I moved into the apartment on Thursday afternoon. There are pics on the Picasa page for your viewing pleasure (you can now just click on the gadget to the right instead of digging for the link). It's much bigger than I had anticipated -- more than one room! -- and kind of cute. I mean seriously, my tiny refrigerator has flowers on it. Everything in Korea is the decked-out version of what we have back home, though unfortunately it's usually covered in neon-colored flowers and sparkles and then they slap a big bow on it. And everything plays a song when receiving commands -- the a/c, the TV, the washing machine, the key pad lock on the door, the elevator, even the bell at school -- it's kind of like being in an amusement park of cute.
So aside from the fact that my water heater isn't working (thank God it's summer and I don't mind the cold showers quite as much) and that the washing machine dumps water all over the floor because, as far as I can tell, the drainage hose goes nowhere, things are peachy. I already have cable -- or perhaps their basic TV package includes 70-some channels? -- and I can sporadically steal internet from someone else in the building with an unsecured signal. The other things will be fixed sooner rather than later, I hope.
The location is great, too. I live less than a 5-minute walk from my school (you can see my building from the front door of the school), I'm told that I'm close to a great university nightlife spot, and there's a Home Plus just a couple of blocks away, which is HUGE and has just about anything you could possibly ever want to buy. It contains a McDonald's, a Dunkin' Donuts, a Baskin-Robbins and its own restaurant/cafeteria thing. It's probably a bit pricier than the mom & pop shops around, but boy, is it convenient. And every so often a song will come on the PA system and all of the employees will stop what they are doing, right where they are, and do a little calisthenics routine. Entertainment!
|Waygooks in downtown Gwangju|
However, behind all of the newness and excitement lurks the fact that I have never been so helpless since I was a small child. I have to give myself a pep talk every time I walk out the door. Yes, you can take the bus, Caitlin. You can go grocery shopping, figure out what to buy (even though you can't read any of the labels) and even communicate with the cashier who doesn't understand that you don't speak Korean (charades teaches important life skills). You can go out into your neighborhood and, if you get lost, you can figure out how to ask for directions to get back again. My first night out, I was physically trembling at the thought of finding a taxi to meet the other waygooks (foreigners) downtown. And no amount of self-pep-talking will change the fact that I must rely on my head co-teacher for other basics like communicating with my landlord, doing all of my paperwork and bills, reading the bus route map, getting my internet and phone set up when it comes time....I don't even know how to check my own bank balance! It's an experience that has caused me to start regressing in ways that have nothing to do with my inability to read or speak in this country. Like my brain is automatically reverting to high school mode. However, I can proudly say that I am still worlds ahead of my middle school students, whom I met today for the first time.
So, self-discovery lesson #2: I was most definitely NOT born to teach. Today was such a huge bomb. I don't think my lesson was that bad -- just an introduction about myself, making name tags and going over class rules. But 3.5 out of the 5 classes I taught talked the entire time, and there was nothing I could do to get them to shut up. I just don't have the heart to make them stand at the back of the classroom with their hands in the air or anything of that ilk (plus how effective is it when half the class is standing back there?), and I'm certainly not going to carry around a bamboo stick and thwack their desks (and perhaps them?) every so often like one of my co-teachers. I can only improve from here, I suppose, I just have to figure out how.
At least 3 of my 4 co-teachers are fairly young, so that should help me in developing some sort of rapport with them. My head co-teacher is a mom with a son in high school and another one working in Seoul. She's quite nice, but has kept me at arm's length so far. The students, on the other hand, want to get as close as possible. Physically. As close as possible. And then ask me all kinds of weird questions about my age, marital/dating status, height, etc., etc. Then they make a loud, choral "oooooh!" sound when I tell them how old I am. I'm not sure if they think I'm really young or really old. They run down the hall and come into whatever room I happen to be in just to stand close to me, giggling. I was told that I'm pretty at least 10 times today and got 2 or 3 "I love you"s, which was not quite as big of a confidence booster as the principal & others saying that my entire two-word Korean vocabulary is quite good! And I pronounce it well! Koreans are just so nice. I take it all with a healthy pinch of salt.