Week 8 & 9: first week of teaching, and friends visiting
Hello everyone! I have now finished my first and second week of school. It's crazy that I have been in Korea for the past two months and even more crazy that it's only been about three weeks since I've moved to my placement city. It feels like I have been here forever and it was forever ago since my Fulbright orientation. I have started to really settle in with my homestay family and again, I love them to bits. The parents are always so kind and try to make me feel like a part of the family. I've even started to teach my host dad and mom English over dinner or whenever we hang out. My host mother probably knows more English then I know Korean. We have been communicating in Konglish and for the most part it has been working well for us. My host dad on the other hand, probably knows less English then I know Korean but I've had a really good time trying to teach him English expressions. I haven't had an awkward encounter yet or miscommunication but I would say that when my host dad talks to me in Korean, my mind goes blank and I just stare at him until he realizes that he has lost me in the conversation. Then we both backtrack and try our Konglish together and with the help of Papago (translation app), we've learned how to communicate. My host mother on the other hand, can easily tell when she has lost me and will breakout Papago much sooner than when I talk to my host dad. As for my host sisters, the little one (Danha) hasn't gotten sick of me and we've been playing a lot of games and braiding each other's hair (checkout the braid she did down below). I also accidentally taught her how to use Snapchat and now she sends a lot of pictures through my account. The older one (Ji-O), is starting to open up more and is more talkative to me now. At the beginning she was very shy and reserved but I think she realizes that I'm not a serious person at all and is starting to be more playful and willing to talk to me. She's also one of the kindest 6th grader I have ever met. She's so considerate and nice to her sister that it kinda blows me away how kind she is.
I continue to do Hapkido with my elementary and middle school classmates and it's been really fun. I've started to learn grappling moves, nunchakus and staff work (long wooden stick). My favorite so far is probably grappling even though it's the area that takes me the longest to learn. With grappling, I really have to be paying attention to the body position and try to recopy it. It's been really difficult but it helps that I have a slight boxing background. Next week, I'm actually traveling with my family to another gym because my host sister (Danha) has a competition or test to move up a belt I think (honestly, I'm not quite sure).
Besides my family life going well, I have finished two weeks of school! However, between the two weeks of school, I have only actually taught four times and two of those times were by myself at my smaller school (Yongseong 3rd-6th grade). So due to Covid-19, my big school has been doing a hybrid of in-class and online teaching (I teach 4th and 6th grade). With the online teaching, they are pre-recorded videos. Since I'm at my little school every Wednesday, I have missed some classes at my big school when the students have in-class sessions. I've only briefly met my students at my big school (Samseonghyeon) but I hope as the year goes on, the system switches back to all in-person classes because I really do want to get to know my students more. I'm suppose to have 22 hours of teaching time per week but currently it's been more like 8-15 hours of teaching time per week with online classes. For the classes that I have taught, I honestly am quite surprised but they have gone well (knock on wood for the coming lessons). The students understood what I was saying even though none of it was in Korean. I use a lot of hand gestures and I'm sure I look awkward but it gets my point across. I'm happy to say that the lessons haven't been a complete flop but it may be good to note that I brought a bunch of American candy and have shown the students what they could earn if they participate :). Also my co-teachers Brian and Allen (those are their American names) at my big school (Samseonghyeon) have been absolutely wonderful and are very funny. I love working with them so I honestly think this year will be really fun!
After my first week of teaching, I had the weekend off and my friends came to visit me! During my Fulbright orientation, I became really good friends with Diana and Matthew (both from California) and I think it's our love for food that cemented our friendship. During orientation, once we were out of quarantine, we eat out a lot and would always go get bingsu (Korean shaved ice) or boba tea. Anyhow, they came to visit me for a day! Diana lives about about 2 hours away and Matthew lives a little over 90 minutes away from me. The day started off rough, not gonna lie, because both Matthew and I thought, Diana got lost and we had no way of contacting her because she didn't have Wifi or data. It all ended well and they were able to visit me in my city of Gyeongsan. My host family took us out to eat at this really nice restaurant where we had duck and a bunch of other foods. After lunch, we went to get bingsu (picture below) and found an arcade. I don't wanna say how much money I spent trying to win a stuff animal in one of the claw machines but in the end, I didn't even win anything. We spent more money and played a lot more games in which I was the worst player. After going to the arcade, we got more food and ended the day just talking and really happy to be together. Next time, I'll be visiting Matthew's city so again, I'm excited to eat more food and explore Korea with them!
Overall, the first couple of weeks of teaching have gone well and I think I have a daily schedule of my life. I'm really enjoying my time here and honestly could see myself potentially extending my grant for another year. Given, the grant just started and a lot can happen but I've been thinking if I'm enjoying my time here during Covid-19 times, I can only imagine how great it would be when society is back to normal with all of the restrictions gone. Anyhow, that's still a long time away. I hope everyone is doing well and miss you all! If you have any topics or aspects of Korea you want me to cover, just let me know in the comments section! Also, I would love to hear from y'all.