Like I told so many of you, I'm creating this blog so that I can keep you updated on my life in Seoul as an English teacher. I've wanted to do this since high school and after graduating from UW, the chance presented itself and so here I am. I loved living in Seattle for the past five years but I felt like if I didn't do this sooner than later, I wouldn't do it at all.
I left from Portland's airport a couple hours late, causing the plane to arrive four hours late to Tokyo's Narita airport. The airline put me into a hotel for the night (Radisson, pretty nice) and I flew out to Seoul the next day, but not before running into a friend from college, Anna Bickenbach, at the airport! Super random. After a bite to eat, we parted and I was on my way.
I was picked up by a taxi service as I stepped through immigration in Seoul. The guy bought me a cold water bottle right away and drove me to my apartment in Songpa-Gu, Seoul. Driving through the city during rush hour took about 1.5 hours, but then again this city is unlike anything I've every seen, even New York, when it comes to how large it is. 10 million residents in the city, 24 million for the metropolitan area. Mr. Moon, a middle aged man that is my school's co-director met us and showed me my place. My sister helped me get a gift, a box of taffy, for the director before taking off, but the guy forgot to take it after handing it to him! The reason might be because Ms. Lee, the other co-director, seems to be the one in charge. I'll talk about her in a future post.
Three of the teachers came by and introduced themselves that night. We walked over to the subway station, Jamsil Station, got some food and I got to see a bit of where I'll be living for the next year. The walk to the subway station takes a little under 10 minutes. The area is pretty cool though and is dominated by Lotte everything. Lotte world, Lotte department store, Lotte hotels, etc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotte_World My apartment building is only four stories tall, but the area is incredibly dense, with a variety of shops everywhere you look. Walking through the streets, I can't help but notice the plethora of smells culminating behind every building. The air is nothing like what the pacific northwest has to offer, and the street vendors, restaurants, cars, mopeds, garbage bins, and people walking by with their own scents, will take some getting used to.
The next day, one of the new teachers and I went to a hospital about 45 minutes away via the subway to get our health exams. Seems like everyone here is on edge about swine flu. Just today, I was wandering through the isles of a little convenience shop and the lady behind the counter, in her limited English, asked me if I was new. I told her yes, just a few days. She immediately covered her face and said something like "influenza! influenza!", to which I replied no, no, I'm fine, I promise (I think). Needless to say, she didn't seem to want me in her store so I left. A lot of the women here wear masks over their face due to the scare. But I digress. The health exam (which cost 88,000 Korean won, which is about $70 USD) consisted of 13 stations, testing us on things ranging from weight, height, temperature, blood draw, urine samples, chest xrays, hearing, eye sight, and a few others. I had to change clothes and wear a hospital gown (XL large was the largest, not long enough for my body though), but the tests were done with the highest efficiency I've ever experienced. The 13 tests took about 45 minutes, which I doubt our current US system would be able to pull off for $70 without reform (Go Obama! :) Afterwards, I wandered around downtown for a bit and saw some more sights.
I'm going to start teaching on Monday, so I'll blog sometime next week. Later! (Below are some pics I've managed to take during the past few days)
A tower, driving through the city. I can't remember what this one is called.
A tower in Jung-Gu. I walked inside and Samsung seemed to dominate most things, although I did see Boeing had offices on one floor.
This is a five minute walk from my apartment. Lotte amusement park with two man made lakes surrounding it.
Lotte amusement park
An ancient gate in Seoul, sorry, don't remember the name. Jung-Gu area