Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Why *NOT* to live in Seoul: Six reasons why I love living in Korea's most boring province

Inspired by a question asked by my recruiter recently, I would like to share a few reasons why I love living in not-Seoul.
As a resident of Cheongju, capital of chungcheongbuk-do (chungbuk, for short), likely Korea's most boring province, I can think of more than a few reasons not to live in Seoul. Here are a few:

1.Have a ready-made network of awesome people, always happy to befriend a newbie.
Although I did not see another foreigner for just over a week after I arrived, from the first night I stepped into a bar I've made amazing friends, and I make more weekly, even four months later. That is (obviously) not to say that there aren't some amazing people for you to befriend in Seoul, I'm sure there are, but they're a lot harder to find.
In addition, the relatively small size of Cheongju's foreigner community means that i would feel comfortable approaching any foreigner I see on the street, and we likely have friends in common.
2.Learn Korean (or don't)
Every time I've gone to Seoul, I am taken aback by the number of people who speak English.
Oggling a subway map one day, a random dude directed my friend and I in perfect English to the correct platform.
Buying beer from a corner store, I asked in Korean if they had any paper cups (generally at the counter and sold in singles for this purpose). The cashier ( an older guy) was visibly shocked by my words and could not stop praising my Korean. He even engaged me in a short conversation about where I live, etc. while this was nice, I remarked as soon as I left that i never would have learned Korean in Seoul. Or at least not as fast. There are no opportunities to practice, even the store clerk speaks English!
That being said, I do know people who have survived here for a year or two without any Korean, so if that's what you're afraid of and why you want to live in Seoul, you don't need to worry (and odds are that even if you're not in Seoul, you'll still be in a bigger city than Cheongju, where you can survive on English if that's what you want).
I'll probably write another post soon on my opinions about that, but that doesn't belong here.
3. Save BUCKETS of money.
Seriously. Without trying AT ALL, I have ~$2,000 in the bank in four months. This is after buying a new MacBook, plane tickets to Cambodia, and $400 worth of dental work.
4. Be centrally located.
I can be at Inchon airport in 2 hours ( it can take that long from some parts of Seoul), in Busan in 3 hours, in Boryeong for MudFest in 2 hours, in Daegu in under 2 hours, in Yeosu for the World Expo in 3 hours (with transfer in Daejeon). For those of you who aren't familiar with the geography of this country, all of those places are really far from each other. But not from me.
5. Be able to breathe.
I've heard a good bit from friends, forums, etc., that the pollution can get pretty nasty in and around Seoul. I've never been in the city for more than one night so I can't say I've noticed, but the air here is (hot and humid, but) not at all like what I've heard of Seoul.
6. Experience Korea.
This one kind of combines all of the previous reasons into one.
I know that Seoul has all the conveniences of Western life, but of you want those, then stay home. You are moving probably at least a third of the way around the globe, things will be different. You do not NEED Taco Bell (but believe me I do go every time I'm in Seoul), your favorite brand of candy bar, a shwarma stand to go to when you're drunk. I know they're nice to have, but that's not Korea.
I bet one of the most appealing things about getting a job in Korea is the ability to see the world and save money at the same time, right? I sure think so. But if you ask me, that's not seeing the rest of the world, that's seeing the parts of the world that are just like ours.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Work-ity work work

I'm going to try to make a point of talking a bit more about work, seeing as that is what I do with the majority of my time here.
My job is pretty great, but it is exhausting. I catch the bus every day at 8:40, have 1-2 before-school classes starting at 9:30, then regular classes from 10:50 to 12:05 and 1:00 to 2:15. Then and after school class on Monday and Wednesday.
Then I clean my room (sweep and wipe desks daily, mop twice a week), sharpen pencils, and/or laminate stuff or make worksheets/prepare for the next day's classes. Then I go home at 4:30.
It's about a 25 minute walk home, which wasn't so bad when the weather was nice but lately it's just too g**d*** hot. So when I can, I skip out 5 minutes early to catch the bus (which only runs once an hour) at 4:25. If I miss it (and sometimes when it's not too hot), it's a hot sticky walk home.
My regular classes are not much fun. It's generally me trying to get kids to recite sentences from a story that they pretty much have to memorize. They have five weeks to learn the story and complete three (small) textbooks, two based on the story and a third on phonics.
My special (before- and after-school) classes are the more interesting ones. Last month, we had a loose focus on the outdoors and spring and summer. We did a story on spring, a week where we learned about playground stuff and then went outside, a story on rain/playing in puddles, a day of review and then we went outside again (I was trying to get them outside before the weather gets too hot). This month there's kinda a hodgepodge of stuff. This week we're working on reading. Which kinda sucks for everyone involved but it's an important skill. Which reminds me I need to make the worksheet for the 5-year-olds. Grr. Next week we're doing verbs and playing a game with balls and learning verbs. Then we're gonna learn some vocabulary about snack time and make Chex mix. That should be a fun class.
I enjoy my special classes because they're the only thing I really get a say in, the regular classes I really just have to teach the book. Which is easy, but I don't feel like much of a teacher.
I also have to come up with activities for 'camp:' two days before summer vacation and two days after. It's really just supposed to be games and activities because it's off-book and 'camp'-y, but I have no idea what to do. it's just two days, 25 minutes each day. all the other subjects are doing cool stuff like making food and doing art stuff, so I want to make mine interesting.
Look at me! Keeping my blog updated! woo! Hopefully see y'all soon!