Seeing in the New Year...
Trip Start Dec 11, 2008
32Trip End Dec 13, 2009
I took the subway to Insadong first of all, a crowded touristy street that reminded me of Asakusa in Tokyo - lots of people, souvenirs etc. I enjoyed wandering around although it's way too early to think about souvenirs, with potentially another eleven months ahead. I've barely taken any photos since arriving either, as I will have ample opportunity in the future. I looked upon this initial jaunt as a way of familiarising myself with the city and it's highlights...
Korean people are much more abrupt/direct than the Japanese, often pushing in front of you in queues and the like. Despite this, I still found myself carrying an old lady's bag up an entire set of steps at one subway station, as she was clearly struggling. Once an English gentleman, always an English gentleman!
I had a stroll to Gyeongbokgung in the afternoon, an impressive palace that seemed to have a changing of the guard ceremony every hour. It was a pretty colourful event and one which I will see many times in the future, but I didn't hang around too long as I wanted to call at Dongdaemun Market on my way home. The market wasn't what I expected really, as it was spread out over such a vast area, but I imagine that if I ever need anything in the future, that's the place I'll return to.
In terms of work, the week after Christmas marked the start of the winter 'intensives.' As the children are out of school, my start time switches from the afternoon to the morning, something that I wasn't relishing at all. However, these month long periods only take place in January and August, so in some ways it's better to get the first one out of the way. I am definitely not a morning person though!
As time goes by, I am becoming more and more comfortable with the job, and with my responsabilities. I knew that the first couple of weeks would be the toughest because of my inexperience, but it's a great feeling when you see the kids opening up in class, and you sense that they are warming to you.
We teach the 'nokjiwon' students who have quite advanced levels of English, and it's definitely the most important section of the academy. Quite why I was chosen to teach at this level is a mystery, particularly as a bigwig from Head Office, when giving our introductory orientation, declared that 'nokjiwon' teachers usually have at least two years experience! Hew and me looked at eachother in disbelief when she said that!
In truth, I think that my Degree in English Language and Linguistics swung it as there is a lot of emphasis on correcting grammar when marking the students' essays/other writing tasks.
The early finish was definitely welcome on New Year's Eve, as it meant that we could have a proper night out to celebrate. Hew and me met up with most of the other teachers once they'd finished work, and we had a couple of beers in Jane's apartment - it is definitely the most spacious, but I wouldn't swap as it is directly above the subway station, and can be quite noisy!
We took the subway to City Hall where thousands of people were gathered...and it was bloody freezing! So we nipped into a convenience store to get some beer and soju, and before we knew it we were all dancing in the main square to a wide range of music! My overriding memory from that is seeing some policemen dancing to MC Hammer...very bizarre! It's probably best if I don't mention the rendition of the David Brent dance that Hew and me attempted...
It was a great atmosphere at midnight, with loads of random people coming up to hug us, and I had countless photos taken with various Koreans. Still, it must have been minus-ten degrees at that point, so most of us headed to Sinchon to a nightclub, and it was a relief to get a warm. I spent most of the time playing darts with another teacher's Korean friend - a really nice girl who had lived in Brazil for three years. We exchanged numbers and I expect we'll meet up again soon...