I'm doing pretty good on culture shock so far, but I am prepared for when I'm not doing so good, which will probably hit next month.
I really like the food, as I've mentioned, and that helps when you're adjusting to any culture! I certainly like Korean food a LOT more than I liked British food on study abroad! That's a plus, cause I'm here for a full year and not just six weeks like my study abroad term. Another plus: Korean food is a heckofalot healthier than British food! Gimbap is my favorite breakfast or snack, especially tuna or spicy tuna, and especially the triangle-shaped kind (vs. the rolled kind). It's pretty much replaced Jack in the Box tacos, if you know what I mean. Breakfast, snack, lunch or dinner. Mmmmmm.
Big news! This week, I learned to sound out Hangul! <<Cheers!!! Applause!!!>> Hangul is the Korean writing system. I've been working on the alphabet here and there, but it hadn't clicked yet. I haven't spent much time intentionally studying, but every few days I'll work on another letter, really try to focus on seeing it in the middle of words on signage or product labels. To use gimbap as an example, 김밥, the word has 2 syllables, and you might be able to see that each syllable has 3 letters. In the first syllable, "gim," the ㄱ letter is the "g" or "k" sound, theㅣis the "i" sound, the ㅂ is the "m" sound. All together, 김, or "gim." You read each syllable kind of clockwise. Got it? ;) I was also told about an amazing website that has a Hangul wiki, and that's helped as I have been learning the alphabet sounds, http://www.koreanwikiproject.com/wiki/index.php?title=Learn_hangeul. If you're interested in learning Korean, I'd start there! It's really easy to pick up in a few days, or even a few hours, so I've been told, but I didn't ever sit down and focus for any real amount of time, so it took me a few weeks.
Anyway, like I said, I've been working on a letter here, a letter there, but this week it all sorta clicked! I can look at a sign and pretty much sound it out now! The consonants have really been clicking. I get confused on many of the vowels, still, but I'm so proud of myself. I keep remembering about when I was very little, first learning to read in English, how all the signs just came alive! My mom tells me that I would read them all out loud as we drove by in the car. I'm quite a bit older now, but I still feel like doing that as I ride around on the bus or walk around in the store :) I keep it restrained, though. I mean, I already stand out in a crowd as a foreigner, without being the foreigner who talks to herself in Korean!
I've learned many phrases that help when navigating around, like how to ask a taxi driver to go downtown or take me back to my apartment. I've started to learn to hear a difference in the way I mispronounce words and the way they're supposed to be pronounced. Next, I need to actually pronounce them right. Baby steps.
I've learned to navigate the bus system and I am gonna get a bus pas soon to make all that easier and cheaper.
This month, I've cleaned the heck out of my apartment! I've moved almost every piece of big furniture to clean under/behind/around it, and I feel so good about how well it's all starting to look. Moving the fridge and washing machine took the most effort, but when I scooted them each over a little, I doubled the working space in my kitchen. I have a total of 6 square feet now! Once I get a real paycheck, I'll start outfitting my apartment with pieces that make feel it a little more mine, like a floor lamp and more kitchen storage and horizontal-surface space. When I get it allll clean (to my near-obsessive compulsive standards) and furnished, I'll post pictures!
My students and I are learning, little by little, from each other. We're getting the routine down, they're picking up on my teaching style, and I'm picking up on their individual learning styles. I'm also learning a lot from my Korean co-teachers and the other foreign teachers. We're getting closer to that groove that we'll hopefully hit in April!
More good news, I joined a church in the area that has worship and small groups in English! It's the church that I first visited with my friend Marisa. Their new visitor gift is a towel. I think that's what sealed the deal. I mean, how could I resist after that? But seriously, the people there are incredible. I'm so glad that God brought us all together to that place. It's not so much the music or the preaching or the space (though all are good), but the magnetic pull of the Holy Spirit working through the congregation is so... exciting. I have already built some solid friendships with people there and I have so many more months ahead to build on!
I could go on, but it's getting late and I ought to go get ready for bed. Tomorrow's Friday and I have kids who are going to need an alive, awake, alert, enthusiastic teacher! If I don't get 8 hours, I'm only one of those. I'll let you pick which one.
Happy 'One Month In Korea' Milestone to meee!!!!