+ Food here isn’t *that* spicy.
A lot of the food I’ve tried has a lovely red pepper paste added to it which everyone tries to warn me off. “It’s very hot! Most foreigners don’t like it!” Well, I like it. :) It’s delicious and – I don’t know whether a year and a half in Mexico altered my palate but – it’s really not that spicy. There is a certain hotness but I’ve not been fanning my tongue and gagging for water … yet.
+It’s also freakin’ delicious!
Granted, I’ve had rice everyday which has made me wonder what it’s doing to my insides but for those of you who warned me that it would be hard to eat in Korea due to their love of meat, wrong! Well, I’m actually lucky that my schools serve a lot of vegetarian-friendly foods that makes me feel like I’m not missing out on much at all. Loads of fresh vegetables, and soup made with soybean paste are served everyday so I’m in actual heaven. The little Korean restaurant in Cardiff I went to earlier this month has nothing on the real deal.
+ It’s freezing here.
To all those people who thought Eastern Asia was one big heat bubble: I’m here to tell you, it ain’t. It’s rained half the time I’ve been here, I’ve woken up to some crazy misty mornings, and most of my co-teachers never take their coats off during the day. Freezing, peeps!
+ I love teenagers.
There was talk among the Korean ESL peeps that middle schoolers were the hardest kids to teach because they’re at that age where they just don’t give a shit. Believe me, high school students are just the same. My 2nd and 3rd graders (17-18-year olds) have been pretty magic. But my 1st graders (16-year olds) are still in that ‘I’m too cool for school’ phase.
It takes a lot of hard work to distract them enough to listen. I’m also planning on introducing Sheryll’s method of combating sleeping students next week. Saying that, I love them already. Most of them are sweethearts – Sneaking into my office when they should be in class to have a little talk with me, greeting me in the hallways and outside of school, and one of them even left this little heart on my desk the other day.
+ Direct translation never works.
I taught Beginners – Advanced levels of English in Mexico and never once used a translator. My students were immersed into English from the get-go and they slowly but surely improved.
Here, the kids have been learning English since kindergarten. You’d think that 10+ years later, their levels would be okay.
It’s pretty low. I’d put the majority of my 1st and 2nd graders at an Elementary level, and my 3rd graders at an Intermediate. Most of them can hardly string a sentence together. It’s just maybe three key words.
I was pretty shocked until I realised it’s probably due to the co-teachers. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love my co-teachers but the students really rely heavily on a lot of direct translation. In doing so, there’s no real need to listen to what I say.
I mean, it makes sense. In Wales, every student has to learn Welsh all the way through their school years. That means that – with nursery included – they get 13 years of Welsh lessons. So why is Welsh a dying language? Because the majority of us leave school with just a few short phrases memorised and nothing more. It’s all to do with direct translation.
My work is cut out for me here. Thank god I’m given a lot of flexibility to teach in whatever way works for me.
+ People really don’t stare that much.
Granted, I’ve only wandered around Naju, Gwangju, and Incheon Airport but, so far, there really isn’t a lot of staring. I don’t know whether it’s because people are used to seeing foreigners in these cities or what but the staring is nothing. I don’t want to be the douche who keeps bringing the other country up but I got a lot more stares in Mexico – I mean, I never left the house without getting gawked at. But here? Barely anything.
+ The air smells like fish.
I live right by the river in an area called Yeongsanpo which is famous for its skate fish. All along the river are fish markets that sell their daily catch and, as a result, the air is quite … pungent.
+ My schools are amazing.
I split my week between two high schools: One is a beauty school where the kids study hair, nails, skin, everything to do with beauty that I’m pretty crap at; And the other is a school with a focus on agriculture. A lot of the students stay onsite, in dormitories, during the week so they’re already pretty free-spirited and independent. The staff at the schools are unbelievably generous, kind, and patient with me, and are the first to help me with my Korean studies, as well as offering to show me all the sights in the cities and province.
I’ve heard some nightmare stories about teachers landing in horrific schools but I think I’ve really lucked out.
+ This is what happens when teenagers make their own team names.
+ I know five Korean words & can recognise the Hangul characters.
This sounds pathetic but considering I only arrived here 9 days ago with quite literally zero phrases memorised and no knowledge of the Korean language, I’d say it’s a good start.
I can say 안녕하세요 (Annyeonghaseyo – “Hello“), 안녕히계세요 (Annyeonghikyeseyo - “Goodbye” (when you’re leaving)), 안녕히가세요 (Annyeonghikaseyo - “Goodbye” (when you’re staying)), 고맙습니다 (Komapseumnida - “Thank you”) and 하나 (Hana - “One”).
I recognise all of the Hangul characters now but am still trying to remember the sounds off by heart. Not only that but there’re so many rules when it comes to pronunciation that all come down to where a certain character or vowel or consonant is placed that it really isn’t the easiest thing to remember straight away. Nonetheless, I’m determined to have the whole alphabet down by the end of my first month and, as I’m lucky enough to have a lot of down time between my classes, have the perfect excuse to get my books out and study.