I Live In Korea

My name is Ben Gwynne. I USED to teach English in Incheon, South Korea. Here's some photos, stories, videos, etc.

Sep 7, 2009

21 Questions

I've been asked loads of questions from friends and family back home, here are the most commonly asked.

1. How was your flight?

One of the worst experiences of my life. NEVER fly Emirates Airline unless you plan on bringing less than 30kg (66 pounds)worth of luggage. I’m actually not going to rant about this right here (scroll down to the bottom if you want to read about it in full), it’s too much to handle to read right off the bat.

The good news about the flight is I met a cool Australian and German in the airport. I never thought of airports as a social atmosphere or place to meet people until a few months ago, but now I’m really growing to like being in them. I think there’s a movie about this? If not there should be, could be something similar to Walter Percy's The Moviegoer.

2. How is your apartment?

Pretty basic (stay positive, stay positive). By the end of September I plan on repainting the place and completely redecorating it. There will be a flamboyant paint job, plants, flags, children’s linens and possibly stuffed animals as decorations. You have been warned.

3. How are the kids you teach?
AWESOME, I love the kids (most of them), and they love me (some of them)!

4. Are they well behaved?

Compared to kids in America? Yes. What I find interesting is the behavior of children is worse when they are younger and gets better as they age. I always thought it was the opposite, but I could just be thinking about my personal experiences in school.

5. Do they talk about you in Korean?

All the time, but some of them are stupid and also make hand gestures. One little girl said I have a big forehead (something I've heard since I was a kid) and pointed her hand at her head as if she wanted me to know what she was talking about. She sure did shut up when I opened the door, pointed outside and told her that's where she's going next time she acts up.

6. How are your co-workers?

Awesome. I like to consider myself completely independent and capable when I travel, and have done so alone quite often. However, in this situation I would be lost without Kerri, my Canadian coworker who will be showing me the ropes at school, around the city, helping me with Korean, and introducing me to friends.

7. How is the food?

Delicious! I haven’t had much Korean food in my life, but I’ve always enjoyed what I had. The food here is delicious, healthy, and cheap! My lunch costs $2 and it fills me up a lot. I’ll definitely talk more about the food as I begin to actually understand what it is I’m eating. This was one of the first meals I had in Korea, this one cost less than $5....

8. How often do you work?

School hours are from 2:30pm-9pm on Monday-Friday. However classes end before then, the teachers have dinner (that we don’t pay for) delivered to us at the school at 8pm. So, I’m really working from 2:30pm-8pm, after dinner I'll mark homework then I'm out of there by 9 for sure. I really only actually work a little over 5 hours a day.

9. Are you serious?


10. Does it pay well?

I am getting paid handsomely :)

11. How if you work so little?

Because there’s a high demand and not enough people who are fluent in English willing to come over here to live in a place where they eat dog.

12. What are you going to do with your free time?

There’s a place across the street from my apartment where I can get twenty piano lessons per month, one hour each, for $70. Not bad. I’m also going to consider taking Taekwando lessons, maybe learning guitar instead of piano. Either way, I’m going to get myself back into shape (shed off the 10 pounds I gained during my farewell tour), read, write, take a lot of pictures, and pick up a new hobby which is to be determined.

13. When you look outside of your window, what do you see?

That’s a mountain which is a 5 minute walk from my apartment. There is a really nice track, soccer field, park, hiking trails, swimming pool, etc. It’s very nice, here's a view from my window.......

14. Do you have swine flu?

Not yet, and if I do get it I’ll probably be fired. I’ll just let you read what my recruiter said about it…

"I think changing circumstand make it, anyway don't make you tired and washing your hands and brushing your teeth friquently. Thesdays korean afarid H1N1 virus, so if you get a cold you will meet some ackward situation."

Read that again if you’d like, and do so slowly.

15. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen?

Where to begin. So many unique food items, but one thing that surprised me was this fish which is compressed into little balls which look like olives. Weird things I've seen will be a frequent theme here, there's loads of signs, stores, and other things I've seen which I think would make people laugh. I saw a Korean vomiting on the side of the street my first night there (this apparently happens a lot). I'll get into all the unique things on this blog for sure.

16. What’s your town like?

There’s bars, lot’s of places to eat, plenty of places to shop, but it’s not the most exciting place. I’ll likely be heading to Seoul every weekend which is like 45 minutes away. My town has everything I need on a daily basis, but I likely won’t be here when it comes time to play.

17. Do the toilets flush the wrong way?

I don’t know if it’s the “wrong” way, but they do flush the opposite direction as it does back in America.

18. What side of the road do they drive on?

The right side of the road, the right side.

19. Do you get stared at?

Yeah, but I think it has more to do with the fact I’m in a relatively small city. Everyone in the area who is American/British/Australian is an English teacher at a school, so we stand out. Not only that, but they get used to seeing the few of us there are in the city, so when a new one arrives it’s kind of a big deal. I’m basically the new kid at school except an entire city is looking at me, they even come up to me in stores or when I'm eating and want to talk to me. Pretty cool/weird.

20. Are you going to be able to email when you’re over there?

No, definitely not, South Korea’s internet connection nationwide isn’t 4x as fast as the US. Definitely won’t be able to email.

21. Are you going to come home during your breaks?

Probably not, to do so would be both expensive and difficult. Maybe I can pull it off but there’s no guarantees. Just wanted to throw this out there now so my family/friends who planned on seeing me in the next year all know it might not happen unless they come to Asia.

Continued from Question 1, the horrible flight story - I’m trying to forget about what was without a doubt one of the most horrible and costly experiences I’ve had in my life. Not only that, it happened, and it’s over. I’m trying to get better and not over think (aka b****) about situations I have no control over and can’t really change. Life goes on, and I am beginning a new one right now so I might as well embrace it.


p.s. Remember, I said I'm trying to get better, no promises.