Monday, 17 August 2009

First Impressions

Have broken things down into topics. Do feel free to pick and mix.

Work -
My biggest, and really only, freak out was on Monday morning when I realised I would actually have to work here. I knew I had a few days of observation first, but I had hoped to have a week or something. Basically, I did not feel ready. It took maybe 5 minutes of watching a class to remember this is just teaching, and those are just kids. Really not a big deal. After watching a range of different sorts of classes, me and the other new teacher, who has a lot of experience, were let loose in the classrooms on Thursday and Friday. Have only taught 5 lessons so far, and it will take a while before I'm totally comfortable with it, especially with the younger ones, but I know it will be fine. The school is well run, the air-conditioning is great, the kids are mostly well-behaved, and the other teachers are great. There's a general air that we're here to do a good job, not to do the minimum and get out, and I really like that.

Food -
Oh my goodness. The food. I have had some utterly delicious things to eat so far, but I have also discovered that, here at least, I am a bit of a picky eater. Not that I changed what I like to eat, it's just that the things I don't like seem to be really common. Most notably: eggs, seaweed, octopus and tofu. Turns out I don't really like spicy food here either – what they consider 'not spicy' is perfect for me! It's a bit like not being able to eat cheese in the Netherlands – it just seems like you're a bit fussy. So I will do my best. I will even try to eat some egg.

That being said, I have eaten very well – perhaps too well especially in terms of meat! Korean barbeque is awesome – 'galbi' (pork rib meat) is particularly yummy – and I'm a little obsessed with 'jjinmandu' (steamed dumplings). Tried my first bibimap (rice with lots of veggies) and Korean pancake this evening – both were excellent. And dairy free stuff is easier to find – they have lactofree and soya milk and I've even had dairy free ice-cream (though it did cost almost $10 for a pint!) Overall, while the food's not as healthy as I'd thought (there is a lot of fried meat going on) it is tasty – and cooking your dinner at the table is great fun!

Expats -
When you don't speak the local language, this is obviously key to settling in! Siji has a pretty sizeable community of expats, and everyone seems to know everyone. My co-workers are really lovely people, and have been extremely welcoming. We all went out for a leaving night for two of the teachers on Friday. I had been told before that a typical night in Korea started with food, followed by a bar, and finally a 'noraebang'. With the addition of a crappy nightclub full of foreigners to take things through til the wee hours, that is exactly how it went. For those who have not had the pleasure, a noraebang is a small room where you and your buddies sing karaoke - the main difference being that you don't have to inflict your singing on the whole bar! Definitely didn't think I would find myself belting out 'Like a Rolling Stone' with my boss at 2:45 in the morning, but I did and it was brilliant. Also didn't think I would request '500 miles' in the crappy nightclub, but I did and its a good way to find out where the Scots in the room are.

After this fabulous introduction to Korean nightlife, I went down to Busan for the weekend with a bunch of teachers from Daegu for 'Surf Fest'. Not so much a festival as a reason for a group of mates to go to the beach and hang out. Not that one needs much of a reason to do that. I realised I hadn't been to a beach (or worn a swimsuit!) since around 2005, and it was marvellously relaxing. On Saturday, we were a little more active and most of the others at least had a go at surfing, but yesterday was mainly about snoozing and Bloody Mary's. I believe there are few better ways to spend one's time.

Grog -
Can't ignore the title can I?! Well mostly the grog here is watery beer but, not being a big beer drinker back home, this probably bothers me less than it should. Obviously had a Bloody Mary yesterday, and I did accidentally bargain for a rather large dram of Jamieson on Friday night, but neither is really foreign.... The local firewater is, of course, soju. So far have only had one shot of this, and it didn't taste good, but didn't turn me into a monster or anything. I have been advised to avoid it for the first few months, which seems a little excessive, but I think I'll stick to the watery beer for now. And the cocktails in ziploc bags. Forgot about those. They were a bit mental.

Think that's enough just now. There are many more First Impressions of course - I haven't even started on the Koreans or the weather yet! - but I'm in need of some sleep on my horrible waffly sheets.

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