Well, I've made it through 2 full weeks in Korea, and my first week of teaching! A lot has happened, but then, that's always what it feels like when everything is new.
I have moved into my apartment, as previously stated, and it is REALLY good to finally be in my own space, and not be living out of my luggage. My apartment is quite sizable and comfortable, though I will admit I was a little disappointed that I have to move again in 3 months. Oh well, I will still continue to settle in despite this fact--I know myself and I just won't be comfortable unless I allow myself to nest. One of the added bonuses of getting this big apartment is that the previous couple left me their elliptical machine as well as many appliances and housewares, which I will likely be able to take with me to my next apartment. Talk about luxury!
Teaching is going well. I must admit, my first day was somewhat haphazard, and I was a little confused about the wheres and whats and whyfores, but it was a great gift to have a 6-month seasoned teacher (Tony) there to help me and my fellow new teachers (Stephanie and Ben) ride out the turbulence. For example, on my first day, the school had not given me the correct schedule, and if it weren't for Tony, throughout the day, I would have had several classrooms full of students wondering where their teacher was! By Friday however, I had figured out the general rhythm and I think I will do just fine.
The students are, for the most part, respectful, well behaved, and engaging. At times, I have to be a little more energetic and bubbly due to dry subject matter, but I almost enjoy this the most. I get a kick out of their reactions to me, the crazy foreigner, jumping around in front of them and asking silly questions of them. I realize I somewhat enjoy the way they perceive me as odd, maybe as much as I have perceived of some Korean customs. The other day, I wore some earrings I have which are made from welded and twisted forks (anyone from Portland knows the Saturday market artist well!) . When a student raised her hand, tugged on her ear, and asked "teacher, octopus?" I replied, "no! they are forks!" with a gesture and a face indicating eating a delicious meal. The students giggled and exchanged looks disbelief with raised eyebrows. I smiled and made a face of complete disbelief to match theirs. Another day, as I was checking a student's homework, I saw at the bottom of her work a little cartoon sketch of what I could tell was me and her, smiling, with a message, "welcome Kirsten teacher!" I grinned and told her "thank you for the beautiful drawing, I am so pleased to be your teacher!" I am looking forward to getting to know them more.
Some of the past few weeks has been challenging for me, as could be expected. I am fairly isolated from everything I know, and contrary to what I had thought prior to coming here, not many Koreans do speak English. Living fully immersed in a place that does not understand me, even in the simplest way, is a real first for me. True, Africa was pretty different from home, but the ability to converse and communicate with the people there right from the first moment made such an immense difference. I was able to connect and make friends with Africans, and completely take for granted that the first step to successful communication is simply sharing the same speech. Tony has given us all copies of the Korean alphabet, and believe me, I am working to learn it fast.
My thoughts are with you, thanks for keeping in touch!