Letters From Korea: The First Month

Once upon a time (in 2002), I took a year long teaching job in Korea. I packed up my 9 yr son, his little white cat and 4 huge bags of "stuff" and we got on a plane and flew from Washington state to South Korea. We lived there for a year, came home for Xmas and then my son stayed in the states for 8 weeks while I flew back over the big pond to finish my contract(the first time I've ever been away from him for more than 2 wks). We lived in a small town, with no native english speakers, no famiiliar food, and no real clue of what we were going to do. It was a great adventure!

I wrote long, sometimes boring, letters home, so I've decided to condense a little and just pick out paragraphs here and there that aren't so painfully b-o-r-i-n-g to read.

At this point, we've been in Korea for almost a month and our school still hasn't opened. Most teachers do not get this luxury and we were able to just adapt a little, explore, and get used to the culture shock (a wee bit) before starting a regular teaching schedule. I loved this month. 

Jan 28th, 2002:
Andrew and I took a bus from our new apt to nearby Wonju (where we lived last week) and thought we could just ride the bus and see some sights and find places we want to visit, however, the bus stopped at a terminal and we had to get off while they clean it. No one spoke English so we just started walking! Teh only way we know of finding our way home is to get back to the area where we used to live...but they don't have street names, so our major landmark is Pizza Hut! We are going to splurge and have dinner there later. Did I mention all the pizza here has corn on it? How weird is that??

Feb 5th, 2002:
I haven't made any friends in my town. My neighbor wanted to be my friend, she can't speak english and the only thing we got through to each other is that I don't like coffee and she has three kids. She knows I am an English teacher but she's confused as to how I'm not married, yet have a child. She put her arm around me and said Friend Friend...and then we said goodbye.

Feb 8th, 2002:
We got our first care package today! Pamela (my ex mother in law) sent Andrew a box for Valentines Day. It was only 6 pounds, but cost $36 to send.  Andrew was VERY excited to get something - she mailed it via airmail on the second of February in San Francisco and it got here today, the ninth. Very fast!!!
We got home from teaching the directors monster of a nephew and his horrid little friends and there was a yellow paper on teh door with Andrew's name on it. We knew what it must be, but the rest was in Korean, so we ran to the neighbors apartment-my "friend!"-and showed it to her. She called a number and gave me the phone and someone told us (in english) that they were delivering it today. And it was already 8pm!! Sure enough, the postman delivered it at 9pm!! Good service!!

Feb 9th, 2002:
The school is just about ready to open. Did I tell you there is no bathroom in the school? It's only four small rooms-there is a public restroom connected to the building, but it's not a western style. We did find one at the restaurant across the street.
We're planning on having about ten students in each class, and five classes back to back with a five-ten minute break between each. The ages will be anywhere from six to early teens. I think it's geared for younger ages though.

The view of the rice fields behind our apartments.


  1. Brian Miller said...:

    intriguing...forgive my ignorance...how long were you in korea? corn on the pizza...hmm...

  1. Wow, that is some experience! I am so amazed everytime I read a letter from Korea. I used one of those types of "not western bathrooms" when I was in Turkey -- NOT fun!
    Cannot wait to hear more of your life there.
    Andrew was so cute!! Not that he isn't now, he just looks so young!!

  1. Heather said...:

    How long ago was your time in Korea? Andrew looks soo much younger.

    I was going to say "I can't imagine being in a place where you can hardly communicate", but then I remembered..I live in south Texas and I am surrounded by spanish!

    Corn on pizza..interesting.

  1. Aunt Juicebox said...:

    We have a place here that puts goetta on pizza. I'm not brave enough to try it, and I LOVE me some goetta. It's actually the one thing I think tastes better than bacon. Gasp. I know.

    Cute picture in the window, btw. =)

  1. Debbie said...:

    I am so fascinated by other countries and cultures. What it must have been like for you! I can just imagine that woman hugging you and saying "friend" while not speaking another word of English!

  1. carma said...:

    That's quite an adventure - I would love to do something like that at some point - did you need to learn the language - or just wing it? (to do the teaching)

  1. Mrsbear said...:

    It really does sound like an amazing experience. I'm sure the language barrier made for some interesting exchanges. What exactly does a "not Western style" bathroom entail?

  1. Ha ha! I know what "not a Western style" bathroom means.

    Corn on pizza? Meh, why not.

  1. Anti-Supermom said...:

    What a cool way to remember your time there.

    The 'non-Western' bathroom makes me giggle :)

  1. Anonymous said...:

    This is so awesome!!!



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