February 24, 2012

안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo)!!

We’ve arrived!

I’ve finally had time to sit and type. We’ve only been here for 3 days, but we already love it! Here's a rundown of what's happened so far:

We left California Monday night (technically Tuesday- our flight was at 12:30am). We had invited some friends and family to our favorite local pizza joint to get together  and “say goodbye” beforehand. So earlier that day my mom made a reservation for 20 people. So we go there and our family and friends start coming… then more come… and by the end- I realize we have about 30 people there.

After dinner, we said our goodbyes to everyone- which I hate doing, but I think they’re all used to it now. My mom started to cry a little, which made me tear up. It’s always so hard to leave home. Jason’s dad took us to the airport, and as we were driving away and waving bye to everyone, I was thinking how awesome it was that all these people love us and how Jason and I always seem to get a lot of people together (and most of those times are when they have to say bye to us, lol). Then I also thought how much I wish they could all just come with us and how much I’ll miss them all. *tear*

So we get to the airport, check-in was all good, the 14-hour flight wasn’t bad because we slept most of the way, and I have to say- Asiana airlines has some bomb food! We had Korean food (bimbimbap) and it was good! We arrived in Seoul around 6:30am Wednesday morning (it’s 17 hours ahead of California time). We hustle through immigration, get our luggage, go through customs, no problem. Then we took a subway from Incheon Airport to Gimpo airport (where all the domestic flights are).

There were a few parts on the train where we were outside, and my first impression of Seoul was that it wasn’t that impressive- just another big city, just instead of Roman letters on all the buildings and signs, there’s Korean characters everywhere. It actually kind of reminded us of Pittsburgh. No leaves on the trees, a little snow on the ground, dark & cold.

After our short flight from Seoul to Busan, we got our luggage and was immediately greeted by our recruiter who gave us a welcoming gift of coffee.

She was really nice. She called a taxi driver to pick us up, and first thing I notice when I get in the taxi is the GPS system. The dude had 2 GPS’s and looked all fancy. It was just really different for me to see because taxis in Costa Rica and Ecuador were not fancy-- at all. So I was amazed by it, and of course had to take a picture.

So on our way, our recruiter tells us that we’ll be staying at a motel for a week because our apartments won’t be ready until then. When she said motel- in my head I was thinking some crappy little hole in the wall thing… but boy were we surprised! We walk in and they have Champions League soccer on (Chelsea vs. Napoli) on a 40 inch flat screen TV (Jason was immediately in heaven), they have a free computer with internet for us to use, a UV light cup sterilizer, a water dispenser, a DVD/VCR player, robes, body wash, toothpaste, hairspray, hair gel, soap, shampoo/conditioner, blowdryer, skin conditioning milk (I don’t know?), a comb, a brush and some stuff in a bottle that says “special treatment for skin & lotion” (??). So we are pleased with our current accommodation, but we can’t wait to move into our apartment.

Our recruiter told us that a director and teacher from our school will come by in the after noon, so Jason and I had some time to kill. So we wanted to walk around a bit. We were immediately happy to see this whole walkway of people selling fresh produce, meat and fish. As we were walking down that street seeing all the variety- we looked at each other and said we love it here already!

We worked up an appetite and started to look for a place to eat. We went to this local place, and it was apparent no one spoke any English (which is VERY COMMON here- but we aren’t surprised). Jason had prepared some phrases to use, but when we started to try to order, it was obvious that it wasn’t going to work-- so we just started pointing at pictures. It was an entertaining experience and the lady was really nice about everything. I don’t know what we got, but it was delicious!

After lunch and after a short rest back at our motel, two ladies from our school came and picked us up. We walked 3 minutes to the school and they showed us around. First things first- when you go into a place, you have to take off your shoes and wear indoor slippers- this includes at work. So when we work, we have to take off our "outside" shoes and put on our "indoor slippers." Mine are the blue polka dots, and Jason had to wear the green floral print ones. We felt awesome:

Then they showed us around the school, and I was in awe. It looked like a PeeWee's Playhouse or something- all the classrooms looked like a place- for example a hospital, a market, a library, etc. It's really cool, and I immediately knew that this was going to be a fun school to teach at.

There are currently 4 foreign teachers teaching here and they're all leaving next week because their contracts are up. Then they hired me and Jason and another couple (who seem really cool- thank goodness!!) to replace them. These past few days we've just been going in and watching the other foreign teachers teach. The school we work at is a kindergarten and elementary school. Each grade has different levels. And in Korea, you add a year or 2 to a child's age- and that's their "Korean age." For example, if a kid says he's 7, he's actually 5. Today, we got our class assignments- which were all anxiously waiting for all week. Jason gets to teach the Apples- which is the highest level in the kindergarten and the age of the children is 5 years old (or 7 years old Korean age).

Then I get to teach the Cherries- which is the very first level- these children are 3 years old (or 5 Korean age) and have never been exposed to English or anything. It's going to be a challenge for me, but I'm excited. Children at that age are so adept to learning- especially language. And they're so cute!! It's going to be fun. I feel good about everything.

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