Monday, August 27, 2007

So you're moving to Hwasun!

...or in my case, so you moved to Hwasun, a small town of 75.000 on the southern end of Korea, a week ago. Soooo, what have I been up to? Luckily, the response can be easily parsed based on my two primary environments in Hwasun: my school and my homestay

My school is outside Hwasun, so I ride the bus from school every day and to school twice a week (the other three days I have first-period class, so I drive with my co-teacher. My school is in a very rural area, which I think makes it quite pretty. Lots of rice fields (and of course mountains) surround the school and town, and there are no high-rise apartments to be seen - which in Korea is a sign of a truly rural area.

All the teachers at my school have been very kind to me so far. The English teachers all speak English well, and I've also become used to speaking very slowly, pronouncing every consonant, and using simpler words/phrases than I would use with other native speakers. So communication has not been too difficult. I have my own desk and computer in the 교무실, or teacher's office, and the classrooms all have access to PowerPoint (which I think will be a staple of my classes).

And then there are my students. So far, for the most part, I love my students. Most of them seem, by first appearances, to be sweet, energetic kids. My school is co-ed, so I teach both boys and girls, but the classes are separated by gender. I've noticed that it's a lot easier for me to connect with my female students, since I'm a girl myself. I definitely have a different energy and even teaching style around my male students - I'm a little less "cute," I make fewer references to pop culture and attractive celebrities, and I'm definitely more "no-nonsense." The students here are also fairly good at English, considering their age. Since my first lesson, I've learned that they're perhaps a little less advanced than I thought, but I'm still hoping to do mostly fun, creative stuff with them. To be honest, I don't want to teach grammar - they learn a ton of grammar in their regular English classes, and they do less speaking than anything else. So I want to have a more relaxed class, ideally, with lots of conversation. Will it work? Um, don't know. Check back with me in a few months!

I live in a homestay in Hwasun (in an apartment building) with a family of 5: mother and father, one middle-school girl, one elementary-school girl, and a 4-year-old boy. The kids are extremely, extremely cute. The two youngest fight a lot, but they're energetic and are always smiling around me. I probably talk to my homestay mom and middle-school sister (Mina) the most. I talk to Mina in English, since I think it's a great opportunity help her improve her English, and I'd like to give back to the family somehow. She's pretty good at speaking, given her age and level, but we both have to take roundabout methods to describe things sometimes. I also speak to the other two kids in English, when I can, although they really only know a handful of words each. But, and I could be wrong about this, I believe they're already starting to improve their vocabulary from talking to me. I talk with my host parents in Korean when I can, and they try to use English words around me when they know them. My homestay family is, I must say, extremely kind. I have my own room with a bed and table, but I try to spend time in the living room with the rest of them when I'm not too tired after work. We watch TV together a lot, usually soccer or Korean dramas. I think I prefer soccer - it's a lot easier to follow what's going on! The only negative part of my homestay is that I can't do a lot for myself. I try to offer to wash the dishes, or do the laundry, but my homestay mother won't let me and it's difficult to insist on doing something, or explain how much you want to do something, when you speak different languages. Honestly, I kind of miss the independence and control that comes with doing one's own chores. I guess I don't like feeling that things are out of my control.

But as I said, my homestay family so far has been wonderful. They're very understanding of my limited Korean, and although communication is difficult, we usually get our points across. As for Hwasun itself, I don't have much of a sense of the town yet - it's got a few main stretches, several grocery, clothing, and stationary stores, and of course the high-rise apartment buildings. This weekend I'll hopefully spend some time just walking around and getting lost (something I've done quite a lot lately - but that's a blog for another time) and getting to know the Hwasun a little bit better.

So those are my experiences from the first week and a half in a nutshell. I'll have more specific blogs of what I've been up to once I settle in, with photos (I promise...)! In the meantime, leave a comment, shoot me an email, say hello - it's great to hear from familiar people when you're thrown into a new place like this! Take care, and hey, if you find yourself in southern Korea and want to get away from the cities for a while - well, I do have a small couch in my bedroom. ;)

1 comment:

Robert said...

You're in Hwasoon?

Are you aware you are right next to one of the three main sites in Korea of neolithic Goindol (Dolmen)? A World Heritage site if I'm not mistaken, and each year in maybe June? they have a Dolmen Festival... you can even to get to pull on a rope and move a capstone...

Give my regards to the stones...