Here are a few photos from my first two weeks in Korea. I think the fact that I’ve visited Korea before has immunised me to both culture shock and the joy of being somewhere new: I do not feel that anything particularly remarkable has happened so far and I guess I am a little disappointed at how mundane these first two weeks have seemed (though they have been very enjoyable). I am sure that this will change and I will feel pretty uncomfortable at some point soon; they do say that there’s a honeymoon period and since I was only here for one month last time I imagine I didn’t leave it.

Before the camp I stayed at a cute guesthouse in a fairly wealthy suburb of Incheon that seemed to be obsessed with growing vegetables.

We had a one week orientation camp at the National Institute for International Education in Seoul. The lectures were decent and the Korean staff were solid. Here’s a photo of the main entrance with the banner and a video the staff made. You get to see me looking really uncomfortable being filmed while waiting for a chest X-ray.

My first shop and some photos of my school. It’s claim to fame is that it’s the top elementary school in Korea for “foot volleyball”—I guess there is an actual name in English for this game—and has remained top of the league for some years. The name means “sand dune” because that’s what used to be on the site before. As such there is no school field but instead a large area of sand.

Here are some pictures of the commercial part of Nonhyeon (인천논현), which sits between my officetel (Konglish name for a one-room apartment like mine) and my school. The whole area is only about three years old and it feels manufactured. The Korean government decided there would be people here and it organised the building of a park here, a school here, an apartment block for people of average income X here, a commercial area here etc., and that clinicity has filtered through to the feel of the area.

Despite this it’s a really solid place to live compared to where a lot of foreign teachers are: there’s plenty of stuff to do in Nonhyeon itself so you don’t have to trapse to Incheon or even Seoul for anything beyond groceries.

Here are some pictures of my office and classroom. There are three desks in the office because there are three of us that make up the English department. I’m actually teaching myself for the first time on Monday [note: the Monday four days before the date of this post]; until I’ve done some teaching there’s not much to say about work.

Some shots of my officetel; the first two are the view from my window which wasn’t as good when I took the photo as it has been since there’s thick fog.

Finally some pictures of people I’ve met. I met up with my language exchange partner from Oxford, who lives in Seoul, at the end of the orientation camp when we had some free time. We went up to a suburb where there are lots of houses where ambassadors live and a few tiny Buddhist temples where the incredibly beautiful autumn colours were most clearly visible.

The guy who had my job two years ago happened to be visiting Korea this week so my colleagues and him and I went out for a meal.

I don’t have many pictures of the fellow Incheon teachers I met at the orientation camp for some reason. But we have our little group.

On Friday night I went out for some drinks with a girl from my hometown who is also teaching in Incheon, incredibly at the school right next door to mine, and some of her friends. We met up once before either of us came, back in July, and she’s been here since August. But the rest of the weekend I’ve been alone because it’s just so hard to organise meeting up when we’re spread across the city and we have very intermittent Internet, and no phones. This situation is likely to continue for the better part of two weeks as we have to have our national ID cards to get phone and broadband contracts.

This has made me realise that I need to figure out what kind of life I want to lead outside of school here. For the past week, my first week at work, my free time has been guided by social events organised by others and by the necessity of getting my apartment sorted—cleaning, and buying things, both of which take ages thanks to language barrier etc. How much time do I want to spend alone, and how much of it do I want to spend on studying Korean, how much on other studies and how much on entertainment? I’ve not been in this situation before where my real commitments are limited to 8:40am–4:40pm each day; it’s going to be extremely rare that work will follow me home outside of these hours, if ever. The fact that I haven’t got this figured out yet leaves me feeling disappointed due to lack of planned socialising, because I’m not yet got into good habits w.r.t. using my time alone.

Addendum a week after writing the above, when I’m actually publishing this post due to lack of Internet to upload photos: I have now found some proper Korean lessons to attend, 5 hours of lessons per week for approx. £12 for the eight week course but it is a proper lesson (the things the teacher does remind me of the English teaching paradigms I’ve been taught). This will motivate me to study more regularly. I also now have a phone but no SIM card for another ten days or so, but I can now use WiFi which is great. Sad to have a smartphone again but it will prove useful.

comment IVU87F3RTK6DODAH

A very interesting blog, Sean.  Our impression at this early stage is of a place which appears very clean, organised and “American” (!!)

Comment by granje and grandad Thu 07 Nov 2013 20:09:54 UTC