When I read that we should bring deodorant with us to South Korea, I didn’t take it too seriously. I figured that somewhere, somehow, we would be able to find deodorant, even if it were expensive. Well, boys and girls, believe what you read, because Koreans DON’T SWEAT! And it is true that you will not find deodorant here at all! How do they manage to not get all funky on hot days with applying anything on their underarms? Nobody can answer this question.
Yesterday (Wednesday) was the last day with the group of kids we got on Monday. Remember, normally we have one-day programs and week-long programs, making the programs this week “Special.” It was an easy day since we only had them for about an hour and a quarter in the morning, took them to lunch, and then they left. We had meetings for the rest of the day in which we discussed the program for Thursday-Friday. We’ll be getting first-graders who I’m sure will be a nice break from the middle schoolers. Either next week or the week after is “military week,” when the Korean military comes to GEV to practice and improve their English. As you can see, every week will be different here and we’ll get a chance to work with all different age groups. I doubt we will ever get bored around here!
In the meetings, we newbies learned our Content Areas (there’s science, media, drama + music, and cooking). I was assigned to cooking, which I am quite excited about since it’s always the kids’ (and the teachers’) favorite due to its hands-on nature, easy planning, and often hilarious results. I had observed a couple of cooking classes on Tuesday and requested to join their team – though to be fair, I did make it clear that I was flexible and would be fine in any Content Area. I was grateful that they considered my request!…until I met the rest of my team….
I will not go into specifics regarding my team members, especially since 2 of them are leaving within the next few weeks and we will be getting new members anyway. Let’s just say that I’m accustomed to working with people whose work ethic is on a slightly higher level. (Those of you who know me really well, know that one of my biggest turn-offs is unprofessionalism in the workplace.) My CAL (Content Area Leader), on the other hand, is awesome! His name is Ben and he’s very laid back and casual, yet is a good leader because he knows how to delegate work and we therefore get a lot done.
The next meeting was just for new teachers; we discussed anything and everything about GEV, Paju, and South Korea in general. I commend GEV on being so organized and communicating so well with us newbies and all the staff, considering I’ve heard some horror stories about teaching in Korean public schools and hagwons (after-school institutions where students go to continue studying and to get help with their homework. Yeah, they actually take education seriously over here.) After that meeting, we had our final meeting where all of us teachers were gathered together one more time and we newbies had to present a PowerPoint slide we had created introducing ourselves. We finished early and were out of there by 5:30 (but still had to wait until 5:50 to clock out. There is no such thing as “getting out of work early” in Korea!).
But let me rewind back to lunch time. It was not the greatest experience. First of all, someone had the idea of going on a 20-minute walk just to get paninis (yes, really). I went just because it’s where most of the teachers were going. There were about 12 of us, which I discovered was too much for the restaurant to handle in terms of cranking out the paninis. The first table got their first sandwiches (each half of the sandwiches were served one by one) literally 25 minutes before we got our first ones, and the server tried to give them their second sandwiches before serving us ours, but we yelled and she eventually brought them to us instead. Anyway, later as we were paying, I discovered why the paninis took them so long: they were using a small panini press that could only make 2 sandwiches at a time. I felt bad that we made them work so hard.
After work, my amazing colleague Caleb (who has possibly been the most helpful and generous to us newbies out of everyone here so far) took us to the big Emart (like a Super Walmart) to buy some things we couldn’t get at the little Emart in Paju (the one I can walk to) or the EVMart (the dinky one in the village that only sells junk food). I was utterly amazed at Korean innovation and efficiency in practicality… let me explain:
- Instead of having escalators to take you up/down to the next floor, they have a moving walkway on an incline or decline on which you take your shopping cart. Do you have to hang on so your shopping cart doesn’t roll away, you ask? Nope! Once you’re on it, the cart’s wheels lock into the floor and it’s stuck there until you get off at the other side. It’s pure brilliance.
- There is a food eatery on the bottom floor, because most people shop in the evenings after work and are usually hungry because it’s dinner time. Make sense? I thought so!
- Since you probably have a cart full of stuff by the time you make your way down to the eatery, they provide an area to park your cart and leave it while you eat. In Korea, nobody will mess with your stuff or take anything out of your cart. Another point for Koreans.
- Instead of waiting in long lines at each individual place to eat and dealing with people crowded around each one, there is one counter where everyone orders. Then, you pick up your food from the restaurant… but in the meantime you can pick out your table and sit, because when your order is up, your number will flash across the screen right above the retaurant. Again, pure brilliance.
- If you don’t want a drink, you can get water for free from the water machine.
Oh, and Korean food is delicious. I have LOVED everything I’ve tried here so far (I realize I’ve only been here for 4 days, but considering I was worried about not liking the food here, I’m rather pleased!). I ordered dolsot bibimbap, a type of bibimbap. It’s basically a bowl of rice, noodles, and vegetables that you mix together and can add hot sauce to make it spicy. It’s also served with kimchi (of course), a plate of bean sprouts, and soup. The dolsot bibimbap is served hot (the regular kind isn’t) and includes beef. I can’t even describe how delicious it was. I would encourage all of you to find your nearest Korean restaurant and go there with lots of money so you can try everything!
Today will be a fun day with the first-graders, and I can’t wait to go to work! I’ve been up since 5:00am (yup, getting better) and I’m still so happy and excited to be here!
This weekend, we newbies are going to head into Seoul and I can’t wait!