Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Week One

When I studied in London two years ago (I'll stop talking about London on this blog soon, I promise, it's just that it's my only remotely comparable experience thus far, and a poor comparison at that) I intended to keep a detailed travel journal. But I got distracted easily and failed pretty miserably at that endeavor. So, in the hopes of doing better this time around, here's a little on my experience in Korea thus far.

The first week here was pretty intense. On Monday, two days after we arrived, we dove right in to language classes - 4 hours every morning of pronunciations, conjugations, vocabulary, and everything else that goes along with learning a new language for the first time. Honestly, it's been really difficult. I'm able to keep up with what's going on in class, but the sheer wealth of information being thrown at us can be overwhelming. Just this morning I could feel my brain basically shutting down by the end of the third hour. But then I look back at how much Korean I knew a week ago - none - and how much I know now - basic greetings, some important verbs, adjectives, and location/object nouns. In the past few days we've started putting full sentences together. So in the space of one week, we've learned enough to converse briefly with a patient 5-year-old. It may not seem like much, but it's enough to help keep my motivation up.

I've been up to a lot of other things too here in Chuncheon. I'm taking taekwondo, which has classes for one hour four days a week. We've only had two lessons so far, and it's definitely a work-out, but it's also a lot of fun (at least, I enjoy it). I'm also taking two cooking classes and two samulnori (Korean drumming classes) over the course of these six weeks. I've already had one cooking and one samulnori class, and both have been a blast! My favorite part of cooking wasn't even the food itself, but communicating with the teachers, none of whom spoke much English at all. It's challenging, but really fun, to use our limited Korean plus hand gestures and emphatic "Ne!" (yes) and "Anio!" (no). In drumming, we even had an impromptu jam session during our break that even the instructors got into. One of the guys, Jon, had an inspired bit of singing in this jam session - one of those little things that just can just completely make my day.

So everything in Korea sounds like roses and puppy dogs in this blog, doesn't it? Well, that is true to an extent - I'm pretty sure I'm still in the "honeymoon" phase of culture shock - but there are certainly challenges to being here. I'm still not convinced I'm ready to be in charge of a classroom or to move into a homestay. I'm scared about what will come after orientation in Korea, when I finally really am alone and can only rely on myself. I'll still be trying to throw myself into whatever I can, but I know it will be harder. I'll no longer be an American enjoying Korea, I'll be an American living - really living - in Korea. And already, it's intimidating to walk down the street and see a wealth of information in a language I have to sound out, and even then don't know what I'm saying. It's intimidating to order in a restaurant or talk to a taxi driver. It's intimidating to be surrounded by 69 other people my age whom I really like and want to get to know, but also to crave my alone time to study and process what's going on.

Sorry there are no pictures in this post. My camera seems to have stopped working, but I'm going to steal some pics from people here and put up a post about two very memorable experiences so far - noraebang and hiking a nearby mountain, Daeryongsan. Also, this weekend we're all going to Songnisan, a beautiful mountain resort not too far from here, and I'm sure I'll have updates from there!

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