The experiences and adventures of an American living and teaching in Istanbul, Turkey
Thursday, September 17, 2009
I <3 Korean Baseball
The Gardens at Gyeongbokgung Palace - the best part of the grounds
Korean Baseball at Jamsil Stadium!
My time here is flying by so quickly! I am staying busy all the time, and I am still having the time of my life. I just got home from scoping out gyms with my coteacher (I finally found a good one!), and then she was nice enough to take me to a really good traditional Korean dinner. Sometimes I still cannot believe how welcoming everyone has been to me the last few weeks!
Last Thursday, I met up with about 15 people after work and headed to Jamsil stadium to watch a baseball game. Unlike the States, in Korea, fans can bring their own beer into the stadium. If you get there early, you can "tailgate" (sans actual tailgate) in the stands. I had no idea it would be so crazy. Korean baseball fans are really intense- the entire time they are standing and yelling, singing, chanting, and banging these huge plastic tubes together. Everyone follows the lead of one really goofy male cheerleader who stands in the front of the crowd with a whistle. It was hilarious. Unfortunately, none of us knew enough Korean to join in the singing and chanting, but a good time was had by all.
Friday, I was invited out to dinner by my landlords. They are an older couple that live on the top floor of my building, and they are making a sincere effort to help all 9 foreign teachers living in the building. We went to a fantastic little restaurant around the corner from the building and I had a delicious roast duck for dinner. After the meal, they invited us up to their apartment where we sat on the roof and chatted while we stuffed ourselves with fruit (specifically the grapes- they are really good here- unlike anything I've ever had), rice cakes (I'm obsessed with the rice cakes here. The ones that have a red bean in the middle of the rice goo are delicious), peanuts, beer, and soju. Anyway, the landlords (who insist we call them Mama Liz and Papa Kim) are really generous and helpful. Although their English is not great (Papa Kim usually has no idea what's going on- he just nods and smiles a lot), they do their best to make us comfortable and welcome. I am still working on getting my apartment like I want it. I need a few more items (for example, a lamp. I only have one big flourescent light on the ceiling so I asked for a lamp from my school out the budget they are given for me to use. I received a very futuristic looking lamp thing that looks something akin to a security surveillance camera. It is also flourescent. And ugly. Great.)
Saturday I spent the day exploring Gyeongbokgung Palace with my friend Sam. It was kind of bizarre - it looks quite like an ancient kingdom was dropped into the middle of a parking lot in the middle of an urban city. The palace was also empty and although it was sprawling, most of it looked exactly the same to me. I would love to say this was a great day trip, but I got bored pretty quickly. Sunday we went to Seoul Forest (think Central Park). Each weekend I am hoping to get at least one cultural item checked off. Although I'm here for a year, Seoul is one of the biggest cities and the world, and if I'm not careful I'm going to miss out on really getting to know the city. Saturday night I spent out in the Itaewon area of Seoul for a friend's birthday celebration. Itaewon is fun because it's mostly foreign bars filled with ex-pats and everyone is speaking English. I love the area, but I need to start seeing nightlife in other parts of the city.
Monday I officially became an Alien! After teaching 5 classes on Monday, I headed to the immigration office where I picked up my Alien Registration Card. This was immediately followed by a bank account (so I finally got paid!). Tuesday, I got a cell phone! I have been without a phone since I left home in July, and I feel like my quality of life just increased dramatically with my new cell phone plan. I'm slowly becoming a real person. (Unfortunately this means I now have real bills to pay.) Wednesday night I went to another baseball game with a friend. One of my co-teachers gave me last minute tickets, so I got to see more crazy Korean baseball.
Unfortunately, today is Thursday which is probably the worst day of my week. On Thursday I teach 6 classes to, in the words of my coteacher "wicked" students. I shouldn't even use the word teach - it's more like I do damage control, yell, and pray that no one dies in my classroom. Some days I feel like I'm not even working at a school- more like an insane asylum. All of my 6th graders are, well, probably typical 6th graders - really obnoxious. Class 6-1, however, is just horrific. Most of them speak no english- they don't even understand basic directions. Today, besides confiscating every near and dear item to their little 6th grade hearts, I had to deal with a girl cutting one kid's clothes off with scissors and a kid sobbing because he was poked in the eye. The students here are all very violent - even the 4th graders. It's a huge cultural difference that I cannot seem to get over. The teachers don't even flinch as the kids punch each other, pull each other's hair, and slap one another. (Then again, the teachers will hit the students too sometimes). It's painful to watch, and I find myself pointing and yelling "No touching!" way more than I should. It's at times like this that I realize I'm really not qualified to be a teacher. I have a degree in History which doesn't exactly translate well into classroom management.
The kids I teach are also all on really different levels which is frustrating. I have kids who literally can't say one word, and others who are practically fluent. For example, the other day after class I had a 4th grader come up to me and say, "I hear you are from Atlanta. I went once to Atlanta. I was on the way to Florida. I didn't leave the airport, but I found the Atlanta airport to be very satisfactory." Satisfactory? Where did he learn that? The kids also are still fascinated by me. I realize I'm American, but I might as well be from outer space. A lot of times the kids will stare at me in the hall, and if I say Hello, they giggle and run away. It's ridiculous. I'm also realizing it is a mixed blessing to live so close to my school. Every day I literally am escorted to school by a passle of Korean children who are all YELLING "HELLO TEACHER" repeatedly. It's nuts.
Anyway, I am looking forward to the weekend, and I will keep everyone updated on my adventures!