First Week in Korea

July 13, 2009

Week one in Korea has come to a close, and it feels like I’ve been here for a month. I’ve bonded with many of the other ETAs over our mutual struggling through Korean classes, dining on delicious baby octopus, downing bottles of soju, singing noraebang (karaoke), and the collective experience of being cast into a culture that is for all of us, to varying degrees, unknown.

Right now we are in the thick of the “rainy season.”  Sudden downpours are common, and umbrellas are essential:

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It’s usually overcast, warm, and humid, but it’s not nearly as bad as the American Midwest. Apparently Chuncheon is the hottest place in Korea, but comparatively, it’s quite comfortable. We’re surrounded by some nice mountains too. Here’s a picture from the dormitory:

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And here are some pictures of the amazing sunset a few nights ago:

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One of the best parts of Orientation so far has been the KEY Club (Kangwon English Yard) meetings. Key Club is a club here at KNU for students who speak English and want to practice speaking. Everyone in the club is very outgoing, and they have no inhibitions about trying to vocally communicate. Regardless of how impressive or how poor their English skills are, they are willing to try and to make mistakes, which is inspiring for everyone here trying to learn Korean, as making mistakes is a necessary part of the learning process. Saturday night we had an ETA-KEY Club “mixer” with snacks and soju (the Korean b.o.c. (booze of choice) that tastes just like watered-down vodka) and from there went out the “back gate,” the college night-life area. It’s a wonderfully frenetic mess of bodies and neon lights, replete with bars, restaurants and noraebang:

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First we went to this weird military themed bar, which wasn’t really a “bar” as much as a room with two long tables and fridges full of soju and water.

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From there we went to noraebang, where I “sang” until my vocal chords felt just about shredded (I  am not in this picture, but it should give you a good impression of what the rooms are like):

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And from there we went to a bar that was for some reason named after the Milwaukee Bucks:

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Compare to the actual logo of the NBA team:

What this bar had to do with either the city of Milwaukee or basketball in general remains unclear, but I won’t hold it against them, because they brought us lavish fruit trays to snack on (and more soju).

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Oh and here’s a picture that actually has me in it:

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Overall, it was an amazing night. And all the food and drink and noraebang cost a grand total of 10,000 ₩, which is about eight dollars American.

And for the last little bit of this way-too-long post, there is an international Taekwando tournament going on here in Chuncheon, and at Kangwon National University we are sharing our dormitory with the junior competitors from teams Russia and China (they’re on the first floor while we’re on the second and third). All the Chinese kids are cute as hell; they are tiny, exuberant, and seem to always be smiling. The Russian kids look forlorn, overly muscular for their ages, and have a definite Ivan Drago air about them. And EVERY single Russian boy has either a mullet or a rat-tail. Seriously, every single one of them. I’m guessing it’s some kind of team solidarity thing, but I really want it to actually be the style in Russia; either way, it’s hilarious.

I went to watch some of the tournament on Sunday morning, and it was spectacular. Since I had my camera with me, I walked confidently onto the floor level pretending like I knew what I was doing and was supposed to be there, and nobody said anything. Here are just a few of my favorite pictures:

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Whew! OK, this post was way too long. Hopefully I can make more shorter posts from now on, but if not, it’s because I’m extraordinarily busy between language classes, lesson planning, studying, workshops, et cetera, ad nauseam, and every day it feels like my brain is melting.

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4 Responses to “First Week in Korea”

  1. Kate said

    What a good update!!

    So good to get to talk to you on Saturday. I’ll have to fill you in on what happened that night…many funny things. CALL AGAIN SOON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. TC said

    hey man that post was awesome — they should all be that long. I feel stupid for having commented on your photo album with my horrible “luncheon chuncheon” joke. Anyway Korea looks/sounds amazing — enjoyed the Rocky reference and the Russian kids — I would be rooting for them, as I would root for any group of kids with rat tails in whatever they do. Btw I just won 505 dollars in Atlantic city on Friday night. The whole night makes for a pretty wild story, a regular cullesy. I’m gonna start a blog soon, and will definitely have one up by the time I’m in Alabama. Later yo

  3. Uncle Joe said

    Mr. Bibbitt,

    Keep up the great work of keeping us informed!!! My keyboard is worn thin, so I cannot type correctly for long. I cannot see what keys I am typing.

    That being said, I am leaving for Japan tomorrow and can’t wait to see everyone. To think you’re right above me and really soaking it in is just awesome! I will get another keyboard so I can write more.

    Love,

    UJ

  4. Bob & Karen said

    Great to hear from ya! Loved the pics and comments. Keep in touch.

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