Here it is, my first post from Yeoju, South Korea!!!!!!!!!! There’s no time to be witty, I have a lot to get through.
I got off the plane, made it out to the terminal with no lost luggage, and found my co-teacher, Ji Young (Jeoung) who is young, stylish, and very sweet. She was with another teacher from Yeoju Girls High School, the biology teacher, and the three of us quickly left the airport, got into an SVU and began our 2-hour journey to Yeoju. It was sad to say goodbye to all the other Wisco people, but I know we’re all going to meet up soon. Jeoung gave me a hug, held my hand, and smiled as we looked for the car–such a warm welcome. We chatted the entire car ride about my job, my life and family, and about her hobbies and interests. It’s her first year at the school, so we are kind of in it together!
We went straight to a restaurant with the principal of the school; my first, real Korean meal. It was delicious, interesting, and a little stressful. Table manners are HUGE here, and I’m not totally sure if I behaved properly (for example, I continued to eat after the oldest person had finished, something I later read is not good. oops.) There was a lot of food in front of me, and I’m not totally sure about everything that I ate. But of course, I tried everything. I know I had a pork dish, kimchi, seaweed, some noodles, rice of course, and a sweet, cold pumpkin soup. NEW NEW NEW!
They took me to my home for the night – a room in the dormitory attached to the school. This is where some of the students live who have a long commute to school. They live in the dorm so that they can study more. Very Korean. I slept for maybe 3 hours.
Today has been a whirlwind. I was taken to school at 7am with some of the girls in the dorm, and we had breakfast together at school. They were so kind and sweet, and their English was really good. (I think they were specially selected to guide me because of their proficiency.) Breakfast consisted of spicy rice cakes shaped like noodles, rice, soup with tofu, seaweed, noodles, and of course, kimchi. Very different from the carbohydrate/dairy filled breakfast I am used to. I spent the day following various teachers around, very confused as to what was going on. I was introduced to a group of teachers and then to the entire school. Thankfully the foreign English teacher from University of Wisconsin that I’m replacing is still here, saying her goodbyes, and she gave me a little tour of the school and we chatted for a while. My role here is unlike anything I’ve ever seen at a school in the United States.
It’s really difficult to describe how different everything is here. It’s not just the language or the new foods, but the way people treat others and the feeling in the air. Perhaps with more time I’ll be able to give a better explanation. Just imagine being an invisible person, except when people need to tell you something. Or when a Korean highschool girl wants to say, “Hi! Nice to meet you!”
Overall, I’m excited, slightly confused, and a little overwhelmed. Tonight I’m meeting up with the existing foreigner community in Yeoju – I’m excited!
Thanks for reading, everyone! Miss you all so much. Can’t believe this is all happening.