How to Buy Bus Tickets in Korea

Up to this point, my other Korean-American friend and I have been buying bus tickets for our friends because they can’t navigate the Kobus site. You can access the site in English and view buses, but you can only purchase them on the Korean site. So, I thought I’d make an updated version of how to buy bus tickets…with pictures! whooooo

Although Google Chrome users can Google translate to make the process easier I thought this would still be helpful. Aight, so I linked to the Korean site above. Here’s how it works.

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You’ll need to know a little bit of Korean in order to input your departure and arriving city, OR you can just remember your city code (e.g. Busan [700]) when using the English site.

For the next page:

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The bottom portion of the site is the same as the English site. I’ve posted the English ver. right below the Korean ver.

So, head to the next page by clicking “select” of the bus you want. Hit OK on the next pop-up window to continue. Scroll down and you can pick the seats you want.

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Once you picked your seats, scroll further down to find the payment options. I suggest paying with your card.

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Hit confirm and you’re done!

To pick up tickets, go to your departure bus station ticket counter and let them know you already bought tickets and need to pick them up. You only need to give them the card you used to pay for the tickets. And that’s it!

I hope this guide was helpful. Let me know if you have any other questions!

A Summary of Expenses

I thought it’d be helpful if I let you guys know exactly what you’ll be expected to pay, how much, and how to pay bills in Korea.

EPIK suggests bringing about $1000 with you when you first arrive- and it’s just that. A suggestion. I know plenty of people who brought not even half that amount and have been OK, but I also know others who’ve probably spent over that amount in less than a month. I brought the $1000 out of caution, but then I also got allowance (about 700,000 won) from my family members in Korea. So it’s pretty safe to say that I was set for my first month and a half or so of living without a paycheck.

Anyways, other than being prepared to dish out 50,000 won for the health exam at EPIK. after orientation, here are the big payments/bills I’ve had up to after I got my first paycheck:

  • Key money500,000 won. This isn’t required for all people, but in Busan it is. Done in two payments- once a month for the first two months, wire transfer by ATM. Some people have had it taken out of their paychecks automatically.
  • School Lunch Money- 80,000 won a month- I pay a lot more than the average GET…I pay about 45,000 at my main school and 35,000 at my girl’s middle school 😦 My friends have said that they pay about 50,000 won total. I also pay this by wire transfer at an ATM.
  • School Staff Dinner Payments- 90,000 for the whole year– You know company dinners? And how usually the eldest person pays for the meal? None of that here. You have to pay a fixed amount and then you can attend the school staff dinners. Usually I would have to pay 90,000 for just half a year, but since I go to two schools my main school said I can just pay the 90,000 for the whole year instead. Basically half price, but still a large amount…
  • Water/Electricity/Heating/TV Bill- 35,000 won a month– All of these things was combined into one bill, at least in my case. I’m pretty good at conserving water and electricity, but I’ve been told that some people have paid 65,000 won. I went to the bank on my day off to learn how to pay this. The lady working there set up an automatic payment system so that it just gets taken out of my account every month. You can also pay this manually by using an ATM, but I don’t know exactly how that works.
  • Phone Bill- 35,000 won a month– I got a pretty cheap plan- unlimited calling and texting but only 2.2 GB of data- and a phone that’s decently priced. My phone- Samsung J7- is an older model and was on sale at the time I purchased it! I thought I had to pay about 57,000 won per month, but I guess not after I checked my account. If you want a nicer phone and more data, expect to pay more. This payment is done automatically every month since I linked my bank account.
  • Health insurance and pension- 165,000 won a month– This gets taken out of my salary automatically. Make sure to ask your co-teacher for your pay statements to confirm every detail. I had to pay 330,000 this month because it wasn’t taken out of my account last month, so I basically had to pay for last month and this month’s health insurance and pension at once. This left quite a dent because I still have one more key money payment…that’s 580,000 won out of my paycheck this month T-T
  • New glasses- 190,000 won– I paid quite a bit for new glasses. I figured I should buy a high quality frame since I wear them every day and heavily rely on them. The frames were 110,000 won and the lenses were 80,000 for a a coating and also because my eyes suck and they to be compressed.

Altogether that’s over 800,000 won for things I’ve had to pay that are absolutely necessary.

ATM Wire Transfers- I do this at my bank ATM. It’s pretty easy and self-explanatory. Most ATMs have a foreign language option, which includes English. Insert your card, click “account transfer,” insert pin, insert the bank code of the receiving person (it will be listed on the ATM, no worries), insert receiving person’s account number, enter amount to be paid, confirm, and tada! You can also do transfers using your phones but I’ve had some problems doing it that way so I just walk to the ATM any time I need to pay something.

