Monday, July 31, 2006

So, Like you're Actually DOING something?

After my last class on Friday, I felt as light as air. I was free from work for 7 days.

This past month has been a rollercoaster - not so much of emotions but certainly communication - and I can't actually believe that one month ago today was my first full day in Korea.

There are so many things that I can do now. Food doesn't seem so challenging. Chopsticks are second nature.

And the food tastes great. Kimchi and kimbap (like California rolls) and we even at pig directly from a rotisserie. So...good...

Communicating isn't that bad. You figure is out in the end. Plus, it's kinda starting to sound like a language I could understand.

From what I gather, conujugation of a verb ends a lot in 'meeda'. So D and I wanted around the house, randomly blurting out 'kamsam needa' (thank you) just to make our little place sound Korean.

It feels a bit light a milestone - the first month in an Asian country. Only 11 more to go. And they'll go fast and faster as the months go on. And then suddenly I'll be sad when it's over and I'll have my breakdowns all over again, except perhaps it won't be so bad here because people won't understand what I'm saying. Or maybe I'll start breaking down in another language.

Trippy.

What you readers may be most excited about is that after Friday, I might actually have something to write about. We're headed to Seoul for 3 days with the two other teachers J & L. I just can't wait to do some touristy stuff. I'm missing museums!

There probably won't be posting until Friday - although there may not be any posting until I get back to school on Monday. But since I now do the marathon of classes - 1pm straight through til 715 - I should probably head to the internet cafe on Sunday afternoon.

That is, if I'm not chillin at the beach in Pusan in the hot scorching sun.

(C'mon, you didn't REALLY think I wasn't going to mention the weather?)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Just me and the boys

It was after a sat down at the cafeteria-like table with about 15 Korean men that I realised maybe this wasn't such a good idea.

A few of them were speaking directly to me, in English, many of them smiling at my slow talking answers.

But there was something in some of their eyes that made me think this just wasn't right.

It was by invitation that I had joined the table. One of my favorite students dad's had asked me about four times before I finally sat down.

It DID feel like elementary school. We were in the gym and the tables were filled with food - and drink! - sitting side by side. The bright florescent lights brought it all back. All we need was some Guns & Roses ballads and we' d be all set.

I was certainly breaking convention - or at least I felt it - but I had been told a number of times that foreign women don't really have to follow the rules. And I was invited....

After about 10 minutes of chatting I excused myself, to go to the ladies but also to remove myself from a situation that I wondered might be making the men uncomfortable.

Thinking about it later, it was probably more that how could they start chatting away about their wives in Korean if we were there.

I took a break upstairs with the female teachers - something I'm quite glad I did because although I had no idea what they were saying, A-language paid off.

I came back down to the 'boy room' about 30 minutes later and found two familiar boy faces - D and J. I spent the rest of the evening with them and the men they were chatting with.

And I felt right at home. A group of english speaking male Koreans had gathered at one end of the table. And they were quite happy to natter away with me.

I'm not sure if it was that I was foreign or that times are just changing. But it was an experience I thouroughly enjoyed.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Teacher Extraordinaire

It seems that my teaching skills have improved so greatly that I have now been given another class at the end of the day on Monday Wednesday and Friday.

This means light posts on those days. It also means I will not want to speak at the end of the day. D I'm sure will enjoy the silence.

My last class will now be a 'free talking' class in which we simply discuss in English. Hey, I'm a girl that likes to gab. I'm sure I'll do well.

Booked 3 nights in Seoul next week and looking forward to the break. I'm trying not to think of the fact that there isn't another real break until October.

The UK spoiled me big time. Time to pull up my socks and get back to the real world.

I have to say, there were very few days as a high flying publicist that I was ever as exhausted as I have been on some nights over the last month.

Kudos to those people who choose to educate the young.

Happy Birthday Grandma N!

Happy Birthday Grams! I hope you enjoy your new present and you'll be able to read all about our adventures from the comfort of your own home.

