Monday, September 16, 2013

Wash and Repeat

New Beginnings. Again...

“Let the grateful heart sweep through the day that it may recognize in every hour some sweet blessing”
-Henry Ward Beecher

So, Korea: yes. I have arrived- very much so. As promised, I will do my best to relate my experiences here and write them in a somewhat coherent and succinct way; however, I cannot promise to be concise…

There has been a (for some) noted lapse in my updates, which will be explained presently. Much has happened, and so I will do my best to put it into categories and pictures.

Arrival/Orientation- I came in on a Monday evening, which would have been Sunday morning at home- a Sunday in which I would have been quite hung over, given the previous night I had with Willow, circumstances considered. Disorientation doesn’t do it justice; yet, due to the jetlag, I still rose early with enough time to do yoga and ruminate before leaving at 6:00 a.m., via Alistair Weary- my Korean liaison, with Bill and Will, the two fine fellows that arrived that same day, by happenstance. The following week was consumed with 11-hour days filled with a very regimented schedule in Asan, a city within the province of Chungnam (like a state) along with the other 60 or so Native Teachers in this district. Professional development and making friends was the name of the game. This is the first time I have taught English as a language, versus a subject, so the input, personal stories, and insight of those that have been here for longer than me was invaluable. Even more important were the personal connections I was able to make right off the bat. Amazing people and energy; I do believe that there are a special several, few kindreds, that will be key players to come. Key.
During orientation, we took a field trip to the National Independence Hall. This Starwars-y looking place housed the most powerful, reverberating bell I've ever heard.

Jo Min-a, the cutest orientation counselor this side of the Yellow

On the final day of orientation, we gave group presentations. I may or may not have been the self-appointed choreographer for our group, that WON!

All Chungnam orientees sweating in the heat

The soccer field at the orientation grounds

Independence Hall

The previously-mentioned King Kong bell

I can't remember the name of this, but I believe it's a memorial built in honor of the comfort women of the past.

The main little area of the orientation compound. That building is dorms. 

Home- Though it took some work, (which I don’t mind because putting effort into something makes worth-while) my new home finally feels quite comfortable and like my own. Here are some pictures of my building and its surroundings, which is within spitting distance of my school. You could literally throw a stone and it would land on the basketball courts. I will post pictures of the inside of my apartment when I get a few more accouterments and it’s completely done so I can present it as a finished product. It’s still a work in progress.

My building. I will call it the city flat

If you walk outside my building, and look/step to the South
If you walk down to the end of the above street
My Placement/School- I am posted in the city of Cheonan. It is a proper city. I’m not used to this. It’s thrilling, and will be an adjustment. Upon leaving our orientation in Asan, my main co/contact teacher (with whom I am and will become even-more good friends), Ji-Yeon Choi, and Mr. Han (the director of the internship program that I teach) picked me up and took me to a hotel, where I stayed for the following week because the Native teacher I have replaced had not yet left.

In front of my school, Cheonan Technical High. The campus is huge.

My domain

My desk, and just on the side, Mouse, self-appointed "officer"
 I teach at Cheonan Technical high school. My school is 95% boy. It is the biggest school in the entire province (over 1,500) and the best technical high school in the whole district. I teach 7 classes of “regular” English during the week, with 4 different co-teachers that vary in style and commitment. Additionally, every day, I teach an Internship Class, from 4:50-7:50 p.m., that is preparation for a platform which will, hopefully, prepare those chosen students for an actual real-life chance to go to either the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, or Australia to work as interns after they graduate. For this, I have no co-teacher. I also have done a little special tutoring, and am working on building a fan club. I am amazed at the right-brained brilliance of my students, (even more so of in that of the young women that have made the conscientious choice to come here because they want to be mechanical engineers) and many of them commute for over an hour to be here. And, as a general rule, there is very little interest to learn English. They are truly striving to succeed within their chosen fields- electro mechanics, bio engineering, megatronics, ect.- and have no need or concern for learning the nuances of a foreign language- which I totally get. Would I learn how to speak fluent German if I had no plan of ever living in Germany or using it in my practical life? Doubtful. Therefore, I will be quite challenged to be effective, maybe. On the upside, I have been proposed to well over a dozen times already, so I do have their attention, in a certain, albeit superficial way at the moment. I mean to utilize whatever small edge I have, for now, to engage them in games and fun, activity-based lessons to bolster motivation. As is always the case, those that want to learn will, and those that don’t, I hope to at least build rapport with. Lots of smiles, acting a fool, wild gesticulating, drawing pictures, power points, and winking ;)

A gorgeous botanical garden on Anmyeondo Island, named the Arboratum- clearly not Cheonan

Lily pads and frogs abound in the countryside here!

Same garden as above

Greenhouse in that garden
 I am humbled with the gratitude I feel for the care and kindness with which I have been treated. For example, after Choi and Mr. Han got me settled in the hotel where I stayed for the following while, they walked me to my school so I would know. Then, Choi had to split, so Mr. Han and I walked back together. He speaks almost no English, but we stopped for food after looking at the school. Even though communication was patchy, there was such an ease and gentility to his presence. He insisted on paying and said, "No, it's on me!" I have a feeling he learned that just for the occasion. I very well cared-for. I feel cradled by the universe right now and unbelievably blessed; I am inspired to give it right back....somehow.

Hound sleeping very peacefully there, on the busy street in Seoul

Coolest car ever! (street of Cheonan)

I'm a sucker for a nice foul 
Because it's funny
Food- As seems to be consistently the case, I can connect with the people and culture through my willingness eat anything put in front of me, and actually really love it. I have also earned points for being good at eating with chopsticks! Nothing more to say here than I love the food; it’s doing my body good!
Seafood market

Local delicacy- squid

Despite my skeptical look, I was way into this seafood cornucopia of deliciousness
To the face!

Seriously all I do here is eat...

And grill thick bacon whilst wearing a bib....

And drink. I do some of that too... ;)

Personal- Without meaning to protest, it has felt like a long stretch that I have been rather disjointed. Yet, that has been somewhat of a pleasure, so the former statement isn’t as much of a complaint as it is a reflection of my own expectations. Right away, I applied for my alien registration card: without which, I cannot get my phone to work, bank account, anything, really. On the other hand, the forced hiatus from being connected at the hip with people back home has forced me to be fully present with and to my circumstances, which are beautiful. Speaking of which…

I can’t say that I feel necessarily homesick, or the separation anxiety that I did last year. This is not to say that I don’t think of the people who are reading this and yearn to share these visions and moments with you every single day; but I have brought you all here with me. I look at it this way: I won’t compare Bhutan to this; I can’t. Apples to oranges. But I can say that, when going to Bhutan, I was hoping/assuming that I would magically trans-morph into a certain type of person, simply by osmosis. The time I spent at my home in Nebraska in between Bhutan and now, though not felt or seen as that at the time, added to what I felt and experienced in Bhutan and prepared me for this. I am now fully open, ready, and receptive to all this newness, and I can’t say that was the case in my previous experience. Running the risk of sounding redundant, again: I am so open, grateful, and aware of the blessings that are being bestowed on me now. I feel that life is gifting me in such big and small ways. And with this recognition comes the mitigated sensation that I’m cashing in all my chips at once, inadvertently so. So I hope I can do enough to give back. Because I feel vibrant; I feel vital; I feel I am who and where I should be right now. I am thriving.

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