Posted by: C. Cali Martin | October 6, 2009

Approaching the End of Week 2

View of Daegu from the river

View of Daegu from the river

This week has been quite eventful to say the least. I began teaching my own classes. Last week I worked, which is to say I was AT work. I observed a few classes, did a couple demo classes to make sure I knew what I was doing (not too hard, right?), and sat around… a lot. We worked 10-hour days, and even had a work meeting on Saturday. I was super excited this week to start teaching my own classes though, so it was well worth it. Plus, I learned I was the only teacher to be given a week of “training”. Lucky me. Classes this week have been great–it’s been a bit stressful (more on this later…), but it has only served to solidify my decision in coming to Korea. Getting to know the kids will be quite a task, especially since their English is fairly limited in the lower levels–and yes, they do all look the same. Haha I owe this more to the fact that they all have dark hair and similar skintones. There are certainly distinguishing features about each kid–like if they wear glasses (which only eliminates about 3/4 of the kids if they don’t), their hairstyle (again, all very similar!), or even their clothes (whether they wear uniforms to their regular school, again only a handful don’t). This should be interesting…. But they are bright, for the most part, and participate (albeit forcefully). I’m definitely looking forward to this challenge of telling them all apart and getting to know them all!

The stressful part of this week has come in the form of a monster named “Blended Learning”. This sonofabitch has taken over Avalon (the name of my school, FYI). Apparently this is the newest, most advanced way of taking people’s money. Normally, the students would come to class and be taught from a pre-selected text, just like normal school. But oh no. The kids needed more supplemental material! More work! As did the foreign teachers for some reason. “So,” they say, “let’s make an online program that the kids can use from home and offer them this additional learning tool–at a high price. But we can’t make everyone do it… how will this work? I don’t know; let’s just design a fun little website with cartoons and videos and songs and let the stupid English teachers figure the rest out. We’ll take the parent’s money and buy our fifth house on Jeju Island”. Perfection. It has become quite obvious to us that must teach this B.S. (Blended Speaking, of course!) that Avalon HQ only hires functional retards to write their educational programs. Not only has every aspect of this program proved faulty (in the most bizarre and jaw-dropping ways possible), but every student is made to participate in this program, whether they are enrolled in it or not! Students must give a speaking presentation on some random topic (one includes 13 year olds discussing whether they’ve been on a fad diet or not) every class–which is great, if we didn’t already do that from the book!! The topics don’t match the book; in fact, nothing matches anything, even within the program! I cannot even begin to impart to you the frustration felt on the part of the foreign teachers. However, here we sit trying to make some sense out of this B.S. program, and find ourselves flabbergasted at the idiocy of it all! Other than that, work is great. 🙂

This past Saturday a bunch of teachers met up at “Riverside Park” (what its real name is, I’ll probably never know). We had a little portable grill, some hotdogs, hamburgers, beer, and of course the ever-present Soju. I was able to meet teachers from other departments within Avalon–teachers from other branches, teachers who used to work for the school and have moved on elsewhere, or just other random Western people they may have met along the way. We sat under the stars eating perfectly-cooked weiners and patties, drinking all the while. It was a blast! Absolute perfection. I met a girl from Minnesota (and spoke just as I imagined anyone from there would) and a guy from Atlanta. He actually graduated from FSU in 2007 and knows the Panhandle well. Kind of exciting to have a fellow Floridian in the midst of Korea! He used to work in the exact same place I am now–and now has a super plush job where I aspire to be employed sometime later. He works about four hours a day and gets paid nearly 5 million Won a month! That’s over $5000–for four hours, five days a week. What a deal! The catch is you have to have your Master’s degree (in anything) to work there–luckily for me, mine will be completed in about a year and a half. Excellent timing for what I have planned. 🙂 We’ll see!!! Plans change all the time…

Last night was quite epic… in a small-town sort of way. I got off work at 11PM and planned to meet a couple teachers for some drinks. We don’t work until 3PM, so after-work drinking is no small activity. We went to a chicken place; ate some amazing chicken (I think?), had a few pitchers, and didn’t want the night to end. Why would we? We have all night! By the by, it seems that almost everything is Daegu is 24-hours. I’m in Heaven. So we decide to get a couple bottles of Soju and chill at one of the teacher’s apartments. “A couple bottles” turned into eight between five of us. I learned some of the popular drinking games from the UK where the teachers are from. Interesting… I did manage to find my way back to my apartment… somehow. And I did make a valiant effort to eat some ramen when I got back–which ended up in my bed instead of the bowl. I definitely felt the aftershock of Soju this morning – and afternoon – and evening. My first hardcore Soju experience was nothing less than I had imagined! Oh, and I did make a pact with one of the girls to take Taekwando lessons… I’m pretty stoked about that. My brother (a black belt from a decade ago) and I will definitely have to battle when I get home!!

