Banner design by Helena, portrait by Eva


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Arrived in Korea Last Night

I'm here! The sun is shining brightly. It's a smoggy bright; kind of dull. I'm wearing a light shirt and still I'm too warm.

I just came back from a long walk around Suwon, after dining with co-workers. My boss and the others were a joy to lunch with. I said I'd try anything but prefered vegetarian so they ordered a massive vegetarian platter of Kim-Chi, sticky rice etc. We sipped water and talked about the school, hiking, the differences between our cultures. My boss even offered to teach me some Hangul! He's a short man around 35 who's always joking.

We made a stop at the school and the director of foreign students showed me my classroom. I teach several classes but all in the same room. Our private campus is on the 5th 6th and 7th floors of a highrise building and everything is new as of September. It's actually really classy!

Lots of glass windows let in light, there's a sophisticated reception desk and bright colors everywhere. My classroom has 12 desks lined up, windows, a big whiteboard and is modern in style. I took a quick look at the (simplistic) textbooks while I waited for my boss to get me a map of Suwon. I'm the conversational teacher.

I return to the school today at 5:30 for training. During my walk, to put in time this afternoon, I was in awe of the tangled streets with colorful shops, highrises (the land is costly in Korea), small markets selling anything from hair accessories to worms to seafood and dog meat.

Searching for a bathroom, I ended up in a large, private elementary school. The restroom was filled with giggling girls who asked me if they could touch my hair when I came out of the stall. They were actually waiting for me to come out! I've noticed the bathrooms rarely have toilet paper, soap or towels here. Luckily, I carry around a package of Kleenex!

The plane ride was long but I was seated beside a Korean man named Jay who was willing to discuss Korean culture all 12 hours (from Vancouver to Seoul). He watched me fade throughout the ride. I was awake for 20-some hours straight and had was almost too exhausted to carry my baggage at the end of the flight. I hadn't slept the night before.

Jay was shocked no one from the school offered to meet me at the airport. He helped me with immigration, money exchange, baggage pick-up and finding out where the limo bus was to Suwon. When I was dropped off at the Castle Hotel (in Suwon), I waited for 2 hours before I decided no one was coming to pick me up and I had better call the school and remind them. A bell boy made the call for me and 20 minutes later my boss rolled in with his car.

On the bus ride to Suwon, I saw so many curious things: a barn overflowing with naked manniquans, trucks full of live chickens in cages, some sort of rural ostridge race through a man made pond. The buildings are huge, marked by gigantic numbers, and often decorated in an Asian-style cartoon. The rural land from Seoul to Suwon is extremely industrial and unattractive. There are mountains but they're squat and unimpressive.

My apartment is surprisingly nice! It seems to have been newly rennovated. When I was tired last night, I actually walked into the glass doors seperating the kitchen and bedroom! I'm sure I said a few choice words!

There is a working television but their entertainment is so different than ours, with actors breaking out in song and dance and contorting their faces with expression. The only English channel I found was playing Pulp Fiction with Hangul subtitles. I'm a fan of the movie but it's a little dark for someone experiencing severe culture shock!

The small things are proving difficult. For instance, I showed up at this internet cafe and tried to tell the receptionist that I wanted to pay for one hour. 10 minutes later, after even using my finger to demonstrate one hour on the clock, I had to take to the streets and ask people to translate "one hour" to Hangul. I targeted the younger generation who are more likely to know a little English but it was 16 people later that I found my guy! He laughed at the ease of the question and jotted down Korean script into my notebook. I thanked him and ran back here to the cafe to point to the information. She took my WONS and ushered me to a computer.

At my apartment this morning, I had difficulty figuring out where the "shower" was because there are 3 taps up high in different parts of the apartment. A shower in Korea means a half-foot drop in the cement or tile floor. I thought maybe the shower was the floor of the laundry room or the nozzle in the kitchen... but eventually discovered it was indeed the shower head beside the bathroom mirror. Water falls on the floor next to the sink and toilet!

I had to laugh because in Canada Mom scolded me for dripping all over the floor, after a shower, and here my sink and toilet were immersed in several inches of water as I showered!!! I'm not sure how hygenic that is. Everytime I walk into the bathroom, I'm walking on the shower floor.. and my own filth. I'll have to wash it every day or so.

I will write soon but should do a bit of grocery shopping and stop home quickly before I start training at the school around 5:30PM. After the lunch and encounters with people on the street, I'm feeling more settled. My heart has stopped racing!

I live in the hub of downtown. My windows have bars, I have a security system and 3 locks on my door.

Already I miss everyone at home. : )

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That shower thing really creeps me out, the way you described it... I'm leaving to Seoul next month ans now I'm wondering here about that... lol.