I am always reminded of you whenever I put my earrings in. That was another birthday a long time ago when I turned 9 and you and I got ours ears pierced together.

I suppose it was an early birthday gift for you but it was one of those days I will always remember.

I'm sure I could also learn a lot from you and teaching children - you did it for many years! I was always quite proud to say that my Grandma was a teacher. And I remember your retirement party fondly...with lots of cake!

Thanks for being such a fun lady and always being cheery whenever we see each other.

Have something yummy on this special day.

Food for Thought

As I was sitting there today eating 'lunchy', two things crossed my mind.

"How weird is it that eating with chopsticks no longer seem strange or bizarre?"

and

"Is it possible that I'm addicted to kimchee the way some people are addicted to McDonalds since I'm dreaming about the stuff and can't wait for lunch to arrive so I can eat some?"

Monday, July 24, 2006

Like a Grade 7 Dance

A word to my early 20 self - you would not have survived here. Consdering you spent much of your time hanging out with boys or D's boys, you would find it now very difficult to adjust.

Koreans have a long standing custom, which I've been told stems from Confuscious, being that men and women rarely socialise together in public.

This is changing - we went out partying with Big A on his last night here - and there was a mixture of people - but looking back, the men sat at one end of the table, the women at the other.

This past weekend we had our kindergarten kids camp - which turned out to be one of the funnest weekends we've had here yet. Saturday evening was a BBQ - a Korean BBQ is essentially what we call a pig roast and let me tell you, that pig was good. Sorry if he was on his way to market but maybe he just should have stayed home.

All of our kindergartens are grouped into classes named after fruit. Peach, Orange, Cherry, etc. All the parents of each class, sit together.

It was with great amazement we foreign teachers watched as the parents pulled out mats to sit on, drinks to consume and additional traditional Korean food for the rest of the people sitting in their group. There was live squid, cockles and mussels (oh yes a live a live oh), various types of kimchee and all sorts of other wonderful dishes that I have not yet learned the names for.

We were invited to sit with our students parents. At my 'picnic spot' there were individual take out trays of a full meal: rice, breaded chicken, kimchee, seaweed soup. There were even options!! And they gave me the 'not so hot' option since I'm foreign.

What impressed me most was after dinner, without any real announcements, the men gathered in a circle to drink beer and the women gathered in a circle to eat fruit.

It didn't feel strange at all. And it was lovely.

They have so much respect for tradition. Yet they are willing to change it up a bit - one of the wives scoffed beer for us fruit-eaters. So it felt more like a sleep over. A slumber party. And I really liked it.

We talked about their kids - thanks to a Korean teacher who sat with us to help translate - and, as they always ask, what I thought of Korea and did I like the food. Tip: ALWAYS say something positive, no matter what you think. Koreans view criticism kinda like making fun of family. They can do it, but if some else says your momma's so fat...you don't take to kindly to it.

There goes the bell for class: Later: the rest of the evenings as a foreigner with the dads.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

If It's Not the Weather it's the Garbage

They take their garbage very seriously over here in Korea. Our American friends were told off quite sternly (in Korean I'm guessing) when they threw out some garbage into the wrong bins. Funny thing was, no one SAW them do it, they just saw the garbage was incorrectly dumped and knew it MUST be the foreigners (there's just no hiding in Korea)

So, my paranoid must-please-everyone attitude makes me slightly stressed at the notion that one day a little old Korean lady will come to my door, spouting off Korean in what I will only be able to assume is all about garbage. Not perhaps that the building is on fire or would you like some traditional Korean food, no, it will only be about the fact that my perfectionist self is not properly disposing of refuse. Oh how I suck.

After we let the first Tuesday go by, patiently waiting for the garbage man to arrive and collect all the stuff from our hallway, we decided we had to take action.

