A few months back I completed my last Peace Corps blog post with the following:
Just the other day, I came across an old bucket list I had made a few years back. One of the goals was to live in a foreign country for a year. 26 months later I suppose that is a double check. Speak another language- Check. Make a positive impact in the world-Check. Which check is next? Travel Asia or get a tattoo? I am excited to find out.
I decided on the latter; this is my masterpiece.
Just kidding. As many of you may know, I am currently living and teaching in South Korea. I completed my 120-hour TESL certification while in Guatemala and have embarked on a very different, but nevertheless exciting journey across the globe. This time round I do not have a curfew and Luis has joined me. I figured this would be a great medium for sharing photos and experiences with family and friends back home. And, of course, whoever those people who continually read my blog from Russia and the Ukraine may be.
Although fully aware I was traveling to an extremely developed country, I subconsciously mentally prepared myself for a Peace Corps II. I knew this was not the case, but I think I started to connect going away with bucket baths, latrines, and malaria medication. My fully-furnished apartment, stove and plate dryer included, and health insurance are concrete examples of the luxuries I am fortunate to have here. South Korea actually ranks fifteenth world-wide on the UN’s HDI (Human Development Index), ahead of the likes of France, Spain, Italy, and Denmark.
I am living under great conditions. More importantly, I am extremely interested in the opportunity to experience international education in a much more developed environment. To give a brief overview, I am teaching in a private language school, or hagwon. Students are extremely motivated and equally pushed to be successful academically. I am teaching a wide range of students: My Friday first period is the beginner class (5-7) and much focus is put on phonetics and basic grammar. My final class on Friday is the advanced students (12-15) with focus on reading comprehension and conversation. Our first pre-planned lesson happened to be about JFK and a piece about the Peace Corps. I can’t make this shtuff up. I really enjoy the variation in age range and the different obstacles and learning opportunities they offer.
Hangul, the name of the Korean alphabet, is slowly becoming my friend. The written language goes back to 1446 when it was created as an easy way for the common population to communicate. A portion of the population had previously used Chinese characters and Hangul was the solution to advancing national communication - thankfully it is supposed to be the easiest Asian language to get a grasp on!
The weather thus far has gracefully lied somewhere between gorgeous and ungodly humid. My apartment complex is alongside a river and is coined as the ‘country’ by local folk (Luis’ boss) who live in the city of Gumi. This ‘country’ has countless coffee shops, grocery stores, and twenty-story apartments. Plus, it costs around $2.40 to get to Luis on public transport. In old Peace Corps fashion (I miss my morning hikes from Chamelco to the tea cooperative) I walked an hour and a half from my house to the city nearest him. I was able to save bus fare to get there, but ended up splurging on a Smoothie King smoothie to quench my thirst upon arrival.