Landing in Gim-Cheon is wonderful thing… For so many reasons… It has been such a long trail to get here. Doing the paperwork from Vietnam, the help from the states and Canada, the visit in Seoul, the visa-run to Japan, and then the orientation in Jeonju University – all combined into yesterday’s landing.
First thing I noticed was that my co-teacher was not fresh off the boat – she was clearly experienced, and had a nice smile. I asked her how long she’s been teaching – 20 years. To me, that’s awesome. I don’t want to teach with a newbie. She seems nice.
She took me to the school that will be my primary school out of four – yes four. I’ll be teaching middle school, so young teens. The first school had only 60 students. Wow! That’s fantastic! I’ll have the positive from the hagwans that I thought I’d miss out on – the knowing the kids factor. Of course, I haven’t met my other three schools, but it should be cool. I met a handful of the boys who were congregating in the English language room for guitar class as I was toured around. And my principal not only seems like an unswervingly fair and thoughtful guy – he plays ping-pong with a skill that I’ve never seen.
So the tour went well – no comment about my tattoo on my arm just a look – he even seemed to enjoy the story about it. He also seemed to like the way I took to teaching the students right out of the gate with an impromptu mini-class about a few words as I met them in the English room (which will get it’s own focused note later- it’s amazingly advanced – the only room in the whole building not using chalk – but using an interactive board!) In addition – he tells me that I’m the first native speaker that these kids have ever had as a teacher – and he told that to me with a clear implication of the importance of my presence as a representative of the outside world to these kids. It’s a really cool, but still kinda isolated in a way, place. I’ll be an uplink of sorts. That kinda rocks.
So now it’s Saturday. Went for a walk about two hours ago. Turned the opposite direction from where I’d walked last night to the E-Mart where I bought a hundred and fifty thousand won worth of household goods to round out my place. As I strolled along the road, I crossed a river that was absolutely a picture – It had all sorts of greenery growing up through it. It seemed as though it was lower than it sometimes runs, but had been that level for some time for that much grass to grow so high. It still seemed to have been reinforced to the point that it seems that it will swell in certain seasons. I guess I’ll see that when it comes time.
I had to release a cat. As I was about to cross an eight-lane, after the river, and saw a woman looking at a spot of black on the sidewalk on the other side. I realized what she was looking at and at the same time noticed a small plastic bag roll by my foot. I put the two together. I decided I would take the bag over to what was seemingly a dead cat, remove it, and consider myself chivalrous. Well, it wasn’t dead. It had been hit by a bicycle. It was bleeding out of its nose and anus. It was bent wrong, and was clearly in a bad way, breathing fast and not responding well to movement. Another man came over. The woman had gone and gotten him from a nearby store. He was young and spoke flawless English. I was surprised to that effect. I related that I had considered bringing it over to the riverside, but as it was hurt and untagged, I imagined that it might also have rabies. Nearly in jest, I asked him if he had leather gloves. He said he would go get some. I took the cat to the river and released it on the bank. It hurt my heart and I knew it had to be as well. I hope the cat has a spirit that rises on Buddha’s ladder. This type of thing is something I know little about, but one can hope.
I walked along the road for another hour. The breeze has been light, the air warm. The business area seems to be one elongated road that runs for miles, with residential hills on the left, and a light block or two of shops to the right continuing into residential. This town is my new home.
Considering turning around, I saw a market ahead and decided to turn around there, but got caught by this little cafe called Sleepless in Seattle. I had to stop and type to you here.
Landing is something else. Yesterday, I not only met my co-workers I mentioned earlier, but I also got a new apartment. Heh. The first one was clearly from an old teacher. And it was TINY! Wow – I was about to laugh when I saw that they were serious. I laughed later. Simply refused to consider it. I told them that I would need something much larger – with space not only for a bed, but a desk and office. They looked concerned. Heh. So they took me to a beautiful spot that they continued to explain was going to the couple that were traveling with me. I explained that something of that sort – even a bit smaller – but the layout at least, would work. She said “That type of apartment is rare.” I said “So am I.” She looked at me with a smile and we walked down the steps together.
The next place was just a bit larger than the first place, but had no furniture. Interesting. I reminded them that I would need space not just to sleep and put my clothes, but for an office. The looked worried again. We went to the next building over. Yum. We found the place. The right place. Spacious. Two full-sized rooms, a balcony for washing and drying clothes, a good sized bathroom and a kitchen that ran along the wall nicely. One thing about it though. They explained to me that they seriously only had a certain amount of money to spend on me, and that they were planning on buying things – ie. a rice-cooker, dishes, a bed etc. with a lot of it, and that was why the other places were so much smaller. They told me that I would have to do for myself for all those other things. (I forgot to mention that the new place does come with a brand new HD TV, and the entire place is brand new – no one has ever lived there, the washer and refrigerator both still have the plastic on them and the instruction booklets inside.) I told them that that was fine – even though the contract stipulates materials of the sort- I would be willing to forgo them for the space. They relented – got the space – then told me that we could go get some things from the first apartment. Full score!!! I had previously had an issue with my contract that I was two payscales down from where I actually should be. I’m over it.
So I’m very pleased with my new home. I’ve a lovely apartment, kind and thoughtful co-workers, and have spontaniously made an animal sacrifice to the river-gods. I look forward to a lot of discovery, lots of hiking, and a lot of self-improvement in the fields of graphic design and guitar playing. I now have the space and time to do those things.
This should be an EPIK year.