We asked our friendly Korean teachers who said they'd be more than happy to help but unfortunately at the last minute (any book you read will tell you things aren't EVER done until the last minute) they weren't available so they simply explained the process.

Glass goes in one bag. Plastic in another. Cardboard is separate. Clothes and sheets are recycled as well. Food is completely separate in the compost pile. The rest is garbage, that must be packed up in special Gimhae bags which you must buy. INcentive to not throw anything out. Sounds fairly straighforward.

Except for the fact that we haven't seen THAT many different bins outside. This is where Tuesday comes in.

It's a big party in our complex and I'm assuming every complex to get the garbage and recycling out. Asians are known for being participaters but I never imagined they could actually make the trash 'fun'.

In the parking lot, a big truck waits with excited security guards to collect your broken down cardboard. About 15 women busily stuff bags and bark orders each other about specifics.

Now, these bags are not only broken down by type of substance but also by MAKE of substance. Small glass bottles in this bag. Large glass bottles in this bag. Small plastic bottles in one bag. LIDS IN THIS BAG. LIDS?? Are you kidding me? Who are these people we are sending this recycling to? The planet of anal aliens???? Where the world would collapse in on itself if a lid accidently got left on a bottle?? gasp!! the horror!

There are about 15 different bags all with different types of materials to be recycled.

We didn't actually need to know what we were doing because as soon as we arrived, the ladies started directly us with our refuse. I was even given back a plastic bottle that had about a millimetre of soya sauce left it in.

She said something in Korean which I could only assume meant 'Are you made woman????? This STILL HAS LIQUID IN IT! GO DISPOSE OF IT NOW BEFORE YOU ATTEMPT TO DISCARD IT! My oh my'.

Off to the compost bucket I went, oddly annoyed at the whole scene. With intense feelings of those culture shock emotions of 'why don't people want to do things the way I do?'.

Two weeks later, I can't imagine doing it any other way.

Maybe I can get myself a new nickname in Canada - Anal Refuse Coordinator. If I have to visit all the apartment complexes in Toronto every week, I think I could turn it into a full time job.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Our House...in the middle of...

Another million other aparment blocks.

I didn't really notice it until I was out with D walking late one night - this being after two Korean teachers called us at 11pm to invite us out for drinks. It was a school night but we had read MANY TIMES that refusing an offer of invite is considered quite rude. Well, I'm not going to be RUDE am I? Even if I had already washed my face, brushed my teeth, gotten into bed and read my book, only pages away from la la land.

My Gemini spirit loves a bit of spontaneity once in awhile. And lets face it, I am coming from the land of drink.

So ANYWAY, we were walking back from a lovely evening of lemo soju (read VERY VERY STRONG ALCOHOL. Sipping is okay but shooting it back tends to make the test more bearable) and food (all of which we had NO IDEA how to order again as it was all in Korean so it was a bit of a tease to dangle in front of our faces only to have us realise that we will only ever be able to eat good food if we're out with Koreans)...

AS I was saying we were walking back to our house about 10 minutes away when we looked up.
All you could see across the night sky was high rise apartment buildings. It seems most of the buildings have 10 floors with two apartments on each floor.

They place the apartments around each other in a rectangle like formation, creating a central enclosed space in the middle which sometimes has a park or sitting area but also contains the entrance to the underground parking lot and the numerous containers they need for the garbage and recycling.

Most Koreans live in apartments. You could read any guide book that could tell you that I suppose but what you won't realise is the sheer number of people they can actually house.

When we walk to work, no one is really out because they are already at work. When we walk home, it does seem a bit busy but again, everyone has pretty much either gone home or they are still at work. But walk around at 11pm, you will see where all the people are. Playing the park, walking circuts around the block. It's like a nation of vampires, coming out when the sun goes down to avoid the heat (ahhhh...almost made it all the way through this entry without a weather reference)

So, with all these people, where are they going to live? In all of these buildings. It's facinating that the place doesn't not feel busy or claustrophobic. But now I can understand.