As for income, I  get paid about 2.2 million won a month since I have a master’s and teach at two schools.  The “entrance allowance” of 1 million won will be given after my sixth month…just in time for summer vacation *o* Also, expect to get your “settlement allowance” with your first paycheck. Some people were given the allowance right away in cash, but that is rare. You should anticipate having to cover the costs of furnishing your apartment by yourself for the first month. I had to buy blankets, pillows, kitchenware, and other necessities. Some of my friends, however, have had to buy a mattress, a desk, and more.

I haven’t been very good about budgeting my money because I’ve been going a little crazy from this new feeling of freedom >~> Although, I think 75% of my expenses is food….So, I recommend using an app or keeping track of your purchases in one way or another. I use the Money Manager app now to budget myself, which you can find in the Google Play Store.

 

My First Company Dinner

It had been a month since I started working and finally…I had been asked to attend a school staff dinner at my main school- my very first!

I figured it’d be on a pay-as-you-go basis but instead I had to pay a flat rate of 90,000 won for the whole year. I figured it was fair since they said that’s originally the price for half a year, but since I go to two schools they reduced the price.

So once it hit 4:30 pm, I packed up and then walked to the restaurant with my fellow teachers. We went to a little shabu shabu restaurant less than 10 minutes away. It’s kind of a buffet style restaurant so I loaded my plate with a few appetizers before sitting down at the table. Thankfully, the vice principal and principal sat at another table. If I sat with them I think I would be too intimidated to do anything ahahaha.

So, how shabu shabu works is that you grab as many vegetable you like, mostly leafy greens, cabbage, and mushrooms, and put it in a large pot in the middle of the table that already has a broth in a roiling boil.  You then order how much and what kind of meat you want. Then you can make yourself a summer roll using rice paper and filling it with whatever you please. The teachers around me started putting the vegetables and meat into the soup before telling everyone to help themselves so I started digging in once I saw everyone else had a bite since you know…I was the youngest at that table.

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My VP then ordered some beer, to which nearly every teacher at my table politely declined, for which I am grateful since I try not to drink. They ordered soda instead and were shocked when I told them I don’t drink soda either XD.

The teachers around me then started a casual conversation, which revolved around childcare and being a mother- a topic I can’t really contribute much to. As such, I just sat there in silence listening to them talk about how they think daughters would take care of their mothers when they’re older rather than their sons, which then led to a further discussion on each of their children. I just continued to listen in and nod my head occasionally.

The conversation then shifted somehow and led to one teacher telling me not to eat the snacks people bring to school because I’d get fat. Nice talk >_>.

Once we were done eating, some teachers brought fruit for everyone to share and I  gorged myself on oranges…I love fruit, particularly oranges. When I noticed no one else was eating them after a while I nearly finished the plate!

We got up after the 2 hour mark and I was thankful we were leaving. As I made my way to the exit, a familiar face popped out from behind the corner…and I saw the teachers from my girl’s middle school! It took my brain a bit to process what was happening before I broke into a wide smile and bowed before the vice principal and principal. What a coincidence to run into them at this restaurant!

Anyways, after that we parted ways. The principal happened to be heading in the same direction so I walked in awkward silence with her until we neared the school. I gave a polite bow and goodbye before heading to the metro station and she went back to school.

Overall, the dinner was a lot more casual than I imagined. I envisioned drunk coworkers and people trying to force me to drink and then dragging me to karaoke, but luckily it really was just a company dinner.

I’ve had another dinner with the teachers from my girl’s middle school, and we went to another shabu shabu place. It was pretty much the same, (except the surprise of pink water?!) with them talking about topics I couldn’t contribute much to, and just sitting silently while devouring all the food.

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How are your company dinners? Did you enjoy them? Let me know in the comments section below~! 😉

 

Flower Viewing! Or Not….Our Day Trip to Gyeongju!

So, I went to Gyeongju a few weekends ago with some friends and I had a blast! Also, I know I should be updating a lot sooner but I’ve been…preoccupied >_>

I bought bus tickets for us all online at kobus.co.kr and it’s easy to use if you know Korean. This site is helpful for those who don’t. You can see the site in English and find bus times, but you can only reserve tickets through the Korean site. Tickets to Gyeongju only cost 4800 won!

