From the BK to the SK
 
It's been a long day, so I am tired right now and about to go to sleep. Just thought I'd leave you with a few comments after my first day of teaching:
A. Some of my kids speak very good English
B. Some of my students do not speak a word of English
C. Some of my co-teachers speak very good English
D. Some of my co-teachers do not speak a word of English
E. Korean students love to scream in excitement when I walk into the classroom. They also get very excited when I say I am from New York City or that I have tried Mach Chong (seriously, this gets the loudest and most enthusiastic response. probably because they think I don't know that it's the small intestine of a pig)
F. Korean students DO NOT like to get in trouble. They start crying immediately, even if they were acting out wildly.
G. Korean students go to school after school. They go to academy to continue their studies until around 9 p.m.

Some questions and comments from my first day of teaching:
A. My brothers are very handsome.
B. I am very beautiful.
C. Do I have a boyfriend? Will I be a 7th grader's girlfriend?
D. Are American students allowed to dye their hair while in school (literally, like in the school bathroom)?
E. I wear so many bracelets and necklaces.
F. Do I know Lady GaGa
And last, but not least, my absolute favorite question of the day,
G. What is your blood type?

I think my answer disappointed them. That, or they really weren't too interested to begin with. But like I said, I am about to go to sleep. I had a meeting about an upcoming school camping trip with my co-teachers today that was conducted ENTIRELY in Korean for about a straight hour and ten minutes. Then I had a traditional Korean meal where we had to take off our shoes before entering the restaurant, and I had to sit on a pillow on the floor. Five minutes into the dinner, I lost all feeling in my feet and ankles. Yet another thing that makes me stick out amongst Koreans, but practice makes perfect, so I'm going to forgo buying furniture for my apartment to get myself better adjust to sitting on the floor. Kidding. I just don't have the money to buy it all yet, so I don't really have the choice.
 
 
So, I should probably be lesson planning right now, but seeing as my co-teachers and I can barely understand one another, I don't even know what they students have learned and need to learn.
Yesterday afternoon I decided to walk around my area and try to find civilization, see how far I live from a main part of my district. I found out it's about a 15 minute walk, and it's a pretty fun area because of Kyungpook University, so there's a lot of young people around (Korean obviously).
My plan was to go out, walk around, buy some things for my apartment and come back in time to get ready to go out; however, that plan changed entirely when I got locked out of my apartment last night.
There is no physical key to get into my apartment (not sure about other people's), and I have what's called an "intelligent lock". Well, for as intelligent as it's supposed to be, last night it decided not to accept my 4-digit entry code. I tried it a few times, maybe about five or six, before I started to slightly panic. I was hot, tired from the night before and carrying 8,000 pounds of different things I bought. I knocked on other people's doors, and after a while, I came to the conclusion that there is a very good chance that absolutely no one else lives in my building except for me.
Tears started streaming down my face. Here's the thing - we have no cell phones, though I do have my blackberry. But, I wasn't able to use it because I left my co-teacher's number somewhere on the floor in my apartment, buried underneath all of my clothes and shoes that I started to unpack only to realize that I had absolutely no drawers in which to put anything away.
I literally, for a solid five minutes, sat in front of my apartment door and just buried my head into my hands and cried. I didn't know what I was going to do. I very well could have taken a cab to my friends' apartments, that is if any of us had any idea on how to tell people where we live and if I had any money on me. I had 3,000 won in my wallet, which is about 2.50$ - doesn't get you very far.
I looked out the stairwell window of my building and saw a little, old lady in the alleyway down below. I ran out of my apartment, tears still streaming, and walked up to her. It's funny, too, because when I know someone doesn't speak English, I switch to italian, and my brain started going a mile a minute trying to put together exactly what I needed to tell her until she opened her mouth and started blurting out Korean at me. Oh, right, I don't think italian will get me very far in Korea.
