A Day in the Life

I don’t know if anyone wonders what I get up to between weekend adventures or not, but I figured I’d post on the matter since living in Korea is not all weekend adventures and fun and games. I do have a real job and I work about 8.5 hours a day (1-9:40pm) although I do get to play during a large part of that time.

Breakfast

Most days Nicole and I get up around 9:30 and make breakfast at my apartment or hers. Lately I’ve been making us a lot of eggs in a nest (the breakfast V makes in V for Vendetta).

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Cut a hole the diameter of a tennis ball in a piece of bread

Grease a pan and set the stove to low heat

Place your bread on the stove and crack an egg in the center

Let it sit for a few minutes then flip and wait a few more minutes

Enjoy

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Some days Nicole makes pancakes. I have a french press and one of us usually makes coffee for both of us. Nicole has to go in to work before me so she usually leaves for work and I update my blog or read the news until I have to leave for work around 12:30pm.

Walking to Work

My work is a 15-20 minute walk from my apartment. I put on a podcast or I listen to music and walk through the quiet streets to my work. The walk is nice. I walk past little marts and aparment buildings, hair salons and local restaurants. Because I start work midday, I rarely see anyone else on the street. Occasionally a group of school children will pass me and one person will shout “HELLO” and I’ll say “Hello” back to them.

Its nice. I’ve spent almost 9 months waking up naturally without an alarm. I just get up when I please, aside from the occasional weekend adventure which requires an early bus.

I arrive at work at 1pm and most days I just sit at my desk and prepare for class or grade papers. My earliest class is not until 2:50 and some days my first class is not until 5pm. This gives me more than enough time.

Coffee or Lunch

Classroom preparation takes anywhere from a few minutes per class to maybe 20 minutes on the high end if I prepare a custom worksheet or lesson. Some days I go to get coffee at a nearby coffee shop. Other days I meet Nicole during her break and we have lunch together.

Kimchi Roll
Fancy Kimbap roll

My hagwon, a Korean word for after school academy, is located in an office building. There are several coffee shops along the road: Mango Six, Tom and Tom, Starbucks, Angel-In-Us, and Holly’s. There are also various small restaurants like Pho Bay, kimbap places, Bap Burger (they sell rice burgers), Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robbins, Steff Hotdog, and Roti Boy.

After lunch or I finish planning my lessons, its usually time to start teaching. My classes are either 2:50-9:40 with a few breaks in between or they are 5-9:40 with a 5 minute break every 45 minutes.

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Dinner

Piles of Kimchi
Piles of Kimchi

On my latest break, usually 4-5pm, I go upstairs to the company cafeteria on the roof. It looks like two shipping containers welded together. Inside an old Korean lady makes food for us. Every month we pay 40,000KRW or roughly $38 for a month’s worth of dinners. It ends up being a great deal. There are usually several buffet style trays with food that you can put on a plate for yourself. Everyday we have white rice, kimchi, kimchi radish, and some sort of soup. The other food options are more varied. Sometimes its more western food like fried eggs or ham. Other days the foods are more traditionally Korean like fermented raw octopus, quail eggs, mandoo, or squid in a spicy red sauce.[divider_flat]

Classes

holloween mummy

I teach both middle school and elementary school. My first 6 class time slots are elementary school, while my last 2 classes are 70 minutes and middle school. My classes are anywhere from 1 student to 15 students. My elementary classes are usually on the smaller side. I have more elementary classes that are 1-8 students. Most of my middle school classes are close to the 15 student class limit.

Aside from some low level classes like sight words or phonics, most of my classes are either writing or speaking. We spend the class learning about a particular subject like careers, sports, family members, or foods. If its speaking class we’ll practice using vocabulary or explaining our opinion using reasons and examples. If its writing class we’ll construct an essay using the vocabulary and grammar that we learned about in the lesson.

Closing Time and Second Dinner

Because I have so much planning time before classes, I usually go home shortly after my last class. I’ll either walk/bike to my apartment or I’ll take a $3 cab ride to Nicole’s apartment. The two of us will make a second, usually smaller, dinner, because the last time we both ate was probably 5 hours ago and we’re super hungry. Sometimes we’ll go downtown to eat a late dinner if we don’t feel like cooking after a long day of teaching.

Thoughts

I really enjoy my schedule. Sometimes I wish I had fewer classes, or more of a break to separate out my different classes between the day, but when I stop and look at my schedule I realize that I’m really fortunate. I get to wake up naturally and make a nice breakfast. I get to listen to music or podcasts and walk to work. I have plenty of time to prepare for my classes and get coffee or lunch. Most of my classes are pretty small and the students are much better behaved than what I remember from my middle school in the U.S.

I don’t have to deal with traffic. I don’t have giant 35+ student classes. I work at a big enough hagwon that I know the business will not disappear one day. I’m always paid on time and I don’t have to work Saturdays or Sundays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gwangju Kimchi Festival

I haven’t posted in a while. Sorry about that everyone. After Japan, Nicole and I took a weekend off to just relax and recoup.  We were worn out from Japan travels and ready for a break, but after a weekend off, Nicole and I were itching for something fun to do.  Luckily the Gwangju Kimchi festival was the very next weekend.

But First, What is Kimchi?

Kimchi is a traditional Korean fermented dish made of vegetables and seasoning. There are many different varieties of kimchi including radish, scallion, and cucumber, although the most popular is cabbage. When you eat out in Korea, kimchi is always a free side dish served with the main meal. Typically it comes in a little white dish along with several other sides.

On Korean holidays like Chuseok, Koreans make lots of kimchi to share with their relatives and eat throughout the year since it ferments and gets better with age.

Nicole and I are big fans of kimchi and usually buy some while we’re at the grocery store. Its spicy and sour, but goes well in soups and omelets.  It’s also a very good source of vitamin C, which is helpful in a country largely devoid of citrus.

Kimchi is such a staple of Korean culture that it has its own appliance. Families will typically have a refrigerator and a separate kimchi refrigerator with several fermentation and temperature settings.

The Gwangju Kimchi Festival

Kimchi Performance
Kimchi Performance

Nicole and I decided to visit Gwangju’s famous Kimchi Festival in Jungoe Park to find out more about this fascinating aspect of Korean culture. The festival ran October 5-9th this year and included lots of festivities and crafts. Nicole and I visited with two of my co-teachers, Sarah and Alyssa. We got there in the afternoon and walked around sampling the different Kimchis. Each booth had a table with several pounds of kimchi and a plate of samples at the front. People would walk by and take a sample and  possibly buy some. Nicole and I picked out a variety we liked and  bought  1 Kg. We also picked out some souvenirs for our families, which I can’t describe as they’re likely reading this.

The Gwangju Blog Kimchi Festival Scavenger Hunt

Team SuperLate
Team SuperLate

Every year as part of the Kimchi Festival, the Gwangju Blog hosts a scavenger hunt for the expat community. Nicole, Alyssa, and I entered this year as team SuperLate. The name came from the fact that we signed up the moment the contest started and not in the several weeks leading up to the contest. As part of the free scavenger hunt, we all got giant orange t-shirts and a list of clues to go find. To get points during the scavenger hunt, we had to take a picture in front of the clue or performing the assigned task.

The three of us spent the afternoon running around doing all sorts of traditional crafts like ink rollings of Kimchi ingredients or making fried kimchi or looking for a trashcan, a rare site in Korea.