Today I was met with a pleasant surprise other than that most of my classes were canceled due to career day. Actually, all of today has been great! The day began as I woke up from a full eight hours of sleep; these days more sleep is necessary due to my doctor telling me to lay off the caffeine for a while. Once I arrived at school I found that the first three classes were canceled due to career day, and later I discovered that my fourth class was canceled due to some assembly for the students. Next, I had lunch; Wednesdays have a lunch campaign of “clear your tray” to avoid waste. cafeteria finds that the best way to make this campaign effective is to serve a delicious meal. So today we had some tasty bibimbab. During lunch I was invited to take a survey for KOSTAT (Korean Statistics) concerning foreign workers. As a thank you, I was given a 5,000 won gift certificate. As I was walking back up to the office I had no idea that the best part of the day (that I yet know of) was yet to come. I arrived at the office with one of my co-teachers to see that the other co-teacher had prepared a cake for celebrating my second year in Korea!
It was a delicious mocha flavored cake with macaroons on top! I am very grateful to have such kind and fun co-teachers! Once the candles were lit they began singing a pieced together version of “Happy Birthday”, but changed to “Happy Two Years”.
By the way, Korean cakes tend to be very well decorated.
Today marks the completion of my second year (and contract) in South Korea. Actually I arrived in Korea on the 20th of May 2012, but I count the 21st as my arrival date since that is when I arrived at my Korean hometown. In these two years I have learned so much about Korean culture and history. I have learned some of the language as well, but that definitely needs more focus. These have been some of the best years of my life, and there is no sign of that ending. Last week I signed my third contract in Korea.
Currently I am pursuing my masters in TESOL through the University of Missouri (Online). Having finished my first semester, I am excited for the next, and am looking forward to learning so much more. I would recommend the University of Missouri’s online program to anyone who is considering a masters while teaching English (especially in a foreign country). This program has been both flexible and straightforward in terms of time and instruction.
If all goes according to plan I will stay with EPIK (English Program in Korea) for at least one more contract, possibly two. By the time I finish this new contract that I have signed, I will be mostly finished with my masters. I will then sign my fourth contract and finish my masters. My goal is to teach at a Korean university after my 4th or 5th contract with EPIK.
After that I have no solid plans, but I am looking forward to spending many happy years in South Korea.
My landlady is a prime example of Korean kindness; any of the foreigners in my building can attest to that. She treats us with such care and consideration and I am very touched that she takes the time to look out for us. In some ways she is very motherly to us, and that quality does not go un appreciated.
Today I was walking home from the grocery store and I heard an “annyeong” from behind me. I turned around to find that she had turned the corner just after me. First let me say that my conversational Korean is very lacking; I am doing well with vocabulary, but putting sentences together is still somewhat challenging for me. My landlady is always interested in talking with me when she sees me around, and I try my best! Unfortunately I usually play most of my conversational role as a listener, but that is still good practice!
Today we talked a little about what I had bought; I told her I was going to make some jajangmyeon (a korean/chinese noodle dish). She asked me if I liked jajangmyeon, and I told her that I did. I must say that I make a pretty tasty jajang (the sauce that goes on the noodles). After a couple blocks she starts on the topic of Kimchi, asking me if I like it. I told her “Ne, kimchi johayo” which means “Yes, I like kimchi”. After that I was not able to fully understand what she was saying due only to my need for improvement in Korean. I do recall her saying something about “not spicy”; this made more sense to me later.
After I got home I had a thought. It was not news to me that she was a very kind lady, for chuseok I was given some seongpyeon (rice cake). So as I was chopping onion for my dinner I was thinking that she was probably going to knock on my door and give me some kimchi. I was entirely correct. Not even five minutes after I got home, I heard a knock on the door. I answered the door, after putting the knife down, and greeted my smiling landlady. She handed me a styrofoam container and told me that it was kimchi! I of course gave her my thanks and she went back upstairs.
Later that night I had some of the kimchi and I realized why she was saying something about “not spicy” earlier in our conversation. The kimchi was very mild and delicious (though I enjoy spicy kimchi as well). It is so wonderful to have such a kind and caring landlady!
Kids love to play with bugs, and Korea is no different. In Korea it is popular for kids (usually the boys) to have pet beetles! These are not small half inch beetles that you find under a rock. The popular beetles to have are around 3 inches long! I decided to have a pet beetle for a while when I found one crawling across a street one day; most students buy theirs from the super market’s pet section. You can feed the beetles fruit, but the best option is a special beetle jelly that does not attract fruit flies.
I think that this is some sort of caterpillar. I would be very interested in seeing what this turns into! This guy was crawling along the street, so I picked him up with a stick (that he clung to), and set him on a ledge.
I was waiting to get my hair cut one day when I noticed that there was an event happening on the street below me. Later I went down to check it out.
It turned out to be a cooking contest for fathers and their children. I didn’t stay for long, but it looked fun. There were many entries, and many of them had cute themes. I really enjoy seeing these kinds of events.
The judges walked through the aisles of dishes with a pen and paper. Each of the dishes were unique and looked delicious! By the time that I had arrived, the contest seemed to be in the second half. All of the cooking was complete, and the contestants had their attention directed toward the stage. The judges were in the process of judging, and some of the children were getting distracted. As I was leaving, an older sister cam to collect her sibling from wandering too far off.
I’ve been to the doctor several times in Korea, but at first I was a little surprised by the differences. Here are five things that I have noticed about Korean Hospitals.
5. Korean’s tend to use the word hospital when we (in the US) would say clinic. That is to say, hospitals are generally specific to certain parts of the body or to a certain illness. These hospital/clinics are generally smaller too.
4. Medicine is prescribed for shorter periods than in the US. In Korea, a doctor will generally prescribe medicine for about a few days the first couple times you visit. After the effective medicine is narrowed down, the doctor will probably suggest one week intervals with checkups between prescriptions.
3. Medicine usually comes packaged like this:
2. You will almost never find a pharmacy more than a block from a hospital/clinic. Pharmacies set up shop near the clinics for the constant business that they will get.
1. Doctor times are super fast. Last time I went to the doctor for a virus there were about 5 people before me in the waiting room. The doctor consulted with each of the patients for about 3 minutes each, and I was out of there in about 15 minutes.
There are probably many more differences, but these are the main ones that I have noticed. (Plus, I try my best not to be sick too often.)
Oh, one last difference: Everyone in South Korea has health insurance. This is provided by the government, so doctor visits are very affordable. Mine are usually around 3,000 Won, and simple medicine is often the same price. (If you have any advanced analysis done, it will cost more).