Originally written Wednesday, 8/28
Day 2 is down…talk about exhausting! I got picked up at 9:00 this morning by my co-teacher. After we got on the road she told me that she was bringing me to get my picture taken. I totally forgot that I would need a picture for my ARC (I actually brought a bunch of passport pictures with me, but I didn’t think to bring them, and I didn’t want to ask her to turn around to go pick them up, so I just went with it). In the US when you need a passport picture you just go to a CVS or Wal-Mart, but we went to a legit photo studio. The woman who was taking my picture insisted on pushing all my bangs completely aside, buttoning my black cardigan up to the highest button, and not allowing me to smile. Just use your imagination to picture how wonderful these photos look. Oh well.
After that we went to school because we had to wait until 11:00 to pick up the pictures. I got a tour of the school (which is so small!) and got a glimpse of some of the students I will be teaching. It was really entertaining to see the way that the students would stare at me when they saw me walking through the halls. There is definitely no blending in here.
At 11:00 we went to pick up my pictures then headed to Gumi to apply for my Alien Registration Card. Gumi is where I got picked up by my co-teacher yesterday (about an hour and twenty minute drive), so I’m definitely getting lots of quality time with my co-teacher. We stopped for lunch along the way and she of course directed me towards the “western food”. This “western food” was pork with a brown sauce on it, but of course it was served with rice, kimchi, and Korean soup. I actually think the most western thing about it was that we used a fork and knife, but regardless, the food was good, and for probably the first meal since I’ve been here, I didn’t have to guess what is was that I was eating.
Registering for my ARC was actually very quick, and we were on our way in no time. On our way back, we stopped to open my bank account. I didn’t think this was possible until I had my ARC, but my co-teacher did the talking and they let me open an account anyway. Next we stopped at a cell phone store. I was also sure that I wouldn’t be able to get a phone until I had my ARC, but since my co-teacher was able to get me a bank account, I figured I’d let her try this too. Unfortunately, they said that I would have to wait, so I am still phoneless. C’est la vie.
After running all of those errands we went back to school because my co-teacher had to teach a class. I really wanted to use the internet to check my e-mail and facebook, but there were other teachers trying to get a messenger program to run on my computer the whole time. At 6:00 we went to a restaurant downtown for dinner with all the teachers from the school. The food at dinner was SO GOOD. We had Korean barbeque, which I was very happy about because I had heard such amazing things about it—it definitely lived up to the hype. Yay Korea!
I have to say, Koreans know how to do it right. The beer and soju were flowing, and everyone was having a good time. Of course, there were plenty of awkward moments as I struggled to use my chopsticks in front of everyone….it’s a skill I definitely need to work on. There were many times when I would try to pick up something and then drop it. Oops.
At the beginning of dinner I was sitting with my co-teacher and another young male English teacher, and about halfway through my co-teacher got up and sat somewhere else, only to bring back another young female English teacher. Then, my co-teacher said something to the other teachers, picked up her things, and said “Bye, see you tomorrow!”
Ummmmm….ok? Of course, I figured that this meant that I she thought I would be more comfortable with the other English teachers, which was nice (although not necessary because she really is the sweetest lady!) I talked to the other teachers for a while…they are GREAT. Both of them are in their first year of teaching, so they are around my age and speak really good English. It turns out one of the other teachers lives right in the same area as me. Yay!
As expected, these past few days have been really awkward. I’ve been doing a lot of smiling when I don’t really know what’s going on. There are a lot of times when I know that the other teachers are having a conversation about me, but I have no idea what they’re saying. It’s really kind of an odd feeling.
There have been so many impressions to make over these past few days, and it really is exhausting. I just hope that I am doing enough right to make good impressions. The principal kept looking over and smiling during dinner, so I’m guessing that’s good? Also, he said he was impressed that I was trying all the different Korean food. So I guess that counts for something.
Other random points of interest:
-Apparently the last English teacher here married a Korean man while she was here. Almost every teacher so far has pointed this out (big shoes to fill?!) Of course, it’s almost funny because before I left many of my friends and family predicted that this is what I was going to do. But there have been a lot of awkward comments about this kind of stuff…when I was sitting with the other English teachers tonight the principal looked over and said “and you’re all single!” I don’t really know what to say to that.
-Along the same lines, during my car ride with my co-teacher today, she was asking what American men are like and what men and women look for in each other when they want to get married. It was a hard question for me to answer, but when I asked her about it in Korea, she told me that the most important thing men look for is how attractive a woman is. She then told me that the most important thing for women is how much money a man makes. She told me about how common plastic surgery is among women now. In order to get married to a wealthy man, they think that they have to be more beautiful, and therefore get surgery to do so. Of course, this is a broad statement, and I’m sure many people don’t look for those things in others, but it must be true enough that she would come right out and tell me.
I knew that Korea is a very image conscious country, and I knew about the plastic surgery craze that is going on, but it was still surprising to hear her talk so openly and matter-of-factly about it.
The idea of beauty in this country does, and probably will continue to fascinate me. Almost all the teachers have told me things along the lines of “ohh, the boys here will love you!” Today when I was in the office a group of boy students walked in, asked my name, and then shouted “you are so beautiful!”, giggled, and then ran away.
Now, compliments are nice and all, but it really is fascinating to me because I would consider pretty much all of these Korean women to be much more beautiful than I am, but many feel they are inadequate and feel the need to go to great extents to change their appearances. I’m sure I've only experienced the tip of the iceberg on this issue, but it is nonetheless really fascinating (and sad) to see.
-I have a wireless router in my apartment, but I don’t know the password to get on. I asked my co-teacher, but I think she forgot.
-I only have cold water in my apartment. I also asked my co-teacher about that, but I think it was also forgotten. So for at least another day, I will take a cold shower in the morning.
- I tried squid today. And I liked it.