Teacher, can I speak Korean?

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Its Saturday and I have just had the longest sleep in ever. This week has gone so fast! It has been so stressful but an enjoyable week. I think I’m finally getting to grips with the schools curriculum, which is great I was starring to feel like I would never begin to understand it.

I feel like I’ve experienced so much this week. This week has definitely had its ups and downs but I think I’m finally feeling like I’m settling in. It’ll take more than a week I know that, but I feel I’m finally getting my body clock switched to Korean time. I’m eating more. (when I’m stressed, I don’t feel like eating) and I’m starting to feel tired which means I now know when to let my body rest. These sound so simple, but sometimes when you’re stressed you forget to take care of your body. There has been so much going in this week and my brain doesn’t know how to handle it.

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The food was amazing, but VERY spicy. Every day all the teachers order food for break time, i cant remember the name of what this was.Then one of the Korean teachers gave me one of these fruit drinks. She said it was healthy, I don’t know but it was nice!

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Teaching is going really well. ^^

Yesterday was such a long day, I woke up at 6:45, and one of the Korean teachers came to pick me up at 8:15 because we were taking a trip to a nearby city to visit a hospital. I had to get my medical check done so that I could apply for an alien registration card in Korea. Then I can open a bank account. I was so nervous, it was a full medical check, bloods and urine samples for drug testing too. I don’t like having my blood taken, but yesterday I didn’t even feel it.

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After visiting the hospital, we drove back. The drivers here are crazy, they just don’t look before they turn. It seems like all the drivers here are rushing to get somewhere fast. The seem very impatient. Also, they drive on the opposite side to England, its very disorientating at first.

When we got back we had a teachers lunch at a noodle restaurant. They tasted so good and they were so filling. The portions sizes are so large here. I think mine cost around 5000 won which is really cheap. 🙂 I was so surprised when it came to the table. They give you rice too? As well as noodles? I got the noodles in chicken broth. During the meal it certainly challenged my chopstick abilities. I thought I was really good with using chopsticks, but not with these noodles. I can’t wait to go back and have these again. 🙂

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After the work meeting, we had a workshop session then I had five lessons to teach. This week has been so challenging, but I think I will become more relaxed as the weeks go on.

The children in my classes are super adorable. Most of them work really hard and are well behaved in lessons. In class my school practice’s a NO KOREAN POLICY. If they speak Korean in lessons I have to take 3 stickers off them. The stickers add up then at the end of term the school had like a system where they can buy different things with the stickers. A lot of the time the students know that they shouldn’t speak Korean, if they need to speak Korean for any reason they say to me, teacher, can I speak Korean? They can earn stickers through good homework, and good work in lessons. The lessons finish at 50 mins past the hour and at 47 we do sticker time. So they bring their sheets that have little square boxes on them and I write H for Hannah. Some student earn 2 stickers per lesson, some earn 20. It all depends on their work and progress. I think its a great system for the younger students because they know they’re going to get a great prize for all of these stickers, therefore they work harder and they definitely deliver the results.

I’m going to make sure I catch up on my sleep this weekend so I will be fully charged to take on next week! Hope you have a great weekend. 🙂

– Hannah

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Hello! I love you!

My first weekend is coming to an end so let’s conclude the past few days.

I arrived at my school on Friday afternoon. I was warmly greeted by around 20 students whom of which I will be teaching tomorrow afternoon. I was then taken to the staff room where I met the other teachers who I had either spoke to on Skype or via email before arriving in Korea. They were super nice to me and I was just so glad to be here after the stress of my visa these past few weeks. The director of the school then asked me if I would like to rest in my apartment for a few hours because I was tired from all the travelling. I agreed because let’s be honest, I was knackered. Plus falling asleep on the buses on the way here was not that restful. I remember, in between nodding off, I kept thinking “please say I’ve not missed my stop” luckily, but I didn’t realise this at the time, where I’m staying was the last stop. I like to think that the bus driver wouldn’t just leave me on the bus and drive off right?