The bus terminal is in Nopo, which is the last stop on the orange line. After picking up tickets, we went downstairs and helped ourselves to a common Korean street food: Oden skewers. Delish! Later, we found that one of us would be late and would very likely not make it in time. And she was. She bought the tickets for the next bus though and we were soon on our way. FYI: There are more bus times than what is listed on the site. The site give you times for express buses, which are nicer. We took a not-as-nice bus but we were OK with it since it was relatively empty. We talked the whole ride there and shared snacks. Also, buses in Korea leave exactly on time so make sure you get there at least 15 minutes early!

Once we reached Gyeongju Station, we got off and saw a bunch of tents in the distance. We decided to check it out and apparently there was some kind of street food festival because of the cherry blossoms! We walked around and saw all sorts of street food: oden, spicy rice cakes, kebabs (I LOVED IT, it’d been so long since I’d had anything not Korean), silk worms (ewww), octopus skewers (so tasty mmmm), and more. At one point, one lady offered us samples of Korean blood sausage/soondae. She then offered us samples of her waffles, one huge waffle too, for free! We all shared it and felt bad so we bought another one from her. She was so grateful and so were we. Overall, it was a bit of an awkward but enriching experience.

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Food stands at Gyeongju

Afterwards, we walked to royal tombs of Korean kings and queens and paid 2000 won to get in. The flowers were only partly in bloom, which was a shame, but the pink shade from the buds in the trees was still pleasant to see. It was a nice change after living in the city for over a month! There were also many girls walking around in hanboks/traditional Korean clothing. There’s a hanbok rental store nearby and I really wanted to try it but I decided to do it later when I wasn’t as tired or shabby looking hahahha.

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We also went to Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond, or what’s left of the palace, I mean. It’s where the crown prince of Shilla used to reside and now all that’s left are a few pavillions. It was beautiful. I had been told by my parents that Gyeongju is known for being one of the most historical sites in Korea and they were right. We walked to this area after the royal tombs and also had to pay another 2000 won to enter this area.

Afterwards, we went to Bulguksa temple, Korea’s oldest standing temple. It’s been around for over a thousand years! It was a bit of a climb and cost us 5000 won, but it was well worth it. You can reach this area from the bus stop at Donggung Palace by taking bus 12. So, because Buddha’s birthday is coming up in May, the temple was beginning its preparations with a vivid, colorful array of paper lanterns. They’re strewn about in various locations and it was so cool! But, the temple made me feel quite nostalgic as well. It reminded me of when I lived in Seoul when I was really little- about 3 or 4 years old. My grandmother would take me up the mountain to a remote temple in the woods. I remembered the steep, stone stairs I climbed using my entire body, the trickle of water from the communal water fountain, and the large prayer room in which a profound fragrance of incense pervaded the quiet, distilled air. I remembered people lined up in columns silently kneeling and praying on the floor on top of pillows as the head priest chanted in rhythmic tones. The whole temple just kept reminding me of my grandmother and I could feel myself tear up in her memory. It made me want to visit her grave even more so I could apologize. On a lighter note, I could see the temple as a very peaceful place to visit if it wasn’t filled with tourists. I wouldn’t mind staying there for a few days to just relax and unwind.

After that we took the 700 (I think?) bus back to Gyeongju Station and another bus back to Busan. It had started pouring so we all decided to part ways and go home.

I think I walked a total of 20k+ steps (quite a large feat for someone who’s a regular couch potato!) and I was in such a great mood that I didn’t feel my fatigue at all and even went grocery shopping afterwards! Overall, Gyeongju is an excellent place to visit if you want a more cultural experience in Korea. But, I recommend making sure to research that the flowers are in bloom! XD

My Teacher Mask

 

I’ve been talking with a few other EPIK teachers as of late and some people have told me how hard it can be some days. I’ve heard during orientation that the turnover rate of EPIK teachers was rather high (which is probably why we in Busan get our entrance allowance so late). This led me to think: Am I fit to be a teacher in Korea? Will I be able to persevere living on my own in a country I don’t fully understand?

There are a number of situations we may face in Korea as Native English Teachers, and some of them include a language/culture barrier. I have a decent amount of knowledge of Korea so I may not understand how hard it actually is for those who don’t. I have the benefit of knowing what others around me are saying, whether it’s my students in the classroom or my fellow teachers and staff. But, some other friends have said that it’s been difficult when the teachers speak strictly Korean around each other and that they feel left out and ostracized because of it. Others say that they can tell when other teachers are talking about them and how demeaning it can seem as well.

