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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend in Seoul: Part II

To read the first part of my weekend in Seoul go here.

Sunday morning Nicole and I woke up and got a quick bite to eat at the coffee shop across from out Hostel. There are tons of coffee shops in Korea, definitely more than in my home town. Every few blocks, if not every block there’s a coffee shop. They all sell Americanos, lattes, and usually a ton of frozen drinks that may or may not have any coffee in them.

I’d made plans to meet my two Korean friends, Eom and Jeong, that day. I’d met them in Europe while backpacking. They were both engineers at Hyundai working in the Czech Republic at the time, although Jeong had recently left. A few months before I moved to Korea we made plans to meet up and all hang out. Since Nicole and I were going to be in Seoul this weekend, we planned to meet up at the coffee shop by our hostel and travel around for the day.

Eom, Jeong, and I in Itaewon
Eom, Jeong, and I in Itaewon

Jeong had never visited Seoul before so he was as much a tourist as Nicole and I were. Nicole and I told him about our night and he asked to see Itaewon so we walked up the little street by our hostel looking at the brunch shops, bars, and restaurants. Itaewon is a nice little neighborhood. Its very international and a welcome sight for foreign eyes. I’ve had a blast in Korea so far, but every now and again its nice to have a little slice of Western culture.

The restaurant had a bit of a Jungle theme
The restaurant had a bit of a Jungle theme

After our Itaewon walkabout, Eom took us on a tour of Seoul by car. It was really helpful to have a friend with a car, especially since it had started to rain. After a month of walking and cabs, I had forgotten about how nice driving was. We didn’t have to worry about paying a fare at the end or having a specific destination in mind. Eom showed us different neighborhoods around Seoul and took us to a nice little Korean restaurant in a very quaint neighborhood. With the little residential buildings so close together and the rain, I felt for a minute like we were in England.

Take your shoes off before sitting down
Take your shoes off before sitting down

The restaurant was my first Korean sit down on the floor restaurant. Most of the places I’d been to up til then were western style table and chair establishments or I’d gotten food to-go. The restaurant was 4 stories and each floor had a little shelf to take your shoes off at before you sat down. Our table was on the top floor and had a great little view of the neighborhood. We took our shoes off at the shelf and sat cross legged at our table. Eom and Jeong ordered for the table. We had Kimchi, fried rice, several soups, and a spiced meat dish.

Eom and Jeong
Eom and Jeong
Nicole and I at lunch
Nicole and I at lunch

Afterwards we continued our tour of Seoul, traveling next to a mountaintop with a great view looking out over Seoul. On the way up we passed numerous bicyclists and hikers making their way to the top. At the summit was a coffee shop, restaurant, and pagoda area to relax. We took photos and Eom told us about the different neighborhoods. The neighborhood we were looking down at was old money. Many of the people that lived there were in government or had family money. Areas like Gangnam are considered new money, or recently wealthy people. The view, despite being really foggy, was still quite impressive. I imagine on a clear non-rainy day you could see for miles.

The view from the mountain
The view from the mountain

On the way back down the mountain, we passed the Blue House, where the President of South Korea lives, and many other government buildings. Like most countries capitals, most of the goverment buildings were clustered together in one area. Every block or so there was a guard post and armed guards on top of buildings. The area was as secure as it was beautiful. There were well manicured lawns and beautiful trees along the roadside.

After driving through the government center, we stopped for gas briefly before Eom and Jeon dropped Nicole and I off at the bus stop. In Korea, there have both self-service gas stations and stations where people pump gas for you. You just pull up and someone comes out and fills the car for you. It was way faster than in the states. The tank was full in a matter of minutes. I don’t know if we have restrictions on how fast gas stations can pump gas through the lines, but pumping gas is significantly faster in Korea. I also learned that they don’t have different grades of gas in Korea, just unleaded and diesel. After the attendant pumped the gas, he gave Eom a travel size box of napkins and some sort of windex wipes. Apparently getting napkins or wipes like that is pretty common after you buy gas.

Seoul Central Bus Terminal
Seoul Central Bus Terminal

At the bus terminal, Eom and Jeong said goodbye to Nicole and I and we made plans to hang out again soon. Nicole and I will be back in Seoul in two weekends for the Color Me Rad color run so we made tentative plans to see Eom then. Jeong lives not too far from Busan, a city Nicole and I really want to visit, so we also made plans to meet up in September when Jeong returns from his business trip.

After saying goodbye, Nicole and I bought our bus ticket and headed back to Gwangju. Overall it was a great weekend. I got to see some of Seoul’s most famous sights like the palace, Insadong, and Itaewon. I also got to spend time with good friends like Ryan, Eom, and Jeong. Having had a great weekend trip like this, I felt even more comfortable living in Korea knowing that I have a great network of people that I can rely.