A little back track-
I’m feeling weird that I haven’t yet shared my story of when I first arrived here and now it’s already been 3 weeks (what?!). So before any more time slips away, here it is:
The flight from San Francisco to Seoul was 13 hours long but it really wasn’t too bad. As soon as we left SF (bout 12pm, Tuesday Jan 1st) the crew said, “Ok, time to switch to Seoul time!” (5am, Wednesday Jan 2nd) “Go to sleep, and when you wake up, we’ll serve you breakfast!”
Unfortunately, I made the decision to sit next to the window which meant that every time I had to get up (a lot) I had to politely ask the mother (sitting in the aisle) and her 5yr old son (middle) to move- instead the mom would get up and let me awkwardly straddle her son to shimmy my way out. I still haven’t figured out which way is better: to face the kid as I tower over him in my awkward, “only-foreigner-on-this-plane” kinda way or to just put my butt in his face. Either way- the mom did not look too happy. But later, when the food came, I was glad to be sitting next to the kid because I got to watch how his mom prepared his food (basically rice, veggies and different spices) so that I didn’t have to look like a total gnar and read the instructions (yes, it came with instructions) to figure out how to eat mine.
Once in Seoul, I had to switch airports. I was pretty nervous about this because I only had one hour between flights and um..I don’t speak Korean! But the ladies at the info desk spoke enough English to tell me where to get an airport shuttle- which I did- and would have been all good except I got off the shuttle just a wee bit early so I had to take another shuttle which was more like a city bus and the driver ended up idling the bus in the middle of the street to help me drag my giant suitcase aboard. I kept saying “Please be careful, it’s very heavy, don’t hurt yourself” and I’m sure he thought I was worried about the bag and not him : / oh well
Somehow I got to the domestic airport early enough that they decided to put me on an earlier flight- which was fine- except that then I arrived an hour early in Busan and wait-who is supposed to meet me again? My recruiter had said “someone from the school will be there to meet you”. Unfortunately all I know about my school is that it is in Busan, it is part of the “Kids Club” franchise and I think the director’s name is Kelli. But I am not worried at ALL that they will have trouble spotting me- not only am I the only foreigner but I am the only one standing there with nowhere to go. Taxi drivers kept coming up to me and asking me questions like “Where you want go?” and I would meekly reply, “Kids club? Are you from Kids club?” and they would grow tired of the language barrier and leave. Finally, after waiting an hour (till when my flight was SUPOSSED to arrive) I saw a very worried little man questioning the lady at the info desk and holding a sign with my name on it. He spoke NO English but he seemed very nice so I followed him out to his taxi van and we drive into the city.
By this time it’s about 10:30pm, the sky is dark and all the hundreds of thousands of buildings are lit up. It was so pretty! On my left the streets were full of bright yellow and red lights and flashing billboards everywhere and on my right the hills were covered with apartment complexes- so one hill would be all blue lights and the next- all purple! Then someone calls the driver and he hands me the phone- a lady with a thick accent starts talking to me “hello I’m —, how are you —-words—something—..” Somehow, I decipher that “the driver” is going to take me to my apartment and “the landlord” is going to let me in and that I should be at the school to start work at 9:30am the next morning. “Awesome.”
Then the driver seems confused-he keeps making u-turns and fiddling with his GPS (at the same time btw) and then he stops in front of a run-down looking used-appliance store. Oh great. We’re lost. He parks and gets out-motioning me to stay. And now he’s going to ask someone in this ghetto used refrigerator shop where we are. Great. Then he comes back and starts unloading my bags. Oh! Even better- we are not lost in the ghetto- this is where I live! The landlord comes out to say hello- again, absolutely no English but very sweet anyways (lots of head bowing) and he helps me drag my stuff down a very steep, skinny little alleyway to the building.
We drag my bags into the room and I am so tired I could pass out. But then the landlord starts giving me a tour of the tiny as apartment and showing me how to work EVERY single appliance. Ok thanks! Now get out so I can sleep please! Finally he leaves and even though the room is LITERALLY freezing- I put on every warm thing I brought and am asleep in seconds.
The next day- my first day of school- was such a blur. I watched my manager teach “my classes” for most of the day and then, towards the end, she said “your turn!” and she “let me” teach one of the classes. Afterward, she tried to provide some constructive criticism on my teaching- and I tried not to laugh- thinking, “Lady, I am proud of myself for making it through the first day without falling asleep or accidently drooling on myself-by my American standards today was a huge success!”