Monday, August 25, 2014

Tyler's Experience

Ceremony Day

Ceremony day was crazy! As Val already mentioned, the co-teachers were waiting in the ballroom while we filed in and said hello and what school we would be teaching at in Korean. Some of us were better than others, but the co-teachers got a real kick out of watching us struggle, it was pretty funny though! After I went up, I was told that my co-teacher was running late, so I had a seat in the back with another native English speaking teacher. After the ceremony I was told there was a mix-up at my school and that my teacher was on the way. I sat with Val and her teacher (Jin) at lunch. Jin is very nice and I think she will be a perfect co-teacher for Val! We ate quickly so we could get our luggage before the storm of people would flood the elevators. Right after we got all of our luggage downstairs, I was told that my co-teacher had arrived. I said a quick goodbye to Val and hoped we would find each other later.

I followed our orientation leader to meet my co-teacher. My co-teacher and I said a quick hello and got going as the chaos had begun. My co-teacher’s name is Mrs. Kim. I grabbed all my bags and rolled my huge suitcases and Mrs. Kim lead me to a car with another teacher. I just barley loaded all my bags into the small car with the three of us and we drove off! The other teacher drove us to a parking lot somewhere else in Guwanju where we transferred my stuff into Mrs. Kim’s car. Mrs. Kim tried to look up the immigration building on her GPS, but the touch screen was not cooperating, so we just started driving. After driving for a while and asking for directions a couple of times, we arrived at a building. Mrs. Kim hopped out and told me to wait in the car. When she came back, she told me that the immigration building moved to a new location. So again we set off!

By the time we arrived to immigration a lot of the other English teachers were there and the immigration office was crowed. As soon as we entered I hoped to find Val, but she was nowhere in sight. Then as I went to take a seat, I saw here in one of the cubicles with Jin! After Val finished up, my co-teacher and I still had a long wait in front of us. To give some visual clarity to this situation, it was a lot like going to the DMV back home.

After we finished with immigration we headed to a Bank in Gwangju to set up an account. The lady at the bank was very nice and knew a little bit of English, which was helpful. Most of the time Mrs. Kim and the lady at the bank talked in Korean and then Mrs. Kim would help me fill out all sorts of forms. To set up online banking, the lady at the bank called a number that would translate Korean to English in order to explain that I needed to create a username and password to access my online account.  This process took at least 30 minutes, but it was nice to have it done. Next we were one our way to my assigned apartment in our new home city of Hwasun!

The drive from the bank in Gwangju to Hwasun was about 40 minutes. As we entered a tunnel, Mrs. Kim told me that on the other side was Hwasun. We exited the tunnel and what I saw was beautiful! All around you can see GIANT lush green hills (or small mountains) surrounding the city. We drove into the city and pulled up to the apartment. Unsure of when Val and I would be reunited, I decided to take all my bags to my room. The apartment building is very new and modern, but does not have an elevator since it only stands 4 stories high. You should probably know that at this point, it is very hot outside, very humid, and I am still wearing my dress clothes from the ceremony! I stand at the bottom of the stairs with all my bags as I begin the journey of carrying them up one-by-one because they were too heavy for my co-teacher to lift. By the end of getting all of my bags to the 3rd floor, I was covered in sweat! Thankfully, before we left, Mrs. Kim suggested I change into casual clothes because it is too hot. I gladly agreed!

Next we took a walk from the apartment to the bus stop where I would catch the bus to school tomorrow. After exploring the bus stop, I used Mrs. Kim’s phone to call Valerie’s co-teacher. They were on their way to Val’s assigned apartment, so I wrote down the address and we drove over there to meet them!

The other apartment is only a few minutes walk away, so we were arrived pretty quickly. As you know from Val’s last post, when I arrived I saw Val’s giant bags sitting outside the apartment building. I decided to be nice and surprise Val by carrying her bags up to the apartment. Mrs. Kim lead the way as we headed into the elevator. I was thinking how nice it was that this apartment complex has an elevator…but wait, it does not go to the second floor!? I guess if you live on the second floor you are just suppose to take the stairs. So instead we went to the third floor and I muscled the bags down the stairs to the second floor. Finally, we turned the corner and found the room with the door propped open and we were together again!...I just made myself tired again from writing this, but you know the rest of the story from Val’s post.

