Tuesday, September 21, 2010

First Few Days

Arrived at the San Diego airport on Sept 17th. I brought 2 pieces of luggage, a carry on, a camera, and a purse. The weight limit on checked baggage before they charge you ($200 a bag!) is 50 lbs and the absolute maximum is 70lbs.... So of course one of my bags was 57lbs and one was over 70lbs. Thank god I had my dad to help me unload about 27lbs of things from my 2 suitcases. Then, to top it all off, they were expecting my plane to be delayed. Normally this would be ok but I had a connecting flight to catch in San Francisco and about an hour and a half in between flights to do it. Luckily we only ended up being delayed by about 20 minutes. My connecting flight at SFO ended up being across the entire airport so me, my large (and heavy) carryon, camera, and purse went flying quickly across the airport after we landed. I even heard my name announced over the loud speaker as I was on my way to the gate. As luck would have it again, my flight to Seoul ended up being delayed by 20 minutes anyway. About 12 hours and many movies later, my flight landed at the Incheon/Seoul airport. I passed through customs, grabbed ALL of my bags, and made my way to an airport hotel. By the way, summer in South Korea means very hot, humid, rainy weather.

Incheon (Seoul) Airport

Sitting out the rain in my hotel room.

The next day I took a 8:30am flight to Daegu (45 minute flight). Once I arrived in Daegu I realized how much smaller this city was compared to Seoul. Not only was the airport pretty small, but there was about 20 times less English than there was in Seoul. I hopped in a taxi with an old man driving who spoke approximately zero words in English and didn’t know where the address was that I gave him. I eventually arrived at where I was supposed to meet the director of Daegu Metropolitan Education after a lot of gestures and unknown English/Korean words swapped. I signed my contract and was soon met by my co-teacher, Sun Young, the vice principal, and the chief officer of administration (I think). Only my co-teacher spoke English. They drove me to my new apartment and helped me carry my heavy bags two flights up the stairs. My apartment is about the size of my room at home, but I don’t really need much more room than this. Right inside the door is a closet-sized kitchen. This leads to a bedroom/closet/dining area, which is then connected to a bathroom/shower and a closet/laundry room. One nice thing about my apartment building is that it doesn’t require any keys, just a code to get into the building and another to get into my apartment (kind of reminds me of the good ole ADPi days). 

Ugly wallpaper and bed spread, oh my!
Bedroom/Living room/Dining Room

Uber mini kitchen

Typical Korean shower bathroom.
Just imagine...
you can shower, brush your teeth,
and sit on the toilet all at the same time

My street: Apartment building on the left, at the end.

After showing me around my apartment, I was driven to the Daegu Joongang Middle School. On the way I was told to remember how to get to the school as I would be walking everyday. It is only about a 20 minute walk but after turning down 5 different alleyways, I got a little confused. We arrived at the all boys school and I was met by the principal. He also did not speak English but told my co-teacher that I looked like a movie star haha. I was then led to my office in the “English Zone,” which I will share with five other teachers. There are a total of six English teachers including myself. Only two of the other English teachers speak English very well. My desk is at the head of the office with the biggest desk, overlooking all of the other teachers (a little intimidating). I was then brought to the teacher’s lunch area for my first legitimate Korean meal. There was soup and rice and a few other side dishes. One of which I thought had green beans... I was sorely mistaken. It was THE HOTTEST pepper I have ever had in my life. If I thought I was already sweating from the heat, I was definitely sweating from the pepper. I wanted to faint and throw up at the same time. I thought I loved spicy food until I got here and realized I there is a whole different level of spicy. After lunch I sat around waiting for my co-teacher to be done with her duties and let her students go. The students got Tuesday-Friday off for Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) so they were let off early on Monday so that they could travel to their relative’s hometowns. I chatted with one of the other English teachers, Jon. He asked if I knew any Korean and I told him I knew “hello” and “thank you.” To my surprise he said that my pronunciation was very good... Thanks Amber! My co-teacher and Vice Principal took me to open a bank account. Good thing I had Sun Young with me or else I wouldn’t be able to do anything. Most people speak little English. They then brought me across town to E-Mart, which is an enormous version of something like Wal-mart, Target, Macys, and Costco combined. I had to shop for things for my apartment like bedding, food, etc. Turns out this was the worst day to go because it was right before the holidays. Think being at the grocery store on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving... complete chaos. By the end of the shopping trip I was completely exhausted but the VP insisted on taking me out to dinner. We went to a place near my apartment and had something similar to bulgogi without a bunch of sauce. Pretty good. But my VP insisted that I keep eating... too much beef in too short of time! He also ordered rice and stew after the meal. My coteacher made sure to take out all of the peppers in my stew before serving it to me because she remembered what happened earlier haha. The VP bought me a yogurt drink and some type of very sweet grapes at the restaurant to take home after the meal. So nice!

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