The Teaching has Begun in South Korea

The Teaching has Begun in South Korea

I have now been in Korea for a month…wow! Time flies-the crazy thing is *if* I only stay for the one year time is a ticking…good thing I got my ARC (Alien Registration Card) the other day b/c now I can finally start to travel-and that is what I have been waiting for!!! Exploring Asia starts now 🙂
Last week was a big week-I finally taught my first classes! I did my introduction PPT for the classroom (so they could find out ALL about Erin Teacher!) and it was pretty fun. A lot of you would’ve laughed at some of the pictures used…or the references I used in pictures to explain something the kids would enjoy/like/faces would light up. I think the funniest is I used my friend Allison’s dog Gunner as a picture for my dog (and yeah, I don’t have a dog, you are all correct! but didn’t even have a pic of my parents dog) because I figured they would like to see a dog AND I had a pic with Gunner. Gunner is famous over here at Bukbu Elementary 🙂 Then, the other picture that they LOVED was the picture I have with Dana Vollmer and me wearing her Olympic gold medal. Their eyes got really big-I think they might’ve gotten confused and thought I had won the gold medal…there was definitely some translating from my co-teacher on that one! The kids were allowed to ask me questions after and some of the questions I got were: how old are you (remember it isn’t rude here-it is all about hierarchy), do I have a boyfriend, and how tall are you. I realized that I needed to learn the metric system b/c when I told the little boy I was 5’7″ he just looked at me so confused. The funniest question I got was towards the end of the week-this boy raised his hand and asked me if this was my real hair color. My sister in law told me they would love my blue eyes, and I know my hair color is not a ‘typical’ color BUT it was so cute to hear him ask. They are so used to everyone having the same color hair (again like when we went to Costco-easy to spot us b/c we have lighter hair!).
Last week I also figured out the subway all on my own (I had to meet up with friends to watch my guilty pleasure the Bachelor). The subway is super nice, easy to use and clean! I have become very comfortable catching a cab back from downtown as well…since the bus stops at 11 and I didn’t make it by that time. Ooops 😉

So let’s see…last week also consisted of sleepless nights. Definitely not fun. It is all part of the adjustment I am assuming…could also be the night owl in me. I get to that point where I am like ‘I will just stay up b/c now people at home are awake…’ yeah, that needs to stop! It is pretty amazing to be overseas this time b/c in the last 10 years since I lived overseas technology has advanced SO much! I mean, before we had email and international calling cards. Now we have Skype, Facebook, Instagram, good ole iMessage/Facetime with the iPhone/mac AND Kakao. For my friends that haven’t downloaded this from home you need to. Pretty freaking cool. AND it is the THING in Korea 🙂 I especially liked it when I sent my sister a text and she sends me one back that says ‘my phone just talked to me’ yep…it does…it says kakao hahaha

I will say that I forget how much I love the traveling family you acquire when you are traveling/living overseas. Just the bonds you make with people who are also going through what you are going through is amazing! And, let’s not forget about the people back home that introduce you to someone they know that is here. I had this happen to me last weekend. I worked at Chevy’s in Sacramento in between coming back from Dallas and starting at the AHA. While working there I met Charlotte. Charlotte was cool and she went off to teach in Thailand 4 years ago…well we were friends on FB (of course) and last year when I was thinking of coming overseas I got in touch, and then this year I did again when I knew I was really (finally!) going to do it. She introduced me to her friend and his gf who have been out here for 4 years between Thailand and South Korea. They had me over for dinner Saturday night (amazing meal too-yum!) and we got to just talk about living overseas and they shared their experiences with me. It was wonderful! I also hiked in my backyard over the weekend. I mean, you think I am joking but I am not! I can walk out of my building and go about 10 minutes and be at the foot of Mt. Hamji. I love hiking and feel so blessed that I can hike whenever I want without having to go far. There are SO many other mountains and I will definitely be exploring those too. My friend Jen came over and we set out for Hamji…we took a wrong turn and hiked up the other mountain-Hamji’s neighbor 🙂 and when I say we went up, I mean we went UP and right away. It was a great workout-Jen & I both had a blast and the weather was perfect! I was a little worried about wearing a tank top (since it is not appropriate in this culture to show your shoulders or your chest/cleavage) but it was so warm that I didn’t care. And, I didn’t get too many stares-not any more than usual 🙂

The things I have noticed in the last month are interesting. I don’t know if you could really say they are ‘culture shocks’ but they are different. But, many differences are just that-different. They aren’t good, or bad. This is why I’ve come here-to experience the differences.

