Friday, October 31, 2008

Korean Adventure: Monday

So, Monday morning I went into school with my fiancee. I was clearly still jet lagged, as getting up at 7am was absolutely no challenge. The trip to the school is a half hour walk. As we were entering the grounds, a kid pointed at me and yelled, "waygook saram," meaning foreigner (literally "alien person"). Coming from Toronto, Seoul is nowhere near as multicultural. I mean, I see a non-Korean person, or group of people, anytime I go to a busy area, but the vast majority of people are Korean, and thus it's hardly surprising that elementary school children have seen few foreigners. I was a bit surprised by some of the reactions, despite being told what they would be by fiancee. Kids would say hi to me in English, then runaway. The running was accompanied by yelling in the case of boys and giggling for girls. The other usual reaction is shyness and avoidance.

I met her co-teachers and the principal and vp. They're all very friendly and nice. Her co-teachers speak very good English, but most of the other teachers do not. The nurse / health teacher was also quite nice, and gave me a present of two neck-hankerchiefs with a map of Seoul and of Jeju Island.

I went around to the various grade 4 classes they were teaching, was introduced, and gave them the opportunity to ask questions. The usual questions were my age, height, favourite foods, sports, hobbies. There were a few odd ones like, "Do you really love her?" or, "How many other girlfriends do you have?". You know, left-field questions that only kids would throw at you. I was also called "very handsome" or "handsome boy" by several of the boys and one or two of the girls. This is apparently common for the English teaching men who come to Korea. The classes themselves remind me a lot of how my grade four and five French classes were, though a bit more high tech (obviously, as it's been a while since I took French), like videos as opposed to our cassette tapes.

Lunches are prepared for the students and staff. They so far always involve rice, kimchi, and a soup of the day, along with another dish that changes.

My fiancee's classes always end in the early afternoon, but she has to stay until the end of the day at 4. There was a staff meeting at the end of the day, and I was introduced to everyone and put on the spot to say hello and stuff. I was also asked if I wanted to come back all week to see the other grades. The grade sixes seemed particularly interested in me coming to their class.

After school, we headed off to Costco and signed up for a membership. Memberships are quite cheap here, and there are a few things common in Canada but rare or hugely expensive in Korea that you can only get (or only get cheaply) at some of the larger stores like Costco. For instance we picked up a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, which she hasn't been able to find anywhere. Plus, we got a decently priced 2 lb. block of cheddar (cheese is somewhat expensive in Korea).

I've never been to Costco in Canada and was impressed by the bulk in which you have to buy there. There package of cheese puffs was insanely huge! Also, we were a little hungry and discovered that nearly every aisle had a free sample of food and you could very easily tide yourself over for hours if you wanted.

Big Vodka

We went home with our purchases and got dinner from "Oh My Chicken", a nearby fried chicken place (fried chicken is very popular and everywhere in Korea!). It was amazingly good, and not too greasy at all. I must eat there again before I leave. Supper and again CSI on TV (three episodes in a row are on almost every night in English with Korean subtitles).

Throughout the day, the minor cold that I had from the weekend was getting worse, and by the evening I really wasn't feeling too well. With a bit of a fever, and my jet lag I went off to bed early.

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