Another long Korean winter found itself in transition to spring, as I found myself transitioning into a new school year. It comes with its own new setting, students, and challenges, but bring on the heat.
Days Danced: 3
Days Sick: ~2
Starting a New School Year
I spent 26 hours returning to South Korea from the Philippines, mostly on the 1st of this month. I had to go back to school with a cold the next day, following my trend of getting sick when I go to a new country. I had not been sick since I first arrived in Korea, nearly six months before. It was the first day of the school year here in Korea, so I the school presented me to the new staff members for the first time that morning. Though now I realize I was supposed to bow, I waved first and then belatedly said hello in Korean; obviously my mind was still on an island somewhere.
Two days is not enough for me to recover from an active vacation. That first day of the two-day school week I was desk warming, intermittently called to different parts of the school for a variety of reasons, but at least I got to see most of my kids again. Their smiling faces almost always make me feel better, even when I’m sick. That night there was an all staff dinner so that we could get to know each other, and though I was a bit miserable, I managed to meet a few of the other staff members and get a feel for the new administration.
After a very Korean meal of tofu stew and chive pancakes, there was actually some western-style cake, which I was absolutely ecstatic to see and eat with chopsticks. So ecstatic, actually, that I ran over and fed my principal a bite of cake after he complemented me and gave me a shot of water (rather than soju). You’ve gotta love the strangeness of Korean school etiquette.
On day two of the school year, all the public school teachers in town, most of whom were new, attended a teaching workshop at the biggest elementary school. We shared teaching techniques and game ideas, and in general just had a good time getting to know and learning from each other! Immediately after it was finished we dispersed and I headed to Gangneung to meet up with a friend and see my second beach that week, though this water was incredibly cold and I could never have swam in it. Boo hiss.
Strolling down the boardwalk, we visited the infamous Coffee Street and went to Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm. On my next visit I’ll be sure to sunbathe on the beach and check out the 2018 Olympics’ digs.
Routine Breaks in Routine
The first full school week seemed to last forever. It was so packed with laughter, learning, some tears, veeery long bus rides, and new students. I feel good about my more Korean-language-conscious approach to teaching this year; even when the kids are in a mood, they’re still mostly paying attention. Sometimes I wish I were on the beach with a piña colada, but I think that’s just a lingering side effect of the long winter.
In Seoul over the weekend I walked the streets of Hongdae with my friend before I headed to see Dean and Zico, two well-known Korean hip hop artists.
He came to my small town of Yeongwol the next weekend (the friend, not the famous hip hop artists), and we wandered town in the warm almost-spring weather. Saturday afternoon we studied Korean and spent the night at a bonfire with all the other English teachers. It was comfortable. We watched a movie, laying on the heated floor of my apartment and eating the chocolate we had bought the weekend before. Personally, I’m amazed it lasted that long.
At the local traditional market the next day, we bought copious fruits and vegetables to make Thai red curry, though it ended up being me cooking and him washing and drying the clothes, a situation that very much worked for me. In fact, we ran so many errands together that weekend that I didn’t have much left of my to-do list! And I swear to you that despite the fact that he grew up in Korea, both of us ended up actually learning more about Korean grammar.
At the end of the month I went to an amazing cheese shop & restaurant in Itaewon, the foreigners’ district in Seoul, checked out two new salsa clubs and a chocolate shop in Hongdae (which I will obviously be frequenting in the future), and l bought my tickets to fly to Hong Kong next month. I had a hair appointment, which went fabulously, and I got the first installment of three months of clear braces, aka My Invisible Hell.
My friend headed out for nearly four weeks of vacation in my home country, and I nearly cried. Not over him leaving, as much as I’ll miss him, but over the fact that he gets to eat pupusas and tacos while all I have is the mystical kimchi. A few minutes before April Fools was legally happening, I caught a bus from Seoul headed to the farthest reaches of southern ROK for a weekend of cherry blossoms and green tea. Glorious pictures of frolicking in foliage are to come!Thanks for reading!