Saturday, February 28, 2009

My Surroundings

That's pretty much what I checked out today. As expeceted I woke-up in a jet-laggy fog. It's always a little bit disorienting to arrive in a far-away place at night time. Like my first time arriving in Korea, there were the red neon crosses and domino buildings lining the roads, and this time they seemd as foreign as they did the first time. I guess it's all about context.

I enjoyed the flight over, and was lucky enough to meet a few people on the plane and then more when we met-up with our recruiters in the airport. We loaded our stuff into a bus and made it to the training facility where we'll be spending the rest of the week. For anyone who this might mean something to, we are staying in Yongin - a satellite city south of Seoul - about the same distance to Seoul as Suwon was for me last year.
It's a very nice place - lots of rooms, though we are staying 3 to a room. It works out well. It has forced us to get to know each other a bit better and it's a real bonus to be around so many first-timers. If I had to venture a guess, I would say that at least 75% of the teachers here for the training are here in Korea for the first time. It's nice to apprecaite their sense of newness with almost everything they see. Everybody is being very friendly and going the extra mile to introduce themselves to each other - extending hands and understanding that we're all pretty much in the same boat.

For those that don't know, I am working for SMOE this year. It's the Seoul Metropolitamn Office of Education - essentially Seoul public school. We arrived Saturday afternoon and evening and we get today (Sunday) to relax before training begins tomorrow. I don't know a whole lot about what's in store for us this week, but I do get the distinct feeling that we're going to be taken care of quite well. We have a nice clean room to sleep in and we're being fed three meals a day. This is good.

Finding a job in Korea can be a daunting task. I think that I went with a fair trade-off this time around. Public school will provide me with more security (uncertain economic times means that a lot of the fly-by-night hagwons or private academies aren't doing as well as they were even last year). I look forward to better hours (Daytime means that I can get more involved with my out of school hours), and I look forward to better vacation time. Of course, the pay may not be what I would have been able to make returning to a hagwon for a second year, but I have to say that I'm not going to miss the hours at all.

I haven't been in Korea for 24 hours yet, but I'm starting to feel okay. Some of the new teachers and I had a walk around our surrounding area in Yongin - not a great deal to see here on a sleepy Sunday, but it was still fun to explore a bit and stretch our legs. It's easy to remember how strange everything seemed on our first day last year when I see new teachers reacting to the strange retsurants and shops we pass by.

Anyway, I don't know a lot yet about where I'll be and what I'll be teaching. We will find out towards the end of the week. Reason being? Well, though the schools have been assigned already, the coordinator doesn't want us teachers to start comparing where we'll be. That seems fair. I'm kind of going into it with as open an attitude as I can have. During the interview, I listed my choices as 1. High School, 2. Junior High School, 3. Elementary School. In the end, I'm sure I'll enjoy whatever level I'm assigned to, though working with the high school kids could give me more of an accurate read on whether or not that's an age I'd like to work with as a career back in Canada. I suppose we'll see, and there's not much sense theorizing about it now. I'm lucky in that I've worked with all of those ages, so not too much could come as a shock. Knock wood.

Anyway, dear reader - stay tuned. I'll let you know how the first day of training goes and will update where I'll be for the year as soon as I know. Until then... here's hoping that there will be some nice surprises in store for us this week. I'm excited to get my own place, to start teaching, and to see some people I haven't seen for a while. For now, I'm happy that I'm surrounded by enthusiastic people who prefer not to be strangers. Speaking of which, it's time to get off my ass and see if anyone wants to have a kick-about. Know what I'm saying, Brendan?

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