Some other problems include feeling left out. For one, the teachers at my main school are more distant. They don’t chat with me often other than my main co-teacher, who usually only does so out of necessity, and one new and young social studies teacher I met the other day. I feel intimidated in that kind of atmosphere and sometimes I just don’t know what to do with myself. At my second school, I feel a much more open environment. Teachers are always feeding me and asking me about all sorts of things and even the principal and vice principal attempt to speak with me, even in English if they feel particularly daring that day. They also tell me what they expect me to teach, whereas at my main school I’m kind of just left hanging and not knowing if I did what I was supposed to or not. Even if I ask I don’t get clear answers from them.

It’s been exhausting and stressful, for sure. But there’s one thing that makes me feel as if I want to work harder, to keep trying: the students. The students at both schools, to me, are endearing. They may not listen well, they may not have a perfect attention span of 45 minutes, and they may not know a lick of English. But, I’ll be damned if I don’t try my best for them. They’re what I’m here for. Yes, I want to have fun, play with my friends, and explore Korea. But my first and main goal as a teacher is always the students.

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I’ve heard other people talk about how difficult it is for them to get along with their co-teachers- and I feel them! I think that even I should make more of an effort to get along with them, but coming to Korea has made me realize how incompetent I actually am at real conversational Korean. But it’s made me want to learn. Others have talked about how they are afraid of their lessons bombing or of how students are highly unmotivated. I feel the same fears. Will they see me as a teacher? Will they respect me as a teacher? Will I be able to teach a classroom of students with a low level of English by speaking only English?

All of these worries gnaw at me day to day, but as soon as I enter the school I try to wipe these thoughts from my mind. If I don’t, not only will my students and teachers sense my hesitation and doubt, but I will also fail to make their time worthwhile, to teach them anything worth learning. Yes, a brilliant lesson plan is an excellent foundation for a good lesson, but it means nothing if you haven’t built what I, and many others, call the “teacher persona/mask.”

Ever since learning about putting on a different persona in the school, or “teacher mask,” I’ve felt a lot better about standing at the front of the classroom. All of the problems I’ve mentioned earlier are indeed ones that can make you feel sad and depressed. You may even want to quit and leave. But when I’m in the classroom, I try to see the best in everything and make goals for myself.

  • My lesson bombed? I can reflect on it and think about how to improve it for the next class- a habit I formed from my grad school days.
  • My students were unmotivated? I can invent new activities that will get them engaged in class.
  • My students weren’t listening? I can force myself to create a tighter classroom management plan, and I can force myself to become more confident so that they hear what I have to say.
  • My students seem bored and I think they don’t like me? I bulldoze on with my lesson anyway. I imagine that they’re fully alert and ready to learn and don’t let my fear show. Plus, I feel happy when students run up to me outside of class and say hello, give me hugs, or even smile when I look at them. How they behave in the classroom isn’t their entire being, so I should strive to improve rapport with them both in and out of the classroom.
  • The teachers around me can’t understand me or don’t communicate with me? I can see now that my Korean is not proficient and I can work on improving it. I can force myself to create connections with these teachers by reaching out to them.

Now, all of this is a lot easier said than done, I know. But just having this mindset, and just putting on this “mask” as soon as I enter the school, really helps me in creating a stronger mental fortitude. Yes, teaching is hard. But there’s no way I’m giving up now. Just look at how many areas I can improve upon! Imagine what I can become if I fulfill all the objectives I make after some self-reflection. It may sound like I have the mental strength of a warrior when I type this, but God only knows that I have my own share of personal problems. The only difference is that I’m not going to give up. Look at what I’ve given up to come here! Three entire years, a whole lot of money, and more.

I know that I won’t be able to accomplish all of the goals I’ve made. But if you’re wondering about coming to Korea, think back to all of the problems I’ve mentioned. If you feel threatened, if you think teaching is too hard, then maybe this job isn’t for you. And maybe I’m just sounding self-righteous when I say this, but if you can’t endure and you instead focus on everything bad happening, then of course you feel like giving up. So ask yourself this: Is there really nothing good about teaching in Korea? Is there nothing worthwhile?

Gandhi once said, “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” So, TLDR: I have doubts and fears about teaching. But once I’m in standing in front of the students I suddenly feel happy, even if this is an emotion I force upon myself. I feel even hypocritical when I type this because even now, I have that deep, inner fear of not being a good teacher. But the die have been cast. I’m here. The students are here. What else is there to do but endure and give my very best for them?

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I want to add onto something my friend said: Find a support network. It’s so important to find a group of people so that you can help each other during particularly difficult times. Even if you’ve had a bad week, being with your friends is a great way to blow off some steam. I found a group of friends during orientation, so I recommend you find those few people you can rely on to be with you. There are also plenty social meetups that my friends have gone to and they’ve even made some Korean friends!

