I arrived Saturday a month ago, but it does NOT feel like a month has past. Does it get worse, this feeling of time flying past, faster and faster? I accepted this job with excitement and some trepidation. I knew it was going to be OK because I’d spoken to both current and ex-teachers, and they all enjoyed their stay for the most part. But I was going to live in a ‘dorm’ with other teachers. I was going to live and work in the mountains, not in the city. It was going to be a totally new experience, since I had to come up with all my own teaching materials and ideas.
I arrived at Daegu Airport at about 9:30pm, after a full day of travel, starting at 4am. I was tired and looking forward to a shower and bed. Since I was the only female non-Korean in the arrivals hall, I assumed that the person designated to pick me up would recognise me quickly.
But time passed, and soon I was alone in the terminal with the cleaning and security people, and I began to worry.
I messaged my contact at the school, Katie, and asked her to call the school administration, since they weren’t answering their emails (thank goodness for free wifi at airports!). She got back to me that everyone had thought I arrived on Sunday, so there was no-one there. They would send someone, it would take about half an hour for them to arrive. About an hour after I landed in Daegu, I hopped in a taxi sent by the school, and made my way up the curved mountain roads to my new home, the Daegu Gyongbuk English Village, aka DGEV.
When I got to the school, I was quite surprised. The place was HUGE. They had a life-sized plane, basically the size of a 737, but even the plane was dwarfed by the size of the buildings. They were all 4 or 5 levels high, built in Greek/Roman style with marble staircases and columns. The building next to the airplane was built to resemble an airport, with ticketing, rental booths, security (those conveyor belt things), immigration desks, duty free shops and a hotel lobby. Students can usually enter the airplane, but it’s under renovation for the next couple of months.
But I hadn’t seen all these things yet, just the airplane and the buildings as the taxi made its way to the teacher’s dorm. I was very surprised to have large welcoming committee. I guess they had heard about my strange arrival, and wanted to check me out… I was surprised to see that I was one of the tallest people there. I’m sure you readers aren’t surprised… but I always imagine Americans to be taller than they really are. They showed me to my room, gave me a welcome package with toiletries and some snacks, then Dianna offered to take me to breakfast the next morning. My room is GREAT! It’s really big, about as big as my whole apartment in Seoul, very clean, the window is shaded by a lovely tree and the bathroom is huge!
The cafeteria food is… edible. Sometimes even tasty, but I do wish they would provide some healthier options! A typical breakfast has fried eggs coated in oil, fried spam, and small sweet pastries. They also have two types of cereal (both typically loaded with sugar) and 1, maybe two types of fruit. I’ve taken to just buying my own muesli and yogurt and eating it in my room before I go to work. My wonderful cousins Matthias and Maria gave me a Nespresso coffee machine when they came to visit, so now I also have good coffee! On the weekends I usually go down to breakfast with my coffee for a bit of socialization with my co-workers.
Lunch varies wildly from practically inedible (coleslaw covered in mayonnaise and seaweed soup) to quite delicious (soft tacos with a buffet of fillings). Dinner is generally some kind of meat in sauce, some kind of pasta in sauce and some kind of Korean soup. Lunch and dinner often have biscuits or cakes for dessert. Since I need to fit in the clothes I have here… my diet is somewhat limited here. We also have at least one vegetarian here, and he is often seen with a giant plate of salad.
Of course, we can always cook our own food. The teachers are provided with a ‘teacher’s lounge’ and a decent kitchen, but that involves shopping and cooking and spending money, so very rarely do teachers get desperate enough to cook for themselves. The kitchen is mainly used for baking, microwaving popcorn and making protein shakes. A lot of the teachers here are really into working out. With the food we eat here, it’s kind of necessary.
And luckily there are lots of opportunities to workout. The school has two gyms, but the big one with all the good equipment has no air conditioning…..and the small one with aircon has only 2 bikes and 2 treadmills. Still, better than nothing! I have a small group of girls that I do other workouts with, usually BBG (Bikini Body Guide by Kayla Itsines) 3 times a week, and cardio or weights on the alternate days. We can do those in some of the rooms near the dorms which all have projectors and air-conditioning! The hardest part for me is the motivation, which is why it’s great to have a group of friends to do it with.
I also like to make my classes as active as possible, which is great for the kids, because some classes can get very fidgety when having to sit for long periods of time. I’ve also joined the Greenhouse Committee, which means I get to take the kids out to the greenhouse and teach them about plants. They also get to water the plants, or eat fresh tomatoes. If anyone has a fun idea for a class that I can do without purchasing materials, then please let me know!