Week One in Cheonan – Sniffle, Sniffle, Cough, Cough

I’m writing this to you from my tiny studio apartment in the Buldangdong neighborhood of Cheonan, South Korea. I flew into Incheon last Sunday night around 6PM and then took a bus to Cheonan where my school director picked me up and brought me to my apartment. I went to bed almost immediately after having been on the road (or in the sky) for what felt like forever, but was realistically closer to 18 hours.

I went straight to work that Monday, getting to know my coworkers and shadowing classroom teaching for a few days. Wednesday I started teaching my own classes. It’s funny how preparing to teach sucks, but actually teaching is fun. I’m not sure how that works, but that’s what I feel so far. I hate planning, so I guess I need to just get good at looking like I plan well. But I really do love teaching the kids and playing with them.

My kids are between the ages of 5 and 12. A pretty wide range. Most of the teachers at my school have been there for several years, so it doesn’t seem like a place with high churn rate, which is good. The owners of the school seem nice enough and have been helping me get my medical screenings and immigration work squared away, but maintain a general stoicism that I’m coming to expect from them as the year progresses.

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About 36 hours into getting here I started to feel a little off. The jetlag, which I’m familiar with from traveling abroad a few times, was really getting the best of me. I was waking up in the middle of the night or super early in the morning and unable to fall asleep. I started to feel a little sick on Wednesday and tried to ward it off by going to bed early, but with all the clamor and stress of being a new teacher, by Friday night, I was fully in the grips of some awful virus. Headaches, chills, body aches, sweats, stuffy nose and probably fever. I was a mess. I really wanted to go out and explore this weekend and thought about trying to power through it, but realized I was going to have zero luck with that. So I went home after work on Friday, meditated and took a short nap. I woke up feeling way worse and tried to grab food in a restauraunt right near my apartment and was politely asked to leave because the lady running the place spoke no English and couldn’t take my order. So, I went across the street to the other place I knew of in my neighborhood and had porridge for dinner (see picture above). It was good, but I’ve already had it 3 times this week and wanted something different.

Saturday I woke up feeling terrible still, so I pretty much stayed in bed all day until 5 PM, when I put some clothes on and forced myself to leave the house in search of food. I went down to where my school is, where I know there are restaurants with picture menus that I can order from and grabbed some food. One of the ladies working at the restaurant heard my voice and saw me generally looking and feeling like shit and brought me over a big cup of hot broth and told me in broken English to drink it and that it would make me feel better. It was a very nice gesture and one I appreciated very much. After that I made my way back home, talked with my mom on Facebook chat and then went to bed early again and woke up a reasonable hour today.

So, all-in-all, South Korea has been an interesting experience so far. The little kids are fantastic. The food is very good and interesting (and very cheap!). Getting sick my first weekend was a huge bummer, but I’m hoping I’m developing anti-bodies that will ward off more germs as the year goes along. I need to find some vitamin C packets somewhere and make that a daily regimen.

I’ll try to keep these updates going out as regular as possibly without being spammy. I’m off to find some bibimbap for dinner and hopefully avoid getting asked to leave for having no Korean language skills yet. Luckily I found a few survival phrases on my phone that night help me.

As always, feel free to email me any time or Skype/Google Chat me if you see me online!