Monday - Fly from Houston (IAH) to Los Angeles (LAX), get frustrated with the horrible confusing terminals at LAX, go through security a second time, wait for 3.5 hours in LAX for my next flight
Tuesday - Fly from Los Angeles (LAX) to Seoul Inchon International Aiport (ICN), experience time travel, jk, just major time change
Wednesday - (where did Tuesday go? Oh, that's right, it's tomorrow in Korea) LAND IN SOUTH KOREA! I met a fellow English teacher as I went through immigration and we helped each other get luggage and go through customs, no sweat. Ride bus to Gwangju - I met a Korean Christian who guided me around the travel stop (which made sure I could find the bathroom and make it back to the right bus before it left!) - she shared these little custard cakes and this weird fish-dumpling?-thing with me at the travel stop. I didn't like the fish thing at all, but you can't go wrong with custard cakes. Arrived in Gwangju, got dropped off at a sketchy "no-tell" motel called Best Motel... the walls are thin... opening the window means that the street noise overpowers, ahem, other noises, which is nice. Anyway, one of my bosses showed me around a little and we ate galbi (sp?), which is a unique Korean dining experience with a grill-it-yourself fire hazard right in the middle of the table. Live coals under a grate, inches from where you're sitting. Makes teppanyaki grills seem weak! It was delicious! I wasn't very hungry after the long days traveling, but I'll definitely be going for that again. Went to sleep early and then woke up at 2 am... stupid jet lag. I did get to Skype with my mom for a little bit before my laptop battery died. I didn't have a converter that worked, as it turned out, so I didn't get a chance to call my dad too. I read a few books for a while until I finally went back to sleep around 4:30, so I got a couple more hours before the big day Thursday.
Thursday - First day on the job! Observations at Brighton Kindergarten (an English language kindergarten) and JLS (an after school English language program). More posted about that below! Wrapped up the evening with a wine and tapas night at another foreign teacher's apartment before Jet Lag roundhouse kicked me in the face.
Friday - More observations and getting used to being in South Korea, oh my goodness!
Thursday and Friday I observed several classes, most were Brighton kindergarten classes and a few JLS after-school classes for elementary-aged kids. I will probably only be teaching 7 year-old Brighton classes. I'll be able to tell yall more about them later.
Basically, there are several levels of English proficiency within each grade. The grades are broken up by age, so "pre-nursury" are made up of Korean 4-year-olds, but 4-years-old in Korea is really American 3-years-old. "Nursury"classes are Korean 5-year-olds (American 4-year-olds) and "pre-kinder" are Korean 6-year-olds (American 5-year-olds). I'll be teaching "kinder" level students, who are Korean 7- (American 6-) year-olds.
When I say American age, that's a rough estimation, because if a kid has a December birthday, they're really two years younger. So, I'd be 27 by Korean standards, since I would have been 1 "year" old at birth and then turn 2 "years" old at the New Year. Everyone ages a year on January 1, but they still celebrate their birthday on whichever day they were born. They just don't age until the next January 1. Go figure!!! All this is to say, that my "7" year olds could be as young as 5 but as old as 6, by English standards.
There are 5 levels of English proficiency once they reach kinder. One of my classes is called a "super sevens" class - they're at level 5, the highest. The classes all have random foreign titles, and the "super sevens" are all states. Mine's called the Florida class, and the other two are Maine and Oregon. Super sevens are taught in full-English immersion, so they have one Korean English teacher and 2 foreign English teachers.
The other classes that I will teach have a Korean kindergarten teacher who teaches in Korean, and a Korean English teacher (who teaches in English, duh), and a foreign English teacher, which is me (duh again). They're almost immersion, but not fully immersion, I think. They're also called "star" or something because the two classes that I teach will have the exact same lesson, so I really only have 2 lessons total to prep for each day, which is nice. They pair two other-named classes, like Virginia and Montana, for example, and give them a combined-name like Libra, or some other star zodiac sign, thus the term "star classes."
Got all that?? Confused yet? Me too :)
There are around 13 other foreign English teachers at JLS/Brighton. They're all so nice, and they understand that I'm completely lost without someone walking me around for a few days! All the foreign teachers at the school live in three or four different apartment buildings that surround a little park, so that will be very convenient once I move over there! It's just a few blocks away from my motel and I can navigate my way to and from the park, but I haven't gotten familiar with the park-to-school route yet. They've already made sure I feel included and they've invited me to several things. One of them even gave me a converter that she wasn't using (so now my laptop's charged!), how kind! It's all making for a smooth transition :):)
In other news, I have a church buddy! One of the other teachers goes to an English-speaking Presbyterian church here that she loves, so we're going to go together! I can't wait to experience the services that I've heard so much about. Come, Holy Spirit, come!
On that note, it's really late for me (though I'm mostly adjusted from the jet lag) and we have an early morning tomorrow. The kids have a huge talent show that will be mightily entertaining! I promise I'll take pictures and post them here later. :)