Ups and Downs of Living Abroad
I want to make sure I'm showing all sides and aspects of the living abroad experience. Last year I may have shown more of the better times than the times I really struggled. I missed my family and friends SO much. I missed out on celebrations back home. I missed some foods. I missed playing intramural sports. I missed things I took for granted back home. I even went through some minor spouts of depression at times. It's not an easy thing to live away from everything you know. Even if you love the country you are in, it's not home. That being said, it's all part of the experience and what has helped to shape me and teach me about life. Here's a short list of some ups and downs we have been dealing with as of late.
👎🏻 Down - Korea Can Be Unorganized and Last Minute
Two weeks down at Avalon Langcon Songdo, and we are almost finished with week three! So far, if you read my last post, it's been a bit of a hot mess at work. But it's not unusual for a new company to have lots of kinks and unknowns in the beginning that need to be worked out. In Korea however, it's even more common to be given an assignment or a new plan of action only minutes before you are to execute it. We have had the wrong books given to us to use for classes, schedules and lesson plans have changed, and we're unaware of the details of things like what will be on student's tests on Monday. There's been a lot of rolling with the punches, but thankfully our boss is really great and easy to talk to. Things are definitely getting better as we have had two full weeks to get things sorted out. New students are still joining classes which can make things a little difficult. We can't really catch them up with what we've done since classes are so short, so they jump right in and try to go from there.
👍🏻 Up - Students are Adorable and Class Sizes are Manageable
On average, we have about three students per class and about 8 classes. However, in one of my classes, I had two new students and two students who came to observe. That gave me six students total (eight for that class) - which although isn't that many in the grand scheme of things, is still on the high end for Avalon Langcon, so I can't complain. In my low level class, I have pretty much learned the "chant" to each lesson as I am teaching them the ABC's.
I often now sing to myself, "Hello, hello, my name is A. I am big A, A, A. I am small a, a, a..." I think even Luke is starting to memorize it!
This class is two little 6 year old boys, and although very energetic, they are so adorable and get excited about the littlest things.
In one of my highest level classes, I have three girls who are eleven years old. They recently found out that Luke Teacher is my boyfriend, and now constantly giggle every time they see him walk down the hallway. They are probably my favorite class as they do their work and participate, but we can also talk about other things when we're all finished. Plus, they are super sweet!
👍🏻 Up - Different Holidays Such as "White Day"
Part of the fun of living in another country is celebrating things their way! For instance, in America, we have Valentine's Day. The one day a year where you're supposed to have to want to shower your loved one with all things romantic and chocolatey. In Korea, they have Valentine's Day on the same day as us, but it is instead meant for the women to shower the men with chocolates. However, one month later on March 14th, they celebrate White Day, where the men are expected to reciprocate! According to Asia Society, they are technically supposed to follow the "Rule of Three" meaning giving 3x as much as they received on Valentine's Day. Luke definitely followed through and gave me soooo many chocolates. I am trying to pace myself and am doing well so far, haha. Although I definitely don't need that much chocolate, it's a pretty sweet deal and we all know I'll end up eating it anyway! :) <3
👎🏻 Down - Missing Out on Things Back Home
It's not always as magical and exciting as it may seem online. It's the celebrations of friends and family that you miss out on. I will be missing out on multiple weddings, and I even have a new niece that I won't get to meet until she is at least 1! Thankfully, technology makes it easy to chat with people and see their faces, but nothing beats being there in real time. Plus, we all know social media can make FOMO very real! Being away from the people and things you love and are familiar with is just part of the experience.
👍🏻 Up - Exploring New Places in New Ways
We bought bikes! Incheon is a great and new, up and coming city, but it is very spread out. Lots of things are within walking distance but many more things are a bit far to walk, so we take a local bus. But we recently purchased two bikes! I am now the proud owner of an adorably yellow cruiser bike (stay tuned for a name reveal)! And of course, it has a bell and a basket. We've taken these out a couple of times, but it's still a bit cold that when we ride at night, our hands and faces are freezing! As I'm sure most of you are anxiously awaiting the warm weather just around the corner, we cannot wait to get outside and explore more of the city...especially now that we have our bikes!
👍🏻 Up - Celebrating the Same Holidays but with Different People
Our fourth weekend living in Incheon was spent mostly in Seoul. St. Patty's Day was on Saturday, so we planned on venturing into the big city around noon. Instead, we actually bought our second bike that afternoon so we were a bit delayed. We ended up at Sindorim Station in Seoul at about 5 PM where Korea's biggest St. Patrick's Day Festival was being held. Irish bands were playing from 1-6 and greenery was everywhere with shamrock headbands, tall green hats, crazy outfits and balloons. Guinness was being sold at 4 tall boy cans for 10,000 Won ($9.30) and a pint of Jameson for 14,000 Won ($13). We opted for the beer and sat back to people watch since we were a bit late to the party. There was an after party in Hongdae, but instead we went inside the nearby mall, ate some Shabu Shabu in the food court and browsed some stores before heading back that night.
The next day, I traveled into Seoul "seoul-o" to meet up with Hannah for a girl's day! Luke had left shortly after me to meet up with Cameron for a guy's day. As soon as we left the subway and were heading to her apartment, we were immediately stopped and called over by some ajummas who were having what we know as a "pancake breakfast" for their church. It consisted of kimchi pizzas (also known as kimchi pancakes) and instant coffee. They were so excited to see foreigners and - since Hannah knows Korean - talked her ear off about going to their church. What a way to start the day! I had such a fun time seeing her apartment and exploring some new areas. It's so great now that we both have new things to see since last year and now we can share them with each other! We passed a raccoon cafe - shout out to you, Steve K! - but when we peeked in, all we saw was someone's corgi running around. Not sure if raccoons are only there during certain times or what but I am 99% sure I would have freaked out if they were actually in there and I had to enter. I will likely be trying out a cat cafe this year sometime though. While the raccoons aren't being hurt, the cat cafes seem to be a bit more natural as cats are indoor animals, so we will be opting for that route instead. After Hannah and I caught up, did some shopping and ate some DELICIOUS cheesy jjimdak (Luke's favorite) I met up with Luke and Cameron for some makgeolli and kimchi pancakes and then we headed back home.
👎🏻 Down - Transitioning and Adjusting to a New Life Isn't Easy
We've had a great time so far while adjusting to city life, a new apartment and a new school but it's been a slow transition. We still don't have an ID card, a bank account, and are still in need of a lot of furniture! But we're confident things will come together soon.