I don't know how often I should send these (I could email every week haha) but thought now would be a good time as a lot has happened and I finally feel settled, which may come across in the mail! Firstly, if anyone can - check this website out: http://roketship.tumblr.
So, where to even begin. It's been a crazy few weeks. I'm heading into my 6th week being here which means I have, according to people who have done it before, survived the critical period. Go me. Trying to remember what I told you all in the last mail. It struck me the other day that I should probably tell you all more about the people and children etc as it really is a fascinating little country this. So let me start there.
The kids are machines. They are left in the mornings to find their way to school - and they do. No such thing as missing or bunking classes here. Even when you are sick you are expected to come in (goes for staff too, dammit). They are at school from 8.30 till around 4.30, busy with afternoon classes etc. They then go to a hagwon, which is a private school for more intense learning. Then, some go to private tutoring which is actually kind of illegal as the kids aren't supposed to work after 10pm or something. So they go all day everyday, till all hours of the morning, and then do it again the next day. Trying getting them motivated in an English class...aint going to happen. I'm just really struck at the independence of them all; Family Marts are packed with students in the evenings eating noodles and other instant meals between schools. They go off to school alone, even the little ones. And they do it. The students have all really warmed up to me, and I often have little 1st grade boys putting my shoes on for me and fighting to hold my hand. The older ones generally always have big smiles for me. Not if I don't play games though - I think the biggest downfall of the English program here is the expectation from the kids' side that all we must do is play games. No no Lucy, no game now - later. Teacher, game!? NOOOOO! I SAID LATER. (Communication fail.) Ball game? Sigh. But I'm growing very fond of them and beginning to feel less like a total moron in class. Sometimes things fall apart but hey, it happens. I'm REALLY struggling with my HwaDang 5th graders, so much so they almost have me in tears when I walk into class but I'll learn what works for them and get a handle on them eventually. The respect is also crazy - every kid bows and greets a teacher every time they see them. I get constant 'Hello, nice to meet yous" - 3 years in an English program and that's STILL all they know. Gotta love it :) I also have plenty "Teacher, Brown Teacher, English-y - apple. Korean, 로겨." (that's not real Korean so don't Google Translate it haha). So who needs Korean lessons - I have my classes.
I am learning not to be sensitive here. The people come across as very rude and abrasive but that's just their way. If you leave even an inch of space between you and the person in front of you, someone will stand there. No one waits for anything, doorways are a free for all and a car will not stop for you. Feels like you take your life in your hands every time you walk around. You never get used to the stares, but you do get over it. And the spitting is disgusting. It's weird to be in a country where people can still smoke in restaurants and that, and by people I mean men as women are looked down at for smoking. I have my eyes pointed to often, and sometimes random strangers will give you a smile that warms the bottom of your heart. But other times you feel completely unwanted and unwelcome, which is hard.
Food wise - oh my goodness the food. Very spicy, and I tend to only really be eating chicken as I never know what else to order. But it really is amazing and mouth watering. I am yet to cook a proper meal in my place because there is usually always someone going for dinner and it's just nicer to eat with people. Went to a seafood place last week and ate 'Seafood Bokkeum' which was interesting - whole octopus (octipi??), crabs, chicken, muscles and prawns with veggies and spices enough to make my dad's eyes water. Needless to say after the kind man had cut the octopus up in front of me, I wasn't overly excited about what I was about to eat. But it was good :) You cannot come to Korea, or any adventure for that matter, with a closed mind. They serve this instant coffee everywhere, it looks like the Nescafe cappuccinos? But they only pour a little water in and drink it piping hot. I've bought some for my apartment as man, Korean tea SUCKS. Their pastries for the most part are amazing, and I found a place down the road from me that sells waffles with cream cheese. I am their new favorite customer!! We were in Seoul for St Patrick's day (an experience in and of itself) and although I do love Korean food, I have never been so happy to see Western type take out places in my life. Seoul is the city where I will shop and go for tastes of home. It's amazing.
I've met some pretty incredible people here, and am slowly being welcomed into their little family. Just like Grahamstown last year, your friends when you are away from home become your second family, and I can see I will be happy here. We might be going hiking this weekend on a temple stay which I'm super excited about! Oooh and going to see Lady Gaga at the end of the month, more for the experience than for her. Should be epic.
I finally have a bank account and yes that's right - I am officially a mirrionaire. Not too shabby a feeling ;) haha. Juju you would be proud - have become quite the Korean beer drinker as everything else is far too expensive (an soju kills). It may not be Millers or Castle but it's pretty good anyway :) Spring is in the air which means cherry blossoms, days in the sun and wardrobe changes which I am very excited for!!! Still got caught in a snow storm on Saturday though - seems Korean weather is as moody as they come.
I feel like this has been a bit of a boring update, but I hope you've enjoyed it anyway :) I know some people have asked for pictures but that's why we have Facebook, it's just easier that way ;) And I'm thinking of starting a blog, which will replace the emails but that's a major work in progress so stay tuned :) If anyone wants my postal address or wants anything sent to them from here (no Jase, I DON'T mean an ipad) then just shout :)
There are a hundred things I could still say and my tired brain is probably forgetting some really funny stories which I could share...but there will be more where this comes from. I still love hearing from you all, so keep the emails, whatsapp and Facebook messages coming!
Love and miss you all dearly.