Friday, August 29, 2014

Life update!

What a week! We have successfully made it through 5 days of school life in Korea…well mostly. Tyler has taught classes every day this week and has done a great job! I’ve been at school everyday…just without kids. I’ll explain later. Here are some things we haven’t hit on too much that we wanted to update about!

Our City:

We really love our city Hwasun in the county of Hwasun! In the short amount of time we’ve been here we’ve really enjoyed having access to “city” life while also having immediate access to “rural” life. It’s the best of both worlds! As we’ve mentioned before, we’re surrounded by giant green mountains, a beautiful view from almost wherever you walk here! The “downtown” area has many tall apartment buildings that are all over. Each complex looks almost exactly the same, but thankfully they each have their name and building number on it.

Here are a few stats (found from Wikipedia because we can’t seem to find any other information anywhere else.)

The county of Hwasun is about 304 square miles.
There is a population of about 79,000.
The county bird is a dove and the county flower is the Wild Chrysanthemum .

In Hwasun City there are multiple grocery stores near us as well as both Korean and American restaurant choices. We are really excited to start exploring more, but in the past few days we’ve been very busy setting up and organizing our apartment and going to school. We realized though that the faster we make it feel like home, the faster we can settle in. So far it’s worked! J This weekend we are ready to travel around the area and learn more about Hwasun!

Our apartment: We are so thankful for the size of our apartment! It really fits everything nicely! We have bought some photo frames (of course!) and love the few that are hanging up right now. Unfortunately we didn’t bring photos that fit that size of frames we have so now the hunt is on to find a place to print photos. We found one place in our city, but for 1 8X10 photo it cost $6!!! We need at least 5 more of that size…so we’re not doing that here. We’ve transitioned pretty well with cooking in a tiny kitchen (that doesn’t have a oven), showering in a bathroom without a bathtub, and drying cloths with out a dryer. We try to have an open mind and positive attitude on our new ways of life, because, well, why not? This is an adventure for us and we knew going into this that things would be different! It’s a great lesson in flexibility! We will be making a apartment tour video soon! :)

The view from our apartment during the sunset. We propped our front door open so we could see it!

The bus system:
  Public Transportation was the one thing that really made us nervous coming to Korea. We didn’t even understand how to take public transportation in downtown Portland, so we had no idea how we were going to figure it out in another country that doesn’t even speak our language.  To our relief, things have gone pretty smoothly. The NET that I have taken over for left me a detailed “Survival guide” telling me where to get on and off the bus to my schools. Even with being shown my schools/ bus stops and given this wonderful guide, I still had to actually get on and off that bus! So far so good though! Tyler had it much worse as he was only left with some written Korean words to show the bus driver.  Yet somehow in the midst of all the nervousness about transportation we have successfully gotten to our schools and home with little trouble! The bus ride to school is very interesting! The first 10ish minutes we are completely squished between mobs of middle school students on their way to school. It’s very uncomfortable as it’s hard to balance while your super squished and the bus is making many sharp turns and stops. Thankfully that’s just a short part of the ride! We also are still trying to figure out exactly how much it costs to ride to different places. So far the prices have been pretty reasonable. We are thankful for such a great transportation system here that allows us to get to where we need to go!

Neungju Elementary School: Even though I do not have students this week, I still have to go to my school each day. It goes with the term “Desk warming” and though I don’t understand it, I’m going with it! While I’m here, for 8 hours a day, I have been looking through the textbooks, looking around my classroom, and creating my introduction powerpoint. Clearly this does not take up my full 8 hours each day, so I spend my time in less productive ways. Needless to say I can’t WAIT until next week when I finally get to teach again! J While I’ve been here I took a few photos of my classroom!  It’s a great classroom with lots of resources and great technology. I’m very excited to actually work in this classroom rather than just sit in 
A turf soccer field! Most schools only have dirt fields. 

The view from my "office" on a rainy day.

My "office" and desk. 

The extra space with extra small private learning rooms. 

Supply closet!

One of the extra learning rooms! 

This stage not only has great lighting, but also a tv mounted on the ceiling with a video camera! 

The front of the classroom! 

The entryway. 

Cute desks! 

(Tyler will post photos and write about his school next time!) 

Teacher Dinner: This week Tyler and I were invited to his school’s “welcome” dinner in Gwangju. One of his co-teachers was so kind and came to Hwasun to pick me up at the apartment. We drove to Gwangju to a restaurant that is famous for its mushrooms! This was great for me, but Tyler usually isn’t a fan of mushrooms. We were hungry though, so anything was good at that point! The restaurant was really cool! It was a traditional “sit on the floor” place and there was a gas grill built into each table. On the grill was a large pot that boiled water. They brought out large trays of lettuce, beef, and of course LOTS of different kinds of mushrooms. One of the teachers at our table was in charge of putting the various foods into the boiling water to cook it. After it was cooked she then served everyone at the table. The food was really good! It really wasn’t even that flavored (which is good, because we’re always a little worried everything is going to be so flavored or too spicy to eat) but this was great! They kept refilling our bowls until one of the staff members came and emptied out the boiling pot of the leftover meat and veggies.  They then proceeded to fill the pot with rice, onions, spinach, and a raw egg. We had no idea why another course was being prepared because we had already been at the restaurant for an hour. We found out that this was called “porridge” and it was actually really delicious! Throughout the dinner many toasts were made. We weren’t exactly sure what they were for, but we have a feeling it was to welcome everyone back and to have a good school year. At the beginning of dinner Tyler and I were welcomed and were given a beautiful chocolate heart shaped cake from his principal. Apparently, since that day was our 1 month anniversary (and Tyler had mentioned that during one of his introduction classes) the principal found out and gave us that as a gift. It was so sweet! We were shocked and felt very honored as we know that was a very special moment. We then introduced our selves and thanked everyone for welcoming us. After dinner we got in a car with the principal and another teacher. Thankfully, the other teacher was driving as the principal had been poured many drinks (a tradition to show respect) and we were a little worried that he would be the one driving. In the car he asked us a few questions in English and we got to know him better.  As we got closer to Hwasun he asked us if we liked “shave ice.” Of course both of us love shave ice so we told him yes. About 2 minutes later we pulled up and parked in front of a café. We got out, assuming we were stopping for shaved ice and got excited because we were happy to find a shave ice place in Korea! We all sat down at a table and the teacher went and ordered for us. When she came back we were slightly disappointed as “shave ice” here is completely different than in the US. This shave ice included a milky ice cream on the bottom, some white ice shavings on top of that, and red beans poured over the top of it all with some dried dates. Completely different than what we thought it was going to be! However, it was such a kind gesture of this principal to take us out for dessert after he just paid for our dinner and we were happy to try something new, so we happily ate it! The taste wasn’t too bad, however it was a strange combo that I never thought I’d be eating! After we were finished they drove us back to our apartment, we thanked them for everything. It’s times like those where we wish we knew more of the language and could express our gratitude in a deeper way, but for now “kamsahamnida” is as good as it gets.

All the mushrooms! 

Tyler and his co-teacher Mrs.Kim. 

Rice porridge.

Extra side dishes. 

"Shave Ice"

Our adorable cake! 

1 month anniversary 

Well we are very excited for the weekend as it will be a nice break from the long week! More adventures to be had! :) Also, we finally have a video on our youtube channel! We promise our future videos will not be this long! But we had to get that project finished so we could always remember those moments! :) 

~Ty and Val 

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