Year Two: Second month, the best has yet to come
Hello everyone! Per usual, sorry for the long delay in this post! It has been a little over a month since I started teaching again but about two months since I’ve been back in Korea.
So far, this year has been so much different from last year but I am loving this year so much more already. One of the only things that has stayed consistent (besides my host family) is my boxing gym and the people I talk to there. My relationship with the boxing community has greatly improved and I think it's because they feel more comfortable around me and I speak to them in Korean as much as I can. I have also taught them English so they have been using that as well. I continue to go everyday and it's one of the highlights of my day. Recently, I asked if I could photograph some of the classes held and I was able to take some amazing pictures of this community. I've uploaded them down below. Boxing during the weekday has given me so much comfort and stress relief and I'm super thankful I was able to find this last year and continue with it this year. It's crazy how much a community outside of school and Fulbright makes the experience so much better and fulfilling. I've been told it can be difficult for foreigners to make friends with local Koreans so I'm thankful that the boxing community has welcomed me and have made the effort to become my friends. I hope as the year goes on, it only improves.
This year has felt completely different from last year and yet I feel that it has been better. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I don't feel new to everything and I don't have to settle in all over again. Coming back from the USA, I have the same homestay family and mostly the same Fulbright friends so there wasn't as much adjusting at the beginning of the grant year. But I also think the changes that have occurred have been for the best. The things that have changed are my students and co-teachers which I think has improved from last year. With my students, my school has been in-person the entire time so it has been a lot easier to get to know the students and for them to get to know me and feel comfortable around a foreigner. Last year, I was in a hybrid state where I would see my students one week in person and then have online lessons for a week so it took a lot longer for the students to get to know me and feel comfortable around someone who did not speak Korean. This year, interacting with the students are a joy and is the best part of my day. I love getting to know my students and learning about the little things they like to do and just watching them learn English is fascinating as well. I have been able to see the changes and progress of this year's class a lot more then last years class. I do think online learning and in-person lessons makes a huge difference with foreign languages. So by the end of the year, I'm excited to see where my students end up.
With my coworkers, my Fulbright co-teacher is amazing and really fun to co-teach with. In general, he's also really easy to talk to and I have found out that he loves fishing. I don't think I have ever met someone who loves fishing as much as him. He said that if he ever won the lottery, he would quit his job and be a full time fishermen. I told him that Minnesota has some amazing fishing spots and that Alaska is also great for fishing. He now wants to travel to those two states only for fishing. My co-teacher at my little school is also really easy to get along with and fun to co-teach with. Overall, this year's school community is a lot better than last years. Also, my school has asked me to hold a weekly teacher's English club. My co-teacher told me that there are about 5-6 teachers in the school who wanted to improve/learn English from me. I'm super excited for this opportunity and I hope I get to know more of the teachers and feel more part of the school community. I have already had one club session and it went super well. The teachers thought the club was too short (90 minutes once weekly) so instead of once a week I think we have decided to do it twice a week now. The club is super casual and relaxed with us just talking and learning conversational English skills. All of the teachers are really kind and it's nice teaching English to an older audience. I've only had one session so far so we shall see where it takes us as the year goes on.
Besides school stuff, I have continued to travel on the weekends and meet up with friends. I've decided that along with traveling with friends, one of my goals this year is to take more activities/project classes as well as trying more local delicacies. During the month of March, one of the classes I took was a ring making class. I did this in Daegu with one of my friends and it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I made a super simple pinky ring that has a flat round top. The ring also has my name engraved on the inner band. I included one of the pictures down below with the ring that I made (it's on the pinky finger). I 100% would do the class again and I'm excited for all the other potential things that I can make this year. I also have tried new foods this year and one thing that I found to really enjoy is a dish called makcheong, which is actually grilled pig intestines. I know what y'all are probably thinking and I also thought this, but it is surprisingly really delicious. I would say I am more of an adventurous eater but I think it's important to try local foods and to give everything at least one taste before making judgement. I have found a lot of foods here in Korea that I really enjoy that I don't think I would have ever tried in the USA. I personally like Korean cuisine better then American cuisine but it honestly isn't hard for me to like other cuisines more than American food. Even prior to Korea, I have never been a big fan of American food (except for salads) so having Asian food has been wonderful. The only thing that I really miss about the USA is the ease of access to the diversity of food. It can be hard to find really good and amazing foods such as tacos, pad Thai, American sushi, dim sum, salads, curry, pasta, etc in cities that are not Seoul. But overall, this year's goal is to try more local foods and try things that I have never tried before. That is it for now! I hope everyone is having a pleasant spring and continues to stay healthy. Love y'all!