A Travellerspoint blog

Getting Settled

Looking back on the first two months

rain 63 °F

Getting settled into a Korean lifestyle is no easy task. Culture shock is alive and well within the boundaries of Carlos Alatorre's humble abode. It is something that sneaks up on you like a shot of vodka; didn't really notice it at first, but before long you're wondering where you're at and what exactly it is that you're doing. Getting into a routine here hasn't been easy, which is probably why it has taken this long to really get going with some kind of contemplative and creative medium (this blog) to pour my thoughts into. No one really tells you how to deal, they just tell you what to expect. Of course, I could be wrong, maybe no one told me....or maybe I missed that lesson in Korean life 101. Adjusting to life in a small farming town has been quite a challenge as I'm sure my fellow English teachers can attest to. I was up for the challenge in the beginning, searching for adventure at every turn. However, now that the winter is coming and the sun is starting to disappear behind unforgiving clouds held up against dreary skies, the desire for the comfort of a familiar routine is quickly resurfacing. The next few entries I will attempt to backtrack several of the trips I have taken to give the reader a better idea of how one goes from positive, exuberant, adventurous traveler to cautious, reserved, and isolated homebody. I will recount the stories as if they had just happened today and attempt to convey to the reader exactly what I felt in order to better illustrate the experience.

Posted by calatorre275 06:22 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Day 1

THE LANDING Entering as an alien for the first time in my life

overcast 85 °F

As most of you know already, I am currently teaching English in the lovely and mysterious country of South Korea. I say mysterious because prior to my departure I didn't know much about this country. There are so many differences.....but I'll get to that. I am teaching through a government funded program known as EPIK which requires me to sign a contract to teach for a year. In case you are wondering what all that entails, I am basically being used as a native speaker of English to get the students' English proficiency much much higher. And I'm being housed and paid to do it, tax free :) There are many financial benefits that are offered through this particular program and, aside from the allure of traveling to a country I know almost nothing about, this is the primary reason why I chose South Korea. Anywho....

The 12 hour flight was about 10 hours too long in my opinion. I can never sleep or get comfortable on those international flights. I probably watched three movies, then attempted sleep for about 3 hours, which didn't work out too well. Since I was about the only one awake on my flight out of LAX, I was constantly being handed tuna fish sandwiches and orange juice by the flight attendants. They mainly spoke Thai and Korean on this flight, but I heard a few English attempts, which I appreciated. The shades were drawn so that everyone could sleep and, in my eyes, this made it feel like the longest night of my life. When we finally crossed the vast expanse that is the Pacific Ocean, we flew over several Japanese islands. I was sad that I missed these because of my aisle seat. I swear the lady that slept on the window seat didn't get up ONCE. I don't know they do it. We pulled the shades back and let the sunlight filter in the cabin and I was finally able to see a new land, a new country for the first time in a year since Brazil. We landed at Incheon International Airport and I was sooooooo tired. I had my paperwork ready and got through security and immigration fairly quickly. I grabbed my stuff and made my way to the EPIK desk. I had to ask a few people for directions though. Most signs had English written underneath the Korea text, and Chinese written even smaller under that. But for little things, like 'YOU ARE HERE', I had to make some really good guesses. I found a few other teachers, even some in my own province, and we got to know one another. The bus came and we made our way down to a city called Daejeon where we would be staying for the next 10 days. A 10 day orientation is required to pass before entering into the actual contract with your Provincial Office of Education (POE). I made some friends on the way, joked around, made small talk, talked about expectations for my visit; basic stuff. Since I'm writing this as a flashback it all seems like so long ago. We got to the KT campus which is an area used for corporate training. It had dorms and a cafeteria and plenty of lecture halls. This is where I would be for the next 10 days. Not going to lie, the place we were at was,....underwhelming. But that would all change very fast. We ate food in the cafeteria and I was finally introduced to Kimchi. I didn't know this, but apparently every meal is served with Kimchi, rice, and soup. UGH. Before I left my home country, a few friends had taken me out to a well known Korean restaurant near Diamond Bar, so I could prepare myself. Yeah....that didn't prepare me. All the food was SPICY, like "I'm already sweating, thinking about it" spicy. If you know me then you know even mild buffalo wings make me sweat. This was a nice look into what was to come. Avoid the sauces and always have water with you, I told myself. But right then and there I made a promise to myself that I would try anything that was put in front of me. I was always a picky eater back home until maybe the last 2 years. This was a whole different level. So the desire to not break custom overrode any discomfort or apprehension I had with new foods. I tried it all and to be honest it wasn't that bad. I went to bed full and eagerly anticipating the very next day. Start of a new adventure. Start of a new chapter. And it felt like the first day of summer camp all over again.

Posted by calatorre275 19:54 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

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