Annyeong haseyo! It actually means hello- “God, Karen you’re so stupid!” It’s the one word/phrase I’ve actually retained since being here. Well, that and gamsahabnida- which obviously means thank you. Google those words and I promise you they are pronounced NOTHING like what you think it is. Which kind of goes along with everything here in Korea. For instance: couple outfits. It’s a thing here and I can’t decide if I think it’s the most amazing thing since everyone learned the lyrics to Let it Go, or if it’s the worst thing since Rebecca Black became a household name. When I say couple outfits, you probably think “oh, it’s a couple with matching hats.” Well you’re wrong because these people take couple outfits to the X-treme level. They wear the exact.same.thing from head to toe right down to the matching underwear. You’re probably asking yourself “how do you KNOW this?” Well, I asked. It’s so hard for me to find shoes or socks that actually fit me here, so I really admire these couples’ dedication to the cause. #respect #anyway
So the flight here was horrible. If any of you readers know me, I *hate* all things airborne. #forreal. If you ever have a layover in Turkey, specifically in Instanbul I am so sorry for you because I still don’t even know what actually happened there to be honest. I had just spent 10 hours on a flight with an incessant, supremely loud and obnoxious not-a-baby-not-yet-a-youth. The food was questionable and it was a reach calling whatever that was chicken. I’m pretty sure that was false advertising…? So after that hell in the sky finally ended, no employee could tell me where the gate was for my next flight. Why? Because it wasn’t printed on my ticket. So after a lot of aimless walking around (like 1.5 hours) I figured out my gate number. They had gates in the 100’s, 200’s, and 400’s upstairs. Well that’s swell but what happened to all the 300’s? Again, I was given no help. “Zilly american, no plane for you.” After another hour walking the entire length of the airport, I figured out that the 300’s were moved downstairs and with no signage. “Because-a F*!$ you!” The second flight was amazing. I got to sit in the aisle seat right behind their “kitchen” so I had ample leg room, free movies, there was a french chef on board who prepared amazing food for me (everybody else got the leftovers from the first flight) and there were no babies. I had all.the.feels. Lots and lots of Asians though- just an observation!
So when I touched down 28 hours after I took off, I was greeted by my boss and brought to a luxury apartment in a traditional part of Seoul. The difference between that apartment, and where I’m writing this blog now, is complete night and day. For example: They have a mineral water shower, and I didn’t have hot water the first 2 days. Well, I didn’t know how to use the water heater. Actually I didn’t even know there was one, let alone that I had to turn it on before I showered? Lol in my defense, the water heater is the same one that heats the floor. Yes, you read that right. It’s all in Korean too, so after I had a tutorial on how to use it I put it up all the way and the stuff on my floor felt like it just came out of the dryer. That’s another thing, I don’t have a dryer- just a washing machine. Actually, my bathroom in general is really interesting to me for these and a few other reasons. My bathroom is equivalent to a small walk in closet. The whole thing is a big shower with about 4 square feet to stand. There’s a toilet in the shower and the washing machine is right next to the toilet and there is no bathroom sink. I have a kitchenette which has a gas stove- probably as old if not older than I am with 2 burners, a kitchen sink and some cabinets. I have a bed that’s slightly softer than concrete, a vanity a table and big wardrobe in a “large” size studio apartment you might find in NYC.
I do have to say, being a Massachusetts resident I was pleasantly surprised that the Dunkin Doughnuts here blows the ones back home out of the water. First of all, they let you order your doughnut warm and they have a special machine built specifically for this. It’s more of a bakery here, and they take pride in their products. I didn’t order any food, I just ogled at the people who did. Oh and their breakfast sammies have an actual egg and real meat in it. Also, one of the ones in Seoul (Yes there’s more than one! I know of about 5 in total) that’s 3 floors!! Koreans need to teach New Englanders how to do Dunkin’s right because man oh man, let me tell you these Dunkin Doughnuts only existed in my dreams. I thought I would have the worst time adjusting here without my Dunkin’s but I feel right at home because of it, so that rumor has been SQUASHED! Along with the rumor that they don’t have bacon here. I surprisingly stumbled upon a literal hole in the wall “restaurant” serving real breakfast sammies for $1. Also there is: an Outback Steakhouse, an On the Boarder, 3-floored McDonalds, H&M, Forever 21. All surprising. #areyouhungryyet?