On another note, when all’s been said and done, and you’ve given your best but you feel like teaching in Korea just isn’t for you and you eventually decide to give up: I’m not going to say that it’s wrong or that it’s not wrong. That’s not for me to say. Everyone’s paths and abilities are different and the final decision ultimately lies with you. BUT, whether it’s a mistake or not depends on what you do upon deciding to quit. If you decide to regret and mope around about what happened, then maybe you should have tried harder. If you dust yourself off and find something else to challenge, and you keep on at it, then maybe this experience, though halted in its progress, was a mere stepping stone for you in life. So what I’m saying is just this: Don’t quit halfway if you aren’t prepared for what lies beyond. Do your best and I’m sure you’ll be okay.

My Typical Day

I haven’t written in so long, sorry!

So, although each day is (obviously) different, there are some aspects that are typically the same from day to day so I thought I’d share my “typical” day.

I usually wake up a little after 7 am…rather late, I know. I eat breakfast half of the time, and it’s either fruit, usually a banana, grilled cheese, or cereal. If I’m running late, I starve hahaha. I’m out of my door by 7:30 and take the subway Line 2 to my school. On Thursdays and Fridays, I wait by an intersection for a teacher to pick me up at around 8 am.

Upon reaching school, I change into my indoor shoes and head to the teacher’s office. First thing I do is greet the Vice Principal. I do this everyday. It still feels super awkward around them even after a month though XD. After that, I sit at my desk and kinda stare off into space. Sometimes there’s food for people to share, and once, I walked to my desk and found a random boiled egg on it. Apparently, it was from the Vice Principal XD. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I go to my morning class and just casually chat in English with the girls Badminton team. After that, I start teaching my other classes with my coteachers. At my main school, I teach only year 1 and 2 but I teach all students at my second school. The first years are adorable and quick to listen to my directions, even if they remain a little distracted from time to time. The second years….are iffy lol. Sometimes I can rarely get them to pay attention. Other times its so quiet and they listen so well that it’s rather unnerving. The third years feel a bit more mature and listen to me pretty well :D.

I eat lunch with other teachers in the teacher’s cafeteria area. The food is buffet style and everyday is different with the exception of rice, kimchi, and a type of soup/stew. I usually walk around outside the school to get some air and sunlight with fellow teachers after eating while chatting with them in English or Korean, depending on the teacher. My students have, even though I’ve told them I can speak Korean, discovered that I indeed do speak Korean and they’re in a frenzy about it. The other day, I walked around the inner courtyard by the pond at our school when I heard, “(my name) TEACHERRRRRRRR” as a group of 1st year girls sprinted towards me and gave me a hug one at a time. Then they ran off and continued doing whatever it was they were doing before I neared them. So. Cute. AGH.

After lunch, I usually lesson plan (aka desk warm) for the rest of the day at my main school. I teach more classes at my second school. I also make sure to drink coffee after lunch because that’s when I get the sleepiest. There is also an abundance of snacks and I help myself to one treat a day. If some teacher is feeling generous, they sometimes bring fruit and everyone gets to enjoy them. I particularly love when they bring strawberries <3.

So, while I’m at my desk, students come and go to talk with various teachers, always making sure to (sometimes tentatively) say hello to me. Once the clock hits 4:30 pm I get ready to leave. I say goodbye to the teachers and then to the Vice Principal, always making sure to do a 90 degree bow, before I leave. On Mondays-Wednesdays, students are generally walking home at the same time and they always say hello. I get a ride home on Thursday-Friday.

Once I get home, I either go back out after changing bags or stay inside like a hermit crab. If I go out, I usually explore the Deokcheon area and shop for things on an as-needed basis. If I’m feeling particularly tired or in a good mood, I’ll treat myself to a yummy street food. I like to get Hoddeok, which is like a Korean street pancake filled with sugar, cinnamon, and a variety of seeds. It’s only 1000 won so how can I not?!

If I stay home, I prepare making dinner early since cooking rice in a pot takes a long time. I then watch stuff before washing up and chatting with family. I head to bed around 10 pm – 12 am. Aaaand the cycle begins again. This is generally all I do during the weekdays and my weekends are generally always different.

So yeah, pretty normal. How are your day-to-day activities? Please let me know in the comment section below~ 😉

My 1st Full Week of Teaching

Oh wow. I’m exhausted. I just finished my first full week of teaching and I think it can be summed up in one word: exhausting.

