The QiRanger Adventures

Two months…

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The one-room

The one-room

… have passed and it seems just like yesterday I was stepping onto a plane for a grand adventure in Korea. Truthfully, I really didn’t know what to expect. I went into this with the attitude that anyone can do anything for a year, no matter how bad it may be. I am pleased to report that I was wrong. My time here has passed quickly. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that it was a recent payday, I wouldn’t have noticed that another month had passed.

One question I often get (and teased about) is my apartment. The one-room is great. I really do enjoy it. For years I lived in a large 2500 sqft house by myself. It was big and really didn’t suit my lifestyle. Sure there were rooms that had stuff in it, but I never used them. I’d get up in the morning. Walk to the kitchen, make my coffee, and then proceed to where I had the computer set up and read emails and whatnot. I’d then go running and return home to do some massage work. I ate in the kitchen or took my meal back to where the computer was.

The items I purchased over the years were rarely used and as I started selling things off, it was a great relief to see them finally out of my life. Now here in one-room, I have much the same life. It’s more like camping with the Internet. I get up in the morning, turn two steps and start the stove for the coffee. Then I take two more steps and turn on the computer. After morning coffee, I run 3 miles, return home, and take a shower. Then I go to work.

Nothing really has changed. With the Internet, I’m still able to communicate with those that I need to and watch movies and shows from home. Some people are concerned about the small size, but really… how much of your home do you use on a daily basis? I never used mine. I love the small accommodations. But I will admit that I will upgrade to a two-room when available. Not because I hate this place (although the lowered ceiling does get to me at times), but because I want to be able to spread out a bit more and also host some visitors. Having one room really cuts down on that possibility for friends staying for long periods.

Life in Korea really hasn’t taken that much getting used to as well. I’m not sure why, but I find mixing into the Asian culture quite easy. I’m not sure if it has something to do with my interest in Chinese history, martial arts, and medicine; or if had to do with some travels abroad last year. I really do find the people here a blessing and love meeting the locals around the one-rooms. They’re al so friendly and when I get a chance one weekend, I’m going to take some soju out and enjoy some with the older men in the area.

I also have to admit, that living in a large city is quite interesting. I’ve never been in an area where you didn’t have to own a car. That being said, I do miss my 4Runner, but I’m happy to say that being able to go out my door, get on a buss for W700 and then got off where I need to be is fantastic. In addition, jumping on a train for W900 and striding off in Seoul without having to navigate traffic is a blessing. The downside is that transportation stops running at midnight… so if you’re out and choose not to start heading home at 11pm, you’re in the city until 5:30am, unless you pay for a cab.

Probably the one thing that I still haven’t been able to come to terms with is the lifestyle here. It is very common for many Koreans to stay out until 2 or 3 in the morning (or up online) and then get ready for work at 6am. I can’t do that. I need at least 5-6 hours of sleep. In fact, when we come home from work, there’s a local bar that often has many patrons sitting out on tables next to the road. We usually pass by there around 10:30pm or so…. and small children (3-4years old) are out with them, wide-awake. It’s a strange site.

I also appreciate how safe it is here. People really go out of their way to take care of one another. While everyone place has violence and robberies, the overall feeling is one of calm and security. Maybe it’s because no one really has anything worth stealing.

Roaming around in Korea has been a bit more of a challenge… simply because there is a lot of English instructors here and I haven’t really been forced to learn that much Hangul or Korea. I have been remiss and I need to correct that. I do know enough Korean to get around and order food and get home if needed. I’ve picked up some of the Hangul, but really need to sit down and spend an hour or more a day learning the language, since I will be here for an extended amount of time.

Knowing a little bit helps greatly, since we (the teachers) frequent a great Korean restaurant and we can just sit down and order what we want… and cancel that order and change our minds if need be. It’s a great feeling to walk into a foreign land and be able to speak a different language (when you haven’t gone to school for it) and have the locals completely understand you.

Another thing I’ve been reflecting on has been my teaching experience. And to be honest, it’s quite odd. I’ve always enjoyed academia. In fact, for those that don’t know, my first three professional jobs were with Universities. Perhaps “enjoyed academia” isn’t the right phrase… LOVE EDUCATION is probably more precise.

Now it doesn’t need to be a University, but some sort of learning environment that I crave. I’ve missed that over the years. Being here at the hogwan fills that void. I still wake up, eager to get to work and talk with my students…. even the bad ones (because they are entertaining in their own way). When I first elected to start this journey, I was a little concerned because I had never taught young children before. All my teaching had been with high school students or adults in vocational colleges or in a University setting.

There are a lot of challenges in teaching these children. In fact, there are a lot of similarities with teaching ESL here and in the Southwestern United States. What I mean by that, is that for many of these students, the 90 minutes they’re at school is the only English practice they receive. And when the goal is to become fluent so that you can pass an English test to study abroad.

But I do love it. I play learning games and get to see “ah-ha” moments and skills develop. It’s the main reason why I’ve decided to continue teaching after this contract is over. I’m not sure if I will continue working with young children, but the kids are so damn cute. My favorite classes are ones where I get to work with the kids to think outside of the box. So much of their education is about rote memorization. That’s why I like reading comprehension classes. Where we can sit down and read a story and then I can grill them about details and how it can relate to their lives. I love seeing their cognitive wheels turn and am pleasantly surprised by the results. I can really see myself doing this long term.

The food is nothing short of awesome. I’ve always love noodles and there are some great dishes here. In addition, I’ve always loved rice… and well… I’m in Asia, so you get the picture. The street vendors and little shops have been a saving grace, since I can get a very filling meal for $3. The one thing I really do miss is spicy food. I just can’t find any here that meets my tastes.

But after work, there’s really nothing that hits the spot more like some bipimbap or some roasted meat and rice. Sounds bland, I know, but with onions, kimchi, and some other things, it really hits the spot.

Well, this has gone on for some quite time… and I need to pack and get out of the one-room for my weekend away.

Cheers and have a great day!

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Written by Steve Miller

August 23, 2008 at 8:25 am

Posted in General Update

Tagged with , ,

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