Friday, September 2, 2011

Early Observations

So I have been settled in my apartment for almost a week now and have the following insights to Korean daily and school life to offer you...

1. Any paved space = parking lot. This includes the sidewalk you may be walking on at the exact moment that a car decides they need to park. Motorcycles also use the sidewalks at will.

2. Korean students have the best socks! When students come to my class, they have to take their shoes off (tradition). This exposes their wide variety in sock choices. Keep in mind, I teach at an all-boys high school. Some of the best socks I've seen the past week:

- Superman
- Simpsons
- Power Puff Girls (no joke!)
- Cartoon animals (mainly dogs and cats, but also one frog for good measure)
- McDonald's Golden Arches
- Koala and Polar Bears
- Batman

I'm sure that this list will continue to grow as my time here in Seoul progresses...

3. The morning commute is insane! The subways are packed to the brim and trying to get off is brutal. I had to fight through at least 15 people today just to get off at my stop. Looks like I'm going to have to leave my good ole Midwestern values at home. Politeness and the subway do NOT mix here!

4. It's an interesting feeling when you're sitting at lunch surrounded by Korean teachers, all speaking Korean and using your name at will, while continually pointing in your direction. I can't help but smile because obviously they are talking about me (and are not bashful at all about it!). Just hope it's all good things!

5. The bells at school are awesome! Forget that boring old American school bell. Here in Korea they play a little song! Only problem is that it doesn't work in my classroom (fantastic!). So I have to go by the clock, which supposedly is 5 minutes slow (according to one co-teacher), but matches all the other clocks in the building. Oh well, the students have 10 minutes for passing time. Pretty sure they can make it to their next class.

6. Not sure if this is true of just Koreans, but the boys at my school at super touchy with each other. For example, I had one class where several boys laid in the laps of the person sitting next to them and received a head message. They are constantly touching, slapping, kicking, punching, and pinching each other. They also like to jump on each other's backs and walk around either holding hands or with their arms wrapped around each other's waist. It's been an adjustment!

7. Being called "handsome" by a Korean is nothing to really take as a special compliment...they say it to everyone. Students. Teachers. The principal. Vice-Principal. All have called me handsome at some point during my time at school. Also, I have had students profess their love for me while in line for the cafeteria. Kinda catches you off guard when one of the students you've seen once and don't know their names yells out of the second floor window "I LOVE YOU MICHAEL TEACHER!"

8. One way streets actually mean drive whichever way you want to. I have seen more drivers driving the WRONG way down a one way get pissed at the people driving the CORRECT way. Learn what an arrow with an X through it means!

So I made it through my first week of teaching! I'm very excited to move on to something other than introducing myself! Next week I am teaching my students about American Thanksgiving with the help of my favorite show of all time, Friends! Korean Thanksgiving is next Saturday, so I have a 5-day weekend. The tentative plans at the moment are to visit the DMZ and then head to Beijing, China for the rest of the break. Hopefully it all works out and I can get some people to come with me!

College football kicks off this weekend! It's going to weird not being able to watch any games live, but I will survive. Have a great Labor Day weekend everyone!

For good measure...Go Panthers! Beat State!