I tried my best to tell her what was wrong, but instead I just motioned for her to follow me and led her to my apartment door. I was still crying, though the comfort of having this woman there with me did make me feel a little less hopeless, even if she didn't speak English and I didn't speak Korean. The one thing I've learned from living in China is that, generally speaking, Asians are probably the most giving and selfless and most kind-hearted people I've ever met. I knew this woman wouldn't leave me stranded.
This woman and I tried calling every single number we could find on any of the hall way walls in my building, but we were getting no where. Suddenly, I remembered that I had my journal with me, and on the inside of my journal I had the number of the high school english teacher that's attached to my school. She gave me a post it with her number on it before I left on Friday in case I ever needed help, and I definitelyyy needed help right then.
So, this woman let me use her phone to call Stella (the teacher), and I explained what was going on. They talked for a few minutes, and when she hung up the phone, the old lady grabbed my hand and led me downstairs and across the street, holding my hand the entire way. Conveniently, there's a store across the street that sells and installs intelligent locks. I really, really could not have had better luck.
The people who owned the store gave me a drink, tried to talk with me, but none of us could communicate. We walked back over to my building, and the locksmith got to work destroying my lock and installing a new one so I could get inside. Before he did that, though, he brushed off a step for me, wiped it down clean and motioned for me to sit while he did his work. He nor this old lady left my side, and they did everything they could possible to make me smile or laugh, and slowly but surely I felt so safe and like nothing had even happened.
Stella, the high school teacher, and her husband drove to my apartment to make sure I was OK and to talk with these people who were helping me. The old woman showed me her house in case I ever run into trouble again, and the locksmith said I could always come to their store if I need anything. I just felt so much better and much more secure to know that these people are willing to watch out for me and to help me if need be, and Stella and her husband went out of their way to turn my entire night around.
They asked to take me out to dinner - pasta, as per their suggestion - and if I'd be interested in going back to their house for coffee after. All the weight and stress that built up from the past few hours suddenly lifted, and I was so thankful for their efforts and thoughtfulness. And so, my entire night got a lot better.
I went to dinner with Stella and her daughter, and her husband went back to the house to prepare some coffee and snacks for after. They took me out to dinner, we walked around after, and she asked if there was anything I needed for my apartment, anything else I wanted to eat or drink. They really were doing everything in their power to make me feel welcome. The daughter (her youngest of 3) was too shy to really practice her english, but Stella and her husband both speak it well.
It was so weird to go back to their house after, not because it was awkward, but because of how still and kind of sacred everything felt. It was such an open, vast space, decorated with careful consideration and meaning. Everything in their house meant something, had some kind of story behind it or significance to it. I met the grandmother (father's mother), who was this tiny little Korean lady with such a powerful presence and vibe. It really just felt like she had all the answers to all of the questions in the world, and she just seemed so wise. There was so much history written in her smile - it seemed to cover her entire face with stories from her entire life. I sat with her, Stella and the daughter in her bedroom as she asked me so many questions about myself, complimented my green eyes and small face and my poor Korean skills (she was very kind and told me I make an excellent student). They invited me right in, without a worry in the world, and invited me to sit right on the bed there with them. 
Her bed was wooden, without a mattress, and right down the middle of it were blocks of preserved and hardened salt. They told me the salt was supposed to be good for the health and for the joints, and that they are heated in the winter. I could tell how practiced and accustomed they were to this, and how new it was for me, because as they sat there with such a comfortable poise, I could not stop fidgeting, and my leg was numb and had fallen asleep. It was just so crazy to have think that a few hours earlier, I felt so alone and so scared, and just a few hours later I felt like I was slowly becoming a part of this woman's family.  They invited me into their home, gave me whatever they felt would make me happy and take my mind off everything, complimented every single thing about me and really just opened their hearts for me. They did tell me, too, that they believe I was sent to them from God, and that we were all destined to meet and become friends, share one another's cultures and become a kind of family together.
