One Month in South Korea

It has been quite a while since I last updated. There have been many reasons for this; partly because I’ve been having issues with wordpress loading the page to write a blog post, and partly because of the mayhem that has been the last few months.

Over the last few months, I was working a full time job, applying for a visa for a job in South Korea, preparing to move there for 13 months, and getting everything arranged with the school that I would be teaching with. It was a little hectic and very busy.

Once my boyfriend and I got here, it felt as though everything has been non-stop. From the moment we landed, we got on a five hour bus ride to the “small” coastal city of Pohang. From there, we were picked up from the bus terminal by the director. She drove us to our temporary apartment, then took us to the school to meet the other teachers. We had dinner, and then headed back to our temporary apartment. During the weekend, which was the following day, we were out and exploring the city. We met so many other people who were also teaching in Pohang at other schools in those two days. Some were reaching the end of their contract, others were half way through, and a couple were starting their contract just like us.

After that, we started training. The first week almost felt like a blur. There was so much to learn, so much to get a handle on, and so many questions to ask. A week did not feel long enough, and then just like that, it was over. The teachers we were taking over for, were gone. They headed off to do some travelling before heading back home.

We have now been teaching on our for the last few weeks, and it’s been quite the adjustment. I have classes that have taken the transition very well, who work well with my teaching style, and who have willingly adapted to the change, and stay focused during class. And then there are the classes where I have to raise my voice, where I’m telling them to stay on task, to speak English in the classroom, and to stop doing this, and that; where I have to be strict and they consistently test me and force my hand. It has, all in all, been quite the adjustment, and I will be implementing some new rules to my more troublesome classes.

The city itself is quite densely populated. At night, the buildings are lit up with signs on nearly every floor, letting the world know they are still open. Many restaurants in our area are only open until 10-11. Some stay open until midnight. It can be difficult finding a good place to eat when you work until 9:05pm, but it is possible, you just have to know where to go. The restaurants are inexpensive. They serve plenty of food for low prices, and the side dishes are always included. Frequently, they will give you more food for free. Tipping is insulting, and should never be done in Korea. If there is one thing that I will say about most food in Korea, it’s that it’s either spicy or sweet. On the odd occassion it’s neither, and it has different flavours, but the majority of the food is usually one or the other.

Shopping is quite varied and vast. They have large stores that provide you with produce, and any other food you’re looking for. It’s a large chain called E-Mart. They have a second floor full of household items as well, electronics, clothes, make up, bathroom necessities, kitchen supplies etc. It is the place to find a large variety of just about anything you are looking for.

When it comes to clothes, shoes, and anything within that realm of shopping, the variety at E-Mart is a bit more lax. They have a fair bit there, but you can find so much more at a place in downtown Pohang called Stream Street. This is a cobble stone street, with a pretty little stream that runs down the middle of it. There are large stores on either side of it that sell anything and everything. If you are looking for something, Stream Street will have it. They have clothing stores covering several types of fashion, outdoor stores, shoes stores, accessory stores, dollar stores, and so much more. There are even restaurants if you’re feeling hungry, and convenience stores too.

And then there’s the beach. Bukbu beach is quite beautiful. It is definitely the tourist place to be. Along the beach strip is hotels, restaurants, and more. If you’re looking for a North American chain, you’ll like find it there (like McDonalds). The beach itself is quite huge. The sand is warm, and soft in your toes. The ocean spreads out in front of you vast and unending. There’s a view of PosTech which is their steel factory to one side. Further down the beach is a beautiful little temple like place that sits on the ocean. Walking up to the temple is a bridge with small stone pillars. In the temple, you can find benches to sit on and look out on the ocean. At night, there are lights from the temple that go out across it and the ocean. You can get a beautiful view of both the ocean and the light show at PosTech. Near the temple, back on the mainland, are tonnes of food trucks. A particular favourite of mine is the ice cream they serve there.

There are many hiking trails all over Pohang; many of which are marked on a map at the start of them. The trails go through several of the surrounding mountains. Hiking in Korea is like a day walk for many people here; they are used to the hikes and barely break a sweat. My boyfriend and I did one hike of about 2.5km up a mountain, and found ourselves drenched in sweat on a particularly muggy day. When we reached the top, we decided to turn back, finally giving into the heat. We have done a couple trails since then, and the weather has started to cool off a bit now, which will make hiking more comfortable. We are hoping to make it to a temple in the mountain that we’ve heard so much about from other teachers. It seems to be hidden, and we have no clue how to get to it. We’ve been shown it more recently, and I think we will be heading there this weekend (if I can get him out of bed any time soon). The trails are definitely a hike. They are beautiful; full of trees, rocks, and nature. There are few wildlife. There may be a bird, but mostly it is just bugs. The climb is usually quite steep and it does take a bit out of you to make it to the top, even on the easier hiking trails; but it is worth it.

I think this may be a long enough post, so I will leave you all for now. I apologize for my lack of posting, reading of blogs (though I have been reading posts just not everyone, I do apologize for that), and updating more often. Below are some pictures of Bukbu beach, PosTech lit up at night; fireworks on our teacher’s last night in Pohang going off at Bukbu beach, and some of the mountains in South Korea (taken from our bus ride from Incheon to Pohang). They are cell phone quality, and not up to the normal snuff that my pictures usually are. I have some others from my camera but unfortunately, I have not had time to upload them and take a good look at them (soon I hope!).


About rachelsparling

I'm a writer working on a manuscript for a novel. I love to write and I've been doing it for 17 years. Through several story ideas I have figured out what works and what doesn't, and I've learned a lot about myself and my writing style. I love to read and escape to many different worlds. I've also learned a lot about good writing and bad writing through both reading a lot and acquiring an education in English literature, and becoming an ESL teacher. I enjoy filming and photographing all sorts of things and putting together short documentaries and videos. I love my camera.
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