I have yet to count them but I bet we pass about 30 different apartment blocks on the way home. Each of these blocks must have about 40 different residences in them. Our walk is only 10 minutes. That is a lot of people to house. And successfully done.

Our unit is on the 10th floor so we have a spectacular view of the city and mountains from our back veranda (okay okay enclosed balcony/laundry room but work with me here). We also have a scenic mountain view from our front porch (again, enclosed balcony/air con/recycling area).

We have a large living room, THREE bedrooms and a smallish kitchen..with no stove so sadly no roast chicken on Sundays. We are very lucky as it was meant to be for 3 teachers, living single together. Now, it's just us.

I got used to only a little space when we lived in the UK, I have to say that I am spoiled now. But I can't imagine living with a family in this type of setting. No wonder they're out running laps or heading to the bar around 11pm, gets them out of the house.

And as many of the things I'm learning, I'm always surprised how quickly living a certain lifestyle can make so much sense. Why waste all that land on houses when you can offer green space to the entire community?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Communication Success!

For those of you following the comment saga, I have now made contact with the mothership and looking very much forward to hearing all her big news.

As today is Thursday, I will have more time this afternoon to update and I've finally thought of some things to write about other than the weather...(it must be those endorphins from the gym running)

Later this afternoon for many of you means 'not until tomorrow morning' so if you are checking on Wednesday night, apologies for the lack of words but hoping the story later on will be a bit more interesting then my struggle with not only the Korean language but my email.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

They Started a Heat Wave

(sing)
a tropical heat wave....

(White Christmas fans? anyone? c'mon..)

Yes, there is a heat wave, with warm sun and highs of 30 but NOT HERE IN KOREA.

Yes, it is warm and humid but there is no sun. Do you want to know where the sun has ended up?

BELFAST!! Lucky bastards....I wanted a tan by August gosh darnit - I should have stayed with the Guinness.

And, it wouldn't have been a day on this blog without some reference to the weather.

The weekend was a nice long relaxing one but super panic hit on Monday night and I was ready to get out of the house. I was freaking out yet again about the garbage (what the hell is wrong with me?) and didn't have a great sleep.

There is something to be said for cooping yourself up in your house to watch English speaking DVDs for a day. But I think this only stops you from experiencing the culture.

I did venture out on Saturday by bus (whoa, crazy bus drivers) to Pusan where the open markets you can barter and get cheap shirts - thanks to my American buddy J since he has mastered the most Korean out of all of us - and had a delicious snack which consisted of pancake mix surrrounding brown sugar, deep fried. I'm not sure what is was called but I've decided to rename it a 'little piece of Korean heaven'.

If it would stop raining (yes, granny weather reference number 4006) we could actually start exploring. It doesn't help that I think I'm getting the cold I should have gotten when we first arrived but luckily my immune system was kind to me..until now of course.

I did manage to make it to the gym. I've never actually felt fat in a gym before but amongst these tiny Koreans, I might as well be the girl from Shallow Hal. Funny enough, I think I've probably already lost about 10 pounds from all the sweat so would have hated to see what the bloated person who arrived looked like in sweat pants.

Part of me can hardly believe I haven't been here for a month. The other part of me wonders sometimes how I will actually make it over the next 50 weeks. Everything still feels so foreign and sometimes the easiest answer would be to just pick up and go back. I'm too stubborn to actually consider that an option and I know I would regret it. I just want to get past the point where I am thinking that on a regular basis.

Having people from N. America here makes is easier and harder. In Belfast, I learned to adapt because I had to. There was no one else that was from Canada. Here, it's easier to slip back out of any sort of Korean reality and watch movies and videos. We have to be careful not to do that because I really won't make it. I need to become part of everything that is already here.

I keep promising myself that I'll get outside when the weather gets better...and then maybe I'll have more to talk about then the weather..