It wasn't really weird when she said all of this to me, and to be completely honest I felt kind of honored. Here I am, this 23-year-old American girl that they just met (I literally spoke with Stella for maybe five minutes at lunch on Friday before this whole situation happened). They brought me to walk down along the water, told me all about different aspects of the city, told me all about Korean culture and even invited me back to have dinner and stay with them one night. The grandmother offered to cook for me herself.
It's funny how the day was such a crappy day, but that night was truly one of the most unique experiences I will ever remember. It just all felt kind of surreal, like I stepped through time and fast-forwarded my life to one of those moments you could never imagine happening.
Anyway, I hope I did this story justice. I am tired now and have to plan a lesson for class tomorrow, but it's just crazy how your entire day can turn on a dime just because of a few people who enormous hearts and spirits.
 
 
So it's been a while since I've last written, but that's because so much has happened in the past few days I can barely keep up with myself. Where to even start, I don't know, but I'll try as best as I can to accurately describe the past few days of my life.
This is a very long blog, so make sure you have the time to read it.
I am pretty sure I felt more anxious on Wednesday than I had ever felt in my entire life. Wednesday and Thursday seemed to stretch on forever, dragging every solitary millasecond out of the day as slowly as they possibly could.
I finished training for work, and Wednesday night was the be all, end all of the next year of our lives: We found out the location of the school we'll be working in. That was just the beginning.
Did I forget to mention that I came to Korea literally not knowing a single thing about where I'd be living or working until the day before I moved into my city? Oh, yeah - you're hanging on to every second by a thread, just waiting to find out about the road that lay ahead.
I found out that I'd be teaching 7th and 8th grade, which in Korea is called Middle School Grades 1 and 2. I tend to get confused and very excited sometimes because my co-teachers will talk about my first grade class, and for a second I'm surprised and get suddenly happy because I think of cute 5-year-old Korean kids (really 6 or 7 in Korean age), and I'm like YESSSSSS! But then I remember that it's 11 year old kids, and that excitement vanishes slightly and I get SO nervous. Teenagers and pre-teens are at that age, but I hope they're not as snotty and obnoxious in Korea as they are in the States.
There's a plus and a downside to teaching middle schoolers - the plus is that you're not struggling to teach literal babies how to speak English (the age thing in Korea makes the kids start school at like 3 years old American age), and you're not drained struggling to keep their attention or get them to listen. Downside, little Korean babies make your heart melt because they have the most beautiful, wide-eyed and innocent faces. Seriously, I can't handle them.
Oh, one another positive - no getting dongjip (my romanization is probably very off). Apparently, with younger kids (especially in rural areas), when a teacher bends over, the kids will run up behind the teacher with their hands in the shape of a gun, and physically "dongjip" the teacher by sticking the gun up the teacher's butt. What was this, a school or a prison shower? I swear I think tears welled up in my eyes, and I may have even made the sign of the cross.
After finding out my grade levels, a little while after (they really drag out the anticipation), I found out my school assignment: Buk-gu area of Daegu. I looked all over the map for it, and of course my eye fell right to the center of the city, certain that a girl from Brooklyn would be placed at a school dead in the center of everything. I mean, I had to be, right?
Think again. I'm about as far north of the city as I can be before leaving the city limits. There's no metro near me, no nothing. An industrial center. I tried to keep my cool as every other teacher was talking about what subway stop his or her school was near, etc., and tried to remind myself that I came here for a reason: I came here to teach, yes, but I came here to experience the culture, the lifestyle, the country and all it has to offer, so I didn't want to get ahead of myself with negative thinking. I hadn't even seen my area yet, and it might not be that bad, but you can only keep that mentality for so long before you start to have heart palpitations thinking about the fact that your apartment very well might be in a grass field behind some mountain where no one could ever find you. For as much as I've traveled and experienced, I was borderline panicking.
