A big group of English teachers and I went paintballing about 40 minutes outside of Pohang. For 40,000 won; we got several rounds of paintball, a barbequed lunch, and transportation to and from the paintball course. Not too bad for a great day, eh?
This weekend, I finally managed to get outside the city limits of Pohang and make the long trip cross-country to Seoul. It’s not that I dislike Pohang – I really enjoy it here – but I need to see more of Korea! After all, I’m only going to be here a year. This was also a self-imposed test of my abilities to get places using the limited skills in Korean reading and speaking that I’ve picked up over the last month. Aside from asking for a few tips from my boss and Sehee (the friend I was meeting in Seoul); I was able to buy the bus ticket online, get to the station, find the subway, and take the right line to the correct stop. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. Having figured out the Italian and French rail systems in the past definitely helped a little bit. The Korean bus and subway systems are so efficient and well orchestrated, it was a breeze compared to my experience with the Italian trains. Sorry Italy. I still love you.
Alright, alright… so I couldn’t wait until after the weekend to write another update. Since I obviously haven’t been to Seoul yet, this one is about something else. Basically just an update on the teaching situation so far; since, after all, it is the reason I’m in South Korea to begin with.
Teaching is something that took me a couple weeks to get used to. The training and structure at the school was minimal if I’m being generous with my description, non-existent if I’m feeling particularly… ‘truthy’. Nonetheless, once I figured out where the students were in the books, what their proficiency levels were in English, and got used to the amount of material I should attempt to teach in each lesson, it became quite easy. My style with homework, tests, and presentations has always been to skim the material beforehand and then wing it. It’s pretty much the same thing teaching. I have two basic class structures. Activity/worksheet based, and listening based. Each individual class is merely a variation. Once I figured that out, it’s easy as pie. Of course, one of the harder parts is coming up with fun and exciting games to finish up the class period with. Now THAT’S tough.
Tonight we said goodbye to Dan and Natasha. It was a great time: lots of good food, laughter, and fantastic company. And, we learned the awesomeness that is the cinnamon roll hug.
Hold hands in a line.
One person rolls in until the whole group is wrapped in a spiral.
Bask in your awesomeness.
So, I enjoyed my first Pohang Steelers‘ match yesterday. Well, technically I only enjoyed half of it, since I managed to sleep through the entire first half. I’m not even going to shame myself by telling you what time the game started. That’s what I get for not setting an alarm though. After managing to communicate to the taxi driver where I wanted to go (I had to draw a picture of a soccer player shooting on the goal in my handy dandy notebook) I found myself at the Steelyard Stadium right next to the POSCO plant.
As I found out shortly before I came here, Korea has a thriving rock-climbing community. There seem to be quite a few great locations to get in good rock climbing of all types. Ice climbing also seems to be quite popular too. I’m thinking I’m going to have to try that at some point.
Pohang itself has multiple rock climbing clubs/centers that serve as a training and practice hub for close-knit groups of climbers who are very welcoming and encouraging of new arrivals. I was shown one of these facilities and introduced to its owner by Garth, a Canadian who’s been living in Pohang sporadically for the past eight years or so. He’s a great guy, and him and his wife Si-yen (I probably butchered that spelling so bad!) have been so helpful getting me acquainted with this city. Anyway, the center is on the second floor of a normal looking building in downtown Pohang. Several rooms have been converted, floor to ceiling, with all the grips and holds one would need to really hone their abilities. The membership cost is monthly and very reasonable, and you get 24 hour access to the facilities. Not bad, eh? I’m definitely going to be enrolling and taking advantage of it!
So, I promised you all some more details on Pohang, the city in South Korea that I now call home. You’re in luck! What follows is Pohang as I know it so far… which, granted, is hardly at all!
My studio apartment is rather small, but in line with what I was expecting. I’ve got a decent sized bed (though not as squishy as my bed back home), a table, chairs, microwave, and even a washer in unit. Even the kitchen came partially stocked with all the essentials. This definitely made the transition easier on me!
