Building the Asian Culture Complex

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IMG_4532 (2)Ten minutes away, in a central area in town, the Asian Cultural Complex is under construction. It should be finished sometime in 2014. Currently, it’s most interesting feature is the giant blue wall that surrounds the construction site. Artwork of various styles covers the wall. Some of it looks like graffiti but clearly most, if not all, of the art has permission to be there. I walked around the wall one morning and took as many pictures as I could. There’s so much to see that I’m sure my camera and I will visit again.

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“I love ‘Fried’ chicken” is a common sentiment shared by most, if not all, of my students

Reads: "I don't like vegetable" ...Said every child at one point in time.

Reads: “I don’t like vegetable”
…Said every child at one point in time.

Arrival

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IMG_0279 Stitch
I’VE arrived at my new home for the next year, or at least, the next week. I’m in a temporary room right now. When my predecessor, Emily, moves out next week, I’ll move into her room.
The trip was, needless to say, really long. I managed to sleep on my flight to Korea but it was the uncomfortable kind that wakes you up every couple of hours to alert you to the fact that your neck will be permanently frozen in whatever way you bent it if you don’t move it now. They served us dinner around 1:30 am in the morning (in California) and gave us breakfast (3am the next day in Seoul) several hours before we landed. I had the option of a Western meal or Korean meal.
I decided to start my Korean experience early and chose the bibimbap. It essentially consisted of a bowl of various veggies and meat that I then mixed with rice, sesame oil and red pepper paste. There was also a cup of soup that tasted very fishy and side dishes of kimchi and what looked like dried and salted anchovies. I finished everything except for the anchovies. Though it wasn’t bad, the food wasn’t exactly good either. It was also airplane food. I’ll have to try bibimbap again. I realized that for all my preparations, you can’t prepare for the taste of food until you try it. I don’t really like seafood but considering Korea’s close proximity to the ocean, I will have a lot of time to change my taste buds.
Breakfast was a lot better: spicy chicken and rice.

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EVERYTHING went exactly as planned. After I arrived at the airport, inched my way through passport check/customs, and retrieved my suitcase, I bought a bus ticket to Gwangju. I called my contact, Mieun, on a payphone to let her know what time my bus was leaving. I hopped on the bus with not a minute to spare (literally) and then sat for several hours until we arrived at the bus terminal in Gwangju. We made good time and I had time to sit and write before Mieun arrived to pick me up. She treated me to the Korean idea of Chinese food which is nothing like the American idea of Chinese food nor like anything I had tasted in Chengdu. We dropped off my bags at my apartment and walked 3 minutes to the school where I will be working. I had enough energy later in the day to sit in on a couple of the middle school classes (30 min each).

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YESTERDAY I had discovered the pleasures of ondol heating. Just turn a little lever under the sink and the floor starts to heat up. It’s very comfortable. Even though winter is mostly over and spring is on its way, it’s still pretty nippy here if you’re not sitting in the sun. So I slept on the floor. I’m going to have to roll into a comforter-burrito tonight. No flannel sheets = anything not in direct contact with the comforter is freezing cold but you are prone to sweating and freezing even more if you wear too many clothes to bed.  I expect I will figure things out more quickly once I move into my new room next week. I’m trying not to unpack too much right now.

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THIS morning I made a new discovery. Wherever my water heater is….it’s not working/on. Heat or none, I needed a shower. So I bent my head over the bathroom sink and washed my hair with frozen fingers. If I hadn’t been awake before, I was now.
I had brunch with Emily and a friend of hers, which means I had a chance to walk around town a bit. The school has a formal gathering/dinner later tonight. I don’t know much about it other than the fact that I will be there and so will all the teachers of this school and it’s sister schools. It should be interesting.

Basic info

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Here’s some basic information.

Where: Gwangju
South Korea
It’s in the southern part of Korea. There are mountains to the east and ocean to the west. It’s a big city so there’s plenty of information on it if you look it up online, which is what you’ll have to do if you want to know more about it right now. The school I will be teaching at is in the eastern part of the city. I don’t know where I will live yet but I do know that I will be within walking distance of the school.

Doing What: teaching English. I’ll be working at a Hagwon (a private school) which is where kids go for more classes when they are done with classes at their public schools for the day.

How long: The contract is for 1 year. After that I may have the option of signing on for another year (if they offer), trying for a second year at a different school, or going back to life in the US to some other unknown future.

I’ll post more information as it becomes available to me.

Why Korea?

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This is the most common question I get and really, that’s what people want to know the moment you announce you are picking up and transplanting your life to a new place. Especially when you seemed to be doing pretty well. I had a full-time job and a living style I could afford. Not that I was giving up anything fancy but it was stable…on paper at least.

It never fails to elicit some reaction when I announce to people that I am going live in South Korea for a year, to teach English. Reactions range from Continue reading