After a short power nap in my apartment it was time to head downstairs to out for dinner with the director of the school and my colleagues. Another woman (also called Hannah) was leaving to move to Seoul and Friday was her last night. So it was like a joint celebration of me arriving and the other Hannah’s goodbye meal. We didn’t go far, just two shops away from the school and we had a Korean BBQ and beer. Let me tell you, I’ve seriously never tasted food as good as this EVER!

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Doesn’t it look beautiful?

It was a really great evening and I had fun. I need to go back again sometime soon!

The next morning I woke up feeling quite adventurous. I looked outside and it was a beautiful day and I needed to go shopping. I was lucky my director bought me some cereal, milk, eggs, water, orange juice, crackers, bananas, some berries and sausages. What else could I need? Well to get me started, she pretty much covered everything I needed for a couple of days. But I didn’t realise until after I had gotten out of the shower on Friday evening, I didn’t have a towel! Fantastic! Luckily because its so hot and humid here, you can pretty much air dry in no time at all.

So a trip to Emart was needed!

Of course I didn’t know the way, one of the other teachers was going to take me but she had work to do. Since I was feeling brave this is what I did. She called me a taxi, wrote down what I needed to say to the driver. I got in the taxi, got to Emart, paid the 5000 won (£3.50) and got on my way into the shop. Normally, in England, shopping makes me anxious. The people make me anxious. In Korea, I actually found it quite relaxing. It was really bizarre. I said to myself on the way, if I don’t like it and I start to feel uncomfortable, then I can just get a taxi back to the apartment, its no big deal!  Instead I spent ages in there, I looked around every section. Because I don’t have a phone that works here, I went to the customer service desk and asked them to call me a taxi, which they did. I got back in the taxi and went back to the apartment.

Today (Sunday) I planned to do something a little different. I wanted to walk somewhere. Inside I ran into my director and she said she needed to go to Emart and asked if I wanted to come along. I agreed and we rode bikes there. Hannah who left the previous day had given me her bike which I was so grateful for. It was such a lovely bike ride to Emart, we rode along the river. I’ll remember next time to take pictures to put on here. What I’ve noticed already is that people stare, its not in nasty and horrible way, they’re just curious. I live in a city with 20 foreign people and I’m new, they’ve not seen me before. I first noticed it in the airport when two guys were saying, oh look its an American person, to which I answered no I’m English and they just smiled. I think they saw my passport too. They didn’t realise that I would understand what they were saying. (I get points for learning Korean beforehand yes?) I was really funny though! They smiled as if to say, oh dear she’s onto us! The second time was when I got on the bus from Gangnam. I was just casually doing a word search in my travel book and I look up and this older lady is just staring at me. I look at her and she just keeps staring. But when I smiled, she looked away. How odd! I told one of the teachers about it when I got here and she just said to me, its because they’re curious. And the third time, which I think is the most funniest, when I was riding back from Emart with the director today, we past a couple of older men. As we rode by one of them said to me, hello, so I said hello back. Then he said I love you! (Its funnier when you hear it in a Korean accent.) Myself and the director just laughed. Older people are so funny here!

When we got back, the director asked if I wanted to meet her friend and I was like, sure. She came over to the school (I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I live right above the school) we ended up talking for ages and ages. But it was nice. She asked if I could teach them English properly. They can speak it but not fluently. I of course agreed and asked for Korean lessons in return which they also agreed to. 🙂

I’ve not done much this evening though. I’ve tried to relax as I start teaching tomorrow afternoon. I’ve done some preparation for tomorrow. If Friday is anything to go by, the children have a lot of energy!

Fingers crossed tomorrow goes well. Its gone midnight here in Korea and I need to sleep. I’ll hopefully post more tomorrow. 🙂

– Hannah

Heathrow Airport to South Korea

This morning was entirely different to any other morning of my life. Today was the day that I embark on the biggest and most ambitious adventure that I’ve ever been on. Today, I’m moving to South Korea.

