Two weeks in South Korea

30 Dec

It’s a chilly winter morning here in Paju South Korea. On Friday we had a small “break” in the weather. The winter cold didn’t burn through your skin on that day. I was walking on campus with a colleague and she said whenever it’s warm for a day like this, the next day is always snow. And, sure enough, I woke up Saturday morning to see a coating of snow with flurries falling from the sky. The snow has continued over the weekend and on Sunday morning it appears we have a fresh coat. It’s really quite beautiful and, funny enough, although it is snowing outside, it doesn’t feel “that cold”.

I am enjoying a quiet weekend at home after my second week of working at the English Village in Paju South Korea. My apartment is warm and cozy and I have been cuddled up with a variety of movies for the weekend. While I say it is “not that cold” outside, I have to say I am still not inspired to go out and explore in it. All in good time.

I am feeling a little more settled in some ways. I am comfortable with the little walk to the local grocery store down the street, E-mart, and am finding my way more easily through the array of some familiar and much foreign food. I have settled on some staples for now as my repertoire continues to grow and expand. I am waiting to go on a “Costco- run” with other teachers from the English Village. Costco in South Korea is connected to the chain many known and love in the United States. I am told it sells a bevy of goods that “foreigners” like me love. As someone who is sensitive to sugar and eats a healthy, non-processed food diet.. .having access to some healthy comfort foods (with labels that I can read) is definitely high on my list!

I haven’t yet eaten any Korea food since I have been here. It seems a shame since at least part of the experience of being in a foreign culture is eating their food. But I am highly sensitive to sugar and I am told that Koreans use it in much of their food. I am also told that culturally the don’t have a good understanding for allergies or adjusting food to tailor meet someone’s needs. So, generally so far I have just been staying away. We will see if I can discover some Korean foods that I might be able to eat.

My job here continues to be a good place of balance – someplace that helps me continue to step out of my comfort zone and grow as well as a laid back work atmosphere and work load. After speaking with other teachers about their work experiences at other teaching jobs in South Korea, I find I feel very lucky to be working here. The work load is very reasonable, the pay is decent, and the other benefits are goods.

The English Village in Paju South Korea is a mock English Village that was created in 2006 from the tax money of the local citizens. As Koreans began sending their children to English-speaking countries to learn English, the idea was “why not create an English village here where Koreans of all ages can be immersed in the English language.” And so English Village was born.

I say it is a “mock” English village… it is…a little “disney-esque” in some ways with a large mock Stonehenge greeting guests at the Entrance. There is a local “market street” complete with a coffee shop, a few restaurants (pasta, pizza, and hamburgers) as well as a local pub. The heart of the village is filled with classrooms and the large administrative building is called “city hall”.

I am one of I would guess about 70 English teachers working and living here on campus. There are English teachers here from the United States, Cananda, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. Teaching staff here work a variety of different programs. The program I work in is called the “One Week Program (OWP)”. It is the main entrée shall we say of the English village for mostly local middle school students. They arrive on Monday morning stay in “hotels”  on campus and leave on Friday. Their week is filled with language lessons, English content lessons such as cooking and drama, and games. While they are here they are encouraged to speak only English. Basic hours for staff are from 9am – 6pm, although some staff work from 1 – 9 pm. There is also a weekend shift where staff works a regular 5 day week that includes the weekends. Teachers generally have anywhere from 4 to 6 classes a day and the rest of the time is for teachers to plan and help out with projects that need to be done.

There are also special programs for children of all ages and adults.  There are also staff called Edutainers. They are professional performers and actors who create live professional quality performances for the students that are also fun and educational. There is a large concert hall on campus where their shows are performed.

We are about to start a special month-long program here known as “VIP”. This longer program is for students while they are on their school break. Ages will vary from 3rd – 8th grade. As teachers we will be with them for the whole month until, in February we get a little break with the 5 day vacation of the Korean New Year.

So all in all, things are going well here as I adjust to my new job and world in South Korea. I am settling in, doing my best to stay warm, and getting more comfortable with the lessons I am teaching in the classroom.

Thanks for reading my blog! And as always, I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line!

One Response to “Two weeks in South Korea”

  1. Sue Hogan 12/30/2012 at 15:40 #

    Hi, Nancie… Your stay so far sounds so exciting! The way you have described everything, it does sound disney-esque. HA! I am anxious to hear what techniques they are teaching you to teach the children and which ones work the best! How fluent are the children you have? If you are allowed, post some pics of your kiddos with you in action. I know they are darling! Good luck! I wish you well!

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