*********
My email: I am getting some emails but some people (okay, only my mother that I know of) cannot get through. Please post a comment if your email is getting bounced back from me.

Care packages: I'm throwing this out there because some people have asked. What I miss most:
OK/Hello/Now/Heat/People magazine (ya and you thought I was going to say the Economist? c'mon people)
Earl Grey Tea - or any tea that is not herbal. I can definitely get enough of those. Especially Green Tea
Packs of Oatmeal - I hate toast for breakfast
Kraft Diner - I couldn't get this in the UK either so always up for some good stuff
Popcorn - mircowave stuff rocks. lets go Orville Redenbacher

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Starring....

A Teacher and D Teacher! On local Gimhae TV. Having the cheesiest english conversation known to man!

A: Is it hot enough for you?

D: Yes, we need more rain

A: More rain, are you crazy? It will flood the streets again!

Can you believe it only took me 5 MINUTES to write that? Wow, I'm pretty talented. And pretty much a big geek.

The local cable station does a show every week about the school and Big A used to appear on a regular basis with his 'Daily Expression'.

I decided to take it to the next level. I created the 'Daily Conversation' and launched
D and I into the stardom that we so deserve here in Gimhae, considering everyone stares at us anyway.

No one in the camera crew spoke english and it was back to A-language again, with me nodding and smiling and pretending to understand. (this really works actually - why do people even learn the language anyway?)

It brought me back to the high school days when I used to produce a show for the local cable station about our high school. Good old B Beat. Funny how stuff can come full circle.

The weather is getting hotter and hotter by the day (by the way, am I 60? what is with the weather-talking?) and I find myself almost melted by the time I get to work. How do people live without air con

Today: attempt to get our travellers cheques changed at the bank. And of course, the daily struggle of 'what to have for dinner'.

Monday, July 10, 2006

It's all starting to make sense

I am definitely happier when I am amongst the Koreans. I feel out of place when I'm holed up in my apartment and begin to worry unnecessarily. But after my first class yesterday, I just simply felt better.

I am also getting very good at 'pretending to understand', kinda like osmosis in an effort for the words to sink in. If I believe I know what they're talking about, then I do.

Due to the monsoon - yes, only here a week and I have lived through one. Lots of rain and wind. Kinda like a hurricane. But because we are so far inland, I don't think it ended up causing that much damage. Okay, ya, so I'm not really sure what happened around the whole country but we just had lots of rain that pooled up so high some streets were flooded. Doesn't really much matter if you don't have a car does it?

Anyway...due to the monsoon, our afternoon classes were cancelled. We left the school early to do some shopping at the Home Plus which is owned by Tesco and kinda reminds me of home except for the fact I can't read anything or understand what the people are saying. So, ya, mostly the same.

We decided to stop at McDonalds - when we travelled Europe D would have cut off his right arm before buying anything from McDonalds - I think even he was wanting a bit of comfort food.

The girl didn't speak English. As I've pointed out, we don't speak Korean (yet). The sign language got us 'two number two meals' but then we were on our own. She said something that seemed like 'what would you like to drink with that?' and so I said 'Cola'. It was the right answer. First mini success.

D wanted water so that was a bit confusing but in the end we managed.

Then came another sentence, which I'm sure meant 'For here or to go'. I made the 'for here' motions with my hands and she nodded in understanding. Second mini success.

She then launched into a sentence - which I then took to mean, 'Your fries will be anothEr 5 minutes, please have a seat and I'll bring your food to you'. Smiling, I said kamsa-hamneeda (an important one to know as it means THANK YOU) and sat down.

Mission accomplished.

This was not the only success of the evening. We ended up stumbling upon a DVD rental place. Nothing is more relaxing then watching TV on my weeknights now so we went in and thought we'd try our luck. Lucky for us, the movies are not dubbed in Korean, only subtitled and hey, this is an opportunity for us to learn the lauguage. Listen in English - read in Korean.

