Sunday, November 18, 2012

These are a few of my favorite things... (Korea Edition)

Some things I love about Korea...

1)  Korean kids 
Although I loved working with adults when I was in Germany, working with Korean kids has been an unexpected joy for me.  Maybe I'd be singing a different tune if I had been placed in a middle school, but elementary school kids are so much fun to work with.  They are curious and open and give you so much undeserved love.  I adore the kids at my school and I think that leaving them will be one of the hardest parts about saying goodbye in February.

2)  The work day
Despite having to be at school from 8:40 - 4:40 each day, my contract requires me to work only 22 teaching hours (of 40 minutes) per week. That leaves you with a lot of time to prepare classes in school (and not have to worry about taking work home with you) as well as plenty of free time to study, work on personal projects, play board games with fellow teachers and/or zone out on Facebook.  This is clearly a borderline good thing, but overall this job is pretty low-stress.

3)  Soups & Stews Galore
This is not a job perk, however it is a huge and wonderful being-in-Korea advantage.  I love all the different Korean soups and jiggaes.  They are satisfying and intensely flavorful.  They are also totally within budget.  You can make a cheap meal of it for 5,000-7,000 won.  You can attempt cooking them cheaper at home if you like, but I think it's a pretty good deal.  Two people can eat a very filling meal for about 10,000 won or $10, 8 euros.

The stews are served boiling hot and are a welcome relief from the cold weather.  Yummy.
4)  Seoul Subway
Seoul has the very best subway system I have ever used, hands down.  NYC, Nuremberg, Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Athens, Rome, Paris, London--some come close, but none of them has the accesibility, the cleanliness AND the cheap ticket factor.  You can get anywhere in Seoul using one of  7-8 lines.  Best part of it all, a ride costs only 1,050 won (less than $1/1Euro).

Get from one side of Seoul to other for about a $1.
5)  Service aka Free Things
The Koreans call it Ser-bi-suh, we call it free stuff.  Korean shops and restaurants like to treat their customers and their foreign guests to free things.  Whether it be face masks and samples at the numerous skin care/make-up shops, or free soups or dumplings to accompany a meal, or free trips to the DMZ for foreign customers at their bank, Korean customer service is pretty top notch.

6)  The cuteness factor
Some foreigners despise it, but I really like all the cute things you can find here in Korea, particularly in the stationary shops.  My style of dress hasn't conformed to Korean-ness but I do find myself taking a liking to it.  While I probably wouldn't actually wear a matching couple outfit, they are fun to spot Korean couples wearing.  
A blog with some cuter couple clothing:
7)  Convenience
I can't speak for the rest of Korea, but Seoul is convenience capital of the world in my book.  The subways run every five minutes, many shops are open late hours, 24 hour convenient stores are literally EVERYWHERE--(I kid you not, there are four 7-11's, and two Mini-Marts within a two block radius from my apt.).  And while language is definitely a barrier, it isn't one that can't be overcome.  The Korean government has supported the efforts of a 24-hour volunteer translators service that you can call at any time to help you find directions and/or translate in a situation if you can't get your point across.  1330, a number every foreigner needs in their phone.

8) Autumn
Spring brings an explosion of cherry blossoms, Summer brings waves of humidity and unbearable heat and Autumn brings a cool breeze and trees flooding the streets with amazing yellows and reds and oranges.  I've missed the intensities of the colors back in DE.

Autumn in Banghwa.
 "So, if Korea's so great Diana, why aren't you staying another year?" 

Fair question.  There are a lot of great things about living in Korea but let's be honest, there isn't any place on earth that's a field of daisies, so next post I'll talk about the unpleasant, unexpected aspects of living and teaching here in the ROK.

PS.  For anyone browsing here on my blog, feel free to message me or leave a comment if you have any questions about teaching with EPIK.  I'd be happy to help.

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