Closing in on my third week in Korea, it’s safe to say I’ve learned an obscene amount about Korean culture, food, a little bit of the language, and a lot about teaching. Below is a list of korealizations (observations/discoveries/random things) that have struck me most about my experience so far (the key word being “my,” as what I observe/perceive may or may not be totally true of the entire country!). In no particular order:
- Many people here are adament gardners, and they will take to planting their seeds literally anywhere (along the highway, in the 2 square-foot space between their house and the sidewalk, along major intercity throughways, between the river and the walking/bicycle path downtown….anywwhere). As surprising as this was at first, once I considered how little arable land there is to be found here, and how many people make their living small market booths/grocery shops, it actually seemed quite sensible.
- Marble is a major component of many buildings and curbs. Maybe I’m ill-informed, but isn’t marble expensive? Or perhaps the stuff they use just LOOKS like marble? Either way, this certain type of rock is found all over the place!
- Have you heard of a self-stick? No? Well, they have them in Korea and it’s exactly what it sounds like: a stick to which you adhere your phone so you can extend it out and away from you in order to take the ultimate group (or individual) selfie. Then a remote takes the picture…I think. I haven’t bought one yet, but I’m pretty much sold on picking one up in the near future. Even with my long, lanky arms, it would be a nice gadget to have!
- Most buildings are equipped with modern air conditioning…but that doesn’t mean it gets used. During orientation and at my school, only certain rooms were/are air-conditioned and only at certain times of the day. I applaud the effort for energy efficiency, but man the heat and humidity can be a major demotivator when you’re trying to lesson plan!
- With the exception of two-lane/major streets, sidewalks aren’t really a thing here. Instead, everyone just walks in the middle of the road and slowly meanders out of the way when a car comes up ahead/from behind.
- Speaking of cars, everything I read about cars blowing off red lights is more or less true. There are also no stop signs anywhere. It’s either a traffic light, or this pathetic white line at the intersection that says “Tap the breaks here to check for cross-traffic, if you want, or take your chances and don’t!”
- Furthermore, most cars here have these foamy door protectors so that when a person parks too close to you, you can let the foamy thing touch the other car instead of your actual door, thereby avoiding any damange! They even have Micky Mouse shaped ones!
- As for teaching, the most difficult part for me by far is lesson planning. I’m sure it will get better, but right now I feel like it takes me forever to plan for just one class period. I try to borrow and “steal” from other teachers, but when I go to “tailor” it to my class, I basically end up redoing most of it. Something to work on, I suppose!
- In my experience, Koreans’ international reputation for incredible generosity, thoughtfulness and overall hospitality is right on parr. I’ve been made to feel so welcome here, and I’m looking forward to returning all of the favors I’ve received in the future!