Let the adventure begin!

My first 48 hours in Seoul passed like a blur. Touching down, making it through immigration with the relief of being greeted by our bags on the other side and then to the hotel. My hotel, I should say, which my company put me up in for the week. Ramsey was staying in a grimy hostel just around the corner! Despite leaving London at 18.50 and flying through the night, the time difference meant we arrived in Seoul mid-afternoon. Jetlag was going to hit with vengeance. Food was first on the agenda and it wasn’t long until we were treating ourselves to some mandu (Korean dumplings) and bibimbap (a kind of rice dish, mixed with other unidentifiable things and a raw egg on top). Sign language, pointing and innocent ‘help me’ smiles were order of the day and it was just the beginning of feeling way out of depth! I have to admit I was secretly very glad to have Ramsey by my side.

By 8pm I was desperate for my bed, fully aware that the next morning brought with it my first day at work. By 12am my body launched into a state of rebelliousness against the darkness and was adamant that now was not the right time for sleep. I couldn’t blame it, the poor thing didn’t know what was going on. Needless to say when 6am came around it caved in and let me have a couple of hours shut eye, and hearing that alarm at 8am was heartbreaking. There really is no rest for the wicked. I headed out amongst the tower blocks in an attempt to find ‘work’. A couple of wrong turns later I finally found myself standing outside the towering building that matched that of the picture I had in my hand. Now the only problem was finding the way in.
The day was long. Lots of information and listening. Lunch had the potential to be a wonderful chance to get out and experience some Korean food with my bosses; if only my food choice hadn’t let me down. Chicken noodle soup… with chopsticks. And I’m not talking pot-noodle type noodles. I’m talking thick, slimy, extra-long-because-you-saw-me-come-in-and-wanted-to-see-me-make-a-mess kind of noodles. If only I had had a fork it would have been like spaghetti. The metal knitting-needle like instruments stared up at me, daring me to take up the challenge. I picked up the spoon and started on the liquidy bit, enjoying the little bits of spring onion and chicken floating in it, trying to maintain small talk while my mind worked overtime trying to figure out a way to deal with this conundrum. ‘Embrace it’, was the best my mind could come up with. Silent slurping, splashing and biting of noodles commenced. My face was so close to the bowl I’m surprised I didn’t manage to give myself a soup facial. I discovered later that afternoon in training that even my hair had succeeded in dipping itself in the bowl. Meanwhile, my bosses and I carried on our civilised conversation, as they politely turned a blind eye to the mess and lack of table manners I was showing. ‘Thank God I’ve already signed my contract’ was the only saving grace of the situation.
My lack of sleep may have been very obvious as the afternoon dragged on, because I soon found myself being told I could go home early. This music to my ears led me to almost skip out of the door. I was so tired that evening that I found myself convincing Ramsey that a friendly-looking western Subway would be the best option  for dinner, as my tiredness couldn’t face language barriers and noodles for the rest of the day. ‘We will have Korean food for the rest of the year, I promise’ I heard myself saying. (Let’s not mention that my bosses took me for a burrito the next day for lunch; not on my accord I’d like to add!) Needless to say, jetlag hit back again that night and saw me endlessly tossing and turning for the early hours of Tuesday.
The next two days of training had me observing classes, reviewing all those useful teaching techniques I’ll be needing and even teaching my first own little ‘mock’ class to three Korean students. They were so lovely and laid back, much like all of the Koreans I have met so far. If all of my students are like that, I’m sure I’ll survive!  I have also tried gimbap, the Korean version of sushi, which has quickly become my favourite thing so far. On a grimmer note, the search for an apartment continues as my date for check-out and potential homelessness (also coincidentally the same date as my birthday) looms nearer. I keep telling myself ‘something will come up’ but I won’t lie when I say I am getting slightly more anxious as the days pass by.
All those lights!
Those beautiful little works of art, also known as letters in the Korean alphabet, still remain a puzzling mystery to me and I’m sure will do for quite some time. As are the melodic sounds that effortlessly slip out of Koreans mouths as they talk to each other. I can’t even bring myself to say a convincing hello yet. Whenever I want to say something, the Spanish quickly comes to mind like a reflex that has been trained to react when in a ‘threatening’ non-English situation. I guess I can say ‘watch this space’ but we might not see any dramatic change any time soon. But who knows… once I have my job under control and a roof over my head, I could well be on it quicker than you can say ‘kimchi’. 

Sunset views across the Han River

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