Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Jen's turn - from getting here to living here

Ok everyone, here it is, my first blog post! Woohoo! My turn to talk about our grand debut as expats in Korea.

Allow me to skip over all the boring parts of us getting here, since I jet-lagged my way through the whole process anyway, so I don't remember any of it. (p.s. Jason organized the entire thing, and that's all you need to know).

So my first days of teaching didn't start until two weeks after Jason had started, which was good in the sense that it gave me time to adapt to the time change. But it also meant I had a ton of time (too much time) to set up the apartment and organize our new life. Now most people would kill to have extra time for this kind of stuff, but here's the problem: I get lost. Easily. Like you have no idea... I can easily fall into a huge panic because I took a wrong turn while visiting someone's house, and ended up in the spare bedroom instead of the bathroom, or took the door to the garage instead of the backyard. So you can only imagine what it must have been like (and still is) in a new city with zero English, where all of the streets, buildings, restaurants, advertisements, stores, look the same. One wrong turn and suddenly I'm screwed. Can't speak korean, don't know my address, don't own a cell phone. Of course, Jason doesn't share this problem, and we had no trouble exploring our neighbourhood after school hours, but that meant that I mostly stayed home during the day (did I mention I would never be able to be a stay-at-home mom?) Gaaaahhhhh! With no tv or internet, I turned to my 'Chicken Soup for the Newlyweds' Soul' book, which was hardly entertaining (Kim, Miles, please don't take offense to this! According to Jason I secretly love it, complaining about every single story yet not being able to put it down...). Hehehe... it's true.

Anyways the point is, I need to get out or I go crazy.

So I quickly (well, more like slowly) learned simple routes in and out of our place to the EMart, or the convenience store, or to my school. (Hey, sounds simple, but have YOU ever lived here? I didn't think so.) Other than that I cleaned the apartment, which is now spotless by the way, and I napped. (I love naps).

Now. When Jason mentioned out medical check obligation he didn't talk about the actual experience of it, which, I'm pretty sure, scarred me for life. Not even kidding.

So picture this: you walk into a medical clinic and the secretary, or nurse, or doctor, you're not really sure, greets you in korean, and hands you a form to fill out (also in korean). Hmmm.... ok. So we assume we probably have to write our name and date of birth somewhere (?) Yay! Turns out we were right! With a lot of gestures, pointing, and props (calendar, passports, calculator), we manage to figure out what to write and how much to pay.

Then we are both handed cups with our names on them, which we assume are for urine samples, and are pointed towards the bathroom. We come back out with our lid-less (yes, lid-less) cups and hand them to the lady at the front desk (hehehe).

Next they send us on this circular course (no kidding) of medical tests: eye test (pretty sure the nurse didn't know her English letters, so I could have said 'W' but really it was an 'A' and she had no clue), hearing test, height, weight, etc... and last but not least, THE BLOOD TEST. I've had quite a few of these in my life, but none that have given me a giant black and blue bruise for over a week. Holy crap! 

Soon after the radiologist makes me change into this gown and tries to explain to me that I need to remove the clothes only on my upper body and proceed to a chest x-ray (is it just me or is this a little extreme?)

Just when we think we're done, we're brought into another waiting room and given a number. At this point we can only speculate on what awaits us behind the doors when our turn comes: another blood test? full physical? psychiatric evaluation? Thankfully, it's just a quick interview (which, by the way, consisted of two questions: What's your name? and Do you hurt anywhere?).

After being told about 5 times that we were done (no but really, how are you supposed to tell someone who doesn't speak your language that they can leave, short of taking their hand and leading them out the door?).

As for the Alien Registration Card Jason referred to, let me clarify that, although his experience was quick and painless, mine took forever. For starters, I had to go all the way to Seoul. Thank GOD my co-teacher took me there, otherwise I'd still be trying to find my way back home. Once at the immigration office, we waited 2.5 hours; I had #655, the current number was #233. Great. Come to think of it actually, I'm still waiting for that card, which was supposed to be processed weeks ago!

On a much more positive note, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my teaching job. Seriously. I complain a lot about the little things, but in this case I have no right to. I teach 22 hours per week (and these, by the way, are academic hours, which are really 40 minutes... so it's not really 22 full hours), and half the week I finish teaching before lunch, which means I have the whole afternoon to prep the next lesson. If that setup wasn't sweet enough, I only teach 3 lessons per week (I just repeat it multiple times), which means I have tons of time to research new lesson ideas, or do this kind of blogging stuff. No parent meetings, no report cards, no marking essays, no school emails, no staff meetings, no crazy pre-teens, no discipline, no phone calls home, no cleaning your classroom, no coaching, no extra-help at lunch, no babysitting detention, no field trips (and I am forgetting some)... Just planning your lesson, and teaching your lesson. What?

Oh, how will I ever go back to teaching in Canada?

Now some teachers might complain about the boredom associated with repeating themselves 7 times in a row, BUT to that I say: those are not real teachers. They are not the teachers who experienced teaching 7 different courses every day, for instance, to Junior High students. For 3 years. THIS.IS.AWESOME.

I love planning fun and interesting lessons! And now I actually have the time to do so! I

Speaking of which, I should probably get back to that.


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