Mt. Hallasan, Jeju Island in South Korea. Photo courtesy of:
10 DAYS until take-off.
How do you prepare for something so intangible? In less than two weeks, I'll be thrust into a world where there's new sights and smells, strangers everywhere, no time to think, only constant go, go, go, but right now--thinking time is all I have.
So I've gone shopping. Costco, baby. Neat fact about South Korea: if you have a Costco card, you can use it over there. In my case, it's a family card, but it's been a big help in buying supplies that could be tricky to find in a foreign language country: medicines, favorite shampoos and body washes, eye contact solution (you get the picture). Particular spices, sheets, and towels are a good idea, too, since South Korean towels come in smaller sizes. (Smaller sizes goes for jeans and shoes as well.) And I'm bringing Kraft Macaroni and Cheese--the three cheese shells kind. Mmmmmph.
I've been in contact with the teacher I'll be replacing at the elementary school. Wonderful girl. She's been a big help keeping me updated on where the kids will be in their English studies, and she's directed me to some great sites for lesson plan sharing. I feel quite grateful; the teacher before her didn't give her any heads up about what she was going to get into, so there was a lot that caught her off guard and made her rely solely on the book for the first weeks of teaching. I know some of you are thinking about South Korea for a teaching destination, and I would highly encourage getting in contact with the current English teacher you'll be replacing. Usually you take over their apartment, and you can negotiate on what to bring and what will already be there waiting for you, such as pots, pans, utensils, pillows, and the like. (Depending on the school, your apartment will be partially furnished with items ranging from refrigerators and washing machines to toasters.) There's also an overlap time with the current teacher, so they can orient you at your new school. Haha, so that means a love motel for me the first week before I move into the apartment--bring it. And earplugs.
How else I have been preparing: Korean dramas. I watched a few PBS videos on South Korea, but the drama "My Name is Kim Sam Soon," with its hilarious cast, had me bawling, shouting, and laughing throughout the entire sixteen episodes. I'm actually kind of frightened to start watching another show because these dramas are highly addicting. I could pick out a few Korean words here and there, and the romantic scene featuring Mt. Hallasan on volcanic Jeju Island made me pumped up to go there. It might have been a downpour during the episode, but I looked up pictures afterward; Mt. Hallasan's knife-edge ridges and the fierce pink azaleas carpeting its slopes during springtime make it a breathtakingly unique place.
Another interesting part in the show was when the ex-girlfriend Hee-Jin plays a joke on her American friend. She tells him to go catch her a special fish from a public pond, saying that it is quite legal to do so in Korea. Oblivious that a prank's being played on him, the American ambles off to try and catch the fish with his bare hands, and I was cracking up until I realized that will probably be me in another few weeks, haha. But at least I won't fall for a fish pond one!
This job is really putting things in perspective. I snap at people, before realizing I probably won't seem them again for another year. I lie awake at night, and try to think how it's going to be staring at a different ceiling, listening to city buses and bustling streets instead of--well, trees. So many of you know how important traveling is to me, but I want you to know that it is the relationships we've created that I'll truly miss the most--not having that certain friend there to snicker at something only we'd find funny, or share our rants with, our smiles. So y'all better get Skype :)
Last packing tip for skiers: bring your ski boots.
Disclaimer: The above is presented as opinion, not fact.