Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My temporary apartment.

The New Job

            After sleeping for 14 hours I got up and realized it was 6am!  Well I couldn’t get on my computer because I didn’t have an adaptor for the plug-ins here so I just practiced some simple Korean phrases and then went to get some breakfast.  I went outside still not sure what to expect but did not expect to find that there were no coffee shops open.  None.  And they are everywhere here!  I kept wondering around and finally found my caffeine fix in a Dunkin Donuts.  I’m not pumped about contributing to a global chain, especially since it isn’t Krispy Kreme but I needed some caffeine and a bagel and if the local places aren’t open then what choice do I have?
            I’m still perplexed by the fact that Koreans are work alcoholics but the local coffee shops don’t open until 11am.  Isn’t that defeating the purpose of being a COFFEE store?  I digress.  After that I had to meet my boss, Mi Eun, to get my physical.  I’m not worried about my health but I was thinking that this was going to take all day.  It would in the States.  Well we get there at 10am and for the next 80 minutes I have an eye exam, my blood pressure’s checked, my height and weight are measured, I get a chest x-ray, I go through a brief medical history interview, I get my blood drawn and I submit a urine test.  All in less time than it takes to watch Bruce Pearl’s career collapse.  I still am astounded at how efficient it was.  And the craziest part is that I never filled out any paperwork! The hospital staff just swiped my passport and that was it.  Incredible.
            After that I went back to my temporary apartment, ate some lunch and then went to the school.  I’m lucky enough that the girl whose position I’m replacing, she’s moving back to the States, has decided to help me out and show me the ropes.  So we go to each class, go through the lesson plan, practice the pronunciation and play some word games.  Sounds simple except the hardest part is not laughing.  For example the kids all stare at me and ask some questions about where I’m from, if I have a girlfriend that sort of thing.  Then one kid looks at me and says, “You’re a scary bearded man. Can I touch it?” 
            They've also called me the American Lumberjack and Jesus.  Yup Jesus, after that I went home and shaved.  I can’t really top that.  They also can't pronounce my name at all!  It's Rogen this or Teacher that.  And they love my last name.  They think it’s hysterical that my last name is Monday.  So they’ve already started calling me by whatever day it is, Logan Tuesday on Tuesday, Logan Friday on Friday, etc.  But my favorite so far comes from a hyperactive 8 year old.  I really sympathize with him because I too was the kid that couldn’t sit still and wanted to talk to my neighbors.  On my second day he gave a 3 min speech about his favorite party and there was wine, cheese, good music and a boat.  Oh he gave it in a white turtleneck with a blazer.  Yup you guessed it his name is now The Captain.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Following Your Dreams

           Ever since I was a little kid I’ve always been fascinated by different people and where they come from.  I can remember sitting on my grandfather’s deck and watching the airplanes land at McGee Tyson Airport.  Watching them fly down and then disappear behind the Smoky Mountains held some mystical questions for me: Where are they going, what are they seeing and what makes them go there in the first place?  
When I was about 6 my grandfather retired and decided to go and travel the world one trip at a time.  It was always exciting for him to come home and give my cousins and I the money that he had acquired throughout his trips.  Holding those tangible metals answered the question of where people are going when they fly but it brought a new desire to use the money! I wondered what it was like to speak the language so you could use the currency and interact with the people there.
 So of course I talked about that to my family and my grandmother would bring out her National Geographic’s for me to read.  Reading the stories of people discovering new animals, lost cultures and the history of where they had visited was fascinating to me.  It also answered the question of what people were seeing when they traveled.  So I too couldn’t wait to go out and discover something new and different and tell the world.
As I got older my father and I had spent countless hours talking about ancient cultures, the peoples that created them and the literature that inspired them.  I studied history in college simply because I enjoyed going to class so much but it wasn’t enough.  And it wasn’t because even though I could tell you many different things about a culture’s history or its people I couldn’t tell you what it smelled like in their cities. Or how their food tasted.  Or what the night sky looked like there. 
Now I knew what the answer to the last question I had as a kid was.   Either go and follow your dream or don’t look in the mirror for the rest of your life.  So I swallowed my pride, came back home, went back to serving and started to plan how to move abroad.  It took a year but I finally got everything in order and am now living in South Korea, teaching English to young kids.  I am extremely excited about this and have decided to share the sights, smells and experiences I have here.  I also look forward to your comments and emails about improving the blog and sharing your own experiences living and traveling abroad!

Landing In Korea

     After having some very heartfelt goodbyes to friends, family and my girlfriend it was time to follow my dream of going abroad.  It was incredibly difficult leaving everyone but I knew I couldn’t turn back now.  The plane flights weren’t that bad but it wasn’t peachy being in three different planes for a total of 21 hours.  Landing in South Korea at 7 in the morning was fantastic because I had slept for a good bit and felt ready to get to my new home.
    So I went through customs, surprisingly in less than 15 minutes, and got my bags.  I’m standing there trying to find where to go next when a security guard sees me and beelines it straight to me.  But he’s not coming alone and his companion is a K-9 drug dog!  I chuckle and wait for him to come because the only thing I’m worried about is if that dog likes chocolate.  My girlfriend and Mom had given me some sweets to eat on the plane and I waited to see if that dog had a nose for chocolate.  Well he didn’t but I couldn’t help but notice the guard was a little disappointed.
     Next, I found a payphone pulled out my international calling card and dialed my family and let them know I had made it.  I missed both my Mom and Dad but was able to get in touch with my girlfriend so that was nice. After that I got a bus ticket to Gwangju and set off.  I couldn’t sleep because I was looking out the window the whole time and 4 hours later made it to the city. 
     I called Mi Eun, the school’s director, and told her where I was, met up with her and we set off to the school.  On the way I was very quiet and realized I wasn’t really thinking at all.  I knew then how bad my jetlag was.  If I’m not looking around or focusing on a conversation it’s because I’m exhausted.  And I mean can’t stand because I’m too tired exhausted.  It’s a horrible feeling and I hate it. But I forced myself to suck it up since the person I was with had hired me from halfway around the world!
     We made it back to the school and then Mi Eun wanted lunch.  Ohhh man I know I’m too tired but I can’t refuse.  So we go and the first thing we get is Kimchi.  It’s the standard dish of Korea but Mi Eun asks me if I like octopus?  Sure why not.  So we get it out, I grab the chopsticks and go for it.  I pop one of those tentacles in my mouth and taste….worn out rubber gum? Really? 
     Well Mi Eun thinks I’m funny because she finishes the entire dish but I’m not.  I figure its better not to tell her that some salt would make that octopus taste much better so I let her think I’m not hungry.
     We leave and I assume I’m going to my apartment so I can sleep.  Nope Mi Eun wants me to meet the other foreign teachers so I can, “Get comfortable.”  Ok sure I’m gonna get comfortable with my head on the table. And that’s exactly what I do, the next thing I know its 2 hours later and I’m being rushed out to my apartment. Except it’s not my real apartment it’s the one I’m using for a couple of days until mine is completely furbished.  In the fog of the jetlag I’m able to hear Mi Eun explain that my visa was accepted so quickly that they weren’t ready for me to be in Korea yet.  I say its fine, watch her leave and collapse on the bed fully asleep before my head hits the pillow.