The first 31 days of 2010
01.01.2010 - 01.31.2010 32 °F
January finds me both settling in and full of new ambitions (including striving to update monthly).
The temperature generally hovers between -12 and 0 degrees Celsius...some days are blue skied and others are gray and dreary. There are still hunks of ice and snow around. Everyone is wearing neutral colored or black dress coats--sometimes, stepping onto the subway feels like walking into a funeral parlor. Many folks are wearing Ugg-style boots and children are sporting cute, furry animal hats. Vendors remain out in the street--everyday I walk past a truckload of almonds and walnuts, boxes of seafood, the open-faced butcher shop where hunks of beef or pork hang from hooks, and in the evenings, the sweet potato roasting contraption, manned by a bent and shrunken fellow.
I'm rather glad the holidays are behind me now. Video chats and lovely packages from home were comforting. Coworkers and I kept occupied with trips to Lotte World, Land of Magic and Fantasy, cookie and paper-chain making, music shows featuring bands from back home and holiday dinners in Itaewon at mildly tacky but very cheerful expat restaurants: Gecko's and the Irish pub, Wolfhounds. We did have an exceptional Christmas Eve dinner at Thai Orchid. A delicious green veggie curry and red wine were definitely outstanding.
Like any job I've had, after some initial discomfort, I've overcome most of the stress of the job and I'm able to enjoy my work and the students. With the exception of one troublesome class, I look forward to each group of students and the energy is a little better in this new year as I don't teach any of the tired, solemn older middle school students. We are currently working on coordinating graduation festivities and performances for the kindergartners. It should be highly entertaining at least. There are some minor office complications that are somewhat exacerbated by language and cultural differences but I'm sure working through them will make us all better, more compassionate humans. I hope. In March, we'll undergo some major changes: taking in new students, losing two foreign teachers and at least one Korean teacher, and taking on a (yes, only one) new foreign teacher.
January has passed quickly in a succession of grueling teaching weeks (more-so for other teachers who handled extra Intensive courses, I lucked out and just took on more kindies) and fun weekends.
- Discovering the pleasures of jimjilbang--this Wiki provides a very nice summary of the basic experience. The first time I went, we arrived at about 3am and just wanted to hot tub and sleep. We hunted around during what was obviously peak hour for sleeping mats and were just about to settle on the warm, yet hard floor when a sweet employee nabbed some for us from folks using them as blankets. Sleeping in the co-ed room was noisy (snoring and then cell phone alarms in the morning) but not unbearable...what was ridiculous was the Korean men who felt the need to occupy our space. I got up to use the bathroom at one point, and came back to see one sitting on my mat, even though I had noticed him earlier on his own mat. He jumped right up when I returned. In the morning, a man worked his way between my friend Val and me...I let it slide cuz it wasn't bothering me but then he tried to spoon her. Really! Since then, I've visited a huge, popular jimjilbang in our neighborhood, in the evenings, for exercise and relaxation. It's wonderful.
- Uzbek restaurants in Little Russia (near Dongdaemun Stadium, exit 2)--on the menu: the best beer in Seoul and delicious honey cake.
- Incheon day trip--Chinatown, a spontaneous tour with a self-taught English speaking, Road Dahl-reading boy and his family, a river tour to see the 7th longest bridge in the world during which time we witnessed the train-wreck that is drunken Korean men.
- Discovering yet another excellent venue for films off the beaten path (ahem! Avatar): I-Gong, Alternative Visual Culture Factory
- Continuing to meet people through amazing events such as the Wild Women's Performing Arts Festival coming up at the end of next month.