A new life in Korea

6 Mar

We have arrived at our schools and this is my 3rd day here. We’re
placed in a small town called Yeongju in the province Gyeongsambuk.
Baden and I are teaching
at different schools: he is at the boys only high school and I am
teaching girls only again. His school is newer than mine with better
facilities and it’s closer to home. I traveller further and go to a
school slightly less resourced – it seems like a strange reversal of
the last few years where I was close and he travelled. The school
provides us with accommodation and we were given a neat and clean room
with a single bed (yes, a single bed! So for 1 week we tried sleeping
still, then we tried head to toe and now Baden is sleeping on the
floor!) My school is buying us a double bed which should be arriving
this evening. I was a bit disappointed that the place was so small
because we were told that married couples usually get 2 bedroom
apartments but it is big enough and it is very clean with nice finishings.

It takes me about 30 minutes to get to work. This includes a 10 minute
walk to the bus stop near my house, a 15 minute bus ride and then
another 5 minute walk up a steep hill to get to the school. I do have
a beautiful view of the city from my classroom and am blessed to have
my OWN classroom. It is painted pink and blue and is termed the
ENGLISH ONLY ROOM. The other teachers move around to get to their
classrooms so I am lucky.

My job is
mainly to get the students to speak English. There are “Korean English
teachers” who teach the set syllabus, who set and mark tests, who have
home rooms and who offer extra lessons. I don’t have to do any
marking! My hours are 9am – 5pm and I have to be at school regardless
of whether I am teaching. There is not much to do when I only prep one
lesson a week and have no marking. School officially starts at 8am and
ends at 6pm for the students and the government provides lunch and
dinner for students and teachers at a very low cost (about R14 a
meal!) Extra lessons and self study classes are offered until 10pm.
The Korean government has had to employ “school police” who do spot
checks in schools to ensure that all classes end at 10pm because some
schools were offering lessons until 2 or 3 in the morning! That is how
hard these students work! There is so much pressure to succeed that
some students will literally work all night at school.

I have a co teacher who is in the classroom with me at all times and
that is quite helpful. She offers good suggestions and helps explain a
task if it complicated. She is really nice and has been very helpful.

We have tried to learn the language and I can speak 5 sentences but
reading is very difficult. The Koreans have a strong sense of respect
for their elders and when you greet someone in the corridors they will
bow to you. The students have learnt that in Western culture it is
common to wave so when I am walking with my co teacher, you can see a
frenzy of confused students bowing and waving simultaneously. Korean
people are very kind – yesterday I went to a small shop outside my
school to buy milk and sugar for my tea. The shop did not sell sugar
so the lady went to her house in the back and gave me a cup of sugar
from her own supplies. They also have the belief that it is unlucky to
touch someone else’s things so it is very safe for me to leave my
phone and handbag in my classroom unlocked.

They don’t have domesitc
workers here at all so there is “cleaning class” where the students
mop the floors, wipe the toilets, clean the bins. It is quite strange
to see them cleaning cheerfully and diligently. I suppose we are used
to someone else cleaning up after us. This does also mean that I have
to clean my own apartment and do my own ironing! My school also only
has squating toilets which is something to get used to!

We have found that Korea is sadly expensive – especially fruit. I have
to pay R35 for 5 apples and a meat tray in a supermarket can cost me
R50! And English lipton tea cost me about R50!! Clothes are fairly
cheap, especially considering the quality is good – and I am
(finally!) building a new wardrope. There are lots of beautiful second hand shops
in Yeongju – really good quality for really good prices. I bought a
new down feather jacket for R300! It is cold here but I think we have
missed the worst of the weather. The average weather in winter is -5!


5 Responses to “A new life in Korea”

  1. Trish Middlebrook March 6, 2012 at 7:44 am #

    Really nice to get this news – will follow your blog with interest!!! love you lots

  2. Jessica March 6, 2012 at 10:22 am #

    So glad you started a Blog! Cant wait to hear about more news!

  3. Monica Dowie March 6, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    Awesome blog Cath! Keep it up… So cool to read all your news!

  4. Nic vd Meer March 6, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    Awesome news, stories and perspectives, so interesting to read!!

  5. Claire August 26, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    Hi there, Ive just found out that I have been placed in yeongju. I am also a South African. I was wondering if you could tell me anything about it?

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