First of all, I apologize for my long, unannounced break from blogging. Why did it happen? I suppose I have gotten used to life in Korea. Once I became really accustomed to things, I was less motivated to write about 'my adventures' here. Not that I haven't been exploring and having a good time! Also, the longer I am here, the less I feel I know this country. So I felt a bit presumptuous writing my opinions on Korean culture, history, etc. But now I would like to write a quick blog updating everyone on my life here.
School is still great. Working with kids has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I am definitely learning more from them than they are from me. It has been great to step into the role not just of teacher, but as caretaker. Remember, some of my kids are as young as 2 years old. I now know how to deal with a toddler who won't stop crying, something I couldn't imagine before. I am also starting to see the sometimes astounding progress the kids are making, with English and and in general. I can't believe how much a child grows, physically and mentally, in just a few months. I recently found myself having a real conversation with one of my 5 year olds, something I could not imagine in January.
I no longer think of my job as the easiest in the world. It is true that I only teach 5 hours a day, and have two hours to relax. But it is the most tiring work I have done. Much more tiring than my last job as a lumberjack! Especially for the really young kids, the best way to keep their attention is to meet their level of energy. My voice is usually hoarse after hours of singing, dancing, and clowning around. I notice that some of the other teachers command the kids' attention without these antics, but I view this as a mastery far beyond my talents. I have gotten better at teaching, though. I notice that now I can walk into a classroom with no lesson plan and basically improvise a damned good class. In some ways, my job couldn't be easier.
Life outside school has also been nice. Busan is a great city to live in, not too large and dirty, but with all the modern conveniences Americans expect. I was lucky to meet a good group of foreigners to spend my weekends at the beach with. I have also been dating a Korean girl. Incidentally, that has been a great way to get into the local culture, by receiving packages of homemade kimchi from her mom, for example. Another example, with my grandma Safran in mind: recently at her parents' apartment I found a set of four thick, leatherbound volumes on the bookshelf. I found out it was a family genealogy that stretches back 600 years! Apparently, not so unusual here. Jealous, grandma?
I have also been able to do some traveling in Korea, including a trip to Seoul. The capital was quite impressive, and quite unlike my own city. Seoul is a monster of a city, housing 45% of the country's population. The country as a whole has the third highest population density in the world, after Taiwan and Bangladesh. The hordes of people packed into the subway are almost intimidating. However, downtown Seoul was clean and had plenty of historical sites and tourist attractions. Things also got pretty lively when a parade was crashed by a group protesting the Korean president. The parade had to be called off and the downtown are was surrounded by hundreds of riot police. Last week I also had a chance to visit a traditional Korean village and spent some time in the countryside. Next week I climb mainland Korea's tallest mountain and stay in a mountain hut! I'll definitely at least post pictures.
Police in front of a palace in Seoul
So that is just a quick update on my recent life. I hope to start this blogging thing again, so if you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to comment!
Also, here are some recent pictures from Korea.