But you've gotta have faith, and a situation like this really tests who you are as a person. Seriously. For as laid back as I think I am, my brain was like a broken record, the same mantra skipping over and over again in my head: Be prepared for whatever it is, because it will only make you grow that much more.
So Wednesday night (after the e-mail hacking incident, which I am so sorry about) all the teachers went out for one last time before we packed up Thursday morning and headed our separate ways. Some teachers went to Pusan, others to Ulsan and other parts of Korea, and my group of teachers was headed to Daegu.
Daegu is a very strange city, and driving into it felt like driving onto some kind of fake movie set. Literally, we were driving through this beautiful countryside painted with endless mountain ranges rolling through the sky, and then you just come across this city, right set in the middle. It reminded me of a much bigger version of Penn State - just this whole life form in the middle of no where.
Anyway, so the buses drop us off at Daegu high school, and we're all brought into a classroom to get one last briefing before we meet our co-teachers and move into our apartments. The thrill of everything was just never ending. I was almost certain my group of teachers in my section of the city would be the last to be called, but we were the second group of teachers. I'm pretty sure that my heart was beating so powerfully from nerves that propelled me forward with each step I took to get to where I had to go. I walked into the auditorium where the co-teachers from each school waited for their respective English teachers, and before I knew it, this cute, little Korean doll of a teacher came running up to me.
She is one of my co-teachers (I have four that I work with), and she's 28 in Korean years but 26 in American years (something about the lunar year makes her another year older). She is SO tiny and little, but she smiled with her whole face, and I immediately felt like I could breathe. She spoke English, and at first it seemed like she spoke it very well, but at the time passed I realized she isn't exactly near fluent. I could be wrong, though, and she could just be really nervous to practice her English around me for right now, but I can always tell when she doesn't understand me.
When I got to my school, everyone was waiting for me and greeting me. Anyway, we drove about a 30 minute drive from what's essentially the center of the city to where I live, and I did sort of feeling my stomach turning with each mile (or kilometer) that tacked on to the trip. But I tried to stay positive.
My apartment is....well interesting. There is no window in my actual bedroom, which might get a little bit depressing at times, but it's pretty big. Most everyone has studios that are the size of my bedroom, where as I have a separate kitchen and a small laundry room, which is where the window is. It kind of shines into my room, so it isn't all that bad. I don;t have a common room, though, and since I don't cook, it might kind of be like living in a studio, anyway.
But I am in the middle of nowhere. No civilization close to me - it's like a 15 minute walk away. What is down the block from me, though, is a Costco. A Costco - like seriously? And it's PACKED! All the time. Everything I've asked about buying, I can get at Costco. I asked my co-teacher where I can go clothes shopping - Costco. What if I want to sit down at a cafe and drink some coffee? Costco. If I'm hungry? Costco. I can do everything at Costco. Surprisingly enough, though, when I asked where in Costco I could find slippers for the classroom and for my house (you can't wear shoes inside the classroom, and I shouldn't and don't wear shoes into my house), her reply was, "No, uhhh...you cannot find these here." OK - so what you're telling me is I can basically adopt a child at Costco, but I cannot find the one necessary and essential thing in that I actually will use every single day while live in Korea at Costco? Interesting.
I hate Costco, and I don't have a membership, so in the end, it's essentially useless.
All of the teachers lined up to meet me on Thursday when I arrived at my school, and though they speak no English, they did their best to make me feel absolutely welcome, and they did. Everyone was so excited, and they gasped, smiled big smiles and bowed, some offered their hands to shake so that I'd feel comfortable. My Vice principal and principal speak no english, so having coffee with them was a very unique experience, and I do have to bow when they say hello and good bye to me.
But my head co-teacher is a tall, tall man who sweats profusely because the schools are not air conditioned - did I forget to mention that Daegu is the hottest city in Korea - but he is like the gentle giant. He is really seriously very tall, though.
