Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Greetings from Changwon!

Hello! Orientation is over; everybody has moved out of Goesan and scattered to dozens of cities across the country to begin their new lives as English teachers, living with Korean families and experiencing a whole new level of cultural immersion.

I'm typing this from my own bedroom at my homestay in Changwon! My family lives in a nice apartment about fifteen minutes away from my placement school by foot. My host father (아버님) and host mother (어머님) are both science teachers, but neither teaches at my school; the connection to Changwon Science High is that their daughter is a first-year there. Furthermore, I think my school's vice-principal is good friends with my family. The family also has a son who is in middle school and has no interest in learning English. They also have two Pekingese-Shih-tzu mixes, and I can't decide if they're really cute or really ugly. :) Also present: a pet crayfish (가재) and a pet hamster that smells bad. And a piano and three guitars (!) that no one in the family really plays (!!!). And a keypad security system whose code is based off of a prime number sequence. Awesome.

I met most of the family tonight and chatted with them in broken Korean (mine) and broken English (theirs) about myself and my family, as well as logistical stuff like showers, wake-up time, how to get to school, etc. The only member who wasn't present was their daughter, because Changwon Science High is a boarding school, so she lives in a school dormitory (that is, again, only fifteen minutes away from her actual home). Maybe I'll see her tomorrow when I visit the school?

Anyway, after a long but chill (and no more awkward than expected) evening, and especially after my new host mother fed me peaches (복숭아) and told me that she loves buying organic food (유기농) and that I could eat anything I wanted from the fridge, I decided that I'm going to absolutely love my homestay family and this homestay experience. The food, the dogs, the shy 남 동생, everything!

The other hugely important person that I met today was my co-teacher, Saerona. (Her name is a traditional Korean name, hence the three syllables and its lack of a hanja counterpart. That's cool.) She is an English teacher at Changwon Science High, and she gets more and more interesting with every minute of conversation that passes. I was dead tired after the Departure Day ceremony and expected to sleep for most of the three-hour car trip to Changwon from Goesan, but we ended up talking the entire way, mostly about American and Korean educational systems, race relations in the States, religion, politics, and what my new school and city are like. I'm pretty sure we'll get along just fine.

I got my first look at my city, Changwon, through a heavy curtain of rain and from between mountains that turned out to be taller than they looked on Google Maps. (Yeah, I know, Google Maps is... flat.) It was a bit surreal to be finally on the streets that I'd studied for so long on a computer screen.

We were going to take a quick look at the school itself in the evening, but we arrived a bit too late and went out to dinner instead. (We had 돌반 비빔밤 dolpan bibimbap and it was delicious!) While I did catch a glimpse of the outside -- it sits on a small hill and is larger than I anticipated -- I'll tour the school for the first time tomorrow morning. My host brother is going to walk me to my school, and I'll sit in on a class and try not to draw attention to myself. Host father did say that I look kind of Korean at first glance, so maybe I'll blend in? Haha.

Anyway, that's all I'll say for now. More details about Departure Day -- and of course, parts three, four, five, etc. of Seoul Weekend -- later. I'm very happy and utterly exhausted after a long whirlwind of a day... good night!

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