The clothes in Korea are a little different to back home. Sometimes the English on the t-shirts makes no sense and when you find a pretty dress you go to look at the back and just see random frills on it. The clothes are normally unfitted and unflattering to westerners. The Korean’s can pull off anything. No matter what, they always look good! I had a t-shirt tailored to make it more fitted, which cost me ₩8,000. Paul had two shirts tailored which cost ₩50,000, which was a bit much, but the tailor done a very good job.
Why did they have to ruin this green top with the frills?
I have been to Gangnam station market for some clothes, accessories and to look for some shoes. There are accessory shops everywhere, which sell jewellery, hair accessories, tights and even socks. They are cheap and not bad quality either. The only downside about some clothing is that it is one size fits all, or small, medium or large. However sometimes the clothes are elasticated, which is mainly the skirts and shorts.
The shoes are measured in mm and it is apparently hard, however to find shoes that are above a Uk size 7 in stores. You can get shoes made for you in Itaewon, however this will probably cost quite a bit. I also got told that the Korean shoes are not great quality and to not buy them if they are over ₩10,000 as they break within a matter of months. On the plus side, Converse are cheap out here (it’s even better when they are on sale £11.00).
Since I have been in Korea for over a month now, and as I could not read any of the signs I decided it was about time to learn the Korean alphabet. I taught myself the consonants and the vowels so far. I still have the double consonants and the complex vowels to learn. However, it’s not as scary as it sounds. I have just been making sure I can write what I have learnt so far.
I have also been learning some useful vocabulary for when I’m out and about;
- Annyoungheegasaeyo – Goodbye (you leaving)
- Mianhapneedah – Sorry (formal)
- Jwehsonghapneedah – Sorry (formal towards elders)
(‘Jweh’ pronounced ‘Cweh’)
- Joosaeyou – Please
- Uhlmahyehyo – How much does it cost?
Most Korean words are spelt and said phonetically. Which, when I have learnt the rest of the alphabet I should hopefully be able to read signs. I can already spell some words, so just by learning a little I can still spell and read some simple words. Hopefully soon I will be able to read a Korean menu when out for dinner!
I have been learning from ‘youtube’ and as I’m not sure whether I want lessons yet, I am going to keep learning this way and then practice on either my students or even the Korean teachers that work alongside me.
However, knowing how to spell something and sound it phonetically doesn’t mean it is the same as in English. So you still have to use translate on your phone, but it’s a lot nicer being able to pronounce words properly and able to spot words you recognise on signs.
The Korean kids are obsessed with drawing on themselves, Kawi Bowi Bo (rock, scissors, paper) and the chicken game. It’s mainly the girls who draw on themselves, including their faces. A lot of the students are amazing artists.
Mo Chi Pa, is essentially rock, scissor, paper, and this is how the kids settle things, for example when playing a game whoever wins goes first. The Koreans play this game differently, if back home you played scissors and the other person played rock you would lose straight away. In mo chi pa the person who played rock has an advantage over the other player, and plays another hand. This means they change their hand first to rock, paper or scissors and the other person is delayed by a second. Therefore if the person with the advantage changes to scissors and the other person doesn’t change their hand, the person with the advantage wins. The winners are always those with the advantage and when they play the same hand as what the other person plays. The tactical part is guessing what the advantage person will play, as if they play rock and you play paper you’re now in the advantage.
The chicken game is mainly what the boys play, they stand on one leg and bend the other and bring the opposite foot up so it rests on the thigh of the balancing leg. They then hop about and try and knock others out by making the others lose their balance and place the other foot on the floor.
Itaewon is known for its western style of food and clothing and therefore is very popular with foreigners, known as Waygooks here in Korea. We decided to have a walk around and look for any food places that we fancied eating at. Paul had seen a sign for Mexican food, and we both were on the hunt to find some. We came across a little Mexican restaurant called ‘Los Amigos’. The food was freshly cooked by a mexican man (well spanish speaking at least) and it tasted fresh with a tasty, not too hot, spice. The frozen lime margaritas were zesty and refreshing; exactly what we needed after a hard day sightseeing.