But seriously, the teachers made me feel so welcome. They might not speak English that well, and I can already tell that there will be days when I get so immensely frustrated with the communication barrier, but for the most part, when you get right down to it, they're good people with enormous hearts who really are thrilled that I'm there. You just feel so needed and wanted and well-respected, and they knew so much about me before I even got there because they must have studied my resume.
I haven't taught yet, and Friday was a preparation day and the day to fill out my paperwork for my Alien Registration Card, but the kids seem equally as cute and excited. They run up to me in the halls and spit on the only English they know and just run away in giggles. And there is a big  "Welcome Alexandra Petri" sign in my school (my name is Alexandra teacher/alexandria teacher/alexa teacher/sandra teacher/I don't really know for sure because everyone's pronunciation is different).
So, to wrap up this entry because it got so long, I'll tell you a little bit about my first real Korean experience. Remember how I drank snake blood? I did that willingly, and I guess you can kind of say that I willingly ate the traditional Korean dish of Daegu - muk chong (again, probably off). The teachers and principal all wanted to take me out to celebrate my first night in Daegu (and Korean people LOVE to drink, by the way - I can't tell you how many times I've been asked if I drink and what I drink since I moved here) - and I told them I wanted to try whatever is the most popular dish.
Turns out, that was muk chong, or the small intestine of a pig. When we were sitting there at dinner (traditional Korean bbq) - I knew it looked a little strange as it was being cooked, and I knew the texture looked very squiggly and defined, not like I've seen before. But I didn't even stop to think about what it could be (for a second I thought it was a brain, but I gave up on that idea as quickly as it developed), and I just ate, making sure to say how delicious (it  really wasn't too bad when I ate it wrapped up in the lettuce leaf) it was, only to find out a day later what I ate.
Needless to say, I didn't feel well all day on Friday.
But, I did know that when we sat down at the dinner, I would have to pour my Vice Principal his drink, using two hands, because I was the youngest person at the table and he was the oldest person at the table. It was pretty cool, actually, to be participating in something so ritualistic and traditional even if it was just pouring a beer.
More later, but for right now, just know that when I leave my apartment, I have no idea where I am and what is going on, and I will admit I feel slightly debilitated.
 
 
This blog post is very important. Someone hacked into my e-mail account, aep1620@gmail.com, sending an e-mail that I need money wired to me because I am in Scotland. DO NOT REPLY TO THAT E-MAIL, AND DO NOT SEND ANY MONEY. DO NOT SEND ANY E-MAILS TO THAT E-MAIL ADDRESS ANYMORE. I AM SO SORRY. I HOPE EVERYONE CHECKS THIS!
ALEXANDRA
 
 
This entry really doesn't have anything to do with kimchi, but I just thought I'd entitle it as such because there is literally no escaping kimchi anywhere I go. Today at lunch, there was kimchi and, to spice things up (as if Korean food isn't spicy enough), there were kimchi pancakes. I tried one and legitimately, as unpleasant as this may seem, almost got sick at the table. I had to sit there for a second with my mouth shut and my eyes closed in fear that any sudden movement would result in an unpleasant and embarrassing experience for myself and those around me. I think I am officially scared off from kimchi for now.
The past few days have been relatively overwhelming as we've been in lecture courses preparing us for our work ahead, but I did learn some interesting little facts about different cultural things.
Okay, so in Korean culture, instead of being 23, I am 24 in Korea. Confused? My friend Emily told me this a while back, but Koreans consider children to one year old when they are born, as age in Korean culture starts in conception.  So, Koreans spent the first year of their lives in the womb. Kind of interesting, really, how that works. But age is also a very important factor in Korean society because it's a culture that is built on hierarchy and respect. When you meet someone, it is not unlikely for he or she to ask how old I am. Such a question is, according to one of my lecturer's, an invitation into the circle of Korean culture. If you meet someone and have an entire conversation with that person and are never asked how old you are, than that's not the greatest conversation, no matter how much of a connection or shared bond you felt with that person (this is all according to my lecturer on Friday).