The view from my apartment
Many of you may have been asking yourself… why hasn’t Nathan posted anything about food? No pictures… hardly any mention… is he depressed or something? Well, never fear friends and family, what follows is the first of many entries about food! This entry is all about bulgogi, a staple Korean menu item. I got some pre-marinated meat from the market, which made cooking it very simple. They included all the spices, garlic, onions, mushrooms, and (of course) the delicious meat. I added some more onions, garlic, a fried egg, and some zucchini to give it a little color. You could add a lot more vegetables if you wanted to; some green onions would definitely be a good addition.
With the marinade already being prepared, all I had to do was combine everything in a pan, cook it, and enjoy the awesomeness. Anyway, enough of me talking… pictures anyone?
And so the journey begins! After years of hoping it would happen, and months of preparation, I finally made it to South Korea to begin my new life teaching English overseas! The last few weeks before I left were a frantic maelstrom of activity. I had so many people to see one last time, so much stuff to get rid of/move out of my place, and so many things I had to take care of at work! Really, I have no one to blame but myself for the frenzy of my departure. I agreed to leave a full two weeks before had planned, worked up until two days before departure, and put everything else off till the last minute. Nothing like a little excitement to make life more entertaining, right?
Getting over here was much easier than anticipated. My flight was all prearranged and paid for by the recruiting agency and academy that was offering me employment. I got on the plane with no hassle whatsoever, and began the long flight over to Korea. It was an 11.5 hour flight, followed almost immediately by a five and half hour bus ride. The person I sat next to on the plane was very nice; he told me some helpful tips about Pohang (his hometown and my new home), gave me his number and email if I needed any help, then helped me find my baggage and ticket office for the bus. Great first impression, Korea! I got on the bus and resumed the journey, fading in and out of consciousness as the night wore on. Needless to say, by the time my new boss picked me up at the bus station, I was a walking zombie.
These first couple days have been a whirlwind of activity. I’ve undergone a medical examination at the local hospital. Hey America, you should learn a few lessons from the Korean healthcare system. It’s lightning quick, cheap, efficient, and EVERYONE has coverage. Well played, Korea. The only part I really didn’t enjoy was getting my blood drawn. I’ve always hated needles. Also, when the doctor looked at my heart diagnostics, he asked me if I’d been having chest pains. I was a little alarmed, but simply told him how stressful the past few weeks had been. He seemed to understand.
I’ve also gotten set up with a cell phone on my boss’s cell phone plan. It’s a basic flip phone, which was a little disappointing at first, but then I discovered ‘basic flip phone’ doesn’t really mean the same thing in Korea as it does in America. My phone has video calling for cryin’ out loud! Sheesh. I’d love to transplant some of the old-timers who complain about how many buttons their phones have over to Korea… they’d probably have a heart attack.
The actual teaching started yesterday. I taught four classes ranging from beginner to intermediate, from 10 years old to 14. It was definitely an exercise in humility. Never have I felt so woefully under-prepared for a task. It’s only my talent for completely winging it that kept me from having a full-blown panic attack in front of a class of 10 year olds. By the end of the day, however, I felt slightly more comfortable than when I started, and I’m sure that it will only be a matter of a few weeks before I’m an English-teaching rock star.
The food here is fantastic. So flavorful, healthy, and FRESH. I’ve eaten some things that I had no hopes of identifying, but have enjoyed every meal so far. Maybe one of these days I’ll sink my teeth into a live octopus. Don’t worry, I’ll take a video.
I’ve got a couple pictures to upload as soon as I can. I’m going to try and give you a feel for the area I’m staying. New post hopefully coming soon! Thanks for reading.
As many of you know by now, I’ve gotten a position teaching English at a private academy in Pohang-si, South Korea. This is an awesome opportunity I’ve been looking forward to for a long time!! The contract is for one year, and I’ll be leaving sometime in October. The departure date is dependant on me receiving my E-2 teaching visa… so fingers crossed for sooner rather than later! I’ll get a proper post done once things are a little more finalized… but it looks like my global adventure is starting anew 🙂