So far my experiences here in Korea have been some of the best in my life. I’m learning a new language and culture, and definitely new things about myself. I was asked today by a Korean teacher if I was homesick (they’re worried I would do a runner if I was too homesick), and honestly, I’m not. Maybe slightly–I miss my family, friends, comfortable and familiar things, and the beach–but I think the advantages of my being here far outweigh my homesickness.

Blog originally posted Thursday, August 27, 2009 on a MySpace Blog.
Posted by: C. Cali Martin | October 6, 2009

As of Day 6 in South Korea

Corinne and I on my first night in Korea

Corinne and I on my first night in Korea

So. I finally made it to Korea. After three months of arduous hoop-jumping, I’m finally here! I arrived in Seoul after over 24 hours for traveling from Tallahassee to Charlotte to LAX and to Seoul. Oh, and then the four hour bus ride from Seoul to Daegu. No chickens. When I got to Seoul, I passed through immigration (yes, they checked my temperature the MOMENT I stepped off that damn plane; and yes, they actually let me through immigration). I walk down to the steps to where my luggage should be–and no. The luggage had not been loaded onto the plane from LAX to Seoul. Genius. So with nothing but a bag of books, a toothbrush, and some small bottles of whiskey, I departed to Daegu.

When I arrived at my apartment, I find that I am to be secluded for a week pending the development of Swine Flu. Really? Yes. I have no internet–and honestly, all I want to do is sleep. But I’m also hungry. Oh, no food? Great. Some of the teachers from the school drop by during the afternoon and they invite me out for the night. Of course, who am I to listen to someone suggesting I stay in my apartment for a whole week? And plus, I can’t resist a night on the town in my new country! So I take a makeshift shower with a bar of soap and dry off with two hand towels that the school gave me (they were new!), borrowed a dress, shoes, and off we go! We went downtown, and let me tell you, if you could only see! People everywhere, cars speeding down alleys, music everywhere! We went to a couple “Western” bars, as in bars where Westerners go. We watched some soccer, rugby, drank a few, found out the toilets are not sex-specific, and marched on. We had pizza-in-a-cup, which is exactly how it sounds; drink-in-a-bag, a fun-filled concoction nicknamed the Adult Capri Sun; and rented out a room at a Noraebang, which is a private karaoke room. We sang “Wanna Be” by the Spice Girls, some “Bohemian Rhapsody”, even some Green Day! I’d say Saturday was a good night!

I finally got my luggage Monday, which gave me something to do with my entire day alone, including unpacking and finally taking a proper shower. An administrator from the school came by, took my temperature, no Swine Flu, perfect. So then I was locked up for another couple of days. No visitors. No temperature. No food but the 6-pack of ramen I brought and some Frosted Flakes I mustered up the courage to go out and buy. I got my internet Thursday (yesterday to me) and spent the entire afternoon, evening, and this morning feeling more connected with the world. I also downloaded “Flight of the Conchords” season 1 to match my season 2 and the first Ludacris album.

All in all, this week has been interesting. I saw a sign that read “Fried Cuttle Fish”. I just happened to have gone to the aquarium in Atlanta last week and saw said Cuttle Fish in a tank. They’re cute and change colors. There is also a watermelon truck that passes my apartment at least half a dozen times a day shouting in Korean their wares (I assume, since I’m not sure what “watermelon” is in Korean…). I also heard a cat apparently in agony last night around midnight. Late night snack? The only weird looks I’ve managed to get on the street come from old Korean ladies probably clicking their tongues at my brazen attempt to fit in with their culture.  I’m not attempting to do that, by the way–except buy some food and maybe walk across the street, both of which have proven a far more difficult task than could be imagined. I did successfully buy a hairdryer yesterday though…. Although those tasks do seem exponentially less difficult when compared to the bathroom that is my toilet, sink, and bathing area all in one. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to get over that one…

Blog originally posted on Friday, August 19, 2009 on a MySpace Blog.

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