Training...or on the train (Or subway)
Just thought I would throw this in here about my training since I didn't talk about it much yet.... (which there are reasons for...ask me about that later... ;)
While traveling on the subway in Seoul, there were two elderly gentlemen, so I offered them to take a seat, (as respect for your elders is especially big here, but even more so and is considered customary to give an elder gentleman or woman your seat if they enter the subway/bus/etc), one sat down, but after the one refusing to take the seat and motioning for me to take it, I sat down, as I saw that he wasn't going to take the seat either. They engaged me in conversation, introducing themselves as a doctor and lawyer and asking if it was my first time in Korea. They were glad to hear where I was from, one of them saying he had been to the US, to New York and California, among other places, I believe. (Many people have been to NY or Cali, it seems who have visited, or at least these are the main places they know. When I tell my students I am from NJ, it is helpful to tell them how far I am from NYC, then they seem to understand more where I'm "from." Also funny story about my "Jersey accent".... to be told later...)
So the one man was very kind and smiled a lot, and expressed how happy he was to get to speak English with a native, saying that he hadn't gotten this opportunity that often, so I thought it was very sweet and endearing how he said it, as I could see he was really happy and was genuine about it. He later told me he was not really a lawyer, the other man had just introduced him as that, as he did study law, but worked for the electric company now. Needless to say, it was nice talking to him and he was very kind.
New Food, Chopsticks, Staying in Seoul, Spice of Life, and finally getting to move into my new apartment!
During the training (a mixture of lectures, class observations and hands on training, i.e- presenting a lesson to the rest of the "training class", while also trying to get used to the time difference and trying not to get too sleepy during the observation classes and training, and unlike Bi-Bim-Bap (known as a mix of different foods you have to stir/mix together) it was not a very good mix- even the director mentioned she was quite sleepy during part of it!) And this is still not what I meant when I said the bit about not talking about training for a reason... that will come later yet...
Anyway, what I was going to say was that they provided lunch and dinner, during the training, which was a very nice unexpected bonus! The training was not paid, so this was good that I did not have to worry about that, as we do not get paid for the first month, since we get paid monthly, as I may have mentioned before (and may be mentioning again because of the lack of won (dollars) that is being experienced!
We stayed in Seoul for the training, getting a hotel for the Thursday night we started training(leaving early to arrive in time for training that morning), to go back late Friday night after training all day, then returning the following Monday and staying up to and including Wednesday for training and then traveling back that night. A whirlwind of travel. The we was referring to the director and I, as well as a Korean girl who works in the office at the school, who stayed for a night and couple days of the training to get a feel for the new program/curriculum we will be using.
Chopsticks: Take Two
I also learned before this that I was not as good at using chopsticks as I had originally thought. I had never learned the correct way to hold them, so the teacher who was leaving kindly showed me how when the director took us out for lunch. It was a little hard for me to catch on how to hold them right (and use them right!) but was able to get a little better at it, even getting a compliment that I used them pretty well the first time I had lunch with the Korean staff and everyone at the training. I was glad, as I thought that it would take me years to get it right! Still not perfect at it, but I was told that everyone uses them differently and that practice makes perfect, as my lovely (white-haired) grandmother used to say. (I say white-haired to differentiate between her and my red-haired grandmother, which is what I used to call them to refer to them when I was younger.)
Finally- home sweet home (for the year at least!) (Or Whirlwinds and Dorothy's Slippers-there's no place like home?)
I was very happy to move into my new apartment after staying at the director's (which was very nice and they were very welcoming) and then traipsing through Seoul to find a hotel for the first night of the training. (--Cut to-whirlwinds-- This whirlwind of travel also coincided with reports on the news of heavy winds that caused some damage in Japan and parts of South Korea, causing damage to some buildings and causing a couple of bricks to fall into the street!)
(--Return to prior scene--) But of course being on the move is not the same as getting to move into your own place, which will be your home for the next year. It helped me feel more settled and ready to continue the adventure. I was happy to have all my stuff moved in and ready to explore my new city! P.S. Talking about Dorothy's slippers- that is what we wear at school. Not Dorothy's slippers, but our own slippers. As it is customary to take off your shoes before entering a building you are staying at, (home, school or restaurant, not a store or anything...) we have footwear we change into once we get to the school.
Do you like it spicy?
I got to try a bunch of new Korean foods, so this was a good thing and I learned that some of the foods can be really spicy. Not the "Oh yeah that's a little spicy." But the "They really ain't playing around" kind of spicy. Spice is what makes it interesting though. Even if it makes your eyes water and your nose run. The spice of life. We all could use a little more spice and seasoning in our lives, right? Shoutout here to the Spicy Club and my bro KJ! Your entourage will be here to welcome you when you visit!
First Day as a Teacher.... for Real!
I went into it very nervous, as you saw from my last post, but was able to relax and get excited about starting. Although it was still a little nerve-racking at first, I am happy to say that I had an awesome first day!
It went really well and I got to start learning more about the students as they learned more about me and we tried to converse in English together. (Some of the students obviously still speak in Korean, which will be hard to tackle, as the goal is to get them to speak in English only during the class for the most part and to be able to explain in English to them and have them understand, otherwise they will not be able to learn if they are just given an explanation in Korean by their friends.) (They also enjoyed seeing pictures of my brother, whom they deemed "very hansom!" and these girls in the middle school class are KJ's above referenced new entourage! He was unsure how to feel about his new near celebrity status in South Korea!)
I had the first day as more of a get-to-know-you day with icebreakers and games designed to elicit English conversation and words from them. Then Friday was Game Day (every other Friday for the older kids, for the younger kids, I believe it is every Friday. Before starting, I was warned about the kids trying to claim it was game day more often than this, as they like to try to take advantage of foreign teachers, especially new ones! "It's Game Day, Teacher! Game Day! Play Game! I did get this request at least once, and I don't think it was Friday..!) They all seemed to enjoy it for the most part, with the exception of the one class of just a few boys (many of them are away for vacation right now, so classes are smaller) who did not want to do ANYTHING, even if it was a fun activity. They were just not interested! So I will have to work on them!
However, the other class, my biggest class so far, REALLY got into the activity, a competition that consisted of them being on 2 teams and running up to the board to write a word first to get the point for their team. They got quite loud, so much so that one of the Korean teachers came by to see what was going on!
My name....a Superhero Cheer? (or Spice and Superheroes)
Another highlight of the day was in one of my elementary classes. There are two boys that sit together in the one class. On the first day they played the name switcheroo game, which I was warned about in advance from them, as they each pretended to be the other one. Then, after that they proceeded to claim they had the same name as me....then one of them would shout my first name while pumping his arm into the air, as if he were saying the name of a superhero or celebrity or saying a cheer or chant, quickly followed by the other one doing the same with my last name. How they said it with their cute Asian accent made it quite amusing and endearing. Which I did not let them know of course.
I look forward to many fun (and challenging!) days. Including the days with extra spice and the days with superhero cheers!