Well friends, I've been in Korea for 3 full weeks and am acclimated to the weather, my schedule, the food... but not the language! I have less than 30 pp. left to complete my TEFL Certification, and I am anxious to begin studying Hangeul. I feel paralyzed here in Tongyeong, unable to venture farther due to my lack of understanding and inability to communicate. Unlike me, yes, but all my other ramblings have been through Latin-speaking countries, or holding the hand of a friend in Turkey for a few short weeks. I don't know what I'm ordering in restaurants, so I find myself sticking to the same ones and eating the same thing, that's getting old quickly, even though I love the food. I have no idea what shopkeepers are saying to me as I buy household items or groceries, and luckily, they all have calculators handy to show me the price, because I certainly can't understand the numbering and counting system, which is a combination of Chinese and Korean and switches between ordinal and cardinal when counting vs. $$.
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So, while I am NOT at all complaining, i find the language barrier challenging. I love it here though! And I am ready to get out and about on weekends, (like today!) and start exploring the country. Of my 52 weeks weekends here in Korea (of course I want to stay longer), 3 have past.
Tongyeong is spread over at least 3 different islands that are actually connected by small strips of land/fingers or bridges. I live in "new Tongyeong" (TY, from now on), and the original city is across one of these fingers, only about 4 km away (a bit over one mile). What's amazing about NEW TY, is that a decade ago, it was under water! They "reclaimed" the area, filled it in, and built it up! The area I live in, new TY, could be considered a suburb. It's all new building, modern, with many shopping areas. Again, think in terms of 1 square mile. My school is ~1000 ft. from my house: 2 blocks (if bing.com is accurate). It's a 5 minute walk, if I saunter... It is a 10 minute walk to the huge shopping center of EMart.
(A side note: Emart is similar to WalMart, except they don't' carry items made in china, and it's not all cheap crap. It's not inexpensive, and the items are of high quality or good quality. One thing I've noticed in Korea, they do not make "cheap" goods. Inexpensive, yes, but not the cheap stuff Americans have an affinity for,i.e, all the junk you can get at Walmart.)
Korea is small compared to the U.S., and it is densely packed with people. And yet, all the mountains have been designated as "national parks" so those areas are not built up. And of course the "countryside" has a smaller population density. What is amazing is the speed with which they were able to build an entire second city of TY! And it's not the cheap, quick fabrication you find in the States. For instance, my apartment, although it must have been constructed rather quickly, ti has not been built cheaply and shabbily! I'm on the third floor, there is a busy street below, and I have many neighbors. And yet, I never hear them! I'm in a large complex and never hear anyone coming or going, water running, talking, music...nothing! The cabinets, doors, frames, everything are made in a quality manner. It's such a change from the quick, sub-par construction builders put together these days in the States!
Anyway, Old TY has a lot of character of what I consider (from my foreign perspective) "authentic" Korean: traditional buildings, it's a fishing village, outdoor fish/veg markets, etc. My new TY is, like I said, a new suburb with a very modern feel. And the wonderful thing is, it's only one mile away! I will be there frequently when I get a bike and learn the bus system!
Director and I had to go to Immigration, so I get to see Old TY, walk through the market, buy a tasty snack of squid, and have lunch! More to come.... ciao for now!
...is in Korea loving Korean food and culture!