It’s hard to believe that one month ago, today, I was just boarding United, destination: KOREA. Now, I’m just living everyday life here. What a wonderful adventure it has been so far and to think, I still have eleven wonderful months of adventure ahead of me! I must say, a trip such as this is not what you expect it to be. When planning a journey such as this, you become inspired by the idea of seeing all of these elaborate things that another country has to offer (the temples, mountains, green tea fields, festivals, art, etc). In a way, you expect to move here and to constantly have your breath taken away or to be in a continuous state of awe. In reality, it is not like that. Perhaps if it were a short trip, it would be, but this is everyday life. It’s get up every day, make breakfast, go to work, cook, clean, and socialize, EVERY DAY life. But you know what? It’s AMAZING. The truth is that I lose my breath every day, and it’s not because I see golden temples on my way to work each day (although I have seen some beautiful temples!). It’s because this city is enormous and I am so small and it’s impossible to get your fill. It’s because I find different things beautiful here than I did back at home. It’s because every day on my way to work, I can pin point the exact spot where the sun will hit my face, just between two massive buildings where there is just enough room for the sun to break through. It’s because every day I feel a sense of independence and happiness because I know that I followed my heart and my dreams and I got myself here. So no, I do not see these amazing things that I expected to each day. But I do see new things and incredible things each day- whether it’s a woman carrying a bag of garbage on her head down a side street, the view crossing over the Hahn River by subway at night, or Korean children playing on the sidewalks safely and unharmed in the city- it still takes my breath away.
Seoul: The third largest city in the world? With pretty much the lowest crime rates?- I’ve never felt so safe. I feel at peace walking during the day and even at night, with the city lights guiding my way, I never feel I have to look over my shoulder. Small children walk alone here, next to strangers and city towers that engulf their shadows, and they are safe- no doubt about it. I would have to say that traffic here is more of a threat than people are. And seriously, if you don’t see the green running man- for God’s sake, don’t walk.
So is it an adjustment being here? Well sure, I’d be crazy to say it’s not. It’s everyday life, sure, but sometimes the small adjustments can be the harder ones because you don’t expect them to affect you like they do. A big adjustment is the language barrier but luckily you can get around that by becoming a really great actor, learning to use your hands when you speak, speaking super slowly--- and, oh… learning the language. Small adjustments: coffee shops don’t open until 12pm, but they also stay open until 11:30, students bowing to you when they see you on the streets (oh yes), learning what to buy at the grocery store, no street names, and the fact that blue cheese is literally nonexistent (come on people)!
So all this talk about everyday life and you’re probably wondering what it’s like here for me. Here’s the run down. So I live on the 7th floor in an apartment in Wolgye-dong, Nowon-gu, Seoul, Korea. I wake up in the morning at 645am. I can shower, pee, and brush my teeth at the same time in my magical shathroom and I eat breakfast in my bitchen. Every day, I have an 8 minute walk to my school, YeonJi Elementary. I listen to my ipod on my way there; pass by some of my students who giggle upon seeing me, and greet the crossing guard with a warm smile, a bow of the head, and a friendly “annyeonghasseyo!”
On average, I teach between 3 and five classes a day, including mostly fifth and sixth graders and a few third and fourth graders. My students put a smile on my face every day. I love teaching English here and my kids have told my co-teacher that my class is exciting, which absolutely makes my day. When I’m not teaching, I am “desk-warming,” which consists of lesson planning, attempting to learn some Korean online, and ohhhhh um, facebooking. I leave every day at 4:40- walk my 8 minutes home and take it from there. I usually end up going for dinner or drinks (which usually consists of around a 30 minute subway ride). Wing night is on Tuesdays in Itaewon (a very Americanized area in Seoul) and other than that we just kind of play it by ear day to day. I’m so thankful for the many friends that I have made here. So far it’s been one of the best experiences about my trip. I have literally made friends from all over the world, including: America, England, Australia, South Africa, Ireland Canada, etc. I feel so blessed to have made such good friends already in such a short amount of time. When I’m not with them during the evenings, I usually spend my time cleaning my apartment, planning more for school, enjoying the coffee shop on the first floor of my apartment complex, and browsing the city with my camera and ipod.
Weekends are just completely out of this world. Seoul’s night life is ridiculous and unreal. When staying out until 6am is the norm- it’s likely that you’re not where you think you are, you are actually living in Seoul. The subway stops at 12, and most bars don’t really seem to close, so most people just stay out until the first subway starts up again at 5AM. This seems to usually result in losing your friends, falling asleep on the subway on the way home and missing your stop, paying a large taxi fee in order to get home earlier, or crashing at someone’s place, a DVD room, or a jimjilbang (spa where you can pay around 4,000 won (4 USD) to sleep on a heated floor for a few hours.) Things and places we like for night life here: Itaewon pubs, Hongdae night clubs, norebangs (singing rooms… like karaoke in the states but ten times better and in a private room) and oh… SOJU.
Here are some of my favorite pictures of the city, my friends, and the last month’s adventures:
CHEERS TO SEOUL!