Friday, August 30, 2013

So Much

So much has happened since arriving in Gangneung on Monday (was it really Monday?)  This week has felt so infinitely long. Future EPIKers, be prepared: it takes time to settle in and if you're an introvert like me, be prepared to feel absolutely exhausted and ready to recharge come weekend time even though you know you should probably be out exploring.

Highlights of this week:

  • I've cried every single morning (including today - Saturday!) just from homesickness and the frustration that comes with not being able to do anything for yourself if you don't really speak Korean (despite taking time to start learning it... I seem to just fall back on English or a few set phrases in the presence of others).
  • I've changed the lessons I've wanted to teach over the semester about 15 times because the level of the students is different from what I expected and consequently, I feel like I've gotten nowhere.  So now I'll be doing some planning on my weekend instead... I have no choice.
  • I went to the Donghae Immigration Office with my unni and registered for my Alien Registration Card (ARC).  Be forewarned that you cannot be smiling and showing your teeth in the photo you submit.  We had to run to a little photography place, pay 15,000W for four pictures (air-brushed though and what I needed), and then rush back.  They also required my passport, a 20,000W fee, the application form (filled out there), and a document from my school.  A Korean-speaking friend is a must.
  • My unni and I stopped at a very nice rest stop on the way back from Donghae and had coffee at Angel-In-Us.  Mocha frappucino; very delicious.  We walked around (the view was amazing!) and had great conversations about education (and differences in education in the two countries), TEFL/TESOL, and what peace c/would first look like for Korea.  These are the kinds of conversations I was most worried about missing before so I'm so glad I can still have them.
  • I went to a banquet hall to celebrate the retirement of two people from our school.  The food was delicious (there was fruit and lots of rice-based sweets that were sweet but not too sweet).  There was karaoke of course and the Vice Principal sought me out and poured me my first glass of soju.  It has a pretty low alcohol content (at least it tastes that way), but it burns after. 
  • I managed to wash my sheets in the washing machine, but not before spraying myself while trying to connect the water hose (but, hey, I figured out what knob turned on the water).
  • My bed may have had bed bugs, but after no new bites for two days, it may have been a mosquito (they really are hard to kill here).  Of course, this is not entirely a controlled experiment because I also vacuumed the bed and washed the bed sheets.
  • I'm still taking cold showers.  I tried to turn the water heater on, but it looks like I turned the floor heating on instead (that was a warm night for sleeping after...).  I have yet to remember to try the heating on again and cold showers feel nice in this crazy 97-100% humidity.
  • I had dinner with another EPIKer on the 7th floor of Home Plus at a place called Ashley's Salad Bar.  I ate so much fruit!  There was this mango salad... yum...  I walked back to my apartment (my first time walking anywhere here) and made it!
  • I managed to fix my toilet with my bare hands.  My floor is now not covered in water (yes!).
  • I still have no idea where I'm supposed to throw out my trash, but I do know I have to buy special bags for it (everything is sorted here... that's kind of time-consuming, but overall far better.  Even what counts as food waste is limited).
  • My unni (who is also my co-teacher) helped me set up a bank account with the Korean Exchange Bank.  I spent two hours trying to set up internet banking online last night and now I can't even tell if they gave me a savings account plus a foreign remittance option or just a foreign remittance option (which would be bad because then everything immediately gets sent overseas).  I may have to set up another bank account for domestic Korean savings and then only transfer into KEB when I want to send money home.  Great foreigners who have already gone through this are going to help me out, I think.  The KEB internet banking set-up is horrible... it's not in English!  They have pictures of text that Google translate can't even give you the gist of either.  It is very hard to translate meaning between Korean and English (and I think the fault lies mostly with English) so... ugh!
  • I got a phone (an iPhone 4 that was used as a display model and it was actually the cheapest option... I'm so poor right now because I have no idea how much my utilities will be and I'm sure that leaking toilet will have added to my water bill significantly).  Although the month-to-month is more expensive, I did a one-year contract.  The plan comes with unlimited texting, but only 80 minutes of free out-of-provider calling (a.k.a. people still should call me on Skype).  I got the cheapest data plan because I'm going to buy an olleh egg - aka transportable wi-fi router - (my unni is letting me borrow hers to see if it works and it is working great at my apartment so I'll probably just carry that around and hop on wi-fi rather than 3G for whatever I need.  The olleh network appears to cover all the main places I would need it).  I needed my passport, bank book, ARC, and had to pay a 25,000W foreigner non-refundable deposit in addition to paying for the phone itself while at the shop.  Again, awesome unni like mine are needed.  So thankful!
  • I had dinner with my unni at a McDonald's.  The menus have the same kinds of items, but not necessarily in the same meal combos.  There are also a lot fewer picture panels than we have back in the States.  The cheeseburger tasted approximately the same, but the fries were much less salty.  According to my unni, the fries are quiet salty to them.  Amazing how we become accustomed to tastes.
  • I turned the heat on my toilet seat on accidentally and ended up just unplugging it while I was out/sleeping because I had no idea how to turn it off.  Once I had Kakao Talk my unni helped me because she's great.  I had to take pictures and send them to here.
I'm sure there's more that happened, but I'm exhausted and have a lot of stuff I feel I need to do before the weekend is over.  Maybe I'll get some pictures up on this later.

There are a ton of coffee places around here that I have to visit at some point... it is the city of coffee!

1 comment:

  1. I think you got this. It's hard to get used to a culture you don't know or have only read about, especially when everything is different. And it's frustrating that no matter how smart you are, you're reduced to an incredible level of helplessness... almost to a child-like one, simply because you cannot communicate---depending on others for such a simple, natural case is simply irritating.

    But, again, you got this. Just remember that everything, every problem, every set-back, no matter how absolutely riling, is always a step forward.

    Keep on being awesome and updating, and trust me, it gets better.

    - Guille