05.09.2006 25 °C
Hello all - sorry it has taken me a little while to write, but i don't have internet access in my room yet, so I have to come into an internet cafe to update my blog and email at the moment.
I am well and slowly settling into life in South Korea. I have been here for just over 5 days now. I arrived in Jeonju last wednesday, after roughly 16 hours on the plane and a 3 hour stopover in Dubai (which I spent in an Irish theme pub with 2 Scottish lads on their way to Australia!). Despite my hopes of having Thursday and Friday to acclimatise (did i spell that right?), I was, in fact, in work by Thursday afternoon. I was exhausted, jetlagged and somewhat bewildered but it wasn't too bad. I spent Thursday and Friday observed classes with Catherine, the girl I was replacing, and then she left at the weekend and I began teaching on Monday.
My working day is a bit of an odd one. I get into work at 3pm and spend an hour doing preparation for the day's classes. Then the standard classes run from 4pm-10pm. You may have up to 7 lessons during that period and you only have a 5 minute break in between each. There is no equivalent to a lunch break. If you are lucky, you may have one or two free periods, but you are expected to use these for marking anfd further preparation. If you are really unlucky, or if you are doing overtime, you may find yourself working until midnight. And bearing in mind that we are generally teaching kids aged between 10 and 14, that means the children are studying until midnight, then they go to standard school the following morning and have homework to do, on top of the lessons they do with us.
This also means that my average day will involve getting up about 10/11am, going to work from 3-10pm, coming home and having tea for about 11pm and going to bed at about 1am. It'll take some getting used to - but i never was much of a morning person! It also apparently means that on Friday nights we all go out after work and can stay out all night, getting in at 7am. Which again suits me really I found this out last friday when we all went out for a meal as several teachers and Korean staff were leaving. We had a traditional Korean meal, where you have to leave your shoes at the door and sit cross-legged at low tables. After that we went upstairs to the restaurant's noraeybang, which is a karaoke room, like the ones they have Japan, or in some Chinese restuarants in the UK. That was great fun, because I am sure you all know how much I love karaoke. I was also introduced to soju, which is a Korean spirit, a bit like vodka. It tastes like methylated spirit on its own, but with coke its not bad. That, followed by the jack daniels and coke I was drinking in the foreigner bar we went to afterwards, resulted in me not leaving the bar til 5.30am and having a terrible hangover all day saturday.
The other teachers here have all been very nice. To my surprise the English teachers are in a minority, the majority seem to be American or Irish. Though strangely two of us English teachers are redheads, and one American who just left was a redhead, so we're not as unusual as I expected us to be. Their are about 20-25 english-speaking teachers altogether I think, but we are at different schools across the city, all run by the same organisation. We all live in one of two apartments blocks though, so we can easily get to know teachers from the other schools. In my school there are about 8 of us, 6 girls and 2 boys.
My accommodation is a nice studio room/apartment. For the first three nights I was put up in motel, while i waited for another teacher to move out. This was very amusing to the teachers because in korea motels are not the same as in the UK, they are known as Love Motels, and therefore generally only used by couples for the night It wasn't tpo bad though - it was comfortable and had a decent TV and computer. I moved into my apartment on Saturday - whilst extremely hungover! Peter, the guy who had been in it before me, had left me loads of stuff like books, maps on the walls and stuff for the kitchen, so it wasn't completely bare. I have some photos which i will try and put on here soon. Most of the room is taken up by a rather dodgy looking black leather bed, but it is very comfortable. I have a shower room rather than a bathroom, in that there is no bath or sink, just a toilet and a shower, but the whole room is the shower, there is no cubicle seperating it from everything else. My kitchen is nice but small, with a fridge freezer, 2 ring hob, a sink and 3 cupboards. We will be eating out fairly often though so thats all i need really.
I have a crazy TV - it is american so it has to have this huge transfomer box that it plugs into, which looks a bit like car battery. I have to turn on the transformer, then the TV and then the cable TV box, which i have to use to change the channels, because there is no remote for the TV. I have about 80 channels, roughly 10 of which show films and programmes in English. I've seen loads of movies since I got here and I've even caught episodes of The X Files, The A Team and Friends too. We all went around to one teacher's apartment on Sunday night to watch the film Team America but that channel wasn't working, so we wound up watching Predator instead!
One thing I am looking forward to a lot while I am here is travelling around Korea on my weekends. The weather has been really hot since i got here, but today it had cooled down quite a bit, so autumn is on its way. However, we are hoping to get a last 'summer' trip in this weekend. We are going to a national park on the coast where there are mountains to hike in, but also a waterfall we're going to swim at and a beach. It sounds lovely. There are also plans to go away at xmas, as we have a week off then. During their summer holiday, all the teachers who were here went to Japan for a week, so over xmas they are planning to go to Malaysia, and as long as I have the money I'll be joining them.
Anyway, I'll sign off now as I have to start getting ready for work, but I'll be in touch again soon.