MARCH ’18 in KOREA.

HELLO! I’m finally feeling like I’ve settled into a routine and have some down time to actually write this post. Let me fill you in on what’s been happening on this side of the world during my 1st month of teaching!


Milestones

  • Mar 1: successfully took a taxi home for the first time in Korea (and subsequently relied a little too much on this cheap mode of transportation… rip wallet).
  • Mar 2: made it through my first day of school alive! had an opening ceremony and busted out some limited Korean.
  • Mar 5: first day actually speaking in classes. it went over pretty well. (just did intro classes for my first week teaching)
  • Mar 7: opened a bank account, ATE ALONE AT A RESTAURANT FOR THE FIRST TIME
  • Mar 8: first 회식 (hweshik, company dinner) with my main school. it was good!
  • Mar 12: first REAL classes, they went over relatively well. also bought groceries for the first time
  • Mar 13: got a Korean phone plan (kimchimobile)
  • Mar 14: improved relationships with teachers at my main school. our first volleyball practice! so fun.
  • Mar 17: first mountain hike in Korea. went to Gyeryongsan National Park.
  • Mar 20: started taking Korean classes.
  • Mar 22: got paid (finally T-T)
  • Mar 29: my class activity (broken telephone) made 2 girls in my class cry lol 😦

In hindsight, a LOT happened last month. It went by in a flash, but it also seems like March 1st was a lifetime ago.

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How I ended up in a Korean police car on Day 3:

On the very first day of March, I decided to check out 은행동 (Eunhaeng-dong) with some friends. This is the “old downtown” area, but I actually prefer it over the new one! We stumbled upon a Japanese restaurant, and now looking back — I realize that was the first time I sat down in a restaurant in Korea!

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very yummy, i need to come back

We shopped around for a bit, then met up with some other friends to explore. We visited a vintage-style cafe, and headed back to Eunhaeng-dong afterwards to hunt for dinner. It was difficult to find food that would cater to everyone’s dietary restrictions; our last resort was just walking through the traditional market (where older ladies would yell and try to persuade you to buy their goods). At that moment, standing in the unfamiliar market, I felt around in my pocket and I kid you not — my heart jumped out of my chest.

WHERE IS MY WALLET???!?!?!?!?

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Damn. Day 3 of living on my own in Korea, and I’ve already lost my ID’s, credit/debit cards, and cash. Good going.

My friends were very patient and went from store to store with me, hoping that I had forgotten it somewhere. We went to every single place I’d been to that day, with the exception of the vintage cafe because it was out of the way. It was a roller coaster of emotions: hope, anticipation, disappointment, repeat.

The thing with Korea is that it’s a very safe country. You can leave your belongings behind and for the most part, you’ll come back with nothing stolen. So it didn’t make sense that I was pick-pocketed, but coming from North America, that’s kind of your first thought.

Eventually, I made my way to the police station near the downtown area, only to find that the lights were off and nobody was inside. My friend (fellow Canadian) Sabbie stopped two Korean men to ask what we should do, and they kindly called the number and told them my situation. Here’s where we put our broken Korean to the test. Turns out, the police station is much farther away and this was just a “security centre”. The men waited with us for the police to come, and all of us just stood there slowly freezing to our cores.

I felt bad and told them they should leave first, as I’m sure they had plans to be elsewhere for the night. Turns out they were obligated to stay because the made the call from their phone. I later heard them saying (in Korean, not aware that I’d understand) that from here on out, they’ll just say “I don’t know” when a foreigner stops them on the street. 😦

Anyway, an older gentleman pulled up in a cruiser with a tall, younger officer (maybe in his 30’s). The older man was very jolly and kind, gesturing that I should get into the cruiser.

Uhhhhhhh. That’s certainly not what I was expecting.

The cruiser could only fit 2 people, so Sabbie hopped in and the rest of my friends went home. One of them said he’d pop by the vintage cafe to see if I’d forgotten it there.

Perhaps time went by slowly, but it felt like that ride took at least 15-20 minutes. How far is this damn station?! We eventually got in, and the jolly officer offered us both a warm cup of tea. Nearly 2 months in now, but still the best cup of tea I’ve had here. (literally just a green tea teabag lol)

I called my co-teacher on a Saturday night and she helped me leave my statement with the officers. Just as we were finishing up, the friend who popped by the cafe suddenly texted me: “I GOT IT.”

So the cops were like *clap clap* congrats *clap clap* but they still had to do the paperwork. Now I have a record in the Korean police system as the girl who reported a lost wallet and found it before the statement was signed. NICE.

But whatever, what matters is I was eventually reunited with that pink thing and I have never let it out of my sight since. I’ve even put a memo in my wallet with my e-mail in case I lose it again. Would def recommend you to do this as well … just in case. You might not be a clutter-brained person like me but accidents happen! My debit card also stays at home now along with my Canadian health card, so I don’t lose my whole life at once if this ever happens again.

Lesson learned! I’m still shook.

Teaching

I teach at two elementary schools in Daejeon. I’m not going to name them, but just to give you a background on them:

MAIN SCHOOL: I’m here 3 times a week. 300-something students in total.

  • Each grade I teach has 3 separate classes, so I teach each class once a week.
  • I take the lead whenever I teach these classes, and my co-teachers assist.

SECOND SCHOOL: I’m here 2 times a week. 60-ish students in the whole school.

  • Each grade has ONE class, ranging from 7-14 kids in each grade.
  • I see these students for each and every single English class they have (2 periods for gr 3&4, 3 periods for gr 5&6).
  • Grade 3/4: I lead for one period and assist for the other
  • Grade 5/6: No set formula, sometimes I lead all 3 classes, sometimes my co-teacher leads all 3. Really depends, but he went on paternity leave for a while so I taught all 3 without him during that time.
  • It’s literally on a mountain and I have the best view

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I plan anywhere between 8-13 lessons, and teach 22 periods a week. In March, I was still learning and finding my groove as a teacher. (I still am). It was honestly really rough, I’d be exhausted after class and try my best not to fall asleep while I sat in the teacher’s office. I’d lesson plan at home and sleep at 3AM, then be extremely tired when I woke up the next day. I’m slowly getting better at finishing my lessons at school, thank goodness.

The students themselves are generally all very low-level, with a few in each class that might know a bit more. Each class has a different vibe. As a whole, the students are so cute and lovely, constantly yelling “HELLO LENA TEACHEEERR!!!!” in the hallways.

They’re the best part of this job, and I’m so happy to be here.

hangin with some other EPIK teachers in dunsan
hiking at the gyeryongsan national park. met some nice elderly korean people and also learned that alcohol (or just makgeolli?) is no longer allowed on the mountain
got my second lobe piercings on a whim 🙃
the drinks are tooooooo sweet but I still cant resist visiting the cute cafés
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selena 🙂

6 thoughts on “MARCH ’18 in KOREA.

  1. “Mar 12: first REAL classes, they went over relatively well. also bought groceries for the first time” — Maaan isn’t it the best the first time you’re able to navigate around town and go grocery shopping ahaha – I probably shouldn’t be as excited as I am, but I remember the first time I got groceries from a market in Israel I felt so accomplished since I didn’t know any Hebrew.

    Liked by 1 person

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