I started Monday at my main middle school. I have three classes + 1 badminton class on Mondays and Wednesdays and only 2 classes on Tuesday. The badminton class is just conversations with 8 members of the girl’s badminton team. I don’t actually teach them how to play because God knows I don’t know a thing about it. I have to arrive at school by 8 for the badminton course but I get to leave early at 4. I only teach 1st and 2nd years at my main middle school and can I just say….the 1st years are so cute.

At my secondary middle school I teach 5 classes a day, 4 in a row in the morning and 1 after lunch. The schedule is tough and I’ll admit…I taught my introduction lesson 22 times and it was getting hard to mentally keep up. Once I started teaching my actual English lessons this week though, with different classes and lessons, it became easier.

The students at the girl’s middle school are much more curious about me than at my main school. At one point, before my 101 class, I saw students entering the classroom next to mine. I had the feeling they were supposed to be in my classroom so I tried talking to them. Now, it was my first time meeting them and they were then suddenly all around me, like curious little puppies, asking me who I was, where I came from, why I looked Korean, could I speak Korean- all at once. They were so cute so I asked them if they were class 101 and turns out they were! They were all like, OHHHHHHH and moved all their stuff into my classroom. SO CUTE. They just swarmed me out of nowhere and that was a sight to hold. lakdjflakdfdslkj, so cuteee.

If I had to compare the two schools…both are quite similar. They’re both in an area of lower-class families, students at both have limited English, both school are old, and both have limited technology (although the girl’s middle school has a bit more). But, I do find that it’s easier to teach at the all girl’s middle school. I wonder why? Maybe it’s because the students aren’t as curious about the opposite gender so they have fewer distractions. I did mention this, but the 2nd years at my main school are so distant. They don’t want to learn English. But at the girl’s middle school, it’s so easy to get them excited and raring to learn English. Hmm. All of the students at both school are good though. I haven’t had to worry about anything yet.

As for my coteachers, emphasis on the plural here, they’re all nice. I have coteachers. If you’re at an elementary school, I think you only have 1 coteacher? But I have 7!! I find that they all get confused as to when they’re supposed to teach with me. I ended up teaching one lesson today by myself! I was okay because I know Korean, but I swore to only speak English. I had to get a student who was better at English to translate for the rest of the class. After, my coteacher for that class felt so sorry that she forgot! And also, at my main school, I was still getting used to finding my way around. I went to one class and found that there were no students! Apparently the coteacher for that class decided to change classrooms and went ahead of me without telling me. She was also supposed to take me to that classroom, but she didn’t. I had to rely on another teacher to show me, so when we found the empty classroom we were both very confused.

This leads to my next topic! So the same coteacher who didn’t tell me she moved rooms is also a new teacher, like me. She’s also around my age, so rather young. I teach two classes of 2nd years with her and I don’t look forward to them. Not because of coteacher though! It’s just that I feel like the students disregard the both of us and we both have a hard time managing them. If anyone has any good classroom management tips, I’m all ears!

Fun in Nampo-dong! And Korea Jjimjimbangs!

Last weekend, I met up with some friends from orientation at Nampo. We met in front of the Krispy Kreme inside the Gwangbok Lotte Department Store. We looked around, but didn’t buy much since you know…department stores in Korea are uber pricey. We did eat chicken and shop at the Uniqlo where I bought 2 cute bell-sleeved shirts, which would be great for work! We looked around the underground shopping area next and I bought a long sweater for like 5000 won. It’s awesome XD

We went to the Jagalchi Fish Market next. It’s Korea’s largest fish market! And, it literally had everything. Octopus, shellfish, fish- anything and everything. The first floor generally has a lot of live seafood on sale and the second floor has dried foods and restaurants. I bought some squid legs to munch on at home and then we all sat down so I could order some live octopus! Well, it’s dead now, but the legs are still moving after it’s served. This was the #1 dish I wanted to try in Korea and finally…the time had come.

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It tasted about how I thought it would. A bit slimy but crunchy, tastes like the sea and like octopus. The lady was super nice and gave us a lot at a discount! Only 20,000 won instead of the usual 30,000. She also gave us a few fish stew after my friend ordered some makkeoli and raw fish. We also got a few side dishes too. One of my friends was a bit terrified of the live octopus but she gathered up enough courage to try a small piece that stopped moving.

After that, we walked around a bit to digest before heading to the jjimjilbang, or the Korean sauna! We went to Songdo Haesoopia, which is pretty close to Nampo. You can get there by bus but we carpooled a taxi there instead.

