Kian in Korea

Monday, June 19, 2006

First few days

So I've been here two or three days now (it depends on what side of the international date line you're on), and it's been a very interesting experience, and it's definitely been a lot to deal with in one weekend.
First off, I met five other English teachers who are teaching in the same region as me. We spent Sunday in Seoul, just tromping around and seeing the sights. We stumbled upon the Seoul Mosque (I'll post pictures later), and it was very weird seeing the Arabic calligraphy and tilework and minarets in the middle of a completely different place. Most of the people praying there were Turks and Arabs, and only a couple of Koreans. The girls had to stay outside but they let us guys in to watch them do their prayers. There weren't very many of them. I'd like to see the place on a Friday.
The mosque was in Itaewon, which is a popular district for foreigners in Seoul. Judging by the haircuts, most of them were American servicemen (the military base is smack in the middle of Seoul), but there was a good share of everybody. There were a lot of Middle Eastern restaurants there, so when I get hungry for some kebab I'll know where to go!
Today, we met our Korean co-teachers and went to our respective schools. This proved a little bit of a problem for me, because when I was applying for jobs, I took this position because I was told that I would be teaching in a high school. It turns out I got placed in an elementary school. This is a problem for me because I am not particularly good at dealing with children. I spoke to Ryu, who is my contact at the Ministry of Education, and told him that I was expecting to be placed in a high school. He promised to get me into a high school in a month, on July 19th. That's better than not getting one at all, but I'm livid because I made it pretty clear to all parties what my expectations were at the outset and I more or less received a guarantee that I'd be accomodated. I e-mailed my contact back in Canada, Shane (who hired me) to let him know of the problem and I really hope that it gets taken care of soon. Other foreign teachers are already in their apartments and getting settled down but my situation is (for me) still completely up in the air. I'm actually in a hotel right now, where I'll be until July 1st. And then I move into an apartment, and then I'm probably going to have to move again when I get put into a new school. Not cool. But, I don't really have any other option so I'm just going to try my best to resolve this situation.
Lunch today was interesting. For an appetizer, we had some kind of omelet with octopus, oyster, mushroom, and shrimp. Lunch itself was clam and noodle soup. I can't claim that it was horrible and disgusting, because I actually sort of liked the octopus, but I'm not a huge shellfish fan. Seafood is called mulgogi, which means "water meat", and I find that kind of funny. They eat a lot of seafood and pork here, and I'm curious what on earth the Muslims at that mosque eat when they go anywhere.
Tomorrow is my first day, I'll be observing the other teachers in the classroom. Next time I write hopefully I'll have some kind of resolution to this school mixup!


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