Well I've now gotten through my first week of classes and my first weekend here in Korea. I've really enjoyed it here so far and I figured I would recap some of my experiences and my initial observations about life in Korea.
So let's start with the flight. It is definitely a very long flight from JFK to Incheon airport. I took a direct flight and it lasted about 14 hours. Here is the approximate flight path:
After I landed I caught a bus to Gumi, which took about 4 hours. Upon arriving in Korea the first thing that struck me was that it really wasn't as different as I had anticipated. There were of course the obvious differences such as the language and the fact that everyone was Korean.
Quick Note: Coming from the U.S. we are pretty used to seeing people from virtually every ethnicity in the world. In Korea I would say about 99 % of the people here are in fact Korean. If you see a foreigner in Korea you can pretty much assume that they are either an American soldier, an English teacher, or a tourist.
But anyway, the two things that struck me as very similar to the U.S. were the standard of living and the infrastructure. Most of cars on the road were pretty nice (although they are all made by Hyundai and Kia) and the cities look pretty similar to western cities.
Another note: For some reason Koreans love tinted windows. I would say over half the cars I have seen here have tinted windows.
So I arrived Monday night and was then already in the classroom on Tuesday afternoon. Most of the students are very well behaved and the older students in particular are very serious about their studies.
I will be honest and admit that my first day I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. But in some ways getting thrown into the classroom is actually pretty helpful because it forces you to learn quickly. From what I've heard it takes about 3 weeks to really get used to it so I will let you know how it's going at that point.
My first weekend here was pretty fun. I went out with my coworkers to some bars and met a lot of other English teachers. Koreans in general are very friendly and outgoing people. I went to my first true Korean restaurant on Saturday. There are not any chairs, so you sit on the floor. There is also a fire pit in the center of the table and they bring out a slab of meat and you are responsible for cutting it and cooking it.
Today I found a place to go hiking near my apartment and it provided some pretty good views of my town.