On Saturday Paul and I decided, that as we had a non eventful day on Friday, that we should go do something. We went to Seoul on the subway, using our new bank cards to pay for everything. However, this was not the case for Paul as his card did not work on any transportation, which meant having to queue up only for the subway for a ticket. Which when you buy a ticket, it’s a card and you pay a 500 won (about 29p) deposit. After your journey, you put your travel card into a machine where you get your deposit back.
The subway is very well organised, and I wasn’t expecting it to be as clean as it was - probably because I only have the London underground to compare it to. However the subway stations have no characteristics like some of London’s stations, like Baker Street’s for example. The Subway map is also in English, which helps very much when trying to work out what station you need to get off at, there is also a handy app for the Korean subway’s called ‘Jihachul’.
We were heading towards Changdeokgung Palace, which was only a few minutes away from the subway station we got off at. We went for lunch in a small traditional Korean café, Paul had bibimbap (rice and vegetables with an egg) and I had stir-fried pork with rice which was succulent, warm and filling. Both of these meals together cost under £7.
Cooking the kids pancakes!
My first week consisted of me teaching broadcasting, in the morning, and cooking in the afternoon. In broadcasting the students learnt about the news, and conducted an interview in the ‘SNET studio’. Cooking was very straight forward; I made the students hoddeok (a Korean pancake), I was expecting it to taste better, however the students really enjoyed it. I made one group mix the pancake themselves- total disaster as they made the mixture runny and sticky...So I told them tough luck and cooked the disgusting looking pancake, which apparently tasted great. After Friday, I was glad the week was over, I was so tired and bored of the two lessons I had been teaching all week.
On Friday night, Paul and I got invited out by some colleagues to go for an Indian meal. There were about 11 of us, including David (who is Korean and works with us at SNET) and 3 university students. The university students needed to interview foreigners for a school project, which David helped set it up. As a thank you, the middle school students bought us some dunkin’ donuts which we had back at the flat. This was my first time trying dunkin’ donuts, and I wasn’t very impressed. Then I found out that Korea doesn’t make any sweet things well. The cakes look amazing, but taste of nothing.
Friday evening, we got invited to go see Iron Man 3 at the cinema with some friends We planned to eat before the show, but went to get our tickets before it sold out. The Koreans seem to be obsessed with having to take a ticket and then waiting for your number to be called rather than queuing. After that, we ate at a western restaurant/pub called ‘Travellers’. Paul and I both had a burger (veggie burger for Paul) with fries and onion rings. It was nice to have some greasy food, as all that is offered in the cafeteria is healthy food, like rice with some spicy meat and gimchi; which the Korean’s eat with every meal- it’s either cabbage or radish, salted, seasoned and then pickled with spices. It’s quite yummy; but it tastes much better when it has been barbequed.
So after we have eaten, we all felt stuffed! But that didn't stop some of us buying popcorn, which apparently they have all kinds of flavours including caramel and onion...We then got into a lift to go to our screen.
Now if you have ever seen Iron Man, you will know that some of the lines are just hilarious. Whilst we’re laughing at these funny lines, the Koreans are just lost in translation (as it had Korean subtitles). This in its self was quite funny.
Monday was our first full day working, I didn’t realise but the school is part of a scheme for elementary schools around the Seongnam area to come for a week to learn intensive English. So Monday morning it decided to hammer down with rain, and we had to go greet the students off of the bus outside...luckily we had umbrellas. We then walked them to an auditorium and all the teachers said hello, what country they are from and their favourite, movie/ colour/ flower etc. We all have teacher names, I chose ‘Cherry’ as I couldn’t think of anything typically English and Paul went for ‘Wayne Rooney’. The kids were all like ‘Really, Wayne Rooney?’ He was like a celebrity around the school, all the kids just shouting 'Wayne Rooney' when he passed. It was hilarious!
