Travel Stories

A travel blog for a long-term expat, backpacker, traveler, ESL teacher, and photographer. 

Welcome To Jinhae

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I've been here for two proper weeks now. At lot has happened and my feeling of overwhelm has finally began to decrease as things seemed to have worked themselves out. After sleeping in 5 time zones and jumping on and off sixteen planes in the span of a month, I felt exhausted and overwhelmed. Right before coming, I had a last minute freak-out thinking to myself, "oh god, another country, another beginning, you nomadic dick, settle down somewhere." I also had a lot of reflective time when I was back in the US and I realized how sick and tired I am of saying goodbye to every person I meet  - that may decide on my future in Korea actually because this is my fifth country and city I've moved to in the past five years. (jesus, settle down Victoria?). I am really getting lonely moving as much as I do.

Anyways, as it seems, I got onto another two planes and started another adventure to add to my collection. Last minute, like last time, my flight to Korea was delayed, and I got stuck in Japan overnight. My flight from Boston to Japan was a direct 13 hours on one of the dreamliners (yes I rode one and survived, huzzah!) They actually have these purple setting the mood lights that are dimmed on the plane, the windows have a button that changes the tinting setting, etc. Landing in Narita (Tokyo) around 9, I was greeted by stewardesses giving me my hotel package and free food vouchers - obviously the more important one of the two. Seriously, Japan Airlines fed me so much on the freaking plane that I thought I was going to explode - and yes, I may or may not have stayed awake for the entire flight solely to not miss a free meal. I'm lame. Anyways, I got on the shuttle, got to my hotel, and went to the buffet and binged on weird attempts of Western food. They had honeydew soda - that one probably stood out the most. My hotel had one of the cool, electronic bidets on the toilet so I made myself quite comfortable there too... For breakfast, the buffet had a wide variety of vitamins one could take - that was weird. A pill buffet!

My key to my apartment. A pin.

My key to my apartment. A pin.

Okay, really, you guys definitely do not want to learn about the toilet I had fun with or the beverages I drank - let's skip to the Korea part! Okay, so, arriving. I was greeted by my recruiter (who was easy to find since he is English) at the airport. We went over to the Changwon Educational Office and met the man who interviewed me. He explained the contract in more details and introduced me to my main co-teacher. Yada Yada. She has a small car, and so it seems, I brought the world with me and it was like a clown car after I put all my junk inside. I pre-shipped two big boxes on top of the two suitcases, laptop bag, and carry-on backpack. Hmm, I said I travel a lot, I absolutely never said I travel lightly. ;) We got to my beautiful apartment and I set up my keypad - yes, most people don't use keys for homes here, we have a pin code for our apartments.

Next, we went to the local supermarket, which, in my case, is LotteMart and got a ton of necessities for my apartment. I basically had to spend my 300,000 won settlement allowance here which was easy as bedding is more than expensive. I am supposed to get reimbursed at a later time.Okay, technical things aside, nothing really interesting happened on my behalf for Saturday besides a stupid amount of jet lag and tiredness and lack of motivation to unpack. Observations at this point? There are mountains surrounding me by most corners and they are lovely to wake up to and see.

Sunday, however, my co-teacher picked me up at 10 AM and gave me a beautiful city tour of Jinhae! We started at the Jinhae ocean park, looked at a neighboring fishing village, and found ourselves exploring a giant 1950s Navy ship. The giant ship had many wax figures and were totally creepy (you can see below) - the doctor one totally had his patient's pants undone. I can't even try to guess what was going on?  Then I ate a black egg. Which tastes like it sounds. Black and eggy. We then found ourselves atop a 27 floor observatory staring at the sea for miles which had an amazing view as well windows on the floor so you could look 27 floors down which was rather terrifying. After, we went to eat lunch at a place with a ridiculous name - Uncle Tomato. Yeah, because that makes sense. Let's literally translate from Korean to English and it'll sound the same.  "Oh yeah, my uncle is a tomato."

Weird wax figure inside the ship. 

Weird wax figure inside the ship. 

