Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Korean meal of things to say.

Which basically means a mish-mash of whatever... mixed with rice.

1. Although I'm still the youngest of all my teacher companions (be they Korean or foreigners), I'm literally older over here. Because of Korean tradition, infants are considered a year old upon their birth, taking account for their time in the womb. In addition, the lunar calendar dictates birthdays, so they aren't as consistent as birthdays in the States. As a result, my co-teacher informed me that I'm actually 23. Hmm.

2. When I'm not teaching, planning, or wandering around, I'm learning Hangul and practicing Korean. It's been a long time since I've learned a new language, but I'm sticking with it and really enjoying it. Fortunately, there's really no better place in the world to learn a language. Signs in Korea are huge and, for the most part, written in very simple characters. Easy reading for a newbie like me. By co-workers think it's hilarious when I sit at our weekly meetings and practice my Hangul. Sometimes I try to spell out names; other times I learn new phrases. Gotta fill that time with something; I have no idea what my vice principal is saying, and it rarely applies to me anyway.

3. I learned that my last name, Hughes, sounds like the Korean word for 'napkin'... Thus the massive confusion when I first arrived and the school took me to lunch.

4. The PE teacher I met at Yaksa is extremely nice and always greets me in English every morning. Often I walk out the front door instead of the back (which is basically 20 paces from my apartment entrance), and he will point and say, 'Your home is that way.' I will tell him what I need to do that day (usually I'm on my way to buy food or visit a PC room). One day he shared with me that I remind him of his daughter, who is my age and studying in Japan currently. It's very sweet to have this fatherly PE coach watching out for me.

5. As described in previous posts, my home is literally behind my school, which has its up and down points. In the winter (and when a tropical storm is passing by), I'm thankful for the close proximity. However, it's only a matter of time before most of my students find out where I live and come to visit at random times.

6. I don't like jumping to conclusions, but I'm 99% certain that my school staff is trying to set me up with one of our teachers. Unfortunately, men 20 years older than me aren't my style. Day 1 of teaching, the staff was eating lunch and one of my co-teachers said to me, 'The vice principal would like to emphasize that this man is not married.' If that weren't strange enough, she tried to get me to talk to him, and I could hear them talking about me in Korean. Needless to say, my first meal in the cafeteria proved to be sufficiently awkward, and I've had a love-hate relationship with lunch ever since. Half the time, the only seat they leave open for me is next to or across from this guy. I feel bad for both of us because I rarely talk to him.

7. Busses in Korea are the most systematic yet utterly chaotic things I have ever experienced. Every major bus stop has a screen with updates of bus routes (including interactive maps so you can see when your bus is coming), but actually riding a bus is a whole different story.

Tips to be successful on Korean public transportation:
-Stand in the road so you can sprint to your bus, which stops any old place on the street.
-If there's a crowd, getting on the bus trumps actually paying for the ride.
-HOLD ON. No seriously. Maybe even with two hands.

Some of the strangest experiences I've had so far have been on the bus. If it's not Emily and me getting lost and headed in an hour-long loop in the wrong direction, it's a drunken man with a bag of half-eaten chicken being forcibly removed from the bus by two police officers. Usually I feel safe in Korea. When I'm on the bus it's like entering an alternate universe. Anything can-- and does-- happen.

8. Living so close, kids are beginning to see and recognize me more. So it's not uncommon that I hear my name being shouted by little boy voices as I walk through my neighborhood many weekend mornings. I respond, in my English teacher voice. But it's usually to nobody, since I can never find them (where they're hiding, I'll probably never know!).

9. Toast has a completely different meaning over here. As do many other food dishes. With toast, it's a benefit. Instead of bread popping out of the toaster, you get a grilled sandwich with cheese, egg, special sauce, and all the fixings you could possibly ever want. With other things, it's a compromise. Or just a flat out confusion. Like, you may walk into a restaurant, try to order a particular dish, and after minutes of language barrier, throw your hands up and say, 'I'll take anything.'

Just an FYI: you'll GET anything.

A list of the strange things I've eaten so far:
Squid of all kinds
Chopped octopus
Whole baby octopus
Still-half-alive baby octopus
Sea snails
Cow's stomach (we thought it was stingray)
... and perhaps more. I'm not sure I even want to know. It's always an adventure.

Speaking of which, I'm off to dinner!
Be well and be happy,
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  1. oh goodness! it would be hard to explain that you're not looking for marriage over there!! i dont know of many people with the patience to stick through this! well done :)

  2. not interested in a guy that's 20+ years older than you??? Why not??? Haha jk :) 143!