If you had asked me last night if I was nervous about school today, I would have said no. I mean, it’s true that I knew I was expected to make a speech to the teachers, but I had been told that it could be in English. That’s no sweat, I’m a pro at English :). Well, I got to school bright and early Monday morning, and amid the hustle and bustle of hundreds of Korean high school and middle school girls trying to get to class, I was told that I would not be introducing myself in English, but in Korean, and it would not only be to the teachers, but to the entire student population. Actually, I had to do it twice – once in front of all of the teachers at the morning assembly meeting, and once for the school’s TV broadcast! Indeed…they stuck me in front of a camera who’s feed was being broadcast into every classroom, gave me a microphone, and told me to talk. In Korean. It was sooo nervewracking. That would be unpleasant on any day, but the fact that I had not had time to prepare – mentally or physically – made it all the worse.
But it’s over, and I survived. Everyone is soooo nice here. The teachers all clapped enthusiastically, and a few patted me on the back once I got back to my seat (yes, I had to stand at the front of the room and address them all as a group), and several who spoke English came up to me afterwards and commented on how amazing my Korean is. Now, I do have to say, I am highly skeptical of anyone calling my Korean “amazing”, but I think the point was just that they recognized how difficult it was for me, and appreciated that I was making an effort to speak their language….however poor the effort might have been :). I’m hoping, too, that the broadcast will give me some brownie points with my students in class. They’ve heard me make mistakes in Korean, so maybe they will be more OK with speaking and making mistakes in English. Korean students are notoriously bad at being unbelieveably shy when it comes to speaking English.
I didn’t teach any classes today, but I did make a friend. One of the other English teachers sought me out after my speech and we talked for a long time. She just moved here a little bit ago from Daegu (about 45 minutes away), and many of her friends are still there, so she seemed glad to have a friend. I know that I was. She took me on a tour of the campus – we walked all around the school, and she told me stories about the school, and tips and suggestions, and things I needed to do or not do. She gave me a schedule of classes, too, which was wonderful, since up until now I had no idea what the school schedule was like. I’m looking forward to teaching, but at the same time, I’m really glad that I didn’t teach today. Making 2 speeches in Korean AND teaching classes would have been too much for my poor nerves :). Oh, I forgot to mention that I also gave gifts to my principle and vice principle – which required more Korean. I’m wiped out :).
This weekend was rainy and I didn’t go out much, so I did some digging on the internet for things to do in Gyeongju. I had quite a bit of success. I found an ultimate frisbee club, a dance studio (athough I’m not sure what kind of dance), an English speaking service (although no one seems to know where it is), a park, an outdoor concert hall, plus a random assortment of other things, too. There is a group on Facebook called the Gyeongju Foreigner’s Association – I joined it yesterday and started talking to some of the members; I’m supposed to meet one of the girls sometime this week so she can show me around. Also, my host parents own a bike shop, so yesterday while the weather was good my host father took me on a bike tour of the city. It was lovely. Even though we can’t communicate, we still have fun together. It definitely motivates me to improve my Korean, though. He also showed me how to get to my school from my house on a bike, since that will be my primary mode of transportation.
So, all in all, it’s been a good past few days. It’s really hard and at times it’s overwhelming, but I kind of expected it. I didn’t come to live immersed in Korean society and not expect a little culture shock :). I’ve been going to bed incredibly early the past few days – my brain is constantly on overdrive, trying to undestand what’s going on around me, so my 8:00 pm or so I’m exhausted. But I’m hopeful that that will pass as I get more adjusted to my new life. More updates to come soon!