26 January 2011

Let's Recap

With the two month mark approaching I thought it would be appropriate to provide a short post on my experiences here thus far.  I have obviously been dedicating most of this blog to travel and history, but maybe a quick synopsis of my everyday life is in order. 

A normal day during the week usually sees me getting up around 10:00, getting on the internet to talk to people or write on the blog before work and then getting ready for work and heading out around 1:00.  My day starts at 1:30, but I don't actually have to teach until 3:20.  These 2 hours before class are dedicated to prep time, but I usually don't need the full 2 hours.  Once classes start, there are B, C, D, E, F, and G level classes.  The B level students are in the first class of the day, which runs from 3:20 to 4:05, and these students only have a very basic knowledge of English.  The C level class is next (each class is 45 minutes, with a 5 minute break), and these students are also pretty new to learning English.  Pronunciation and reading are the two big areas I focus on with these levels.  D level is the last class before dinner, which is at 5:45.  D level students are definitely more advanced, so more emphasis is placed on understanding.  The dinner break is from 5:45 to 6:20, for which I usually get some Korean take-out (Hansot).  Dinner is followed by the E and F classes.  E students are similar to the D level, but F students for the most part are very advanced.  I can have pretty good, albeit basic, conversations with these students.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays the F class is the last class of the day.  However, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I teach G level students.  There are 3 levels of G students and I teach all 3 levels for 25 minutes each day.  These are the best English speakers in the school and for the most part, they all speak English very well.  On these 3 days I end work at 9:40.  After work I usually either go out with my coworkers for a little or head back to my place to plan some trips, read, or write on the blog before turning in sometime between 2:00 and 3:00. 

My weekends aren't quite as regimented, so I can't really provide a profile of a typical weekend day.  These days can really span everything from waking up at 6:30 to getting out of bed at 1:30.  I could be wandering around Seoul or planning my next trip.  I might be getting to bed at 12:30 or 5:30.  So it's pretty much all over the place.  But anyway, here's a report card (I'm a teacher now) to keep you updated.

Me: B
Well, it's always tough to give yourself a grade on something.  I'm not the most objective person in the world on this subject to say the least.  But I feel as though I've made very good progress in teaching.  Teaching is very tough to do well.  A lot of people teach for 35 years and still don't completely master it, so in no way am I suggesting that I've even come remotely close to mastering this art.  But in considering that I've only taught for 2 months and I have no prior training, I think I'm coming along very well.  I really am continually learning and I've been doing my best to change up the lessons from day to day or week to week. 

Coworkers: A
My coworkers have been really great (and by the way, to the best of my knowledge none of my coworkers read my blog, so this isn't just pandering).  I really wasn't sure about what to expect in terms of English-speaking ability from my coworkers, but it turns out that many of them have experience in English-speaking countries and as a result speak English very well.  My boss lived and studied in the United States for multiple years.  One of my coworkers lived in England and another one has traveled all over Europe.  My Canadian coworker has also been very helpful during the transition process.

Students: A+
These guys are pretty great.  With the exception of a couple students, I don't really have anything bad to say about them.  They're motivated, smart, and respectful.  What more could you ask for?

Me: A
I would say I've done a pretty good job of maximizing my travel experience here so far.  I've traveled and explored almost every weekend (last weekend being the notable exception) and I still have an almost endless list of stuff that I'm looking to do.  After all, I've only been here in the winter so far.  Once springtime rolls around, it's go time.

South Korea: A
I've really enjoyed seeing the sites in South Korea.  This grade comes after only seeing 1 of my top 3 things to see in Korea, which are Seoul, Mt. Seorak, and Jeju Island.  I can't wait to see the other two and more of this country.

Me: C
Honestly, I haven't been going out very much (although when I have gone out, I've stayed out until like 5:00).  I really have just been completely focused on travel and unfortunately nightlife kind of gets in the way.

South Korea: A-
South Korea has more bars than I've ever seen in my life.  Not necessarily the rocking out bars (although there are those too), but there are just a lot of places to sit down and have a drink with a few people.  I've really enjoyed the bars, especially in Daegu and Seoul, but I really don't like the whole idea of staying out until 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning.  It really screws up my travel plans.

Trains: A
I haven't even taken the KTX yet, which is South Korea's bullet train, but the trains system gets this grade simply because of its complexity.  You can travel to any city in the country within a few hours.  This makes day-trips and weekend-trips a very real possibility for most places.

Subways: A+
Overall, the nicest subway system I've ever seen.  Some of the smaller cities, like Daegu, could use more extensive systems, but this grade really comes from the cleanliness of the trains and stations.  The subway networks are obviously new and very well maintained.

Buses: C
These are so-so.  The lack of English signage can be problematic.  They also just have a much more cramped feeling than the trains or subways.

Cars: N/A
I don't know how I would actually grade the cars, but I just wanted to talk about how different the road system is in Korea.  There are a total of like 2 or 3 traffic lights in Waegwan and probably about as many stop signs.  Basically, people make up their own rules of the road.  Even the traffic lights seem to be more like "suggestions" than actual laws.  It's really not that uncommon to see someone running a red light a few seconds after the light has completely changed. 

Walking: D
This comes from South Korea's refusal to salt their sidewalks.  Seriously, I feel like Crash Bandicoot sometimes on the way to work.  This was even the case in Seoul, so it's not just limited to small towns. 

Overall Grade: A
This has been an amazing experience thus far.  Living in another country, especially in Asia, provides such a different experience from the normal everyday life in the United States.  I love the fact that I've been continually learning while I'm here and really hope that doesn't change.

Despite how much I love Korea, I'm going to be heading across the Korea Strait on February 2nd for a five day trip to Japan.  So wish me luck on that and I'll be providing some pictures and stories about Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, and other areas of western Japan.