We got to the counter and the woman smiled and made a hand gesture that we assumed was asking us for our membership card. I made an X with my hands and she proceeded to ask our name. I looked at D - Big A must of had a membership here.

'Big A Last Name', I said and up it came. She wanted our telephone number, which I have written down and then she asked us for the equvialent of a Canadian dollar.

Smiling, she said what we assumed meant 'This is due back tomorrow' and we confirmed this but nodding and saying 'tomorrow?' She smiled and with Mr. and Mrs. Smith, we were on our way.

This can be done. I can do this. I just need to remember to be patient. Ms Communication may have to be slightly in-communicado with the rest of her world for a while.

Maybe that will teach me to shut up once in awhile.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Garbage and the Kindness of Strangers

I didn't make it to the internet cafe this weekend so I'm still finding minutes between class to update. I have yet to plan any of the 5 classes I have this afternoon and since I have to be in class in another 20 minutes, this will be brief.

This weekend had its ups and downs. I'm very conscious of the fact that I have not exercised and thinking that I need some happy hormones to begin floating again. I am also aware that culture shock hits you in many different ways at different times.

Sunday I was left quite annoyed..at everything. There is this whole garbage system which we haven't really figured out and are not really sure who we're supposed to ask about. We had been told to leave our garbage out side our door and wait until Tuesday. Tuesday came and it was still there. On Sunday morning, I realised fruit flies were beginning to invade the garbage. I had left some food in one of the bags and the hallway was beginning to smell like shit.

For some reason, this put me at a real loss. I had visions all day of someone coming to the door, yelling at me in Korean about how messy I had left it outside.

I managed to clear the food, find the right place for it to go and at least rid the hallway of the smell. I have not, however, been able to rid the hallway of all the other garbage.

This drawn out story about garbage is really about the frustration of not being able to communicate. I can't read the signs. They might say something about garbage but how the hell will I know?

I made myself feel better by practicing more Korean.

But I had a great Saturday. Saturday I got to go to the movies. I got to eat popcorn. I got to sample some fantastic Vietnamese food. I got to build a stronger friendship with the two other teachers at my school. I got to meet other foreigners, all Canadian and I am reminded that even though we have a large country, we are the same, in some small way.

It was the kindess of the evening. The generosity of the people who to them, it was just a night of poker. For me, it was a bit of a light. It was a little home. And I left, amongst a monsoon to get to a cab, so grateful for their friendliness, pledging to myself that someday, I would return the favour to another new arrival.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Sweat is good for the Pores

The girl who obsesses about weather has been having a hay-day this week.

I'm so excited to be hot. sweaty. sticky. IT FEELS SO LONG. This morning I thought I was going to melt on the way to work and the thought of it made me smile.

I didn't realise how much the weather in Belfast had had an effect on me. I was missing the heat!

And air con. It's great to also have air con. Because as much as I love the stickyness, I don't know how I would sleep.

My skin looks great. All the sweat is cleansing the pores and making me shimmer and shine. Who knew I could love shining so much?

Who knew that by Friday I would have run out of words that all I could write about was how I was enjoying the hot sticky weather?

Next thing you know I'll be going on about those crazy kids and their rock and roll. Their music is just too darn loud.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ooo Awww it's Thursday

The cool thing about teaching is that you have a different classes every day...well almost.

Our Monday, Wednesday and Friday are the same. Our Tuesday and Thursday are the same.

And am I already glad it's Thursday.

On MWF (which I will now refer to as the days that are so long) I teach straight through most of the afternoon. This is after 'playing' with kindergartens for two hours in the morning.

I leave here almost comotose. I can assume that perhaps because it's my first week, this is why I'm so extremely exhausted. At the same time, I've basically been talking for 6 hours straight.

Not only talking, but trying to communicate. And being very patient.

So patient that I tend to lose it a bit when I get home. Last night, I had a big freak out because laundry was taking up my 'couch potatoing time'.

