The buses departed immediately after the closing ceremony for Daegu, I was excited to finally see where I was going to be living and see the city that will be my new home. Korea is crazy in that so much of it is mountainous and upon leaving its urban hubs you are quickly surrounded by hills, making you realise just how densely the population lives. Our coach brought us over to the central Daegu convention hall and we all moved into various sections depending on whether or not we were elementary or middle school with a crowd of Korean teachers all stood around the rear of the auditorium. There was a mixed feeling of excitement and nerves in the air with everyone about to meet the person that would have quite a big impact on their next year and finally find out exactly what we’d let ourselves in for!
Each different part of the city was called up in groups and then one by one read out and collected by our Korean co teacher. I was quite a way down through the list so was waiting a while as people gradually filled out the room with their teachers – some looking extremely excited and others rather pale! The safety bubble of the couple of hundred other EPIK teachers constantly being around you was being popped.
I was met by my co teacher, another teacher and an administration staff member, to drive me across the city to get me into my apartment. The first reaction that I got from them after our hello’s is one I’m now fairly used to: “You only have one bag?!”
They had driven in a huge truck with loads of boot space, maybe in anticipation I’d be pretty laden up with bags, so my single suitcase looked pretty funny sat alone in the trunk. We crossed through the city with the usual small talk, my co-teacher’s English is good, which is a relief, having heard that many English co-teachers may not actually really speak English. She is also very friendly and experienced, having been a teacher here for around 20 years, so I’m hoping she’ll give me lots of advice throughout the year. It is her first year at this school also though, so we are settling in and getting lost together!
The first thing I discovered upon arriving at my apartment is that they don’t really use keys, all the doors are coded keypads, so one less thing to carry/forget! My apartment is very typically Korean, in that it is exactly enough space you need to live and no more. It was completely brand new though which was fantastic, so everything works and the place was super clean – I spent about an hour the following day just unwrapping all the plastic coverings from all the surfaces and appliances. The only downside to the apartment being brand new was that there was nothing left from the previous teacher for me, so I had an empty shell that needing furnishing with everything.
We get given $300 to settle down and equip our apartments. I’d been quietly hoping that I could use this money to live off until my first paycheck, but it’s all gone. It went very quickly! Korea is not cheap for appliances what so ever, two pans cost me nearly $60, my bedding a further $70, cutlery $20 and so on. The best thing about the apartment is that it comes with internet already installed. My roommate from orientation, Tom and myself went out first thing Saturday morning to buy router boxes to get wireless setup, and so $20 later we were getting speeds like this:
We also went Daiso – which is actually a Japenese budget shop – simliar to pound land in the UK and our saviour for many items. My apartment was as empty as you can imagine, and as I’m living here long term I wanted to buy everything from a shoe rack to coat hangers to storage containers. I had a busy first couple of days sorting out my place, but I’m now fairly happy with how it looks, just need to find a place to print photos so that I can decorate it a little.
I’ve done a little bit of food shopping, but yet to properly figure out what I’m going to eat whilst here. Western types of food are incredibly expensive in the supermarkets – $3 for a small loaf of bread, $2 for pasta, vegetables and fruits so expensive. I get provided lunch each day at school and imagine we are going to eat out a lot of dinners, but I still need to figure out what I’m going to want around the apartment.
Korean’s have an interesting way of approaching problems. Basically, they don’t. At least not in the way we would. This was something repeated so often at orientation that you just don’t point out a problem, more talk about it in a round about way and suggest if there is something that maybe could possibly be done about it, but only if it’s convenient. It may sound pretty frustrating, and I imagine it can be. Luckily I didn’t have too many problems to try and resolve, the only being that there was no desk, chair or tv in my apartment – all objects that are mandated in my contract. The head of admin certainly didn’t sound too happy when I mentioned the missing items, apparently he said ‘You’ve got a computer, you don’t need a television’, which whilst being perfectly true, it’s still something written in the contract. Not written in the contract and also not in my apartment are things like a kettle, toaster, microwave – all things I’ll have to pay for myself if I want them, so I definitely wanted the things I was supposed to get. I held my ground (very politely) and apparently my tv will be delivered this week – I’m just hoping it’s not a something from the 90s.
It’s been a 4 day weekend here in Korea to celebrate independence day. The evenings have been spent sampling Korean food and drink culture in the down-town region – highlighted with a cool underground radio bar and also sharing some delicious Korean BBQ. Our days were mainly spent organising our apartments and sorting out Alien Registration Cards and bank accounts, but we had just enough time to go on a short hike at the edge of the city to get views out across the city, before it was the final evening and the realisation of the opening day of school.