Currently at my host family’s apartment in Gyeongju!
Today was departure day, the day where we left Jungwon University and moved in with our host families in all different parts of Korea.
The day started at 7:30AM, when we began checking out of our rooms. Skip forward a couple hours (which were spent packing and cleaning) to 11:30 AM. There was a 30 minute ceremony where we all stood forward when our names were called and bowed. When my name was called my co-teacher ran up and gave me flowers. It was really sweet.
Then there was a luncheon, with the best food I’ve had in Korea yet! It was a buffet and the options just kept going on and on. I had lunch with the co-teacher and the middle school principal. The principal didn’t really speak English. The co-teacher spoke English, obviously, since she’s an English teacher, but I still spoke slowly so she would understand what I was saying. They were both really nice, so even though there was a language barrier, it didn’t seem awkward at all.
Then after lunch we picked up my stuff, meaning my small suitcase,
backpack, and purse, and brought them to the car. My two big suitcases are being shipped because there’s not enough room in the van for everything. We waited around for a while and finally left at around 2/2:15. The ETA who’s teaching at the adjoining high school was with us, along with her co-teacher and a man who was probably the high school vice principal. We made conversation for a little while, but then they told us we must be tired, and told us how to push the seat back, so they were basically telling us to go to sleep. Obviously, I was exhausted, so I fell asleep. We drove for about an hour and then made a stop at a rest stop, where they bought us ice cream/sherbet. It was another hour and a half from there to Gyeongju.
Then we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. The restaurant had different private rooms for each party, with a sliding door. You rang a bell on the table to get the waiter to come to you. It was pretty neat. We were joined by the school president (founder, since its a private school), his wife, who is the vice-principal of the middle school, the high school principal, and another English teacher at the high school. The food just kept appearing! There must have been 7 different courses. There was nothing at the meal that reminded me of regular Chinese food, except something that somewhat resembled General Tso’s Chicken. The food was excellent. (Pictures will be appearing eventually).
My host family came to meet me at the restaurant. The family consists of a mom, a dad, a little brother (10-years-old) and a sister (probably 12 or 13). The sister, who’s going to be one of my students, wasn’t there because she was at “hagwan” (Korean extracurricular academy). The family only spoke Korean! I was really worried, but I gave them lots of smiles and “ohhhhs” so it didn’t feel awkward at all. We got home, and they told me to relax, so I started unpacking. Then they called me into dinner, because I told them that even though I had already eaten, I would sit with them and eat a little. I had some meat wrapped in lettuce, rice (of course!), and cucumber dipped in a sauce. I used my little bit of Korean and they used their little bit of English, as well as a dictionary app on the mom’s phone, to have a conversation. At first it seemed that I knew more Korean than they knew English, but I think they just had trouble communicating. I was in for quite a shock when I ate some grapes that the mom had pulled out for dessert. I was expecting a seed, but the grapes all had four little seeds! I asked the parents how they ate the grape and they both demonstrated their “style” (both prefaced their demonstrations by saying “my style” of eating the grape and spitting out the seeds). It was fun bond with them in something, even if it was just eating grapes.
After dinner the mom went to pick up the daughter. She had been at an English hagwon for the past couple hours, meaning an English supplemental class. She seemed shy when I first met her, so I decided to ask her to show me her English books. I was surprised that I didn’t know exactly how to do her grammar exercises. We also looked at her vocab lists and she helped me pronounce all the Korean translations. I remarked at the difficulty of the word “threat,” on her vocab list. Why is the word threat pronounced like that? Why isn’t it pronounced like the word treat? Kids who have to learn English definitely have it tough. The 10-year-old brother came in her room and I asked him simple questions like “How are you?” and “How old are you?” I tried to speak Korean to them and they reminded me how to say different things I’d learned. Maybe we’re bonding!
After a while the mom came in and told me I must be tired, so we should all get ready for bed. I took a shower in an actual shower (compared to what I’ve been using at Jungwon University, which is a shower head cord above the sink) and used the two face cleansers that the mom spent a good deal of English telling me I should use. I’m not sure what we’re going to be doing tomorrow except for going shopping to get stuff that I like to eat (cereal and yogurt, basically).
All in all, a successful day. I’m so happy with my situations: the co-teachers and school administrators are nice, the family is as sweet as can be, the kids are cute, and the apartment is beautiful. I’m excited!