My best friend Laura bought me a Korean etiquette book a few months ago, and I distinctly remembered reading something about when you are giving or receiving money, for instance. In Korea, to hand someone something using only one hand, especially your left, is considered very offensive. The other day when I was paying for a drink, I handed to cashier my money and noticed how she received it: She tucked her left hand into her right elbow and received it in her right hand. I immediately looked at my outstretched arm and realized that I handed her my money with my left hand, and I felt like a total moron. So, from now on, I've been careful to either give or receive something with both hands or with my left hand tucked into my elbow. (The same goes for something like pouring or receiving a glass of wine.)
I also learned about fan death, which I first read about when my friend Emily blogged about it a few months ago. Koreans have a fear of fan death - basically, Koreans believe that fans are extremely dangerous and can kill people by sucking the air out of a room, especially if the windows and doors are shut. I will make sure not to die of fan death while I'm over here as "newspapers report deaths by fan as an absolute fact (thanks, emily)."
Another interesting bit I learned - I can LEGALLY (I SWEAR) go to the border with North Korea. I know, I can already hear everyone's gasps as they read this statement because the amounts of "Alexandra, do not even play around with North Korea" warnings were countless. Everyone seems to have a fear that they're going to see my mugshot on TV and that good old Bill Clinton is going to have to come rescue me from Kim Jong Il. I guess it's a legitimate concern now that I found out I can go up to the actual cement block that serves as a border. (It's called the "DMZ" for those of you who want to double check and make sure I'm being safe.)
Other things I've learned haven't been to drastic of a difference from what China was like. For instance, in China, NO ONE was direct in any statement he or she made. If my boss (when she actually came over to my desk) didn't like something I was wearing, instead of saying, "Alexandra, black skirts aren't allowed at work," she'd say something along the lines of, "Alexandra, pants would be a really nice thing to wear to work."
A lot of the other teachers are surprised and taken back by the amounts of stares we'll get walking around the streets or how concentrated and steady the few stares they've gotten so far are - not a surprise to me. Need I remind you about my experiences in China, laying down in the park after a run or something and opening my eyes only to see a set of eyes staring right back at me?
Other things not saying excuse me or thank you or please, the spitting, pushing, cutting in line - this kind of etiquette is also something I constantly faced in China. So, I think I have a handle on that for the most part. Again, gotta give credit to China for that one.

 
 
I haven't been able to see or experience much of Korea yet because I am still in orientation for my teaching program, which ends next week. The past two days have been as Korean as they can be at the moment, with different cultural ceremonies last night and our health check this morning. Yes, we had to have a very serious and very intimidating medical exam this morning including blood tests, chest x-rays, urine tests, eye tests, hearing tests and different exams. Apparently one kid was sent home for having a spot on his lungs. Fingers crossed that I passed all of my exams - I've been on my best behavior the past couple of months.
Right now it kind of feels like college life all over again. There was an opening ceremony last night, with different video presentations and cultural presentations, followed by an opening/welcoming dinner.
We watched the Hunam dance team perform two different dances: the first I can't quite remember, but it's something along the lines of a drum dance. Their second performance was the fan dance. In between the two was the Jeonju University's Ta Kwan Do performance, which was positively insane, and I mean that in a good way. These kids on this team were so amazing and so incredible, doing backflips to break pieces of wood that their teammates (who were in pyramids standing on top of one another) were holding at least 20 feet high in the air. It really was ridiculous. They were so agile yet so powerful, and they were so controlled and collected. There were men and women on this team, and all of them performed brilliantly.
I did kind of feel like I was on some kind of crazy trip at one point during the performances because I was so tired and jetlagged, and my eyes were glazed over and borderline about to shut. The dances were pretty amazing, though. In the first dance, the women came onto the stage stepping lightly on their toes, and it seemed like the remained that way the rest of the performance - light on their fight and struck these drums with such force. All I kept thinking was how synchronized they were, how each movement was so in tune with each beat of the drum. It was just such dainty precision. I don't know if that phrasing makes sense, but it was pretty fascinating to watch, even if I felt like I was on drugs.
