13 "Scary" Things That Happened to me in Korea
The air is chillier, the foliage is slowly dying, Harry Potter marathons around the globe are in full swing, and Halloween is nearly upon us. This week marks 2 months in Korea so I thought it would be fun to share a bit of the "scary, bad, and ugly" things that have happened so far given this spooky season.
Now, fortunately, I will say my time in Korea so far has been mainly a wild and fun adventure, with rare bumps and twists along the way. As I'm writing this, I realize just how mildly "scary" these things are, but at the time of these events, have no doubt that I felt scared and uncomfortable.
Without further ado, I present you with the "13 Scary things"
1. School placement change
The day prior to meeting our co-teachers, we all received packets containing information about our contracts and our teaching placements. I learned I would be placed near Gangnam, but to my surprise the next day, I didn't meet any teachers from the school listed in my packet. I watched as everyone was united with their new co-teachers. After a while a kind face introduced himself and stated he was from a different school than on the contract. A staff member from the office of education stated then that there was a last minute change and to just to ahead with this person. I was surprised to say the least and had no idea where I was actually placed. I just into the car and anxiously waited to arrive to my final destination. Not only did I not know whether I would still be in an elementary school or not, but I didn't even know what part of Seoul I'd be in, or if I'd still be in Seoul at all. It felt like such a long drive to my place and I was definitely overwhelmed but managed as best I could. Needless to say, everything worked out for the best.
2. Sleeping alone in my apartment
It's hard to describe the feeling of suddenly being dropped off in your new apartment by essentially a stranger. To have no idea where you are exactly in the country, and then to have to venture out for dinner alone. My phone didn't work properly at this point so I couldn't find where on the map I was, or even tell my friends what had just happened with my placement change. After finally finding food, I went back to a big empty quiet apartment. In that moment I felt a little terrified. I didn't sleep much that night, and I even woke up to a crashing sound. It turned out that a bag had just fell over, but it was enough to keep me alert for the rest of the evening.
3. Getting caught in a thunderstorm
Don't get me wrong, I love a good strong thunder storm....just when I'm indoors and can enjoy it from the comforts of my couch. One afternoon, after school it started down-pouring suddenly. The sky grew very dark very quickly, and as I walked home I heard loud booming thunder and a flash of lightning. For some reason lightning is especially terrifying to me, and the fact that I was walking with an umbrella made things worse. My stomach was in knots as I ran home. Of course, in doing this I looked ridiculous as everyone treated the weather as just another day. Even children walking home were calm.
4. Getting lost
Yea, though I have a very good sense of direction. The Seoul transportation system eventually got the best of me. I hadn't really taken the bus much back, but I knew enough to get by. After school I hopped on the bus to head home. As usual, I checked the bus number prior to getting on. It was maybe 10 minutes before I realized the bus went the wrong way and I was now somewhere I didn't recognize. I thought that perhaps the bus would just circle back eventually so I waited. However, suddenly I found I was the only passenger on the bus. The bus driver shouted in Korean which was likely something to the effect of, "Get out!" So, I stepped off the bus onto an unknown area of Seoul. Again, at this time I didn't have a properly working phone to navigate myself back.
5. A trip to the Principal's office
This was a very interesting scenario. What started out as an innocent meeting between colleagues, slightly turned into an awkward time. Let me start by saying that my principal is a lovely person, and I feel she is doing a lot for the school. Early on she had wanted to meet for language exchanges so that we could help each other out with Korean and English. I kindly accepted and thought it was a great idea...that was until she started sending her graduate school homework for me to essentially do. According to her, English is my 1st language, therefore these assignments should be completed in no time with hardly any effort. I'm not always the best when it comes to standing my ground and sticking up for myself. So for me to stand up to the principal was not only a scary, but a delicate situation I eventually handled.
6. Cellphone-less in Seoul
Terrifyingly obvious, yet terrifying all the same. Not having a phone in Korea for as long as I did, sucked. I had to plan every detail of meeting up with friends in advance, like specifying what exit to meet at, at what exact time, and what outfit to look out for. Whenever I got lost or was delayed, I had no way of notifying anyone or an easy way to find where I was going.
7. Experiencing food poisoning
Happens to the best of us. Korea is very popular for it's Korean BBQ dishes where you are able to cook your own meals at the table. I must've had an undercooked piece of meat because the next day I got sick and still had to go to school. The sickness came out of nowhere and was full force.
8. Teaching solo
Nothing was more fear-inducing than waking up to a text from my co-teacher saying she was unable to arrive to school due to an emergency. I had to teach all classes for half the week with barely any materials to work with. As a first time teacher, I felt scared and overwhelmed. (Though I feel like this is an initiation into the world of education that all teachers go through.) The first morning of, I had issues with the computer right as the students strolled into the classroom. I did the best I could and faked it till I made it.
9. Nearly having the train stop on my way home
There have been a couple times, especially on the weekends, where I make the bold decision to head home a little later than I should. I make my way as quickly as possible through the subway stations feeling like cinderella wearing one shoe hoping to reach home before the carriage transforms to a pumpkin and she's stuck in the middle of nowhere. For a city that never sleeps, it's annoying to have the trains stop running by midnight, and if you're unlucky, 11:30 even. Once the clock strikes midnight, these subway trains will stop, you will be forced off and left to your own devices for getting home. Not to mention, finding taxis isn't always the easiest of tasks.
10. Surviving subway rides during peak times
Why I am I using a gif from Seinfeld and not my own photo to depict this? Well, simply because it's so crowded you can barely lift a hand to even look at your phone during peak hours. Be wary of being sardined into a subway, especially if you plan on heading to popular areas like Hongdae during peak hours. At times, it's hard to breathe, you're getting pushed around, really hot, and surrounded by the smells of everyone around you, good and bad.
11. Lack of hygiene in Korea
Something tells me that most people here wouldn't have to wear masks as much if more people practiced some basic hygiene. (Of course people wear masks when the air quality isn't the best as well.) So far I've experienced people just coughing or sneezing in my face without even attempting to cover their mouths. Other times, they'll use their hand to cover their mouths then immediately grab hold to a chair or handrail in public. Additionally, many people just spit everywhere and they aren't shy about loudly clearing their throats to get all the mucus out. Hygiene issue? Maybe not. Disgusting? Absolutely.
12. Bathrooms in Korea
No need to veer your head to the side as you look at this photo, because this is not a men's urinal. Nope this is what not all, but many bathrooms are like in Korea. Many bathrooms won't always stock up on TP, look this clean or have proper soap. Many bathrooms just have a single communal bar of soap. TMI, but folks never underestimate the cold comfort of huddling over a toilet when you've had one too many fireball shots. I got sick once and burst into a stall featuring the style of toilet below. Puking already isn't a glamorous part of the human experience, now imagine trying to gracefully do so as you hover over and try to aim as accurately as possible. My finest hour everyone.
That's it! See? Not frightening at all, for you readers anyways. Again, this was meant as fun way to share some of the not so glamorous things about my time abroad. However, I'm really enjoying the experience.
Thanks for reading and as always feel free to reach out! :)