Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hello Korea!

Aaaah..... sorry for taking to so long to update! I don't have internet in my apartment yet and I feel strange posting at school. I'm waiting to receive my Alien Registration Card, after which, I can have a bank account, cell phone, and Internet in my apartment. Korea makes foreigner register their alienation!

Above is a picture of the lobby of Reading Town, my school. I only watched classes all last week and this week is the end of the month testing and beginning of new session. I will have two full weeks at school before I have classes of my own, which is pretty unheard of. I just arrived at strange point in the session. I like my school and all the other teachers and staff. They are super friendly and helpful. The other foreign teachers have taken me under their social wing. I'm excited to start teaching on Monday though.

Matt started teaching this week and really likes it. He's the new heartthrob in Gwangju. Middle school girls titter as he walks by or in his classes. My boss fluttered her hand on her heart when she met him! However, everyone thinks that he and I are brother and sister. Even strangers on the street ask us that! I mean, we both have brown wavy hair, little noses, and are white. Maybe that's enough.

This is a calm, empty classroom at Reading Town. This quickly changes at 3Pm. Our school is moving in July to the same building that Matt's school is in. It will be much nicer and I will have a desk there! The teachers' room is currently full and I keep hearing that they are going to give me a desk in the staff room/book closet, but that desk has yet to present itself.

These roses are on my walk to work. I love this little section of sidewalk, the road is about 15 feet below, which you can't see in this photo, but it has a neat effect. Our neighborhood is very nice. It's called Bonseun-dong in Nam-gu (like Soho or West Village in Manhatten). Bonseun-dong is one the wealthier neighborhoods in Gwangju and many of our students' parents are doctors and such. Also, they dress very nicely. There is not a wrinkle or stray thread to be seen. The neat appearance bug has caught Matt. He stresses over wrinkles in dress shirts now!

This is my kitty. Well, he's not really my kitty, but he mews at me everyday and is always in the same spot. Yesterday, I gave him a can of tuna. He is tiny and sassy and yells at any passers by. I think someone else also feed him because sometimes he has a little dish.

Above are just a few shots of Bonseun-dong. Most people live in these high rise apartment buildings. I currently find them rather strange. They are imposing in a way that buildings in NYC aren't. In New York, you can't see far. It's just building, building, building, but here these apartment buildings are the only tall buildings, especially in a residential neighborhood. I like the images they paint on the ends of them to distinguish them from one another. Some have cartoon characters.

Koreans love cake! There is always a cake for someone's birthday. Yesterday, was Katie's a Canadian co-worker at ReadingTown. This one was delicious. Everyone eats communally here. If you are eating with other people , everyone just eats off the same platter. There are no individual plates or servings. We all just went at the cake together. Later that night, we went out to celebrate Katie's birthday and were the only group in the bar. They found out it was someone's birthday and ran down the the bakery at midnight to buy her a cake! Cake is very important.

This picture is not very good, but neon crosses are another peculiar thing about Korea. Every church illuminates their cross in red neon. It's really strange to look out across the city at night and the skyline speckled with neon crosses. I guess we view neon as garish and would never neon a cross. I have yet to figure out why Koreans do it, other than to be seen better.

Oooh there is too much! We've been here almost two weeks!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

We're Here!

We made it into to Seoul on Friday evening after leaving New York on Thursday morning. It was the longest 30 hour day ever...... We chased the sun around to the other side of the planet. It literally didn't get dark the whole time we were flying. After arriving in Seoul, we took a four hour long bus ride to Gwangju. Two gentlemen from our schools were waiting for us at the bus station. They gave us a quick tour of our schools, took us to 7-11 so that we could get something to eat in the morning, then to our apartment. We were t-i-r-e-d. He tried to explain to us how our thermostat worked, but we half listened and now are taking hot showers with the trial and error method. Our place is small, but cute.

Our bed complete with cutesy girly duvet provided by our school.

Our "living room". It came with a desk and one chair and a tv with only Korean channels. We bought that little table so we'd have something to eat off of.

This is our little kitchen! (I'm in a PC bang and Windows is all in Korean so I can't rotate this image!)

We were lucky to arrive on a Friday so that we had the weekend to recover. Saturday, we went to E-Mart, which is akin to a Super Wal-Mart with several floors. We bought some food, pots, pans, etc. We found the 1000 won Store (1 dollar-ish) and wished we found it the day before. They everything we needed, but cheaper. It's now our new favorite store. We also bought a rice cooker. They have rice cookers that cost up to $450! Apparently, it's the most important appliance in a Korean kitchen. I guess it would be like a Cuisinart or SubZero fridge in the states. They looked like they were about to take off for the space station at any moment.

We ventured out for dinner on Saturday and ordered by pointing, which works well if there are pictures on the menu. We went out to for lunch on Sunday and walked into a restaurant that didn't have a picture menu. There were three waitresses talking to us in Korean and pointing at things and all we could do was give blank stares. The manager came over and pointed at one thing on the menu and said "steak-uh". We put up two fingers and food arrived shortly. It came with several side dishes and one tator tot! There are tots in Korea and you may only receive them one at a time, but they're here!

Two other teachers from our school live on our floor. Last night they took us downtown to see a movie. We saw Iron Man and then went out to a sushi restaurant. Downtown is pretty neat. It's full of cute little clothing boutiques everywhere. Ceci- I think you would freak out at the cute.

Today, we go into our schools for the first time. I think we'll just be observing classes this week.