Emails from the Island
Jeju Travel Blog› entry 1 of 3 › view all entries
July 19th, 2006 – by: bretaye
Email dispatched from the front: July 20, 2006
Here I am in Korea. Was a looong long trip. We flew from Mpls to Chicago then to Tokyo then to Seoul, a night in Seoul and then to the island. All told about 30 hours of travel and I was with two other English teachers, Cory and Genevieve, every single minute of that time. We all even slept together in Seoul on one big bed on the floor of a closet. Good stuff. I couldn't wait for five minutes alone.
When we got here though we each got our own efficiency apartment in a building a block from the school we are teaching at. I can't tell you how nice it is to have my own space, even if everything is weird as hell.My entire bathroom turns into a shower and my washer turns into a dryer and is under my stove. It is the little things you know...
I am somewhat of a freak show here with my shocking red and blond short hair. I am openly stared at daily and several times groups of school kids have come up to me giggling and saying "Hi Hi Helloooo!" And then they run away giggling again. I am already tired of it. I have only seen a handful of other Westerners on the island. I guess there is a bar that is a frequent spot for expats and English teachers. I intend to find this place and make it my home.
I am learning Korean. Can say Hi and Thankyou. I am so proud :)
The culture shock isn't as bad as I thought it would be. But there are a lot of elaborate rituals surrounding everything from how to act when you are drinking to how to separate your garbage. The recycling system here is so elaborate that I have five different garbage bags under my sink and a mounting pile of bits of paper and debris on my desk that I haven't figured out how to classify.The system is pissing me off. I know some of you are thinking this is the ultimate irony since I am such a recycling freak.
And the drinking thing---when you are out you never pour yourself a drink. You get communal beers and then you wait for your friends to pour out for you. When you are empty you sit around banging you glass on the table, saying, "Well, I guess I'll just have to go home" until someone pours out for you. Ultimately passive aggressive--would put the Germans to shame :)
There is no homeless population here at all. Everyone has a job. Everyone. They will create a job where there is none just to keep people employed. The grocery store is filled with peole hawking samples and they are aggressive and when I pulled a box of cereal off the shelves, a girl came running up to pull the next box forward. That is her job! Crazy stuff. But this island is clean and it is beautiful and today the sun is actually out. It is the rainy season so we have been dealing with rain and clouds and 98 percent humidity since we got here. I look hot.
Will start teaching Monday. Have been warned over and over again how unruly Korean kids are. No discipline and they don't respect female teachers at all. But corporal punishment is still legal here. Yeehaw. Just kidding. I am teaching 1-6 graders how to read. I also get to run the aferschool program for the 1-2 grades. We have a ton of field trips planned. Will take a ton of pics.
Okay, enough for now. I could write forever about this place. Hope all is well. Keep me updated on life back home. I miss you all and look forward to hearing from you.
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