As with any Korean spa, you take off you shoes and store them in a locker. To stay overnight we paid 12,000 won, which is a great price compared to $40 at the Spa World for 12 hours in the US. You get a uniform for the sauna and can change in the locker room. Don’t forget to take your respective elevators! Men and women have different elevators. The women’s elevators don’t stop at the men’s locker rooms an vice versa. Once you the locker room, BAM! Naked people. Everywhere. Now, if you’re Korean-American like me, you’re (well, at least me) used to this. I’ve been to a common Korean bath area before, and when I go to the gym, it’s the same. Although, I admit that at the gym it’s usually only the Asians who walk around buck naked. White people, I’ve noticed, change in the bathroom.

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Anyways, we changed into our spa outfits and I made everyone sheep ears, which is a must-do at the Korean sauna. We ordered a few drinks and snacks before trying out some of the rooms. There are a variety of rooms, such as the salt room, oxygen room, black rock room (I don’t know the actual name of this room. It was just full of small, black rocks), and more. The black rock room was my favorite. It was a nice, hot temperature and I could stay in there for a while! After trying out some rooms, we ordered jjimjilbang eggs and some shikhye (rice punch). So tasty!

After that, we tried the baths. My non-Korean friends were extremely hesitant to start, but eventually we all, well…we all got to know each other a little better if you know what i mean 😉

The baths were all saltwater baths with some herbs mixed in. You have to shower before entering, so we did. I reaaalllyy needed a nice, hot soak after a long week and this gave me exactly what I needed. There is an area that’s like a jet propulsion out of the wall, and it felt like a nice shoulder massage to me while to others it was just painful!

Forewarning: If you go to Songdo Haesoopia, take an extra towel and all of your toiletries. They do not offer free shampoo/conditioner/body wash. You also only get 2 towels. Men get unlimited which is unfair. I paid a total of 1,900 won for shampoo/conditioner/body wash. After washing up, I bought some milk before we all headed back upstairs to get some sleep.

Another forewarning: Save a spot. It’s hard to find a spot to sleep in. Luckily, we found the women’s sleeping area and grabbed a few blankets before settling down.

Last forewarning: It’s hot. Well, duh, yeah, it’s a sauna. But the sleeping area and general area are all very warm, much warmer than room temperature, and on top of that the floor is heated. I felt so hot I couldn’t get proper sleep. I think I woke up nearly every 15 minutes because I was so uncomfortably hot, not to mention that hard floors aren’t exactly luxurious sleeping material. Also, people are still talking, children still running around, and as a bonus: people snore. Loudly. So if you decide to sleep at Haesoopia, be prepared for this. At the Spa World in America, I slept like a baby. They have mats on top of the hard floors and the general area is at room temperature. Songdo Haesoopia was a disturbing realization that I liked Spa World better to sleep in even if it was pricier. The sauna and baths were better at Haesoopia though.

Overall, Songdo Haesoopia: Loved the sauna and baths, but would never sleep there again!

When we woke up the next morning, we explored the Seomyun area. We went underground and looked around after we had some street food. For lunch we had chicken again and watched Logan at the theater before parting ways.

Overall, I had a great weekend. This weekend we plan on hitting Gwangali beach, so please look forward to my next post!

1st Day of School!

So, 1st day of school! So exciting! Right? Yeah…so, I was told to take a taxi to my first day. I teach at two middle schools, my main school from Monday-Wednesday (2-3 classes per day, 2 morning conversational classes with the girl’s badminton team), the other from Thursday-Friday (5 classes per day). On Thursday, March 2nd, I went to my second middle school. It’s an all girl’s school up in the mountains. It’s rather old, but nice and quaint as it’s surrounded by greenery and you can see the Busan landscape and river below.

I didn’t do any teaching on my first day since it was just a day of assemblies and figuring out where to go. I did desk warming and started planning for classes after my initial introduction lesson.

The next day was my actual first day of teaching, which was…interesting. I co-teach with 3 different teachers at this school, which is basically one for each grade. The students were also all curious about me since they heard they’d have a “foreign teacher” and instead saw someone who looked Korean.

I started by greeting my students at the door before beginning my introductions. The students have a general understanding of directions but need extra help from my CT. My lessons revolved around introducing myself using pictures and having students make their own name tag based on my model. Here are some snippets of the highlights of my day!

These girls just crack me up sometimes. Anyways, after that I had about 10 minutes left so I used that time for them to ask me questions. Here are the many questions I received based on frequency:

  1. How old are you?
  2.  Do you have a boyfriend?
  3. Can you speak Korean?
  4. Why did you come to Korea?
  5. When did you come to Korea?
  6. Are you/your parents Korean?
  7. Tell us about your first love/kiss!
  8. How tall are you?
  9. When is your birthday?
  10. Do you have any siblings?
  11. Is your curly hair natural? (For those curious, the answer is yes)

Needless to say, I expected most of these questions hahaha. I think the only one that really surprised me is when they asked about my hair lol

I also received two nice water bottles from my vice principal! Now I’m at my desk planning my next lesson as I write this.

