On a flight to Portland this spring , I sat next to a seasoned traveler and listened to stories from his recent trip to Patagonia. Interspersed through stories from Patagonia and a couple of the other 60+ countries he’s visited, he gave me occasional advice about life and travel. The most poignant was his recommendation to make a list of my expectations before I leave. Afterwards I am to reflect on how my experience compared to those expectations.
This proved harder than expected, since to be honest, I really do not know what to expect. On a subconscious level I am sure I have developed a picture of what Korea will be like. This concept has been developed through looking at blogs and travel sites online and hearing from other friends that have visited or taught over there. However, my main frame of mind is one of curiosity.
For example: will I be able to get around? Will my language and culture ignorance be that much of a problem? In my little international traveling experience, involving East-Central Europe, I did quite fine knowing little to none of the home language. I’ve also heard that the subway system is very foreigner-friendly. However, the average Korean does not know English, and I will not have my German family holding my hand through every outing. I’m planning on trying to learn Korean, but how long will that take? Also, how will I be affected by cultural gender or age roles? Drinking and eating habits? How many times will I look like an ignorant idiot because I wasn’t culturally sensitive?
Another area of mystery is teaching. I’m pretty sure I’m teaching English to upper elementary/lower middle school students, and I’ll be the head teacher in ~6 classrooms a day. I am not positive on that though. I also don’t know what I’ll have if I get some sort of curriculum, I don’t know how the kids will like me, I don’t know what their proficiency level is, I don’t know what my prep time will be, and I don’t know how I’ll work in a classroom environment after having most of my experience be in a band room. I don’t know what I’ll actually think of my 1-9pm work schedule, or if I’ll even actually get done at 9pm every day.
I wonder what I’ll think of the food. I’ve had Korean food a couple times, and it was good, but never had to drastically change my diet. Will I often resort to American cuisine? I make a mean pizza. I also initially thought I’d cook quite a bit, but hearing from friends, it sounds like many meals will be eaten out. I’m sure you’ll all be hearing a lot about the food from me.
I could go on with questions if I wanted: what will my friends be like? Will I die without a piano and a guitar? Will I be able to travel? Where? I’m curious to see what I’ll think a year from now when I look back.
My countdown is barely over a week, which means before long you’ll start seeing some pictures accompany these posts. I’ve also started to include links to a couple friends’ blogs on the side of my homepage. One I’m especially excited about is Chelsea, a future co-worker who is starting at the same school on the same day. It may be interesting for some of you to see a different perspective on a very similar experience.