Sunday, March 24, 2013

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."

Wow, I can not believe at all it has been over a month now that I've been in Korea. Time has really flown!

Ok so brief update, I was picked up by my co-teacher from the orientation site and needless to say it was a very stressful day. I had no information about my school, town, or much of anything. She took me to the immigration office to register for my alien registration card, then we had about a 45 min drive where we talked, I received a little more info, and we got to know each other a little bit. Next stop was our school. I met the principal (eeek!), and the man under the vice principal (3rd man). Whew! It was good to get those out of the way. Koreans are very into first impressions so I was trying my best to do well, with the bowing several times, and spouting out the few Korean words I knew. My co-teacher gave me a brief tour around the school then it was to the next order of business. An hour and a half later I had my bank account set, we stopped for a snack, and we lugged my suitcases up the stairs to my new home. The previous teacher left me a note with some helpful advice and info, my co-teacher showed how a few things worked (washing machine, stove, heater, etc) and I was on my own. Several hours later, I was completely unpacked, decorated, and organized, and it felt oh so good!! I now had 4 days of freedom until the first day of school.
I spent my first day exploring my town, wandering about as far as I could walk, and did a little grocery shopping. The next day I met my neighbor, a fellow teacher who's been here 10 mths, and we headed into the city, Jeonju (where my orientation was), for some exploring. It was an awesome first day in the city. I met another teacher, got some stuff for my apt, meandered through a couple markets, strolled down the main pedestrian/shopping street, and just wandered. A couple days later, I ventured into the city on my own for a complete day of navigating, exploring, and getting my bearings. It was wonderful!

First day of school! I was trying to be way more excited than I was nervous. After stepping on 2 different buses to check if they were the correct one, I hopped on the 3rd/right one and was off to school! I met the vice principal, all the other teachers, and we had a welcoming ceremony where all the teachers basically just stood there for an hour, and bowed to everyone when the principal attempted to say my name, which he forgot. Haha it was basically a crazy day in which I had no idea of what was going on or what was happening next. Our room was a disaster zone with piles of miscellaneous items covering the desks, tables, and floor. My co-teacher and I spent the entire day cleaning, organizing, and getting the room to an acceptable state. Lunch was awesome! The day came to a close and I was excited to have made it through my first day!

On the 2nd day I met one of my classes, and got started on some planning. The evening following the 3rd day of school was the teacher's welcoming dinner. We all went to a nearby restaurant where I had the opportunity to experience traditional Korean restaurant experience. Sitting on the floor, a giant pan cooking a spicy duck dish on the each table with about 8 side dishes surrounding it. It was interesting to experience the Korean drinking etiquette I had heard/read about, which is very important. One never pours their own drink, and when someone's drink is empty you must refill it, ladies turning away with drinking, rules about elders, etc. It was great to talk with a couple other teachers who knew some English, experience new food, and get to interact with everyone outside the setting of school. The whole evening was oh so fascinating!
Later in the week at school, I was complimented by the 3rd man and principal that I was very polite, which I was told my co-teachers and learned during orientation is very important to Koreans. I was doing all my bowing and proper saying 'anyunghayseyo' awesomely! I was quite happy! Go me!
The following evening, my neighbor and I rode the bus to a nearby town, where I met and had dinner with 3 other teachers who live there. It was a nice opportunity to meet some more people close by, the dinner was delicious, and it was a fun night getting to know them a bit. Friday came, I brought in the gifts from home for the principal, v.p., 3rd man, my co-teacher, and all the other teachers/staff. They were all so excited and I received so many smiles and thank you's! It was a wonderful start to the day! The day continued to be a pretty good one and I successfully completed my first week of school! It was quite a whirlwind crazy roller coaster ride, and I still hadn't met all my classes, but it was good to know a bit more of what was happening.

After finishing my 2nd week of school I felt as if I had a little more of an idea of what is going on. I teach 3rd-6th grade classes. Along with a few kindergarten classes, after school classes, and story times with all the grades. I will also be working at the local education center 2 days a week where I will be teaching teachers as well as students. Also, I've found out. a couple Wednesdays a month all the teachers play volleyball together in the gym. This was quite the experience! It was so entertaining to watch, and see a more chill side to my colleagues and superiors. It ended up being a really fun time followed by another dinner with the school. This time my co-teacher sat by me and it was so great to get to talk to her and know her better and socialize with good food and drinks.

The third week flew by and the 4th week I will begin my teaching at the education center.

During my time in Korea so far, I haven't experienced the extreme culture shock that I was anticipating. I'm not sure if it's because of possibly preparing myself more than previous times. I feel like I read a whole lot, books, blogs, etc, or if I'm just adjusting to living abroad in general better. I don't exactly know. During the past month or so I couldn't help but think about my previous times living abroad in Spain, but especially in Georgia. Besides my month in Prague when I had an apt (with a roommate, not host family) this is the first time I have had my own place by myself. It it definitely quite a different experience to say the least. 
There are several moments here in Korea that have been completely unlike anything else, sometimes even completely opposite to life before. There are other times though that are so similar. Living in Georgia there were some stressful and challenging times, as well as the greatest culture shock in any country I have lived/visited. I look back now and am so thankful for these struggles. I feel as if they made me stronger and just really allow me to appreciate different circumstances and life now. On the other hand, there were some awesome people, countless unforgettable memories, some amazing and incredible moments that when I reminisce I can't help but smile. And I am grateful for those wonderful memories to miss.

Overall, I'm psyched for this experience, and always and forever thankful for both the good and for the oh so challenging times!

I'll try to update soon with some extremely memorable moments, fun weekend stuff, and pics!  :)



  1. Hey, Chris! Good to read about your first experiences in Korea. Especially great to see your apt!! It looks really spacious, and homey. The pics and stars look really good. Glad all is well. :-)