In my last post ‘one week’s notice’ I discussed about handing my notice in at work. The mad rush and panic I had with my visa. I managed transfer flights. I booked onto a flight for the following Thursday. But my visa hadn’t yet arrived! As you can imagine, i was anxious just in case it didn’t come and I would have to transfer flights again. My visa arrived on the Tuesday. I finished packing all of my things and it was all underweight. I guess that cheap handheld luggage weight reader worked better than I had expected.

Let me back up a little bit. My day started at 4:45am (UK time) I got up, rushed downstairs to double check the size limits and weight for my hand luggage. I had to, you know when you have one of those nightmares that you’ve done everything wrong that you thought you had done right? Yeah well it was one of those. I had already spent the last three days obsessively weighing the luggage. I knew in my head it was right but the nightmare contradicted my thoughts. I had to check and it turns out everything was fine.

I kept checking around the house just to avoid the inevitable. Its the final goodbyes that I don’t like. They’re so difficult. Thoughts rushed around in my head as I was hugging my mum goodbye. When will I next see her, face to face I mean? This is the last night I’m going to see this dining room for at least a year. Right now a year seems so far away and it both scares and excites me. I’m excited for the new experience. Its going to be so interesting. I’m going to return to England as a much more rounded and well travelled individual. But saying goodbye to my family is probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.

Thanks to my dad we made it to the Heathrow airport near London with plenty of time. So early in fact the check in desks for my flight hadn’t even opened. After checking in we all went and stood outside secruity. After procrastinating about going through security I could feel my anxiety building as I kept avoiding going. I had to go for it. I said my goodbyes to my dad and my sister. I took deep breaths, and remembered how much I wanted to be in Korea.

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I got through security and into where the gates are. I couldn’t work out which gate I was supposed to be at so I asked a lady who worked at the airport. She said that I was really early. She suggested that I went and got something to eat and drink and check the boards again in about 20 mins. Just as she said, the gate number was up so I went and took a seat. The plane was 15 minutes delayed. But somehow we arrived to Moscow at the correct arrival time. I’m not sure how that works…

Getting on the plane at Heathrow was easy enough. I sat next to a lovely Russian lady. I presumed she was lovely. She didn’t say much but she smiled politely when took the seat next to her. Everyone has something that they’ve done or said. Here’s mine, on my fight between Heathrow and Moscow around half an hour after takeoff I thought that they had taken the seatbelt sign off. But they hadn’t. I did wonder why the stewardess looked at me a bit odd. That and I nearly knocked myself out with my own bag. Can you believe that? I was incredibly embarrassed I can tell you that much. Especially as around 10 mins later the seat belt went off. Its safe to say that I hid away for while. Everyone makes mistakes. Its certainly one I wouldn’t want to relive anytime soon.

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After a hectic run through Moscow airport with a bag i’ve now added to my priority list for replacing. Either that or next time I fly I need to pack less stuff! It was not a good experience. Now for the worst part, the reasoning for this mad rush through the airport. Originally I wasn’t in a rush. I had plenty of time, but then I went on a hunt for free WiFi to let my parents know that I had arrived okay. Which resulted in me very nearly missing my connection flight. Nice one Hannah! I was the second to last person to get on the flight. I only just made it!

On the way to Incheon International Airport, I was desperately fighting the urge to sleep but I knew even once I landed in Incheon I still had quite a bit of travelling to do. I slept for around 2-3 hours, I then felt much more alert to get through the day. Just before I got off the plane I had to fill in forms for the immigration office.

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Once I had got off the plane it was like a mad rush to run off, down three sets of escalators and then to get on a tube where I felt like a sardine. I got off the tube then it was time to stand in a massive queue to go through immigration. I’ll give them that, their security is intense and very thorough.

After immigration I went down another escalator to collect my baggage. I was only waiting around 10 minutes before I went to go on a hunt to find a payphone to ring the director of the school to let her know that I’ve arrived. After that i went to get my first bus to Gangnam Bus Terminal.

