Friday, May 3, 2013

Pop goes my world

This past Tuesday, our long days of orientation finally came to an end.  We were going to meet our Korean co-teachers and be taken to our new homes and finally unpack.  Living out of a suitcase for 3 weeks isn't as much fun as it sounds (and it doesn't even sound that fun) and I was quite keen to put all my stuff away and set up my new home.

I think every one in the hotel conference room was very nervous, both the foreign and Korean teachers.  Who were these people we are supposed to work so closely with?  Will they make our lives great or miserable for the next year? 

And there was still the question of where are we living.  They say all good things come to those who wait.  Finally, after months of anticipation the moment had arrived.  As mentioned previously, I knew that my school was near Inha University.  I didn't know, though, if that meant I would be living near there too.  We were told some teachers may have to commute up to 40 minutes to get to their school.  It turns out my commute is a 10 minute walk up the street.  Which I think I'm pretty happy about, though ask me again when it's raining or freezing cold.  The neighborhood seems to be very trendy; a very university type area with lots of cafes.  To be honest, I haven't had a chance in the last few days to explore the area more but I hope to do so with one of the other teacher who was place near me.

So great, a good area (although not particularly close to the "going out spots" in Incheon, but cabs are stupid cheap here so it shouldn't be too much of a problem, right?), but what about the apartment??? I said, the area is good. :-P

My apartment, or should I say "apartment" is very much a traditional Korean apartment - the kind I saw on Youtube videos in the past.  Meaning, it's teeny tiny.  When I arrived, with my two 50-lbs bags, I had a small bed in the corner (with no bedding), a wardrobe closest (with no shelves or hangers) a desk that wasn't set up and both a bathroom and kitchen sink that leaked.  Needless to say, I wasn't thrilled.  I still had to go and visit my school and register with the Immigration office, but all I could think about was all the things I was going to have to get in order to make this place a home.  Thankfully, my co-teacher brought me to Homeplus (Korea's answer to Walmart) and I loaded up on the essentials: bedding, toilet paper, hangers, etc.  Sometimes previous teachers will leave lots of useful things for the new teachers that are taking over the apartment.  I had no such luck.  He left me with next to nothing: no plates, forks or glasses.  All I had was a pot, a pan, a cutting board and knife and a toaster (and I don't even like toast).  I had no place to put my folded clothes and both the bed and computer chair were/are wildly uncomfortable.  So, I made a 2nd late night run to Homeplus (thankfully, they close at midnight).  It's amazing what a little organization can do for the mind.  Once I bought things that started to make me feel more comfortable (ie bags unpacked and put away rather than in the middle of the floor), things started to take a better shape.

Here's a quick tour of my pad:

The bed area

The entertainment/work area

Sitting on the bed looking into the "kitchen" & apartment entrance

The "kitchen" - if you're asking "where's the fridge?", please see previous photo
Bathroom & laundry doors

The bathroom/shower

The laundry closet

I won't lie here.  Once I was alone in my new apartment that first night, I cried.  I felt so overwhelmed and alone and scared.  Thankfully, I had internet access in my apartment so I was able to call Fabian and my mom to have them help relieve my anxiety and tell me that it would be ok.  I was seriously this close to saying "Nope, sorry, I can't do this".  But with the help and support of the other foreign teachers who are having the same experience as me, in addition to my family and friends back home, my confidence is coming back that I can in fact do this.  I was thinking about it the other day, and in some strange way, I feel like I am doing this for my future kids: so that I can focus on them and not have a nagging thought in the back of my mind "I wish I had done ____ when I was younger"; so that I can share my worldly experiences with them and enrich their lives; so that when they are going through hard times in life, I can tell them about my hard experiences and help them through their troubles.

Now that the bubble of orientation I had been in for the last week is gone, reality has taken over.  It is scary, certainly, and there are times where I feel like I can't take it.  The culture shock has already started to hit me.  I will rely on you, my friends and family and general readers, to help me keep going through this wild adventure.  All supportive comments are greatly appreciated!


  1. From the pictures, it looks pretty homey! Just remember, everything seems normal after a while. It's hard to imagine now, but you'll probably experience just as much culture shock when you return. We all love you and miss you.

  2. So insanely proud of you - never was there any doubt that you could do this!! Keep your chin up and keep writing (best therapy for the soul)..xo

  3. You have a real fridge and a private bathroom and a washing machine! Just think, that's way more than you would have if you were living in a university dorm here in Canada.
    I'm sure it will feel like home in no time.

  4. This entry encouraged me to take a look back to when I arrived here. I think you're on the right track by enjoying the culture as much as you can. The year will be over before you know it and then you'll be back where you started and able to share endless memories with others. It gets so quiet. My trick is making music. Listening to music. Singing out loud and then it's like you want to tell yourself to shut up. lol. What I did to make my place more cozy, was posting photos of family and friends around. I also changed the wall paper and decorated it with bright colors. Everything is either lime green, orange or lilac. It made a big difference for me. I'm down the street and hope to hangout with you more often. Enjoyed your post.