We’ve been in Korea for a year now, and I’d say we’re settled in, but Korea doesn’t like to keep things settled. Things change a lot here, and pretty fast. So to commemorate our one year anniversary, I thought I’d go through a list, in no particular order, of a bunch of things that have changed around us as we’ve remained steadfastly (ha ha) the same. They are mostly little things, but put together they give you a sense of what goes on around us all the time.
Our apartment complex got a paint job. They went from a dingy, faded beige and pastel to a crisp white and brown. Well, except for our building and the one next to it, and I’m sure Korea’s getting to us soon.
My (Mike’s) Principal, Vice Principal, and school Administrator have all been replaced. In fact, Korean public schools have a policy that no staff member can stay in a school more than four years. A typical teacher can expect to teach in four or five different cities, in six to eight schools, over the course of their career. So, in fact, about a quarter of the teachers at school have left for other schools, and been replaced. Most of the other teachers have been reassigned. Fourth grade teachers now teach sixth grade. The gym teacher now teaches sixth grade. They seem to like the change, but it would probably be a “challenge” for American teachers to put up with so much change.
My (Mike’s) main co-teacher remains the same. However, I am now on my third and fourth secondary co-teachers. One left to spend more time with her children. Her replacement was at Seohae for six months, and then moved to a middle school. One of my current co-teachers taught fifth grade last year, and she plans to move to Seoul in a few months. My other co-teacher, who deserves a blog entry all to himself, is also the head teacher at Seohae, so he’s very busy and often does not show up to class at all.
Likewise, the foreigners come and go. The main ‘intakes’ are April and August. No sooner had we settled in last year than a bunch of friends left. A similar exodus is taking place at the end of the month, and we will miss our friends a lot. But they’re moving on to bigger things – hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, for instance. I’m sure some nice people will come in and take their teaching posts, but they can’t be replaced.
The big bridge that’s been under construction is nearly done. When we arrived, there was a gap of a few hundred feet in the suspension itself, and the decking leading to the far shore was completely absent. Now when we look out, the span is complete, and we expect traffic to be flowing on it any day now. In preparation for the extra traffic they’ve been digging up the parkway by the beach, adding strange underground tunnels that I can’t quite figure out the purpose of.
The building next to us got renovated over the winter. One day the Jugong Mart, the tiny market with the orange sign, where we bought our juice and beer and other daily needs, shut down. We were heartbroken because the family that ran it was so sweet to us. During our early months when we didn’t know how Korea worked, they were patient, showing us where things like light bulbs and band-aids were. They had let us borrow a truck to pick up some furniture last summer. (We also got a new couch and chair. Very pleathery.) So we didn’t know what was going to happen.
Then, the Jugong Mart shop was shut down. The worn floors and homely shelving were gutted for a bright, florescent space. We wondered what would go there, but construction started right away, and eventually a new green sign went up, a new floor went down, and it’s still the Jugong Mart, but it’s pretty much all new. It’s bright and shiny, and the new people are nice but they haven’t warmed up to us quite the same way.
Other stores open and close quickly. In the same building as Jugong Mart, a store that specialized in ginseng products – pickled ginseng, ginseng candy, ginseng by the pound, you get the idea – shut down and was replaced by a honey chicken stand. A ladies clothing store next to the 7-Eleven also shut down one day and three days later was another honey chicken place. Our favorite hamburger place – one of the only hamburger places – Kraze Burger – shut down without warning one day, promising to re-open in the neighbor city of Namak, though this has not happened yet. However, a new place opened last month on Rose Street, and they have some decent burgers on the menu, one of which, the Volcano Burger, is spicy and tasty; a new favorite. But there’s still nothing to compare to a good Jucy Lucy from Matt’s on Cedar.
Well there are other changes as well, but that should give you an idea of what it’s like here. Don’t blink, or you’ll miss something.