitting in an outdoor garden, sipping Rosemary tea among my new friends – my new family. Tomorrow I begin teaching and a whole new experience. I don’t think my mind has fully wrapped around the vast amount of change that has come at me the past few days, but when it hits, you’ll probably know.
Scattered story telling, but I hope you get the point. Definitely in love with this place and the people. Until next post, friends!