After the performances was the dinner, which was an endless amount of food. Seriously, tables stretched on forever with all kinds of different food. You know that feeling when you're out to eat or at a buffet or something, and you keep going up to the table hoping something new will appear on it? I swear that was the situation last night. And for the most part, the food hasn't been too bad. My palate definitely expanded in China because, let's face it, it had to or I'd starve to death. And dinner last night did feel a little bit like China, like you kind of had to take a deep breath with some of the food you put on your plate and hope for the best. But the main dish here is kimchi, which I currently hate. Literally, the smell of it makes me nauseated, and I feel like it kind of just sinks into my pores and is constantly pumping itself out of my skin. I can't escape the smell. I do have to give it more of a chance, because it's kind of like Mexican mole - it's all different depending on where you have it and who makes it. But for now, here at Jeonju University, I am not about the kimchi.
And last but not least was the medical exam from this morning. It was definitely super intimidating, and it felt all so rigid and structured and very cold. It was like sitting on a cold examination table without actually sitting on the table. And I had to get a blood test this morning - ha. I go to the guy, I'm pretty scared, will this hurt? He answered yes. Awesome.
Luckily enough it didn't hurt. The last test was the urine test, and while most girls were waiting in line to use the one and only western toliet, I was well prepared for the squatty potty hole in the ground. Thanks, China. You taught me well.

 
 
August 19
It took about 17 or 18 hours to get here, but I have finally landed in South Korea. It was a weird feeling when I was packing up my belongings at home, trying to fit my life into just two suitcases each weighing under 50 pounds (p.s. - that didn't happen). For some reason, the fact that I was leaving for a year didn't set in whatsoever. I guess because I am used to traveling, constantly coming and going and coming and going. This time, however, was different, because now I am just going. I won't be home again until June for my brother Michael's wedding.
So, when the plane was about to land, and the screen read there were 58 minutes left to our destination arrival time, I felt this sudden surge of excitement pump through my veins. I just thought to myself, "There are 58 minutes until the next year of my life begins."
It's a bit different this time around because I wasn't doing this totally alone. I have one of my best friends here with me, which I guess is why the whole leaving for a year thing didn't sink in so quickly. For those of you who don't know, on August 17th I packed my bags and moved to Daegu, South Korea, to teach English through the English Program In Korea (EPIK).
I've traveled a lot and have been fortunate enough to experience so much of life abroad, but at first I wasn't sure if I could do this alone. I wasn't sure if I could move away to a new country, most especially Korea, all by myself, and not totally freak out. Now that I'm here, I realize that both Sheila and I would have been 100 percent OK with embarking on this journey separately if we hadn't gone together. And it's weird because you kind of just click with most everyone you meet. Yeah, some people might be a little strange or a little quiet or something, but we all have that same kind of adventurous, adrenaline searching personalities that lead us to do something like this.
So I'm here, safe and sound. I don't know anything about my apartment or my school yet because I am still in an orientation for work before I start teaching. China and Korea definitely seem like they have a lot of similarities on the outside, but on the inside it sounds like such an entirely different world. I know I have to bow here in Korea to most people (elders), take off my shoes before entering my classroom - it just seems as if the culture here is so much richer than it was in China. But then again, who knows.
I do know that when we were driving from the airport to the orientation site after landing on Wednesday night, I felt so completely disoriented and drained from the past two days. But, as soon as we hit the city, it's like my eyes were sparked open by the bright neon colors that flooded the Seoul city skyline. It felt the same way it did when I was in China - a festival of lights that kind of instantly served as a power source for your own energy, making you excited and intrigued and anxious and nervous and awake all at the same time. There was something about those lights and the mix of colors that felt so familiar to me, that reminded me so much of one year ago and just what it is about traveling that makes me feel so at home.