It’s quite daunting being in a country you don’t know. When asking for directions from every person I asked, I was putting my 100% faith in their hands and you know what was nice? Most of them were extremely helpful. Even the one guy who helped me carry my suitcase to Gangnam Express Bus Terminal from Gangnam Bus Terminal (there is a difference between the two, but at first I thought they were the same thing) he spoke little English, luckily I could fill in the blanks with the Korean that I did know.

I’m certainly looking forward to exploring Korea.

One Weeks Notice.

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Lets skip back a couple of months. (I’ve wanted to blog about this for so long, but I really didn’t want to jinx it) In June I accepted a teaching job to teach English. (South of South Korea – Near Daegu) Upon accepting the offer I sent them my signed contract before quickly gathering my documentation together ready to send off to get the visa application started!

After my application was processed in Korea I then received my visa number. So I then sent another set of documentation off to the South Korean Embassy in London. All I could do then was wait.

As of last Tuesday my one weeks notice at work was officially up. Saying my goodbyes to people on my last shift was quite a surreal experience for me. I didn’t realise just how much I would miss the conversations that I had with the people that I had met there. As I walked out of the locker room, down the stairs and approached the staff door, I remember thinking, this is it, my one week notice is officially up. The thought of leaving made me feel rather sad. For months I’ve been thinking of the day that I would hand my notice in, but when it came down to it, I realised how much my job had taught me in these past 10 months.

Nevertheless I could start to countdown the days until I move to South Korea. For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to go travelling and moving to South Korea is something I’ve been seriously thinking about since January of this year. It took me a while to work up the courage to send my application in to a recruiter.

After getting my hopes up of flying on the 23rd August, I’ve now had to rearrange my flight. I’ve had unavoidable delays with my visa and it’s just not arrived yet! It’s really frustrating as I’ve booked and paid for my flight which is supposed to fly from Heathrow tomorrow afternoon! My ticket is non-refundable so the reality is that I’m going to have to buy a new ticket. I did contact the site that I bought it off, but I’ve not had a reply from them. So I’m guessing I can’t even change to a different flight either. I really want to fly out as soon as possible so fingers crossed that my visa will be here early next week. Then I can book another flight and go.

So how am I feeling about going to Korea? I’m not excited. Which I guess is strange? I’m not sure… I’m anxious, nervous and scared. I don’t like flying, never mind flying on my own. I think i’ll start to feel excited when it comes to me getting on my last bus to the city where I’ll be staying. Everyone keeps telling me that feeling this anxious is normal, so I’ve just got to wait the stress out and trust that everything will work out in the end.

After weeks of procrastinating, this past week I’ve actually been quite productive. I’ve finally packed my case and my hand luggage. I’ve started to sort all of my stuff out that I will be leaving at my parent’s house whilst I’m away. I’ve changed some English money to Korean Won. I’ve bought travel insurance. Finally, I’ve been on the hunt for a perfect gift to present to the school upon my arrival.

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Writing this now makes me feel like such an adult. I feel like I’ve got some purpose and responsibility in life. I didn’t even feel this responsible when I moved away to university. About a week and a half ago I received a letter off a friend I went to university with, in that letter she wrote about her new job and her move to London. Which is awesome! She also asked me some questions about me moving to South Korea. For a moment I had to stop and think about how grown up we are. I know I know, I’m twenty two, I should be used to acting like an adult. It’s scary to think that it’s nearly been a whole year since we graduated. Looking back, I definitely didn’t see my life going in this direction this time last year. When I left university, I didn’t feel prepared to start my life. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or where I wanted to go. Instead I moved back in with my parents and I got a job as a sales assistant at Primark. Let me tell you, spending 10 months working there really did give me the kick that I needed to push myself further.

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The truth is, I don’t feel anymore prepared for life than I did this time last year. The difference between now and then is, I’m just not as afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. I fully intend to take the knowledge that I’ve learnt over this past year and allow it to influence the person that I will become.

I hope that you will enjoy reading about the enormous journey I’m about to embark on.

– Hannah