It’s been about a week since I’ve made my move to Dongtan, South Korea, and things have gotten better since my last post. For the first few days I wasn’t exactly miserable, but I wasn’t exactly pumped about being here. It was just hard (and sometimes continues to be) not knowing anything around here. This first week at my school has been spent learning the ropes, following different teachers around and seeing how they teach their classes. Everyone had a different style, and it was confusing because I didn’t know what I was actually supposed to do. The people I have been following were mostly substitutes for me until I got acquainted with the school, and they were mostly teaching the kids out of their English books; however, it all seemed so simple, and I knew that there was no way that I was being paid this much and set up in an apartment, etc. to do the simple things that they were doing. I was frustrated and confused until my appointed “helper,” Angela, sat me down and explained how everything worked. After that, I now have a new understanding and appreciation for how things run at Wiz Island. I start teaching my own classes on Monday, and I’m pretty excited about that.
The other teachers at the school pretty much speak no English, and I really speak no Korean, so it’s hard; however, they’ve been so nice and include me in anything that they do, even though I mostly just sit there and have no idea what they’re saying. But what feels good is the fact that they want me there and want to include me, even if there is a huge language barrier.
Every Friday the school does something special, like take a field trip or has performances at the school. This is pretty cool because I get to see new places and learn new things about Korea. Yesterday we went to Anyang, which is a little less than an hour away, to a school called English Village so the kids could celebrate Halloween. Anyang, the little I saw of it, is set in the mountains and is absolutely beautiful. The school is pretty large, and each classroom is a different setting. For instance, one classroom is like a supermarket with fake food, another room is a broadcasting room, there’s a police station room, etc. Everything is taught in English, and they even eat with a fork, knife and spoon. Although it was a pretty cool place, it made me really appreciate my school and all that it is. I love the fact that the kids learn both English and Korean, that we take off our shoes while in the building, that we eat with chopsticks, and it’s small enough that I recognize the kids and am learning their names. They’re all really sweet kids, and they seem to be excited that I’m there – probably just because I’m one of the only white people that they’ve ever seen, and I look completely different from them with my curly hair and blue eyes. When I was teaching gym (yeah, I have to teach English gym once a week – super) one of the three year old classes came in, took one look at me, screamed and ran to the other side of the room. Lol. By the end of the class though they were hugging me and giving me kisses. I think that I’ll be happy here.
As far as my city goes, I’ve heard that Dongtan has a pretty large expat community, but so far I’ve been the only non-Asian person that I know of. Today was my first weekend here so I decided to go out and explore my neighborhood; however, I got bored and quite lonely and a bit confused with everything written in Korean, and I ended up just going back to my apartment after picking up a few things. But I was bored there, too, so I decided to go read at one of the coffee shops near my house and maybe find someone to talk to. That didn’t work out though, so after a while I came back to my apartment, still frustrated and lonely. I shed a few tears, got online and looked to see what I could find out about the city of Dongtan, and amazingly I found this whole facebook group dedicated to people living in this city, mostly expats! I posted that I was new here, I looked around on the page and found that people didn’t live too far away, and I felt great comfort in that. Not that I’ve met anyone yet, but it’s a good start! I’m pretty sure one girl lives right near me, if not in my apartment building. Everyone also kept talking about Central Park, a big park in Dongtan, and from what I’ve read it’s on the other side of the city, but probably just a short bus ride away. I sent a message to the girl who lives near me to see how to get there, so we’ll see how that goes and I’ll head there soon enough.
Well, that’s a short recap of my first week here. The food has been awesome, and I love everything here more and more each day. Every problem or issue has shown a solution, further confirming the fact that this is where I should be. I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing me say that, but I am amazed every single day at the new things that pop up and continuously reaffirm this move.
This video is a song by Mumford and Sons that I’ve been listening to and find comfort in. “Darkness is a harsh term don’t you think, and yet it dominates the things I see … it’s not the long walk home that will change this heart, but the welcome I receive with a restart … and so I’ll be found with my stake stuck in this ground, marking the territory of this newly impassioned soul”. I love the line darkness is a harsh term don’t you think, because although things seem dark, darkness is not the right word for this situation. Maybe a dim, but growing light is more appropriate? Also, it wasn’t the long ride here that changed my heart about moving to Asia, but the welcome I’ve received with this new beginning. And you can find me with my stakes stuck in South Korea, creating a new outlet for my impassioned soul.