Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Month Abroad

It has been over a month since I left my home back in Minnesota to venture out into the world. I've spent a lot of money, seen a lot of things, and have began to settle into the lifestyle that I'm committed to for the next year. It's a pretty awesome feeling. What follows will be a stream of conscious style of information for those who I haven't talked to much back at home. So enjoy!


Busan is great, I'm happy to be here. I was placed in two small elementary school on the outskirts of the city. Both schools have a huge emphasis on music education and the necessity of students indulging in their creative sides as well as their scientific and mathematical sides. Sound familiar? This placement couldn't have been more perfect for me, although I spend a lot of time wishing I was teaching all of these adorable children how to play the flute rather than how to speak English. 

Many of the students are semi-interested in English class. Many of them don't know what's going on. But really, I don't know what's going on either. I have a plan for the next few months of my younger classes (1-3 grade with nobody to help me translate lessons means that we are going to learn all of the songs and spend our time singing and dancing around the classroom!), but the older levels are more difficult. But that's why I'm here: to push my limits and challenge myself. I teach all of grades 1-6 and one mixed class of 1/2 graders. I am seriously going to be an organized lesson planning champion when this year is up.

Besides teaching stuff, I've made a lot of new friends. I was worried at orientation when I was bouncing around from one group to another that by the time I came to Busan I wouldn't have a strong enough connection with anyone and I would spend all of my time alone and sad. (Yes, a dramatic fear, but the idea was there!) But instead, the opposite has happened: by staying true to myself and bouncing around meeting all sorts of people, I was able to cultivate friendships with people from all over the world and with people who were placed all over this wonderful city I have found myself in. We have spent our first few weekends hiking during the day and going out at night. There's a balance between active outdoors fun and the not-so-active bar scene, which, to be honest, is also quite fun.

I had rather low expectations for my studio apartment: I mentioned to many people that the only thing I wanted was enough space to do yoga in. But I have been pleasantly surprised by the place my school arranged for me. It's clean cut, cozy, and minimalist in a way that I never thought I would enjoy. It has one large room, one large bed, a desk, an electric flattop built into the counter, a sink, a fridge, a microwave, and a washing machine. The bathroom is just a small space with a toilet, sink, and a shower directly above (no separate shower/bath tub). The ondol heating is reminiscent of Minnesota, where we too have been heating our places from the floor up for years. 

I anticipated minimalism in terms of my wardrobe and possessions, I expected a small place that would feel slightly cramped but livable. What I have already discovered is that this lifestyle suits me far better than the large two bedroom, 1 and a half bath apartment of my graduate school days. It's only been four weeks, but I'm already realizing more about myself than I had in the past few years back in the States. 

The language is still difficult. I will not be fluent in Korean when I leave. But it gets better everyday. My one way commute to work is 30 minutes, so that's at least 60 minutes a day where I sit with my phone and study Korean. This is a huge accomplishment because the bus drivers in this place are the worst I've ever had to deal with. (Remember: back at home we don't have public transport and the only other place I have been is Switzerland where they are the epitome of efficiency.) But really, the bus has never come at the same time and I swear the goal of the bus driver is to make me hurl my insignificant breakfast onto the floor. So take my word for it, being able to stand with my phone in my hand studying Korean while the bus lurches around is a huge accomplishment. 

I still haven't found a pool hall. I still don't have my one go to restaurant. And I still haven't gotten to run around outside of Korea and see some more of Asia. But cut me some slack, it's only been a month. 

Who knows what I"ll do in the next few weeks. 

Until next time, 
the wandering musician. 

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