I will regret being up at this time later this afternoon while I am observing classes for my teacher orientation, but I figure better to be writing than lying in bed pretending to be sleepy.
I have arrived!
Three things I learned from 32 hours of travel, 16-17 of it in a plane:
1. Bring a water bottle, because flying turns you into a desert. Not that I needed one more thing to put in my carry on luggage, or as I refer to it, my shoulder anvils. One flight attendant even commented, "You need a suitcase to roll!" Next time, next time.
2. Long chats don't really happen when you're kind of shy and your seat mate is shyer. But here's a shout out to the nice Korean girl I sat next to on the plane who said that I had nice handwriting and then slept for most of the flight. Sorry I was such a bore and I feel bad that you didn't ask me to get out of the way very often for you to get out and stretch.
3. Ice cream should be served on planes all the time. That was the best snack ever United.
When I got to the airport, I went through boring customs and such, and found my bags right away. After handing over my immigration card, out I walked into the arrivals area where I was greeted by a crowd of people with signs. When I saw it from a distance I was worried about finding the placard with my name on it, but I saw it right away: my name in big bold black letters with the school's name on the bottom. Sangbom and Sarah, two workers with the Northeast Asia Regional Peacebuilding Institute who share office space at Connexus with us came to pick me up. They were lovely, and Sarah right away asked me if I wanted some water, which was exactly what I wanted. Then we headed off to Connexus to meet everyone for dinner, including my host family.
Four things I learned from the trip from Incheon to Deokso:
1. So those crazy crashes in Korean dramas? not just film fodder. Totally saw a car just lying upright on its side. Sangbom was a good driver though, and was driving much slower than a lot of people were around him despite the very heavy rain.
2. The Korean small-city in some ways reminds me a lot of places like Blantyre, except perhaps a few more buildings and more green. Everything is very close together, tiny shops pressed against each other so tightly that I feel like you might miss one if you walked by too quickly.
3. If you try to read all the road signs you will learn the work for exit (나가는 곳), but mostly you will just make yourself tired.
4. I can't speak to how well Koreans drive yet, but they can parallel park like bosses. Sangbom skated in an out of a parking area that looked like a half finished Rush Hour game like he was spreading butter on toast.
Connexus is an awesome place. It is rather small, but in a cozy sort of way. The restroom is down the stairs, and you have to take your tp with you, but that is really the only downside. My classroom is very snug, but very adorable, with great English posters on the wall and a bright red table and chairs. And it's a space I will get to use myself, you know? I kind of feel like Laura Ingalls when she firsts walks into the school where she only had three students. I'm nervous to begin, but very excited too. After hanging out a bit, emailing home and greeting some students, we headed off to dinner. The first place we tried was closed, so we did a u-turn in the middle of a busy intersection (driving is going to take some getting used to), and headed to a chicken restaurant on the second floor of a building.
Five things I learned from eating at the Chicken Restaurant
1. You have to be tricky taking your shoes off if it's been raining and you're wearing socks. Also, it's hard to sit on your knees after an 11.5 hour flight. But probably your new friends will notice that you're squirming like an octopus and kindly suggest you sit against the wall so you have some support on your back.
2. You can all eat out of the same pot, and reach across the table to awkwardly try to pick up chopped veggies with metal chopsticks which are surprisingly harder than wooden ones, and it's completely fine. I liked that. I'm not a germaphobe, so it made the meal feel nice and family like.
3. Korean food is spicy and you might get a work out from all your sideways water drinking because an elder is sitting across from you. Spicy but delicious.
4. All your Korean will escape you as you try to concentrate on not dropping food all over yourself. You will speak formally to an 8 year old and forget how to say "I understand."
5. You will find out that Abby sounds almost exactly the way one Korean satoori (dialect) says "father" so everyone will chuckle a little at it. But oddly, it was comforting, because my name really does have something to do with father (Abigail means Joy of the Father) so it was nice to know that my name kind of still means the same thing in English and Korean.
After dinner, I went home with my host family, who live literally a 2 minute Evi-shuffle or a 45 sec British Walk from the office. So nice. They live on the 12th floor of an apartment building in a nice little two bedroom, two bathroom apartment with kitchen, pantry area and dining area. I will take pictures when I officially get up this morning. I am to address the wife as 이모 and the husband as 이모부, which mean 'aunt' and 'aunt's spouse,' I believe.
Three things I learned from my first evening with my host family
1. In case anyone is wondering, I am tall, (though not as tall as one of the teachers at Connexus!) so much so that my host family was worried that I would feel cramped in my room. What they should have been worried about was all of my luggage, which leads me to number 2:
2. I brought a lot of stuff. I'm not sure if it was too much yet or not, but it certainly packed this little place up. Also, if you take spices in your bag, during the flight they may burst in the plastic ziploc you intelligently put them in and make your whole bag and room smell like nutmeg and cinnamon. Happy accident!
3. It's ok if I don't speak Korean very well, because my host sister 윤현 helped me unpack and talked to me in Korean anyway, and I understood most of it, and was so, so very thankful that there are little people in the house because I was missing Mercy. She tried on my fuzzy grey hat and taught me the word for belt and helped me practice my colors and told me that all my clothes were pretty.
4. Choco the brown poodle is absolutely adorable and looks like a little bear with plushy lamb legs. Also he likes me. He tinkled a little on the floor in excitement when I first arrived, but then came in an out of my room while I was unpacking, and even brought me a package of floss that he stole from somewhere. We shall be good friends I think.
5. You should eat oranges with cute little forks instead of just grabbing them like an uncouth American. Also, just ask about anything, because they are so willing to help me to settle in. 이모 and 이모부 even made up my bed on the floor for me themselves since I was dumb and couldn't figure out which blanket was to be put down first.
So that's a run down of the first day! very long, I know, but just get used to it, because I don't see myself getting any less long winded.
I am so looking forward to getting to know my family better, especially the kids. My host brother apparently likes to draw, so I am really excited to get to draw with him, and show him Mercy's pictures too. His name is 윤상 but sometimes goes by Tim, since that was his English name while he was a student at Connexus.
So, prayer requests for today:
1. That I won't be feeling too horribly sleepy later this afternoon.
2. That I will be able to remember the Korean I know and pick it up quickly.
3. That I will get closer to my fellow teachers and my host family.
I love you all, thanks for reading!
God is good.