I have arrived in Korea!!! After a few years of dreaming, a few months of planning, and many hours of flying, I have arrived on the other side of the world. And in the past day and a half since I landed, I have seen a mountaintop view of a sprawling Korean city, eaten at least 4 new (and spicy!) foods, met up with an old dear college friend, and sung karaoke norebong style until the wee hours of the morning.
Let me back track. When I first arrived, members of the "reinforcement team" of my soon to be employer, Moon Kkang English School, picked me up and took me to HQ where I finally met the people I have been corresponding with since May. They gave me an ice cream bar and a training packet, and sent me off to my hotel, not before letting me know they are here to help me with anything and everything. They are delightful.
The next day was mine to sieze, and I sieze it I did. I got in touch with my friend Babbie, who is in her second year as a English teacher up in Sokcho, on the northeast shore. Coincedentally, she was spending the next few days on vacation, just a short drive away from Daegu in Gyeongsan, and was ready to appear on the scene for a reunion! But before she arrived, I had time to explore. I put on a summer dress to tolerate the 85 degree heat with what felt like 90% humidity, and struck out on my own into Daegu, the third largest city in South Korea, population 2.5 million.
As I walked down the busy street, taking in all of the sounds, strange sights, and trying to soak in the general feeling of the country I will be calling home for the next year, something washed over me. I burst into a wide grin, and I felt good. I thought to myself, "I did it. I'm really here. This is really happening!" I can't begin to explain how hard that is for me to believe after years of delayed dreams and mislaid plans. But I'm getting there. Training starts today, and teaching begins on Monday, so the reality will surely be sinking in with due course.
Every Korean I have met in the last day and a half has been helpful and kind, despite the fact that neither of us can understand much of what the other's words mean. There was the flight attendent who brought me an extra dinner roll and did not try to mask her delight upon learning that Korea was to be my home for the next year. Later, strangers in the airport exchanged some Korean words that may have been "can we help you?" and then carted my 2 massive bags onto my luggage trolley despite my assurance that it was no trouble. The Korean ticket agent in Seoul got all my baggage through, waived the fee I should have paid for my guitar without me realizing it until it was too late to say thank you. All this before even leaving the airport!
I can already see there is so much for me to learn here. As I was walking with Babbie through the beautiful Aspan Mountain Park, I felt so ignorant. Our wandering feet led us through a Buddhist shrine, a Korean War memorial, and past several statues of famous Koreans, nameless to my western mind. I wanted to know what stories each statue had to tell, what the significance of the ornate details on the pagoda were symbolic of, and who was staying in the guest house of the shrine and why. I want to be able to speak to the Korean people I am interacting with each day, and I am eager to begin learing.
I feel optimistic and overwhelmed, hopeful and excited, there is so much to come! Now: off to my first day of training and observation. Wish me luck!