Here are some of the ways that South Korea is different than good ole California:
1. Toilet paper…it is like BYOTP here. No joke. So, the bathrooms have toilet paper as you walk into the restroom. Not in the individual stalls. You grab what you think you will need and continue on. Sometimes there isn’t TP. That is just part of the journey. I have learned to ALWAYS have kleenex with me 🙂 andddd since we are on the subject of the restroom you don’t flush the TP here. There is a wastebasket next to the toilet for that. Okay moving on!
2. Kleenex are napkins. No really! When you go into the lunchroom (at my school) there are kleenex boxes that they use as the napkin. And, even the ‘paper towels’ I have bought at Home Plus (our Target) are not the Bounty you would get at home 🙂 they are thin, small and little. I feel like I use a lot of paper in general haha
3. Soap on a stick-some of you saw the picture on facebook and instagram. For those of you that missed it please see below. This reminds me of the bathrooms back at home in the nasty gas stations that have the towel that is in the towel holder that you pull down and wipe your hands dry with. Do you know what I am talking about?! So, this is just like it sounds. Soap on a stick and you use that as your ‘soap’ to wash your hands. Now there aren’t towels or dryers-they all just shake them dry. I have a towel at work that I use, and again I always have kleenex with me too. I mean, let’s be serious, I don’t even like using hand soap that people I know have touched (it is one of my things I dunno).
4. Cold classrooms, hallways & bathrooms. So, people told me that the classrooms weren’t heated before I came over. I freaked out. I remember emailing Andrew (another one of those ‘friends’ that became my friend since he is over here and we have a mutual friend at home-he is amazing, answers all my questions & I pretty much owe him a year of beer!) and asking the Q. Especially since I was already concerned with the cold that I was going to encounter. I remember being at orientation, in the lobby of the dorm, and being SO cold. I could see my breath it was so cold. I was having a conversation with one of my new friends over here, she is from cold Minnesota, and she said that even for her it was an adjustment. Because, let’s face it, at home it is cold OUTSIDE not inside. So…yeah the cold hallways (and bathrooms!) are quite a shock when you walk out of the warm (sometimes) classroom. The classroom temp varies as well-because even though we turn the heater on the office really has all control. And, I wasn’t here for the dead of winter so can only imagine. Thank goodness Zach had a heater at his (now my) desk. There is a reason that Koreans keep those puffy jackets on all day!
5. Okay so back to the bathroom for just a second (I feel like a middle school boy discussing the bathroom so much!). They do have toilet seat warmers. We were at orientation and the one stall had this crazy looking toilet-I seriously should’ve taken a picture! There were all these buttons on the side. Anyway someone decided to check it out and we realized it was a seat warmer. Soooo that was nice. But, I haven’t seen one of those since the dorm at the university!
6. Korean age. I have shared this knowledge with some of you. It baffled me. So there is international age, and Korean age. International age is what we are all used to. Korean age is different b/c they consider the term that while they are in their mother’s womb so when they are born they are 1. Then, they all age during the New Year on January 1, not their birthday. So-they are between 1-2 years ‘younger’ than what they say. It just depends on when their birthday falls. So-my 3rd graders that I teach are really 1st grade ages. Yes, they are babies! 🙂 There are a few ways to figure out your Korean age but the easiest is to take the current year and subtract the year you were born and then add a year. And yes, I am 34 Korean age…no thanks! haha
7. Hagwon. A hagwon is where students go after school for more school. It amazes me how many hours they study here. During our orientation one of the other EPIK teachers gave a lecture about classroom management. She was talking about different things that would come up in the classroom and ways she has handled them, etc. She did bring up sleeping in the classroom. I initially reacted by thinking ‘that is so rude if they sleep during the class’ but then, after hearing her say a few things my thoughts changed. She was telling us that the kids/students will go to school from roughly 8-4. Then they will take a bus to a hagwon (private school/academy/tutoring) and have school from 5ish-10 or even later (especially high school since they have so many tests that they study for). So, not only do they go to school for that many hours in ONE day they then go home, eat dinner with their family (Koreans eat super late) and then do homework! People told me how important education was here but it didn’t really sink in until I heard that (and now witness it). If you want to see a funny video about a day in the life of a Korean student check this out:

At the end of the day this is all part of the adventure. The little things are what truly set it apart from life at home. And, this is what makes living in a foreign land so appealing 🙂

The English Zone-my classroom
My school-Bukbu Elementary
Friday night dinner with Irish neighbor (Chris), Siu & Jason
Door & fridge
Hiking with Jen
4th graders making their English name cards
5th grade-super cute class
My bathroom
Good ole shower!
My closet for the year…it is twice the size of the closet I had in London!
Playing 4 corners with 4th graders!
Gift from my co-teacher! Pencil holder 🙂
School lunch…let’s talk about how hard it is to eat spaghetti with chopsticks! 
Thank goodness for Costco-made myself some Mexican!
My kitchen!
My Korean name
My one bedroom house (as they call it!)
View from the door-complete with drying rack!
The washing machine (or as my family likes to call it my jacuzzi!)
Can you figure this out…yeah me either. Thank goodness for Zach!
Walking home from school and noticed the shoes…
My wine cellar 🙂
Grocery shopping…spam anyone?!
Subway ride!

Blossoms are everywhere-so pretty (and not nice for allergies!) This is right in front of my school.

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