I'm glad I'm being a teacher for this period because it is teaching me something that I would not have learned otherwise. I would never have had the opportunity to teach like this back home. Just thrown in there. In front of students that I can't understand. Wow.

It seems so long ago I was in Ireland. I only left a week ago.

More to write on the weekend when I have more time...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Ummm..Ya, About that Garbage

You tend to take simple things for granted when you live in your home country.

Like you will be able to read the signs as you walk down the street.

Or be able to read how long you are supposed to cook what you're hoping is rice - you only know that because there is a picture of the white stuff on the front.

In the UK (which by the way seems to be a phrase that I have been using A LOT lately), I did have to learn new words for things. Garbage became bin, dish soap became washing up liquid. Aluminum became, well they just pronounced it differently and liked to point it out A LOT.

But here, I am starting from stratch. I just mastered the sounds of the vowels in the language hangul last night. There were about 8 of them. I know what they sound like. Where they are placed in words and what those words mean? Oh yeah, well maybe somtime next to NEVER.

D and I are making a pact to try and dedicate 30 minutes a day to listening to the Korean tapes and learning the language. After a day of standing in front of kids talking, the last thing you really want to do is start learning yourself but I think it's important.

I have little kids that don't understand why I don't understand them. Their cute little faces look up at me, perplexed as why the words that are coming out of their mouths sounds like blah blah blah to me.

I have to admit the biggest thing that has surprised me - and of course is stressing me out - is the garbage. We were told to leave it until Tuesday. Tuesday has come and gone and all the 15 boxes are still sitting outside my apartment. I also have a bag of compost rotting under my sink. I'm too scared to put it outside the door in case a crazy Korean lady comes banging and knocking. What happens now?

Guess we just remain the asshole foreigners who collect garbage outside their door.

Did I mention the monsoon season?

There have been quite a few things we have learned on the fly over the last four days.

The first being that it doesn't matter how much you loved the country you were living in or how great a teacher you were, you will probably still leave your apartment in a disgusting mess for the new tenants to clean up. Thanks Big A, task 1 on Saturday.

There have been many others, such as food garbage must go separate, although we won't tell you where. And shoes must come off in houses, but at work, wander around as much as you like.

Teaching becomes easier when you have textbooks, although we didn't have those the first day and spent much of the time introducing ourselves...or should I say that took about 5 minutes adn the rest of the hour was spent singing songs and generally, making it up as we went along.

We've also learned you can commincate with people who don't speak your language and vice versa. D and I spent a car ride yesterday with a couple who spoke no English. And yet, we managed.

Kindness and understanding go a long way. Not everything is going to be done the way it was back home. I'm witnessing other teachers going through the struggle of losing their patience, misunderstanding.

Children are wonderfully protective of their routine and so generous in their assitance. So many times over the past two days, they have pointed out to me what comes next, what pen to mark with, what song to sing, who gets to be captain.

Oh yeah and did I mention the monsoon season? It will now rain for the next month. Solid.

In addition to all the drinking they do, it feels like i never left Ireland.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Annyong Hasseyo

Which means, good morning, good afternoon, good evening.

And its the only thing I've learned so far.

That and thank you, which is kamsa-hamneeda, although I had to just look that up as I keep forgetting.

I'm on such information overload that I don't know where to start.

We arrived Friday to the friendliest welcome I have ever experienced. The evening was filled with nodding and poorly executed customs such as taking your shoes off and never pouring your own drink.

The last two days have been filled with preparation for tomorrow, fear and trepidation, wonder and amazement, tiredness and jet lag, overall emotional roller coaster.

There is not way to describe being in a country where you not only don't know the language, you can't understand the written words. It's been a very humbling and scary experience so far.

I'm planning for a couple of bad days over the next couple of weeks. Our apartment is beginning to feel a bit more like home but we are both ready to get Monday here and get started.

I hope I'm ready for this ride....