When I stepped off that flight from Shanghai, as bedraggled as I’m sure I looked, seeing the familiar avenues of Incheon airport was like finally being able to take a deep breath. I walked through customs for the umpteenth time, found my luggage, happily greeted the old gentleman waiting for me in Korean, and as soon as we were on our way to Bundang with the bilingual signs flashing by, I smiled to myself. I was coming home. And home has become a place where I feel simultaneously challenged, comfortable, terrified, and so completely happy with who I am and who I’m becoming.
KCTY amazes me every day in a variety of ways. I’m almost three weeks into my contract, so I realize I’m still a little star-struck at this point, but the atmosphere feels healthy and generally happy. It’s nice to be in a professional teaching environment where there’s still a great deal for me to learn and there are more ways to grow as an educator. While getting back to work after three months of vacation has been a bit tiresome, it feels good to be busy again and sharing my love of grammar and literature among other things. My schedule is similar to what I had at SLP, with classes starting at 9:40 and lasting until 7:30 in the evening. Having marking periods has been astounding, as I no longer need to stay late to take care of grading or lesson plans. (And I realize as I’m writing this, I completely forgot to clock out, oh boy.) I have 7 year olds in the morning, and it’s been an interesting transition working with them. I keep reminding myself that I had the same age last year, but it seems like ages ago. The teaching style here, or at least what is expected/recommended, is rather different from SLP as well. It’s a little difficult for me to balance my own style of classroom management/discipline with these kiddos because we need to be seen as approachable. Here, it’s not good if the kids are afraid of you. So my idea of being firm with them could very well come across as too harsh, which is what I’m trying to navigate. Still, I already have a few favorites out of my 12 students and they are a ball to be around most of the time.
Throughout the rest of the afternoon during the week, I teach several classes of grammar and writing, some reading and vocabulary, and four classes of Science. Tuesdays through Thursdays are my favorite days simply because I get to take a break from teaching English and I can talk about dinosaurs or weather patterns! I actually had the kids bring some rocks to class last week and they had an absolute blast talking about them. One of my older classes has a bunch of students who have lived and studied in English speaking countries. They’re one of my favorites because we run through the grammar pretty quickly and there’s a lot of laughter regarding puns and the like. I think my only complaint so far is that the Korean teachers are separated from the foreign teachers. So I know Jin, who works with me with the Owls, but none of the others. I see them in the hall and they say hi, and it’s like, “Hi! …. (I have no idea who you are!)” But overall, I’m really happy with where I’m working right now. There’s a great deal of staff turnover happening at the moment, so there will be plenty of new people with me.
Speaking of new people, I’ve been getting out and about and meeting some. Granted, I’ve touched base with the lovely Jess, but getting away from Suji and spending those three months on my own have helped immensely in putting myself out there socially. I had planned on hiking my second weekend back, but I ended up catching a stomach bug so that was out of the question. On the upside, I was around for a rooftop party and made a few new friends in my area. Last weekend I entered myself into the annual international beach volleyball competition just for kicks. Okay, so at first I thought it would just be an easy and fun pick-up game. Ha. My bad. It was an all day affair with some great teams as nearby as the universities in Seoul and as distant as Cambodia and Thailand. The Korean coach who sponsored the foreign girls’ team “World Woman” was really nice. Free water all day provided by the event, and we were able to keep our jerseys, which we didn’t have to pay for either. Her Korean team of very friendly, older women pestered me a great deal to eat lunch with them. Considering my Korean is below basic survival level, we resorted to lots of gestures and my attempts at politely refusing, before a cup of rice was shoved in one hand and chopsticks in another. They didn’t insist I eat any of the vegetables I still haven’t come to like, but offered egg and watermelon, which I happily accepted. As awkward as those moments are when they’re happening, I still end up really loving them even if I feel completely ridiculous and stupid. People of vastly different cultures, languages, and ages came together because they love a sport and then they shared a meal. How amazing is that, that life can be so utterly simple and connecting with another human can be so easy if you allow it to be?
Next up, a housewarming party this weekend. Yes, that will mean I’ll be posting some pictures of my new schwanky apartment. It’s a pretty serious relationship considering I bought a futon set and shelves, though I can’t say much for the view. I’m also looking forward to a kayaking trip on the 13th, hiking with Jin once my phone situation is settled, finally satiating my need for galbi, Mud Fest 2013, a summer break I’m not sure what to do with, volleyball every other Saturday, and possible river trekking. Here’s to living the adventure.