Sweet Story 방

When I last posted to this blog, I was still in South Africa. Today is my second day in Incheon – first full day – and I’m typing this mostly so that I don’t have to leave the PC 방 I’m sitting in. It’s fucking cold outside – the coldest I’ve been since arriving in Korea – and even though this place smells, and I desperately need a cigarette, I’ll stay because it’s warm. And because I have internet access.

Okay. That does make me sound resentful of posting to this blog. I’m not, but I do resent the fact that I can’t do it on my laptop, and I didn’t think to bring either my own music or my cigarettes. The nicotine cravings are typing.

So, since leaving SA – I’ve met the ninjas and climbed a bajillion stairs in the Kimchee guest house (aka hostel) that we took over in Seoul. We walked all over Seoul, completely aimlessly most days, and I found out that ladies here need to hide their smoking habits. I also learnt that bars here don’t close, but that there’s always the subway of shame at 5:30 for those kinds of days.

I went through orientation. My homeroom teachers were amazing. One of them (Hee-Su) turned out to be a great source of cultural bits of information – like the fact that he didn’t like patrolling the girl’s floors, and would avoid even looking at the doors. This explained when the guy jogging down the hallway one late night/ early morning had looked so alarmed to find a bunch of us standing in the hallway in our pajamas. At least it wasn’t summer, when we’d all have been wearing much less in the pajama department.

After orientation, I was fully prepared for the idea that I would be working at a elementary school with kids who didn’t even know the alphabet, and then I found out that I was placed at a foreign language high school. Part of me is thinking “Score!” and another part of me is feeling very unprepared and underqualified for this job. The part of me thinking “Score!” is much louder though.

I’ve moved into my flat. It’s brand new, and so is all my stuff. My co-teacher, her husband, another NET and I bought all of it last night. Except for a drying rack, which I bought this afternoon, when I realised (when I started the second load of laundry) that I didn’t have one, and that there was nowhere left to drape my newly washed clothes. The machine, incidentally, sings the same one that the machine back in SA used to sing, so that’s nice.

My school has several NETs who teach different languages. Two of them live in my building. My co-teacher was a bit frosty when I met her, but she’s warmed up to me now. Her husband found it strange that the NET I met last night and I started chatting from the moment we met. The other NET (Ben) responded “Yeah! And we don’t even know each other’s ages yet!” Another NET is moving into the same building soon. He/she is teaching Chinese. I’m meeting a lot of them on Sunday.

Now for the deep part.

I miss my cats. And I miss my dogs. I miss my brother, and my mom, and my friends. I miss my speakers. I really miss being warm. Incheon is cold. Incheon is very cold.

I appreciate that my school is very prestigious and that I should feel priveleged to be chosed to teach there. I’m sure I will in time, but right now it’s all very scary. And I can’t help thinking that orientation was of little help to me, given the school I’ve been placed in. This practice of not telling teachers where they’re going is not too helpful. While bits of advice like “Have patience” and “Don’t break the kids” are helpful, a lot of the stuff we sat through won’t be useful for me. Given the sound of some other people’s schools, I don’t think it will be to them either. I understand the majority of the jobs are for elementary school, and that they’re catering for this, it’s just that it’s a very inefficient way of doing things. While I appreciated getting to spend time with the other Incheonites, and the Chugnam people, I think it may have been more practical to divide the teachers by the age groups they’ll be teaching.


One of the major things I found when staying in Seoul and during orientation was that people will surprise you. I found that many of the people I was excited to meet were lovely in person. But I also found that some people I’d been very excited to meet were… well… less lovely in person. And that some people I hadn’t really cared about meeting are now my friends. I guess that’s the risk of the internet.

But I am still glad that we meet the way we did. Those days in Seoul were exactly what I needed to settle in. I can only imagine how much trouble I’d be having wandering around Incheon if we hadn’t had those days in Seoul first. I certainly wouldn’t have felt confident enough to wander around by myself to find a PC 방 (repeatedly thinking “There has to be be one somewhere around here! They’re fucking everywhere!”). Or to go shopping (I find Homeplus stupidly exciting. Now I just need to find a Daiso somwhere nearby). Or just to walk around my new home. I’d be utterly helpless. And utterly terrified.

On a much more curious note – the paranoid Saffa in me is taking quite a knock these days. I’m a woman, alone, walking around a strange city, and I don’t fear every single corner. I’m not being reckless (not that I should have to worry about that kind of thing, but I’m not going to get into all of that) but I no longer assume that everyone within ten meters of me is about to mug me and beat me to death.

What else is there to say? It’s all new. It’s all very exciting. I’m still very nervous.

But nervousness is not a bad thing. It means you have something to lose. I just keep reminding myself that I’ve worked to hard, come too far and given up too much to do anything other than the best job that I can.

I can’t think of anything else to write. I guess it’s time to pay and brace myself for the cold.

Or. You know. Watch cat videos.

EDIT: ignore the typos. I’m used to Chrome, and this thing used IE. Shoot me.


6 thoughts on “Sweet Story 방

  1. I’m nervous too to start teaching! I’m at two different schools but I only know about one of them. And most of my the teachers at my school (there are 12) do not speak English. My co-teacher also told me her English is not very good, so I have spoken a bit of Korean. However, me saying I know a little Korean has gone the other way and everything is in Korean including my meeting with the principal. I feel a little overwhelmed and frozen since my vocabulary is not that strong and I need to grasp it quicker than I thought. But we always have each other to tell stories to!


    • I’d be an absolute wreck in your situation. I can only imagine how the people who know less Korean than me (little as that is) are faring. This also makes me realise just how different everyone’s stories will be – like you and seem to be pretty much on the opposite ends of the spectrum.

      Don’t worry about the teaching. You can do it. Be calm. Be firm. Be patient. And (as my newly bought shopping bag reminds me) trust yourself.


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