Soooo we are now two days into being actual teachers and things are on the way up. Why on the way up you may ask? WELL:
Sarah’s first two days in Yeoncheon:
- I smashed my phone on the floor, including taking a good chunk of glass out of it.
- LUCKILY my supervisor knew one of the parents who works at a local phone shop and I managed to score a second-hand iPhone 5s (I’m thinking under the table as I could only pay in cash). Cost about $220 so not too shabby in the end.
- The person who drove me (who remain un-named) has only been driving for roughly a year so we had a couple of interesting situations including driving through most of the red lights we came across and actually getting pulled over for one of them (however getting a lower fine as the cop was nice and gave her a fine for no seatbelt instead which is a difference of around $40 (fine for red light is $70)). Also, they scraped the side of another car trying to get out of a tight spot they too were also having a great day!
- Because we used most of the cash we had on buying my new old phone, we needed to find an ATM to get some cashola. We tried a couple of ATMs around our apartments and were unsuccessful. When we were walking back to Chris’s apartment and saw another bank we hadn’t tried so we thought, let’s try another! Unfortunately, this one decided it couldn’t read my card and was stuck with a loud beeping noise. That did not stop. After a couple of minutes looking at it and hitting every button and even picking the phone up next to the ATM to talk to someone but you know, the whole no speak Korean thing, we were thinking…ummm what now?? Do we just leave it?
- LUCKILY Chris had the brain wave to call his co-teacher to ask what to do. She lived literally around the corner so came down to help. Mind you, this is 9pm at night. So she calls the bank on our behalf and within 5 minutes a security man arrives, opens the ATM and gives us my card back. On a public holiday! CRAZY!
- So by this time, we were both thinking WHAT HAVE WE DONE, WHY ARE WE DOING THIS??
- So after a not so great sleep in a fairly tight king single bed, it was time to catch the bus to the first day of school! This part of the day was actually successful. Chris and I catch the same bus to school as his middle school and my elementary school are about 1km apart.
- I spent most of the day at my desk pondering why did I agree to this and looking at ways to get out of my contract (I had no classes to teach this day so had a good day of desk warming) and it wasn’t until my supervisor who is a homeroom teacher (so had a very busy first day) came to see me with my schedule so I had some idea of what I was teaching. I have 6 classes during normal school hours with the various homeroom teachers (varying levels of English from zero to some to good) and then 5 ‘after school’ classes, which actually are between 2-4.30pm and I will be teaching those by myself… grades 1/2s and 3/4s – so teaching them their first bits of English! ah!
- On the way home, walking down the hill to the bus stop I heard some chanting in the distance. As I got closer (but not too much closer) I realised it was actually the S.Korean army doing some practice shooting in the field just down the hill. Oh Joy! The town we are living in feels like a complete military base – soldiers everywhere! The bonus of living 17kms from the border!
Chris’ first two days as defender of the wall and King in the North:
In short I have decided that I shall take the mantle of King in the North, as we are so freakin’ close to the border with NK; and I think I am well placed to keeps the wildings/white walkers out. But I digress, slightly. If you don’t get this reference then I assume you’ve been in a coma, or North Korea for the last few years.
The joy of being told that we were being placed right near each other was quickly tempered with the reality that we are in one of the most northerly areas of South Korea. Needless to say nervousness was not in short supply this fateful day.
But we pushed on. We attended a quick ceremony in a town called Uijeonbu where we met our co-teachers. M.A.S.H. fans out there may recognise that Uijeonbu was the home to the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. I think this is literally the only thing the place is famous for, and it’s not even a real thing.
I was introduced to my co-teacher, Kim Soo Yeong (김소영) and the school’s music teacher who very kindly offered her car to come pick me up. Quick Korean culture lesson for you all, Koreans say the last name first. So my co-teachers name is Soo Yeong, not Kim or Kim Soo. We made the hour or so drive to Jeongok our new home.
We arrived in what I expected to be a small town of 20,000 people, however what we found was quite unexpected. This small town has so much going on, shops, restaurants, bars and really just stuff everywhere. It was our first glimpse that this town has something to offer.
We had both dropped our bags of at our respective apartments, our co-teachers than arranged for us to all meet up for lunch, as Koreans always seem to be concerned that we have not eaten enough. They treated us to some delicious Bundae Jjigae; this translates to ‘troop stew’. This meal was popular by necessity after the Korean War when food was scarce, locals would use surplus U.S. Army supplies in their meals. It is delicious, though I could have done without my first ever taste of spam. Second fun Korean fact, Spam is a somewhat of a luxury item in Korea, and Wikipedia tells me that it outranks Coke and KFC in status as a food stuff.
Following lunch we had a small tour of our school locations and were shown how to walk from our apartments to the Bus Terminal.
A day of highs and lows for sure. Finished off with a bit of fire and smoke. Lets just say you shouldn’t try to microwave a pot of noodles when exhausted and mentally drained. You forget that the lid is not microwave safe and start a small fire. Luckily it appears that Korean smoke alarms are not that sensitive.
I went to sleep dreading what the first day of school held for me. Luckily I was completely wrong. My first day was pretty good, followed by an even better second day. But that’s a story for next time.