Friday, May 7, 2010
Helloooo South Korea!
Yes yes I know I've been here a week and haven't written anything.. until now. So hold on to your hats, friends. This post is going to be epic...
After 23 looong hours of traveling we finally made it to Gwangju, South Korea! Megan and I flew from BWI to San Francisco (6 hours), then from San Fran to Seoul, South Korea... which was a 12 hour flight. We flew Asiana airlines, and it was pretty amazing. Though I hardly slept the whole flight and watched "Sherlock Holmes" twice, the seats were incredibly comfortable, we were given hot towels, slippers, a tiny hygienic kit, and the wine was delicious.
After we landed in Seoul, things got pretty crazy to say the least. We were instructed to grab our luggage (and if you've seen the pics of my luggage, you'd know that I had 4 giant checked bags, a carry on, and personal item... smart decision, Danielle), find a place to buy a bus ticket and hop on a bus to Gwangju. Of course the woman we asked for help from didn't speak english, but that didn't stop her. Once she read where we needed to go, she took off running in large heels signaling for us to follow. Megan and I ran through the majority of the airport with our luggage carts trying to dodge massive crowds of people. Our Korean savior literally ran into the road to stop the bus, made the bus driver wait until we got our bus tickets, helped pack our bags into the bus, let me use her cell phone to make numerous calls, and all but carried me into my seat. If I could see her again, I would give her a big hug.
From there on it was mostly smooth sailing. The bus drove through Seoul which I managed to stay mostly awake for.
Above is a pretty crappy picture of Seoul taken through the window of the speeding bus. I didn't make it much further than Seoul. I slept for the entire 4 hour bus ride and hardly remember the midway pit stop. After being picked up at the bus station and parting ways with Megan, I arrived at my apartment at 11pm. Thankfully my awesome neighbors greeted me immediately upon arrival, helped me with my bags, showed me the apartment, etc... though I don't really remember much about that night... what with the no sleep/food/concept of time.
Day 1 of orientation/shadowing/surprise Danielle you get to teach a class on your first day! I don't really remember too much about this day either because of the jet lag. I shadowed in the morning for 2 classes, then went out for my first Korean meal with my friends Kelsey and Jac. We went to a place known as "Korean fast food" or an "Orange facade joint." The food was amazing, it's prepared sooo quickly and you get a ton of side dishes. Also, it's uber cheap... which is awesome. See http://maryeats.com/2006/11/16/kimbap-nara-menu/ to learn more about the "orange facade joints."
I had planned on taking a nap right after lunch but was quickly informed that I would be teaching a class. Do you remember that one substitute teacher you had in school? The one that you completely didn't listen to, and you knew they were a last minute fill in because they looked clueless and didn't really enforce that you do anything? Yea. That was me. Thankfully, after this class I was able to nap... and ended up sleeping for almost 5 hours straight in the middle of the day. Still not over the jet lag.
Friday was more shadowing and I taught 2 more classes by myself, which pretty much went just as smoothly as the first day. At the time I didn't really have much concept of the way things were done around here (i.e. lesson planning, books, teaching styles... you know, the important stuff), but I quickly learned (which I'll explain in my next). BTW..still haven't unpacked.
Saturday my friends Kelsey, Bess and I took a taxi to find Megan, and from there we went shopping at Home Plus. The best way to describe Home Plus is a giant Korean Wal-Mart. It's bigger than Wal-mart, has 3 floors, but same basic concept. You can find everything there for super, super cheap which is again... awesome. Was able to buy a few things to make my apartment look more "homey"/cleaner/smell better.
The above pictures are of my apartment after I finally cleaned and unpacked. It's obviously a studio but a nice size for 1 person. I have an oven in my kitchen which is a pretty rare occurrence. Though the bed may look cute and cozy, I would probably be more comfortable sleeping on my living room floor back home in Carlisle. And I have a tub in my bathroom which again, is an incredibly rare occurrence. I live on the top floor of the building where my school is and we have a pretty sweet rooftop patio, which is nice for group hang outs and has the amazing view of Gwangju which can be seen above.
Saturday night we went downtown to check out the hotspots for night life and shopping.
The first 2 are just wide views I took of the streets at night. It reminds me a lot of Time Square except bigger. As you can see, it's also pretty Westernized (what with the KFC, Burger King, and Pizza Hut). I had tons of fun exploring the different shops though. Fashion is HUGE here and can also be sort of eccentric, so I'm really looking forward to adapting to the new styles.
Why yes, that is a Starbucks. And it's just as good here as it is in America. After hitting up a fantastic Nepalese restaurant, shopping, and loading up on starbucks espresso, we headed for the bars. Every bar I've been to so far has such an obvious name... i.e. Pub's, Speakeasy, German Bar (they're a brewery and make FANTASTIC beer). We hung out at a place called Bubble Bar which is a huge foreigner hangout. I met some people from Philly and Pittsburgh which was pretty cool. It felt nice and comfortable to literally meet people from home my first weekend. "Going out" is taken to a whole new level here. All of the bars typically close around 4am... so getting back to my place at 5am and watching the sun come up before going to bed was a bit surreal. I guess my 4 years at PSU was all just practice for this! :-P
Sunday wasn't too, too exciting. I mostly spent it resting because I hadn't really stopped moving since I arrived Wednesday evening. My neighbor showed me where the local school track was, so I went running! I honestly felt loads more relaxed after I was finally able to get a nice, long run in. I also finally did some grocery shopping and went exploring around the street I live on.
The first pic is of the local supermarket where I grocery shop, also called "Lotte Super." The other 3 are just a few pics I took standing on a corner and looking down the street I live on. Okay, that's all I got for now of my first few days of living in Korea. Stayed tuned for the update on my first full week of teaching...