Archive | September, 2011
September 21, 2011

Hot Springs

Week 2 in Korea has been really smooth and a lot more fun now that I am getting acclimated and, more importantly, caught up on sleep. The time change was not so bad, at first, because I was running on adrenaline and simple curiosity. Once that wore off, I was completely greased, but still couldn’t sleep through the night. Even though my flat is on the 12th floor, the sounds and smells out my window were all so unique. One of the remedies for this came in the form of a visit to the famous Yuseong Hot Springs. Located in the center from Daejeon, and just a 10-minute trip via the extremely clean and efficient subway, the water there has long been known for its healing properties. For just 5 Korean Won, you are treated to both saunas and hot pools of various temperatures. I have never felt so clean, relaxed and refreshed as I did when I left the health clubs there all scrubbed, soaked and freshly shaved. It has become a weekly trip and is one of the first places I would take visitors to Korea.

My second week teaching at JLS was a short one. Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving, gave us a long 4-day weekend. The subsequently shortened 3-day work week was really a lot of fun and helped me get into the swing of things there. The job itself does not appear to be very difficult, but keeping track of all the classes, students, books and assignments is. I essentially have 20 or so unique classes spread out over the week. My students are very young early in the day and harder to wrangle sometimes. They are the equivalent of 1st and 2nd graders. Age is a little different in Korea as you are already 1 when you are born and add another year on the Lunar New Year. So, you could be 2 and still be only just 2 days old, depending when you happen to be born. The age and maturity of the students increases as my day goes on. I teach from roughly 3 to 10p.m., so some of these kids have already been in school for more than 12 hours when they get to me. Three times a week I have a Middle School class for the final hour the day of. These kids are reading a great National Geographic textbook and are on a higher level. They also seem to get my jokes, too, so they are currently my favorites. Most students get to choose an English name for use at the Academy and are not allowed to speak any Korean there. In addition to students named Danny, Sally and Jennifer, I had a young boy who proudly proclaimed “My name is Dinosaur”!

Overall, my transition has been remarkably easy and Daejeon is a highly modern city. Everyone I have met has been incredibly kind, patient and friendly. Koreans are also very generous. My friends at Coffee Nori, Alice and Soon, have been extremely welcoming and are quick to laugh and smile. Alice is helping my with my Korean and points out the subtle differences in culture that don’t always come through in the tourist books I read prior to arriving. There is no tipping, for instance, which I am quickly adjusting to.  More on those differences next time…

 

September 12, 2011

Arrival: Korea

Roasting House:
Wednesday Sept 7, 8:32am – Daejeon, S. Korea

Thanks again to Terri & Pat for a great send off with coffee and Junior’s tacos. Adding in the Gatto’s pizza with cousin Ryan & Rhonda, it was truly a complete departure. I arrived in good order halfway around the world after what seemed like a really quick set of flights. My audiobooks on the iPod were perfect and the last movie on the plane was The King’s Speech, which I highly recommend.

After a brief layover at Tokyo Narita airport, my flight to Incheon/Seoul was just 2 hours more. I then took the airport rail from Incheon to Seoul Station – about 50 minutes, ending up at an empty station at midnight. Fortunately, Aunt Margo’s dark chocolate chip cookies survived the trip, albeit in small chunks. I then lugged my new bags around for 30 minutes only to stumble upon a small, cheap and somewhat dubious motel in an alley filled with strange smells to collapse for the night. With CSI:Miami on in the background, I passed out quickly. Funny…David Caruso was never so comforting in the States!?

The following morning I boarded the early KTX bullet train from Seoul to Daejeon. It was a full house for rush hour – strangely quiet, but highly efficient and clean. It took about 50 minutes to travel my new home and S. Korea’s fifth largest city. After a surreal, “I am really here?” taxi ride, I arrived at my new employer; JLS Academy. The GM, Tristian, gave me a brief tour and took me to my new flat, which is less than 5 minutes away. The apartment, in the Rich Town & Vill building, is terrific and in a very comfortable and modern area of town near City Hall. I sat in on an afternoon class reading appropriately enough “The Perfect Pizza” story and then went home to sleep for about 14 hours.

My Door Lock from Matthew M. Vacca on Vimeo.

This morning after an early morning hike, I was amazed to find a Krispy Kreme just outside my building that was not yet open. Just around the corner I mercifully found Coffee Nori – Roastery Cafe, my new Stauf’s, right outside my side door in a quaint, Greenwich Village-style alley. Two caramel latte’s have set me straight and the fast, free Wi-Fi is amazing. More observation at the school this afternoon and then I begin teaching in earnest on Thursday.

Korean lesson #1 – Coffee = k’eo-p’i

September 5, 2011

“Please prepare for Crosscheck and Departure”

Welcome to The Rock Traveler, an Internet Journal created by Matthew M. Vacca – September, 2011.

I would like to gratefully acknowledge the help of

Josh Lipschutz and the staff of RELATED MEDIA for all their help and support!