Following lunch, we went to the largest temple in Changwon. Jinhae and Changwon are technically the same city but separated by a giant tunnel in the mountains. The place was a bit of a hike but it definitely paid off to see the area surrounding the temple. The leaves on the trees were orange/red and when it mixed with the temples the site was incredible. If anyone remembers my photos from Gyeongju in 2008, it looks quite similar. It is a place that I'd love to go and just spend a day watching people, observing, and enjoying the serenity of the area. It has got such a different atmosphere than the other religious buildings I've been to in different countries. I definitely have found myself interested in religions that I've never been surrounded by / had the opportunity to learn about.Following the temples, we went back to Jinhae for our last stop -  an eco park? (as my co-teacher called it.) It is amazing that the leaves were still on the trees (everything died back home when I was there..) I literally got to see the Autumn in Poland, Belgium, Holland, Norway, the US (five different states), and Korea. It is just a beautiful season with the different colours painted in the trees and I feel more than lucky to have been able to do so. In this park, the trees were so red that I was in picture-taking heaven and probably annoyed my co-teacher by commenting on the color of the trees 500 times. (You can see the photos below).

Okay, now we are getting into week 1. Monday, I had to go to the alien registration (ARC) office, the hospital for a mandatory check-up (to

ensure that I am not an AIDS carrying foreigner) and make a bank account for the obvious reasons. Without an ARC card, I couldn't get a phone, online banking, etc so that was an immediate necessity. The hospital was a bit all over the place. First, my blood was taken where I tried to be strong and not cry as it was in a big open room rather than a private room so I tried not to publicly cry. Then, it was peeing in a cup, which clearly I am incapable of filling up a pee cup regardless of me trying to sit there waiting. After I failed that task, they put me in a room to get naked so they could X-ray me. Also failed to put the gown on correctly and the lady looked at me like I had two heads. IT WAS LOGICAL, STOP LAUGHING! Then it was an eye test - yes, I am blind, let's test it! Then, they checked for cavities. Yada Yada. Anyways, the results came back on Friday and it said I don't have AIDS, hurray! On a side note, my co-teacher was translating my health document and said, "oh. You have disease." And this led to a mild heart attack. Great. What the hell do I have? She said that I have high cholesterol - phew. Maybe disease wasn't so much the right word though, haha.

Okay, to the teaching!

Day one was overwhelming and stressful. In my first class, my co-teacher was not present because it was exam period. I was shaking like crazy and trying to give my first lesson to noisy noisy girls who wouldn't listen. It seemed to go alright but their lack of attention stressed me out and made me feel vulnerable and unimportant. My second class, however, I had a co-teacher who scared the children somewhat, and the kids listened and did everything I asked. I found my first day to be hard but I imagine I am not very unique in feeling that way. I had to rely on other telling me where to go, when to go, who to go to, etc. I had to learn about changing classes, setting up things, whatever. It was so much to take in. New names, new faces.  At the end of the day, I found myself on the verge of tears and realizing how little CELTA prepared me for children. Okay, I lied. I wasn't on the verge of tears, straight up crying, I laid in bed really early and waited for the day to go away.Wednesday, I went to my second school. The co-teacher was amazing/hilarious and she also told me that I didn't have classes due to exams. The entirety of my day was wasting time as I already had my lessons prepared for the week. The male teachers at this school took a liking to me and after lunch tea time was a bit awkward and overcrowded now (this week at least). Well, cheers to a needed self-esteem booster at the least. I've also been invited to a badminton teachers game on

Wednesdays but I haven't gone yet because I am scared that once they see my lack of athleticism, they'll shake their heads and tell me to get lost.

Thursday, I went to my elementary school and taught. The children were great, active, and wanted to participate/volunteer. They were actively listening to every word and I felt so much better after teaching. I have had generally the same opinion about week two and I feel much better.I have been greeted, bowed at, and talked to more times in these two weeks than probably my whole life. Everyone bows or says "hi teacher." I've also gotten "beautiful" "handsome" "blue eyes" (they're not blue..) "big eyes" "pointy noise" "small face." ALL OF THE THINGS. At first I didn't know if I had to bow back and it was super awkward -  but I am getting used to it. No, teachers don't bow back to the students. We're the kings apparently!As for awkward experiences, I had one kid at my main school come up to me, say "hi" and stare. I said, "Hi I am Victoria." He said, "I knowwwww." And for one whole awkward minute...he stared at me. Stared down into my soul. I nervously giggled as I usually do in uncomfortable situations until he went away. Another boy at the same school questioned about whether or not I like My Little Ponies as much as he does (age 13) - I have met a bronie finally!I did a bucket list lesson this week and I got some good responses, "I want to live in a house made out of cookies and snacks" (yeah me too, kid) "I want to kill someone" (errr please don't make me the target?) "I want to drink beer with friends" (10 yr old)  "I want to meet any amazing gay" (nice error) "I want to watch an amazing woman" (Yes because that isn't creepy at all!) "I want to sleep in my house" (Child abuse confession or mis-translation? Lol) "I want to have plastic surgery" (This was concerning come from 10 yr old girls..).