We got assigned what class we will be following for the week, my class was called ‘Kind’ (but they were anything but kind, as they kept fighting) and Pauls was ‘Fantastic’ (which every teacher said how bad they were). We had some challenging kids; they couldn't speak or write much English at all. They got red stickers if they did well in class, and a blue stickers if they did not. We got told to draw round the blue stickers as the students just peel them off.
On Tuesday morning we sat and observed lessons, and in the afternoon we went to Immigration with Chan. She drove us to Seoul, which took about an hour. Chan sorted everything out for us, and she got us a ticket with a number on and we waited until our number was called. This part was just getting our fingerprints on immigration's system for our alien registration card (ARC). When we get this we can open a bank account and even get a phone!
The rest of the week we sat and observed all the different lessons, just waiting for Friday afternoon when the kids went home! Yey! All for it to start again on Monday!
Paul and I both had to do a mock lesson in front of Ashley, which was just to give constructive feedback and also help give us ideas on what to do in lessons which I found really helpful. I’m really looking forward to teaching, however the classes I’m teaching next week are; ‘Broadcasting Studio’ where the students create an interview, which there is a news room for them to do it in. I also have to teach ‘Cooking’ where we make hoddeok, which is a Korean pancake, and we put cinnamon and chocolate chip cookies with it. I still have to try this pancake, so I can’t wait to eat some!
I woke up feeling really hungry, and as Paul had all the food that I wanted to eat in his room, I had to go wake him up. However it was 10am in the morning and I thought he would be up. I knocked, but no answer so I left it a while and read. I then attempted to knock again and finally he opened the door, half asleep. He came out to make brunch with me (poached eggs on toast). We decided to go hiking up the mountain, which is just outside our apartment block. I realised walking up the mountain is a lot of effort, so finally when we rested I looked at the view - So pretty! I saw some magpies, and some orangey coloured magpies, a weird bug, lots of spiders and loads of blossom.
After a 10 hour direct flight from Heathrow Paul and I landed safely at Incheon International airport! We went through a well organised immigration process. We showed our passport, got our photo taken and got our index fingers scanned. After this we got some trolleys for our bags.
Whilst waiting to collect them, I realised how rough I looked and needed my make up asap! As soon as our bags arrived, I opened my case, got some deodorant, my make up bag, a hair brush and I walked straight to the toilets. There was a button that stated ‘Please push me before using’, I didn’t notice at first but the seat was wrapped in some sort of plastic which when the button was pressed puts fresh plastic covering on! We headed out into the main hall, as we had to get a bus ticket and made a phone call to our employers.
The bus ride took about an hour, and after this we got straight into a taxi. I showed the taxi driver the address, and he just replied with ‘ney’ and then grabbed my suitcase to put into the boot...The boot didn't shut all the way with my suitcase in, Paul put his bag in the back with him and I sat in the front. Paul informed me a few minutes later that the boot was fully open! Luckily my case was that heavy that it had anchored itself in the boot.
We finally arrived at Seongnam English Town (SNET), we met Ashley (who recruited us) and we took our very heavy luggage up some stairs of while Ashley was telling us so much information that not much of it went in. Except we will have our medical check the next day and to go to the office to get our teaching manual, she took us to our temporary rooms to stay. After this, we both took a shower and planned to take a nap, however everyone finished work and we chatted in the common room. We got invited out by a couple, Sam and John to go eat Korean BBQ, which was amazing!
After eating, I started to feel the jet lag hit me. John signaled a taxi for us, and told the driver where to take us. Only when we got to our apartment building we realised we couldn't get in as it works by a fingerprint system... However, Sam called around letting other teachers who may be home to look out for us. Luckily JK (a Korean guy, who speaks good English, and the next day got our fingerprints on the system) opened the door for us. I started to read, as I couldn't get to sleep, then all of a sudden I conked out.