I feel as if I’ve already been here for a week. Hard to believe it’s only been, what, 4 days? I arrived late Tuesday night (Tuesday morning in Ohio) and was dropped off at my new apartment by the director of my school, Mr. Yoo, who just said “see you in the morning!”. He’s a lovely gentleman though. Ian and Christina, the fabulous Canadian couple whose apartment I have now moved into, have been wonderful, helpful and endlessly friendly. I’m sad that they only have less than two weeks here in Namyangju. Next week marks the arrival of Marisa, another Canuck who is to be my future roomie. The living situation here is great, and I couldn’t ask for more. Marisa and I will share this three bedroom, two bath apartment on the tenth floor of a high rise apartment complex about a mile from my school, Reading Town. The view from the pad is sweet-mountains out one side and more of the neighborhood out the opposite window.
Reading Town itself is a crazy crazy place. As I may have mentioned already, this week was bananas because it was the end of the school year. Here in Korea school starts in March rather than September. I teach at a private school, a hogwan, so we go twelve months a year, with a week of summer break and a week of winter break. From what I’ve been told, the public schools have a two month summer break. Anyway, the kids enrolled at Reading Town are basically from very well off parents who are paying for them to attend extra school at around $10,000 US per child per year. I am a teacher at Little Reading town, which is the kindergarten. I teach the Lion class, who are the 7s , which means they are 7 years old in Korean aging (you are considered 1 yr at birth) but 5 or 6 years old in the rest of the world. By this system I am 26 (because my birthday is in October, and I’m 24 in the States). They are the oldest students in Little Reading Town. The youngest are the 5s, piglet class, so they’re actually 3 or 4 years old. So cute! These kids are attending my school from 9:30 am-2:30 pm everyday. Then they may attend regular school for the rest of the day. Big Reading Town is the older kids, from around 7 or 8 yrs to 13 yrs old, and they come to our school from 2:30 pm-8:30pm everyday-generally after attending school elsewhere for the earlier part of the day. It’s so much school for them, but it’s the norm here. And the kids are so smart! Obviously not all of them are at high levels, but the little ones that I have already had in class this week are at much higher levels of comprehension and speaking abilities than most all of my students in the Marshall Islands, and definitely higher than their peers in America. I mean, imagine sending a 4 year old American child to private school for 6 hours everyday to learn phonics, reading, art, speaking, writing, etc, but all in Spanish or German or something. Intense right? Yes.
Today is Saturday and I am incredibly grateful to have these two days in front of me with no school work. I have 3 10+ hour work days behind me already! And yes, I mean it literally with at least 10 hours of work-even lunch time is work, because each teacher serves lunch to their students in their classrooms. No prep periods during the day. I have three break periods (45 minutes each) a week. A week! So I’m going to be busy busy busy. I am led to assume it won’t be as intense as this past week on a general basis, but who knows, right? I am also told that I will usually be able to leave the school around 5:30 or 6 pm everyday, so that’s nice. I’m really excited about this year though, and pumped to have all these opportunities. I’m looking forward to learning all about this beautiful country and making some good friends in the process. I’m already quite impressed with everything. Now I’m off to shower and prepare for a night of clubbing/dancing/debauchery (not too much, parents, I promise) with some fellow teachers. Woo woooooo.