Speaking of food, Korean food is out of this world. My favorite thing is bibimbap. The word literally means “mixed rice.” It’s a bowl of amazing white rice, with some cooked vegetables, an egg soy sauce and other delicious things I want in my belly. Korean BBQ lives up to the hype people! I had marinated pork and it was like Korean fourth of July in my mouth. I can’t even put into words how it was really, really, ridiculously good it was. UGH!!!!!!!! I want it all. Koreans get me because they’re all about them sides, ’bout them sides. You get a huge table for 2 and the whole thing is completely filled with varying size bowls containing the most amazing sides you’ll ever have. Pro tip: if you ever go out for Korean BBQ, TRUST ME put the darn kimchi on the grill. You’ll never go back. Kimchi is very spicy but you will never ever regret putting that ish on the grill! “You can do it!”
Living in another country is really cool because you get to experience a lot of amazing things. Like new people, a new culture, new food, etc. But the simplest of tasks wind up taking your whole day because you can’t communicate and I really understand the struggle immigrants faced back home. I needed to replace a lightbulb and it actually took me 3 hours! I brought the old one with me, and by the time I bought one I had ventured farther than I intended to go on foot, walked into 3 stores, approached various store clerks pointing at the light bulb, uttering “light bulb” in a “Korean accent” which sounds something like you can imagine light-a BUL-ba! Only to find out “no have.” When I actually was led to the section in the last store, and then given the correct light-a BUL-ba I felt like the referee had just raised my hand after a gruesome boxing match and I’m shouting “Adriannnnnnn!” Omg you don’t even know lol.
My phone has also proven somewhat of a hassle. I needed to get a SIM card so it could work in Korea. There are 2 year contracts which require a Korean bank account and an ARC (Alien Registration Card) both of which I do not have. I had to get a month-to-month contract, which work the same it’s just that that stupid me forgot to put the Wifi back on my phone, so I ate through all 3GB of data the first day I got it and was essentially rendered phone-less. I bought it in Itaewon- the designated foreigner part of the city due to the location of the American Army base- a rather inconvenient part of the city for me to get to because it takes about 20 minutes on the subway. I went back on Sunday afternoon, waited in line for 2 hours only to be told I can only add more data to my phone Monday to Friday. Which is more inconvenient because I work from 9am-8pm MWF and 9am-3pm TU, TH.
The school itself is pretty good. I’m working at a Hagwon which is a privately owned, operated, and funded business. The government doesn’t recognize their existence at all. Which is a shame because public school English classes have upwards of 20 students which doesn’t really foster a good learning environment for children of any age. At this particular school, Kindergarten is the primary focus because they don’t have another school. I teach 6, 40 minute kindergarten classes broken up with snack and lunch time on MWF. Then I have an hour break, and teach 5, 40 minute elementary classes with 2 5 minute breaks in between. TU and TH are my favorite days because there are no elementary classes so I get out earlier which is really nice. The kindergarten students are fun, but those classes are very draining because they have to be entertained every second while learning the content. It’s more effort actually being in than class than it is preparing. The older kids is the reverse which is nice especially after I’m exhausted from teaching/dancing/singing in the kindergarten kids’ classes. So I spend more time preparing their lessons and then I can just sit back and have a normal conversation with them because they’re little people as opposed to little animals. Just kidding #orami? I definitely do not want to teach as a living- this is becoming more apparent to me as the days go by. But it is a nice change of pace from what I had been doing, my professional situation is a lot better than it previously had been, and I’m in an exciting new place with new opportunities so I can’t complain.
Annyeonghi gyeseyo! (look it up, lazy!)