As for teaching, I am constantly repeating lessons which allows me to notice trends of students "amazement" with certain aspects of my lessons. It definitely allows for reflective time to edit and better my lessons/teaching. I'm still learning but I'm glad I can get something back from my lessons.I also find myself concerned already for certain students. One student in the elementary class (6th grade I think?), was sat alone at her table and when we did group work, nobody would work with her. She wasn't doing her work when I was walking around, but if I stopped and asked her questions during monitoring, she was able to do it. On her bucket list, there was a "I want to make friends" which is obviously heartbreaking and although I told my (semi useless) co-teacher about her, she didn't do anything. Err, not sure how to go about this yet. My youngest students (5th grade elementary school) are shit at spelling so that is going to be challenging to lesson plan. Doing an activity with them is mostly "TEACHER, SPELL THIS."

Now, my biggest challenges in this whole hot mess of a matter - 1) my lack of friends, 2) my lack of organization, 3) my directionally challengedness. 1). I have moved a lot, met many extraordinary people, and I've never had trouble making friends. However, every time I have moved, it has been easy to meet people through school, roommates, couchsurfing for the case of Antwerp. Now, I am finally in a place where I am on my own. Alone. No support. Working. It isn't easy getting out of my comfort zone and trying to approach people so I find this move to be way more overwhelming than I thought it would be. I'm social, outgoing, but for the life of me, find myself having an unhealthy amount of anxiety when I'm trying to meet people here. I've met a few people which I am happy to have met and, hopefully, through them, I'll also find it easier to meet others, etc. Happiness is only real when shared, right? (Into the Wild conclusion). But, coming in at a random time when nobody is really "meeting people" or trying to "meet people" makes it harder to jump right in.  Getting through this experience will be much easier when I find support and something to do other than hang out in my home (as lovely and as comfortable as it may be).

As for 2). I am an very disorganized person. My purse, my suitcase, my room, my hair, my clothes, everything about me is the definition of disorganization. It is definitely not helping me when it comes to teaching and it is something that I'll have to overcome while here. I feel quite chaotic most of the time because of it.3). Navigation is also extremely difficult. I am directionally challenged and lost most of the time in general. Here, I am lost and I can't read the script yet. (I have been studying though so hopefully I can spend more time this weekend learning the alphabet (called hangeul)). My ARC card did arrive though so I am able to use my GPS now on my phone. In fact, I have a phone. I found myself taking a taxi probably as many times as I've taken a bus because of my direction problem so reading the script will allow me to read the bus stop names, etc. I have been to Ukraine and Jordan (the only countries I've visited that isn't on some sort of the latin alphabet) but I was only in those countries temporarily and I wasn't alone either time - therefore, it didn't affect like it is now.

Overall, Korean people are so friendly and helpful. I am very happy being here and I am happy to provide my life with some stability and quality. I look forward to taking on whatever is going to be thrown in my path here and I hope that I can build more friendships and connections so I don't find myself lost in loneliness (but that is a worry of everyone who moves, right?). I am grateful for this opportunity nonetheless and this will be one more learning step in my life that will build me into a more beautiful, well-rounded individual in

this beautiful world. (and.....I sound like a hippie. Whatever. PEACE).This experience will make me temporarily richer so I can afford nicer lenses/cameras and make my hobby more real. I've also decided upon picking up a new instrument - going to be a banjo or accordion. What do you guys think? (assuming anyone who has an opinion has actually read this much into my ever so long blog.)

And, alas, I will see my beloved Suzie this weekend at her home in Daejeon - time to go down memory lane and see her lovely family after 5 years! I'll bring the camera and hope to take more photos with better quality than last time lolol @ my old photos. (they are on Facebook is anyone is curious though).