It’s been two weeks since I moved to Seoul, and although I still don’t really feel like I’m here, I have begun to settle into my routine. It still feels like somewhat of a vacation and it’s hard to believe that I will be here for an entire year, but now that I have a set schedule, which puts things into perspective. Unfortunately, I did not start the week off well and I am coming down with a bit of a cold. So this week I am trying to focus as much energy as I can on my students and get as much rest as possible. Over the counter medicine is ridiculously cheap here. I bought a box of ibuprofen, vitamin c, and a pack of sinus/sore throat pills for 5,000 won ($5.00). So the combination of medicine and tea, along with kimchi, (which my principal seems to think is the cure to good health), should get me back on track. My principal claims that the reason why Koreans survived the outbreak of swine flu last year was because of kimchi.
I have taught a few lessons this week and they are going very well. My co-teacher and I have developed a good rapport with one another and the students are great. 3rd and 4th graders are full of energy but their English is very basic so it will be challenging to get them speaking English. 5th and 6th graders are very smart but their attitude is laid back because they will move on to middle school for 7th grade. It is very rewarding to see the excitement on the students’ faces as they speak English. To them, it is such an exotic and foreign language. Every time they utter a “hello” or “I’m fine” they are set off into a fit of giggles. I am having a blast getting to know my afterschool group. I will be teaching 6 afterschool classes, which I teach alone and have freedom to create a curriculum.
Another unusual thing about communicating at my school is that instead of speaking English with my principal I speak Spanish. He lived in Paraguay for a few years so he is more comfortable speaking Spanish with me. Adding a third language into the mix can make things a bit more confusing because I never know whether he will start speaking with me in Korea, English, Spanish, or a mix of all three, but I have learned to assume that basic Spanish is our common ground. With the language barrier, I have definitely experienced some information being lost in translation so I have learned never to assume and to ask the same question multiple times. I know that I will make lots of mistakes on a daily basis, but I am doing my best to keep an open mind and go with the ebbs of the Korean culture.