Today I wake up at around 7:30am because they are building a new apartment building next door to where I live. They start early everyday banging hammers and drilling things and it drives me crazy. I lay in bed for half an hour wondering why they think nobody should be sleeping any longer after 7:00 in the morning. When I finally roll out of bed, I get ready quickly so I can talk to my girlfriend on Skype for as long as I can before I have to go to work. Since she lives on the other side of the world its between four and five in the afternoon just before I go to work, perfect time to talk for a few minutes. For most people living on opposite sides of the world this would probably be one of the few times they could talk to each other since it’s daytime in Korea and on the west coast of the United States. Lucky for me Jillian never goes to sleep until the early morning PST so we can talk more often.
On this particular day its nice out so I decide to walk to school instead of riding the bus. Now that it’s spring I almost never take the bus to school anymore. Riding a bus in Seoul is never fun and puts me in a bad mood first thing in the morning. The bus is almost always filled with people standing packed in as tightly as they can fit. Being a foreigner in Seoul I’m not exactly anything new or interesting to most people on their daily commute to work but I’m ignored so much most people pretend I’m not even standing there, they push me out of the way to get to the door or just to simply take up the space I’m standing in. So today like almost everyday since spring came I’ve opted to walk the 35 minutes it takes to get to school. After leaving my neighborhood it’s a pleasant walk on a small stream that runs most of the way to school. Even though it’s in the middle of the city, it’s still a nice escape from the city for a few minutes. After the river I cut through an area of Seoul near Sillim station. The sidewalks are packed with people in suits and old Korean men and women wearing their brightly colored neon pink, orange, and green hiking gear and visors; fully equipped to hike Everest, these people often have ropes and ice picks and big packs with them to hike the nearby Gwanak Mountain which isn’t nearly as challenging as they are dressed and ready for.
When I get to school and walk in I am greeted by a dozen little Korean kids between five and six years old, it’s a pretty pleasant way to arrive at ones workplace I suppose even though I hate the school I work at now. I have a few minutes before my first class I use to prepare for my kindergarten lessons that day. Usually it doesn’t take much prep, I’ll make some copies of a worksheet or draw a page for the kids to color and copy it. I teach five kindergarten classes during the morning and early afternoon starting at 9:45am and finishing at around 2:00pm. The kids are between five and six years old (or somewhere around there, I really have no idea how old most of the kids are since Korean ages can sometimes be as many as two years different from the age they would be in a western country). After a few classes I get to eat lunch provided by the school, not always the best part of my day. Food from the cafeteria at school is not very good back home, so it’s safe to assume that Korean school food is worse than normal food here and to make it worse I’ve never really been a fan of too many Korean dishes. Lunch for me consists of rice everyday along with some sort of meat, if I’m lucky; most the time it’s a mystery to me and sometimes I skip lunch and opt for some ramen instead. During lunch I go out and call my girlfriend again, it’s only the evening there still and the last chance I get to talk to her during the day (if you don’t count the constant text messaging back and forth all day). After I’m finished with the kindergarteners I have about a forty-five minute break before elementary starts. Today I will use about five minutes of this time to type out a test to give later in the day. I like to spend as little time on prep work as possible since I don’t actually get any breaks like I would at a traditional job back home.
In the afternoon I teach four classes of elementary school kids around eight or nine years old. My day gets better at this point because these kids can speak English well enough that it makes my job teaching them something new a lot easier. Kindergarteners often times have no idea what I’m saying and it’s almost pointless to waste my breath. With the older kids I can actually hold a conversation with them and teach them something. The day goes by fairly fast and before I know I’ve taught my last class. There is about one hour between my last class and when I can go home. I am supposed to use this time for prep but today I spend it on my phone and surfing the Internet, before I sneak out a few minutes early. The walk home is the same as the walk to school in the morning, only this time when I cut through Sillim I have to smell all the delicious Korean barbecue being cooked which makes me very hungry. By the time I get home it’s after 7:00pm and I start cooking my dinner. I’ll spend the rest of the evening usually reading, maybe exercising and maybe surfing the net for a few minutes before I try to get to sleep. I love my sleep and I know the construction workers will be out early tomorrow morning working next door, so I try to get as many hours as I can before they wake me up far too long before my alarm does…