It was Buddha’s birthday on the Friday (17th May 2013) and we got this as a holiday, which meant that the kids left early on the Thursday. The weather was sunny but had a nice breeze to it and so I spent my day reading on the balcony of the flat, as well as trying to sort out my blog. After a while I decided to take a little walk just to get out for a bit. I took my book with me and a bottle of water. I just went round the building of SNET and came across the gardens where a wedding was being held. I actually wanted to sit and read in this garden but as I was rather underdressed I would’ve stuck out. So I then took a little hike to see a good shaded place to sit in the woods.
At the end of the day on Tuesday, Paul and I got our alien registration cards (ARC). This meant we could go open a bank account, which we done on the Thursday during our lunch break. We went to the KB bank, and spoke to a woman that had amazing English and helped us through the paper work. We set up our cards so they would also work on the buses and on the subway (like an oyster card, except you can use it all over South Korea). This meant no more guess work on how much buses would cost! Whilst Paul and I were waiting for our bank cards, we got complimentary popcorn and some yakult which we were told to keep helping ourselves to. Which we did, and so Thursday for lunch I had 3 bags of popcorn and 2 yakults!
Silla Tomb - Central Gyeonju
On Saturday morning, Paul and I got up early and got ready for a little break (as we had a long weekend). We took the bus into Seoul and then got the KTX (fastest train in the world!) to Gyeongju. When we found our hostel, called ‘Hanjin’ we were greeted by a friendly woman who spoke amazing English! She showed us to our room and then told us that when we are ready to go explore, she will tell us where the main attractions were. We get ourselves organised and the woman points out attractions on the map and helps us with what buses we need and where to get food etc. Once we knew where we we’re going, Paul and I set off to go get lunch and visit some King’s tombs. These tombs are just massive hills, built during the Silla period, between the 4th and 5th century. One of the tombs (Cheonmachong) was open to visitors. We saw how they built these amazing tombs, and what the Kings were buried with - gold crowns, jewellery etc.
We then visited the oldest astrological observatory in the Far East (Cheomseongdae) built in the 7th century. It was too hot walking around, so we sat in Gaerim forest where I saw a chipmunk!
We walked to the National Museum, which had relics from the area. It had artefacts from Anapji pond, which was and still is a pleasure garden, in the 10th century the Silla buildings burned down and the relics were only found in 1975 when the pond was undergoing repair work. These artefacts are found in this museum, along with statues of Buddha’s and artwork.
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.
The next day I woke up to Paul knocking on the door, around 10am, the first thing he said to me was ‘I’m really hungry, I need food!’ We decided to go get breakfast out, Paul went to order and found out that no one speaks any English, and therefore tried to say what coffee we wanted and in the end pointed to a picture and our order was placed! We got some noodles and walked back to our apartment building and had some Raman (noodles with spices, a little like pot noodle but not as nasty). After this we took a nap and then went for our medical. After our height, weight, blood pressure, hearing test, blood sample, urine sample and x-ray done, we could go. We got told that there was a party that night as someone was leaving the next day, so after eating to preserve some energy for the evening I took a nap. I got rudely woken by Paul turning on the main light...However I woke up with hunger pains and he informed me we were going out to eat with some people.
We got into town and go eat Korean BBQ again. After eating we started walking to a bottle bar where everyone was meeting up. We got informed that the bottle bar system works on honesty, you take what bottle of alcohol you want and open them at your table and save them till the end to pay for them - an amazing idea! There were CCTV’s everywhere and were informed that it’s so safe in Korea that you can leave belongings on the table and no one will take it.
We got invited to a karaoke bar where you only perform to the group of people you’re with. We got a room to ourselves and had a massive book of songs and people were away singing and drinking. Paul and I both got involved and had a really good time. We finally left around 2.30am (ish). John came with us to put us in a taxi and then he went back to the party. When we got back we realised how much we smell like smoke, there is no law passed in Korea so people can smoke inside/publicly. We headed off to our rooms, showed and then went to bed.