First Day of School

We got up early the day after the ceremony to get ready for school. Val didn’t have school, but decided to come along on the bus ride to see where she needs to get off and help make sure I get off in the right place. When we got on the bus, I had a note on my phone in Korean that Mrs. Kim had told me to show the bus driver. He read it and nodded. We had no idea what the note said, but hopefully he knew what we needed to do. The bus was pretty crowed and there is a lot more floor space on these buses than the city buses back home in Oregon. (That way your can fit more people.) Val and I were sandwiched between bunches of Middle School students and then we pulled up to the next stop. To our bewilderment, there were about 15 people waiting at the next stop! They came on one-by-one and after each person entered we continued to compress. Eventually, all but one person made it one the bus. One girl was asked to get off because the door would not close. As we took corners, everyone swayed together from one side to the other. After about 10 minutes of this we arrived to a stop where all the Middle School students poured out of the bus. The rest of the ride took about another 30 minutes, but we had a lot more space and Val was even able to sit down. The bus ride was very beautiful driving past farming fields stretching out to the green rolling mountains.

This is the front of my middle school classroom.

Walking down the driveway to my school down to the Gym.

Looking at Iyang school from down by the Gym.

The Iyang school Gym.

At the bottom of the stairs in front of the school.

We kept standing up, wondering if it was time to get off, but each time, the bus driver shook his head and we sat back down. At last we could see it. The school was up a hill and tucked into one of the little mountains. We exited the bus and Mrs. Kim was standing outside waiting for me. I said goodbye to Val as she was going to catch the bus back to Hwasun. Another teacher picked us up in their car and drove us up the hill to the school. The school building looks a little worn in certain aspects, but is kept very clean! During a certain part of the day all the students clean the school, so it is in their best interest not to mess it up. Also, they have all the modern technology inside. I have my own cubical desk in the teacher’s room, with my very own desktop computer all in Korean…very helpful I know, but we are working on switching it to English if possible.

Iyang school tucked into the hillside.

The students are very nice and like saying hello in English. My first middle school class only has 6 students! It was nice having such a small group and to be able to talk to each of them. My second class had only 9 students. I can tell that I am really going to enjoy working with the middle school students. After I finished my classes, I was told that the vice principal said that I could leave 2 hours early! So I gathered my briefcase and headed back down the hill. When I got to the bus stop, it was hot and the middle of the day, so there was little shade to hide from the sun. Not knowing when the next bus would come, I stood out in the sun in my dress clothes for about a half hour before I finally saw the bus approaching from the distance.

After getting home, Val was waiting for me and we did some shopping in town before dinner. Then for dinner we went to a burger place and each had a burger. We don’t know for sure, but we think the meat in the burgers may actually be pork because it tasted a little different and there aren’t many cows in Korea.

Our burgers!

So good!
After dinner Val and I had some more shopping to do for our apartment. We thought, “what better place to shop than the giant Emart in Gwangju?” So we caught a bus to Emart, which took about 40 minutes. We shopped around the mega store for a couple hours looking at all the different things we could find. Finally, we found the perfect shelves to go by our bed, but the packaging was really long and rectangular. We wanted to take a taxi home, but had no idea whether someone would be willing to drive two foreigners that do not speak Korean with two big shopping bags and two giant rectangular boxes. I made Val go talk to the cab driver because I figured the driver would have a harder time saying no to her. He agreed to take us back home to Hwasun. We put the shopping bags in the trunk and just barley fit the selves diagonally in the back seat across Val’s lap. We did it! The best thing about taxis in Korea is that they are very affordable. For the 35-minute drive home, we only paid 20,000 KWN or $20 USD. He was such a nice guy!

On the bus to Gwangju!


Beautiful view from the overpass.

We found our shelves!

Putting the awesome shelves together!

All in all, it has been quite the adventure so far going from a nice hotel filled with other English-speaking foreigners into the thick of all things Korean. It has been lots of fun, but needless to say, we value our sleep!

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