I’ve been here for nearly two months! Whoa!

The thing about starting my teaching job immediately (about 12 hours after coming to Ulsan) is that I more or less fell into a routine right away. It made the other-side-of-the-world-ness much less apparent, as everything just kind of fell into place and became routine. But adjusting to working a regular 9-to-5 is almost as big a change as adjusting to living in Korea! Almost…

For anyone who may be curious, this is what I do every day:

My Byeongyeong-dong one-room is about a 20 minute walk away from Samil Elementary, up and down some of the craziest hills I’ve ever seen (outside of Istanbul). The final stretch is down a giant hill, which gives me a pretty nice view. And I still find it kind of awesome that this is what I see every morning…

View on my walk to school in the morning

The other day I climbed up the rest of the hill to get a better view. It turns out I’m really close to the airport.

As it gets later and later in November, the trees on those hills have gradually reddened and then become brown. It kind of reminded me of a head of broccoli going bad. It’s mostly brown now.

Once I came across a praying mantis! And was so excited, I took a picture. I don’t think I’ve seen one running around before.
On my way home from school

Anyways, as I round that hill and head down towards Samil, I have to dodge students as they hurl themselves into gravity and go flying downhill. Then there’s a traffic light, which generally adds upwards of 3 minutes to my commute. The traffic lights here take forever! It’s absolutely amazing. I haven’t really timed them enough to get an average, but they are more or less an eternity. Especially compared to New York!

The closer I get to school, the more of my students I come across. They’re pretty easy to spot because a lot of them wear the bright yellow sweats they have for P.E. As I am the only foreign teacher at Samil, and still kind of new and exciting, I get get a lot of overly enthusiastic “Hello!”s. Sometimes I get “Annyeong Haseyos” which are are also of course appreciated, and some “Hellos” accompanied by a bow, which I’m not sure if I should perhaps say something about or not. Whenever I see students in the hall, I generally get an enthusiastic “Hello!” or a “Hello Ann Teacher!” Which is one of the best parts of my day. I’m working on getting them to try a bit more “Hi!” and “Good morning!”s so there’s some variety, but really it’s nothing to complain about.

I work in the English Center (or Engish Center, as this sign says, which explains quite a bit about what you can expect from our school’s program).
**since taking this picture, one of my co-teachers put the ‘L’ back on so it is the English Center.

This is where I teach.
I would say very few, if any students follow these rules.

This is where I teach.
This is one of my classrooms. That thing at the front is a fancy smart board, and it had a touch screen, which is quite fun. The room also has surround sound. Pretty fancy. (My other classroom has none of this, and is quite normal looking, by the way).

This is where I teach.
I have no idea why they chose a ‘dream center’ theme.

This back part of the room is never used at all. I’m trying to work out a way to get some use out of it…
This is where I teach.

…it seems like such a shame that these nice facilities are going to waste.
<img src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4104/5093151778_e6b17fbfdb.jpg" width="500"

I have yet to see someone read a book out of the library, either. We’re not really allowed to assign homework, which makes getting them to read books difficult.
This is where I teach.

At school, I wear ‘indoor shoes,’ or ‘slippers.’ Everyone does. What exactly qualifies as a slipper is a bit confusing to me, because some people wear tennis shoes and some people wear their slippers outside as well as inside and no one seems to think anything of it. However, there is a specific slipper section in most shoe departments, which is where I found these my first week in Ulsan. My feet were too wide to fit comfortably into any of the women’s shoes at Homeplus, and I wasn’t really keen on adding any heel-height to my already tall-for-Korea-stature, so I had to buy these Adidas-ripoff types.
My indoor shoes

The interesting thing about walking around in these all day is how noisy they are. Not only do they squeak, but they also wheeze. And, the wooden floors in the hallways at school squeak on top of all of that. So you can imagine how loud it is when I walk around anywhere. This would probably be worse if I wasn’t already the foreigner, and exceptionally tall, both of which probably draw more attention to me than my awkwardly squeaky shoes.

The best thing about wearing these shoes is that they are smooth enough to slide across the wooden floors. Which makes everything more fun.

Every day I eat lunch in the cafeteria, with several of the other staff, as well as all of the 1st – 3rd graders.
School Lunch
Today’s lunch: dried squid, tofu, kimchi, rice, and chicken soup
This is a rather exciting menu. Every day has some kind of rice and kimchi. But typically, the soup is filled with mussels and shrimp with eyes and extra-long feelers, and is almost always fishy-tasting. I’m not a fan of the fishiness, but try to motivate myself by thinking that it could have some of the benefits of fish oils in it…which are quite good for you, right?

As everyone finishes their lunch, they empty their food waste into two giant vats at the front of the cafeterias, to be composted. The lunch ladies put on rubber aprons and big rubber galoshes and hose the entire kitchen down – lunch trays, serving dishes, counters, floor, everything.

From there, I generally head to the fifth grade teachers’ lounge for some after-lunch coffee. Coffee in Korea is never drip coffee, unfortunately for me. Usually it’s instant coffee in a little package pre-mixed with powder creamer and sugar, which is mixed with a little hot water in a small paper cup.

I can’t say I’m really into it. I prefer the strong, unsweetened stuff, and I kind of like enjoying it for a while. Which is difficult to do when you just have a small shot.

When I first arrived, I was told to use whatever bathroom I wanted – student or teacher. The only bathroom on the fourth floor, where the English Center is, is a student bathroom. The bathroom doesn’t have any toilet paper, instead I was given my own roll and just have to take what I need with me when I go. I think it’s kind of awkward, because then everyone knows where you’re headed, but I guess everyone (else) is used to it, so it doesn’t really matter. I could use one of the staff bathrooms, but they only have squat toilets, which I’d prefer not to use. So for now I’m sticking with the student ones.

I try to avoid the bathrooms as much as I can after they’re cleaned in the afternoon, because they smell absolutely awful. It kind of makes me wonder if they just slop the same water over everything every day, but I’d rather not think about it.

My afternoons are class-free, which gives me time to lesson plan. I do at least 4 different lesson plans a week (one per grade), although these have to be varied a bit for some of the classes. A lot of lesson planning has to do with making power point presentations and seeing how I can make vocabulary and grammar practice into a competitive game. Some afternoons I get Korean lessons from one of my co-teachers. Sometimes I do small English lessons with a few of the teachers that want to improve their English. Sometimes I play volleyball (Wednesdays and Fridays). But generally the afternoons are pretty low-key.

These afternoons are spent in my office, which I share with my co-teacher. The office is freezing! It got cold a few weeks ago, and most of the school isn’t heated. Classrooms are, but hallways and apparently my office are not. And although all of the windows have two panes of glass on them, they still seem to be letting in quite a bit of air. So that should be interesting as it gets into winter..

As for my weekends…that will have to be another post.


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