Saturday, August 17, 2013

Year 2 시작하자!

Let's start year two of this Fulbright thing! Woohoo!

Some updates: I have not been blogging regularly for the past month because I have been on vacation. I spent four weeks in the US, attended two weddings, did some grad school research, caught up with old friends and made some new ones, and didn't think about Korea at all. (Well, that's not strictly true. I kept up with Korean news and wrote regularly in my Korean blog. But I didn't study Korean or watch any K-dramas, as I had planned to. I also didn't eat any Korean food, plentiful as it is in the Bay Area.)

About three days ago, I packed my bags and hopped on a plane from San Francisco to Seoul. A nice old 아줌마 sitting next to me decided that I would be her conversation partner for the final two hours of the flight. She thought that I was a Korean-American and first asked me where in Korea my parents were from. Later, she talked to me about her life. A Korean teacher in Osh, Kyrgyzstan who hails from Gwangju, she rambled about her experiences during the Gwangju Democratization Movement and the Kyrgyz Revolution of 2010, and I understood about 50% of what she was saying. I've gotten good at nodding and smiling at the right times when someone is speaking to me in Korean on the assumption that I know what they are saying. That said, it was an interesting conversation.

From the airport in Incheon, I took a bus to Cheongju and then another bus to Goesan, where the forty second- or third-year Fulbright ETAs joined this academic year's new crop of teachers (numbering eighty, for a total of 120) at the tail end of their six-week Orientation. I got to know a handful of them, although between their packed schedule and my travel fatigue, not much socialization was to be had. However, I did spend a lot of time catching up with ETAs from my year, and we played lots of Bananagrams and Contact. (All of the new ETAs now know me as the guy who loves word games, since I was the answer to one of the questions -- "This second-year ETA loves word games such as Bananagrams and Contact" -- during Quiz Night. I am okay with this.)

After about a day and a half of this bite-sized Orientation, it was time for Departure Day. Everything ran exactly the same as last year's D-Day, only this year it was blazing hot instead of raining buckets. Also, this year I didn't even bother to say too many goodbyes, knowing that it isn't really goodbye, because it's so easy to visit my friends in other cities. I guess the real farewells were for some members of this year's Orientation Committee who are not renewing their contracts. Leslie, Ashlee, and Anthony are going back to the US, and I'll miss them a lot! But for everyone else, it was just, "Hope your apartment's nice, and see you soon!"

Speaking of which, my apartment is really nice! It's small, to be sure, but has basically everything I need. I've got a fridge, a two-burner stove, a desk, a bed, a closet, and a kitchen table in two rooms, plus a bathroom and a laundry room with my own washing machine. Also, my school provided me with a lot of appliances and living essentials, so I don't have to buy very much! I already have utensils, cookware, a rice cooker, hangers, and more toilet paper than I think I'll ever need. They even got me a freaking convection oven! It's so big it takes up more than half of the kitchen table. I know those cookies I baked for everyone last semester had something to do with this exorbitant investment...

I'm really, really thankful that my school has taken such good care of me. They definitely didn't need to buy me an oven! But they do have money, and they apparently like me enough to spend it on me. Rent is 500,000KRW a month, which is about $450. It's a bit above average for a place like this, but I'm not complaining -- my school is taking care of the rent. I'm responsible for utilities -- gas, water, and electricity. There's no Internet, so I'm using my phone as a WiFi hotspot and tethering my laptop to it. I'll have to check to make sure this doesn't cause me to go over my monthly data plan. And lastly, the apartment building is a mere five minutes' walk away from my school.

Good deal all around. I'm fortunate and happy.

So, what's next? I will spend the weekend preparing for my first classes on Monday and catching up with some friends in the city. I also haven't quite finished unpacking, and there are some household items I still have to buy, like a fan and a laundry hamper. And food. Food would be nice. In fact, it's 2:30pm and I haven't even eaten lunch yet. I think I'll do that now. Bye!

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