After a really nice month off work, going back to England and seeing everyone and a nice little Thailand break it was back to work time. I've joined an organisation called EPIK (English Programme In Korea) who are the main providers of native English speaking teachers to Korean public schools. The application process is a ballache and they don't allow you to chose a destination so ending uo in Daejeon was a really nice surprise. It's a city bam smack in the middle of the country so it's got great access to the entire country.
EPIK provided me with an eight day orientation to help ease into the Korean way of life and learn more about the school system. It's really just an excuse to meet new people and go out party. Which of course we tried our best to do, but were hindered by Nazi bootcamp style behaviour from the organisers who implemented a 10pm curfew. PSSSSSSHHHHH! That's never gonna fly. I'll leave out the gory details but it was a laugh.
The last day of the orientation is the nerve recking one. Not because you have to stand up in front of your fellow new teachers and deliver a condensed lesson into 15 minutes. No. It's because you find out where and what grade level you'll be teaching. And by rights, where you'll be living. I get my package......nerves kick in......open the envelope......there's a picture of a school (that's a good start, at least it has a roof).....and there it is, big bold font....Jungri Elementary School. Phew. Elementary is what I wanted so I'm happy. OK, now where the hell is it. We all get given bus routes and maps so I ask the Korean supervisor to read the address of the school. She scours the map for a few minutes then points to a massive big green patch past the city limits..."mountains, countryside" she says. My jaw drops, my bum clenches and I get a sweat on. "countryside???????? mountains?????????" I get a little Chubb style panic on and try and figure out what is going on...."there's no way I can live in the mountains."
The other Korean supervisor sees my face comes over and I explain the situation. He laughs (always nice...dick) and then has a look. He laughs again (dick) but this time at the fact that the other chick had got the address completely wrong, and in fact I am not in the country but nestled in Jungnidong, inside the city. Phew. Bum unclenched.
The next day we all go off to our schools and it's a roll of the dice to see what you end up with. From my experience happiness in the workplace in Korea is defined by two things:
1) Your co-teachers. These are the Korean teachers you work with in your class. A good co-teacher is basically one that can speak English and takes a general interest in your life. They want to include you in things and appreciate your work.
A bad co-teacher is one that doesn't want you to be there and are over controlling.
2) Your principal. This person essentially is your God and if you want anything then they have to approve it. Leave early, holidays, desk warming the lot.
So onto my co-teachers. I have three. One head co-teacher to help me with paperwork and if I have any questions about anything I need to go to her. So Hyun. She's a nice lady that treats me with mild indifference. Everything I have asked me with she has helped me, and by no means is she at all nasty or rude but i'm just treated with normality. This is certainly a better scenario than having a bad co-teacher so I'm happy with this.
Onto the principal....he seems pretty jolly so that's a good start. Doesn't speak a lot of Engrish but says a few words. Two of my more interesting experiences in Korea have come from the principal. The first was when we were introduced. Due to a typhoon the kids didn't come to school but the teachers had to. They had all congregated for a snack in the dining hall. I'm taken in, and i'm met with an applause from all the female members of staff....which was all of them. There were no male teachers there bar the principal. I turn a rosy shade of red as I walk down to the front of the dining hall on what feels like a catwalk. Then I meet the Boss and we have an awkward handshake that just wouldn't end. After which he grabs my hand like a child and leads me to the head table, makes an introduction (pause for applause) and then gives me a shot of soju. Booze in school???? WHAT????!!! 11am???? Just mental
The second story basically involves eating live prawns!! Actually pretty nice.
So all in all it's been a pretty fun introduction back into Korea. I've met some really cool new people and I'm excited about the next year in a public school.