I went to my main middle school the following Monday. This school is within the city but on a hill. It’s not too small and the students are cute. The first year’s in particular are tiny and adorable. Hyper little pups! The second years are kind of dry and nihilistic…I almost wonder what happens to them from Year 1 to Year 2 that makes them change??

I was a bit nervous about teaching and now that I’m done with my first few days I feel a bit better. I do wish the students listened to my directions as well as they do to my CT’s directions, but I think that will change with time.

Some miscellaneous info about Korean schools: The main halls have no heating/cooling. It’s freezing in the hallways right now. The halls and classrooms are nice and warm. Also, you’ll need a pair of indoor shoes. I’ve seen people wear anything from bathroom slippers, crocs, sneakers, and even heels. I’m using a cheap 3,000 won pair of bathroom slippers and I’m a bit embarrassed by them after my CT laughed at them >_>. The lunches are buffet style and I’m relying on them for nutrients by stuffing myself with vegetables and then eating whatever is lying around my apartment for dinner (which is usually either rice or ramen). The school bell is a short song. I was a bit taken back by this because I’m too used to the boring monotone bells in America. There are always snacks and free coffee, which I indulge myself in as well. My school has no smartboards, just TV screens and projectors.

So yeah, more info about school life coming later!!

 

Meeting Your Co-Teacher! Aaaand Living Alone.

When you’re picked up by your CT, there are a variety of things that can happen. They can either take you to your apartment, to the shopping center, to the immigration office, or they can take you to your school to meet your principal and vice principal. In my case, almost all of the above!

First, we dropped off my luggage at my apartment, which is a tiny one-room apartment. There’s a small bathroom/shower near the entryway. Cross the door and you enter my living space! There’s a small kitchen area, a small dining area, and then my bed/desk area. I have no patio or anything. Just literally one room and a bathroom. It’s small and cramped but I think I’ll live 😉

I was then taken to meet my principal and vice principal. I met the vice principal and did a 90 degree bow while saying, “안녕하새요, 만나서 반갑습니다” which just literally translates to, “Hello, nice to meet you” in a very formal manner. He was shocked that I could speak Korean haha. All of the teachers were, actually. They said it was comfortable since they wouldn’t be at a loss for words with me. Then I met the principal. My heart skipped a beat (many beats probably) when she said in Korean, “Where is the foreigner? Why is the native English teacher a Korean person?” My CT then had to explain in depth how I was born in the US but my parents were Korean which is why I could understand Korean, and whatnot. But seriously, this was the worst case scenario I imagined and it was taking place right in front of my eyes. My principal was wary of me already because I looked too “Korean” to be a native English teacher (more about this in a separate post) even though I’m literally licensed (with a Master’s, even!) to teach Secondary English. I’ve mentioned this in another post before. So, for a minute I thought she’d send me away and ask for another teacher, but then she said a long speech about how I should enjoy life, and how life is about its ups and downs, and that teaching at this middle school will be extremely difficult but that I should remember it as a good experience. Good talk. >_>

After that we went shopping since apart from furniture, my apartment had nothing else in it. I bought blankets, pots, utensils, and a kettle. I parted ways with my CT before going shopping again on my own for some more things I needed. I basically have to buy EVERYTHING you could possibly need to live alone, and it’s whittling away at what little funds I have left. I thought we were supposed to get a 300,000 won settlement allowance but when I asked my CT about it she had no idea what it was. She said she’d look into it and get back to me next week.

My CT then told me that I had to go to school again the next morning to meet the Head English teacher, so I did. I met everyone for the second time, but my cold worsened and I was pretty visibly sick. The teachers said I should go to the hospital and I was like ?????? In America I never went to the hospital except to get vaccines and stuff. Not to mention US healthcare is pretty shitty and pricey. So, I kept saying to them, “It’s ok, I can just take medicine and sleep it off!” which is what I always do when I get sick (seriously though, I’ll never understand people who go to the hospital for just a simple cold). They kept fussing over me and although it was nice to see them care about me, it also felt awkward because I didn’t want to feel like a burden to them.

After that I still had to buy stuff for my apartment. Luckily, I live near a huge traditional market as well as a young life shopping district. I’ll detail my findings in another post!