First impressions of Korea
24.09.2010 - 26.09.2010
As I sit here on the train listening to train music (which consists of let it be on repeat) and watching people bow as they enter and leave the train car, I can't believe I am actually here in Korea... by myself.
It has been an eventful couple of days over here! People are so friendly and helpful. My first Korean friend is a guy I met on the plane ride from Toronto to Korea, he was born and raised in Busan but later moved to Toronto, he was extremely helpful in telling me things I should know before getting to Korea. He also went out of his way to help me get my bags and find where I needed to go in the Seoul airport to catch my next flight. I later met a man on the bus ride to my school who told me all about his job and life in Korea, I soon realized that as a foreigner I attract Koreans because they love to practice their English, which is okay by me since I love to hear about Korea from those who know it best.
When I arrived at my school my supervisor seemed so excited to see me which was a nice feeling, they then took me out to lunch where I had my first Korean meal, it was delicious! I was required to shadow the guy I am repleacing for the entire day, it was pretty brutal since I hadnt slept much on the plane and it was pretty late for me. The people I work with seem really nice and the kids are adorable. The kids are pretty funny because when they see a new teacher they all stare and point and call their friends over to see, sometimes it makes you feel like you are in an aquariam when you are in the classroom and 4 or 5 children you have never met are simply pointing at you. I will write more about my kids and classes once I know them better.
Once my day was finally over I was taken to see my apartment, it is really nice but unfortunitely ther is another teacher living there until Friday so I had to stay in the Seoul Spa Hotel near the beach... seemed nice enough. Wow was I shocked upon entiring the place, it looked like something out of a horror film. I decided to bite my tongue and just go with it since I didn't want to be rude, but the room was gross and everything seemed really dirty. I definitely did not see sleep in my near future. Not long after being in the room my bosses daughter started screaming something out in Korean, when we ran over to see what the problem was we were just in time to see a ginormous cockroach scurry across the bathroom floor. Anyone who knows me knows that I draw the line at bugs. At this point I told her there was no way I was staying here and I am pretty sure she thought I was a crazy Canadian, but I didn't care. I simply made my way to my friend Alex's place where I am staying until I get my place. I later discovered this so called Spa Hotel, is also known as a love motel, they are all over Korea... I will let you draw your own conclusions from the name.
I later went to dinner with some coworkers where we had Korean BBQ, this is where they bring you raw meat and you cook it yourself right on your table, they also provide you with a million unlimited side dishes, like kimchi. At a lot of the restaurants I have been to you have to take your shoes off at the door and then sit on small mats on the floor, it makes the meal a little more interesting but it gets super uncomfortable for most foreigners who aren't used to sitting with their legs crossed for long periods of time.
Transportation in Korea has proven to be quite the task. This is probably been the most interesting/difficult thing I have done, though I am sure that taking the Seoul subway will be eventful. Anyways taxi drivers speak absolutely no english. While it is clear that I am a foreigner and that my Korean skills are non existent, they all continuously talk to me when I am in the cab, I simply reply with " I don't understand Korean, sorry" they clearly don't understand because they just continue their one way conversation.
The cab driver I was with the other night had no idea where he was going even though he assured me he did as I got in the cab... he had to stop 4 times to ask for help finding the apartment, and what should have been a 15min cab ride turned in to 1hr. Needless to say I am just happy I made it home at all. The cab driver this morning kept saying things and laughing histarically, at one point he made a hand motion like he was slitting his throat, he laughed so I joined in... it was awkward. He also kept repeating Canada good, Korea bad. I kept replying with Korea good, but he very strongly disagreed.
Not only have I been in a number of taxis, but I have also gone on a few scooter rides, this has allowed me to quickly learn the Korean rules of the road:
1. Helmets on scooters are not necessary
2. Scooters don't have to follow any street rules
3. Cars are allowed to turn right on a red
4. Cars are allowed to turn left on a red
5. Past a certain time it seems as though it is even acceptable to go straight on a red
The bars in Korea are great! All the bars I have been to so far have been mainly for foreigners. It is a great place to go to meet lots of people who are doing the same thing I am. Strangly enough I have met a lot of people from Ontario, there are a lot of Americans as well. A big difference between Canadian and Korean bars are that the alcohol is really cheap, and beer is really good, it seems to be what we drink the most of, with a little soju thrown into the mix. Soju is their "hard" alcohol, while it is only like 18% or something, it is dangerous like Tequila. I have yet to drink an excessive amount, but I hear the hangovers are brutal. These bars also stay open super late, I am told that they stay open till about 6:00am or later but I have yet to stay late enough to see one close.
Anyways, I will have a lot more to write about after I leave Seoul, and for those people bugging me for pictures, I should have some posted by the end of the week. I miss everyone lots!