September 1, 2015
Woke up this morning to Cho Eun making me promise to visit again. Se Eun must have told her about my squishy chest because Cho Eun tried to discreetly poke and rub at it. Hee Jun wished me off well and Se Na drove me to the orientation site.
Why do they call this day orientation? It was more like a meeting. All of the new Guest English Teachers (GET) met up in a lobby where our interviewer, Daniel, told us the city we would be working in. By the way, Daniel was actually really personable contrary to his demeanor during the interview. A half hour later, we were called one-by-one into a conference room to meet our co-teachers. We were able to chat a little and work out some of the jitters. Then the co-teachers were informed in Korean about what they were supposed to do regarding our bank, housing, immigration, etc. Daniel translated in English. After an hour, the GETs split our separate ways to start our new lives in Korea.
I am assigned to Milseong Girls Middle School in Miryang. My main co-teacher goes by Sunny. I have two other co-teachers named Sue and An. Sunny took me to the bank and set up my account, took me to the apartment, took me to the school to meet the staff, and took me to the store to buy things for my apartment. Everything was going smoothly until the gas man came to my apartment. The gas bill is listed under my name and because I’m a foreigner, I am required to pay 500,000 won ($420.00) as a deposit. That’s over half of the cash amount I had brought with me. Sunny was a firecracker and argued with the man for awhile. When it was clear that nothing could be done, she went to the bank and took out the money from her own bank account. I was able to pay back the money a few days later when my reimbursement check came in, but it doesn’t change how grateful I felt that Sunny would do that for me.
Things are really good right now. I love my school. The students are a lot of fun and the staff is kind. Kind isn’t even a good enough word for it. I was worried before coming to Korea that my Gyopo status (Korean-born, western-raised) would be a turn off and I would suffer from reverse prejudice that I’ve read about. That hasn’t been the case at all. My principal met with me and told me how thankful he was that I was Korean and American and willing to come to Korea to teach. My vice-principal, who doesn’t speak much English, wants me to keep his phone number so that if I have a major problem, I can call him for help. The office manager has invited me to her home and wants to prepare a traditional Korean birthday dinner for me even though my birthday falls on Chuseok, one of the busiest cooking holidays of the year. Other teachers have also invited me to their homes for dinner and to meet their families. Many of the teachers go out of their way to try to talk to me in English and Korean.
Aside from work, I met other foreign teachers in the city. One girl named Hang lives in the same building as I do. Hang has been here for about 4 months or so and has taken me under her wing. She’s bought me food, shown me the city, and taught me a lot about living in Korea. She has a very similar sense of humor as mine so I’m especially happy to have met her. Overall. all of the foreign teachers are fun people. I’m glad that I was finally able to connect with some of them.
Life is pretty awesome. I’m finding and experiencing new things everyday. I’m slowly building more confidence in Korean, and I’m hoping to make some Korean friends. Sometimes I worry about how I’ll feel once the shininess has worn off, but for now I’m focusing on enjoying the adventure.