I titled this “Officially an Alien” because legally that is what a foreigner is, but also the little 1st graders in the school look at me like I’m an alien. When they see me, they stop with their jaw dropped with a deer in headlights expression. It’s so funny and adorable at the same time.
When you teach with EPIK (English Program in Korea), you are placed in the public schools and you can be anywhere and teaching any grade. As you already know, I was placed in Daejeon, which was the location that I put down on my application. Maybe 60-70% of the people get assigned elementary schools and the rest get placed in middle schools. I ended up getting placed at 2 different elementary schools but both are within walking distance so I got lucky. I go to my main school Mon-Wed and the other school on Thursday and Fridays. And to make things better, my co-teachers are incredible and help me with EVERYTHING…mainly since I can’t do anything . I joke that my main co-teacher could absolutely destroy my life if she wanted to because she knows more about Korea Kim than I do. She helped me open my bank account, get a data plan for my phone, and sets up all of my automatic payments so she has all of that information-scary. Luckily, Koreans are the nicest people on the planet so she would never do this. In fact, she is the complete opposite and I have to be careful what I say because one day I mentioned that I struggle hard-core with chopsticks, so the next day I walk into the school and she had bought me a fork so I could eat lunch. I mean how incredibly sweet is that??
Korean culture is all about giving gifts and sharing. Everyday when I walk in, there is always something on my desk. It’s usually a small piece of food like maybe a little candy, an orange, or a yogurt. The other day, I had 3 packets of Vitamin C on my desk haha. Not sure if they were trying to tell me something or not. It appears that the traditional gift at the beginning of the school year is rice cake. When I was first given this, what I considered to be a treat, I was so excited thinking “heck yeah I want some cake, this is great!” I didn’t really know what they meant by rice cake. All it took was one bite for me to realize this is NOT my kind of cake…in fact its not a cake at all. I was so disappointed, but everyone kept giving them to me. I promise at one point, I had 8 rice cakes that I didn’t want or know what do with.However, I appreciate the gesture.
Last week, we had a teacher party at the crazy hour of 3pm in the cafeteria. The food was so random with pizza topped with potatoes and shrimp-that was a first, oranges, rice cakes, and some bread. I got stuck sitting between the principal and my co-teacher, and yes this was even more uncomfortable than you can imagine. At one point, my co, principal, and vice principal were having a conversation in Korean about me and I was literally in this middle of this conversation triangle. But then my principal shared her orange with me, so I’m going to count that as a victory!
In both of my schools, the English classroom is at the end of the hall away from the rest of the classrooms. This is probably a good idea since my classes usually get a little loud when we play games. At the back of the classroom, there is a separate smaller room with my desk, some seats, and books. I also have glass doors so the kids always say hi and wave when they walk by.
My first day at the school, I was walking to lunch with the other English teachers when one of them said “The food here is bad…like really bad” haha. I’m just thinking oh great, this is a perfect start to my year in Korea!! I will admit that school lunches are nothing great but they always consist of rice, some veggie that is smothered in a spicy sauce, a small portion of some meat, soup, and then either noodles or kimchi. I can’t really explain what kimchi is, but I do know that I don’t like it. Usually, I just eat the rice and then pick my way through the meat, veggies, and soup…and then eat my snacks for the rest of the afternoon- I mean this girl’s gotta eat! We have about an hour for lunch and Koreans eat very quickly and then leave immediately after finishing their food. Some of my friends have commented that Koreans eat too fast and they feel rushed at lunch. Being a Jackson, I can’t say this is a problem for me-I have been training for this my entire life. After lunch, the English teachers and I go the the English classroom for “Tea Time.” We just sit at the desks drinking tea or coffee and have a little candy or biscuit type thing.
On Thursday and Friday, I go to my other school and have 2 wonderful co-teachers as well. I teach 3rd-6th grade here so I’m very busy but the kids are so sweet and I adore them…so far. The food is better at this school so I eat a little more during lunch. I took a picture last week when I left school because the view from the door was gorgeous.
This past week, I finally got my alien registration card (arc) which allows me to open a bank account and get a phone plan. Having this card pretty much has changed my life as I can now communicate without wifi and since I have a bank account, I can now get paid. While my co and I were out getting all of this done, I couldn’t help but laugh at the parking situation in this country. People literally park anywhere they want, whether its an actual parking space or just any space they can find that will fit their car.
I took this picture, so this is not an exaggeration, these people block each other in like crazy. I can’t even imagine being in the US and walking out to the parking lot to find my car trapped in by 4 other cars. And yes, my co was one of those cars that is blocking the others. This isn’t legal, but they do it anyways.
After teaching the cutest munchkins for about 2 weeks, I’m starting to learn more about what teaching really is, so I’ll leave that for next week.