Friday, August 31, 2007
The language barrier is worse than I thought. I called my brother in South African today and he said to me.... "You don't have to speak to me like I'm retarded, you know..." Well, it's just that for the entire week, I've not spoken proper English to anyone.
It was one of the Grade 5 teacher's last day at school today and I had to take her class the period after she left. I certainly wasn't prepared for what happened when I stepped into the class. There were about 10 children sobbing their hearts away because their homeroom teacher left. It took me about 10 minutes to calm them down, and I went to each crying soul to give them a little hug....
I planned my lesson for Monday with Mrs Lee - what a mission!! We were both getting frustrated that we couldn't understand each other, but after an hour we reached a mutual consensus. Then I attended the 6th grade teachers (informal) meeting... there was pizza and coke but as tempting as it looked or smelled, i had to decline as it was meaty...
Then Viola & her co-teacher came through to my area to see me... Viola & I found the city area where I live and ventured out a bit..to Pizza Hut, tried some soju and walked around exploring..
Thursday, August 30, 2007
(David & Reeshen: comments about you.... "ahhhh teacher friend handsum")
My co-teacher says that my principal, Mr Cho is concerned about me ...he noticed I eat very little at lunch, and he wants Angelina (my co-teacher) to teach me how to cook Korean tofu and rice. Isn't he sweet.
After shopping, Angelina said she'd help me clean my kitchen. We scrubbed and wiped till our fingers were sore. She was so kind to help me... now at least I have a clean kitchen... Will post pics of my apartment real soon - it's already feeling like home.
Yesterday after school, the staff gathered for a farewell / welcome dinner for teachers. The vice-principal is leaving the school to take up another position as a principal at another school. I was given a very warm welcome and was assisted by teachers around me in my quest to eat kimchi with chopsticks!
Here, I'm being welcomed by the Head Teacher:
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Dianne Lee is my other co-teacher, and makes sure I'm happy with everything around me. She assists me like a charm during class and speaks English fairly well... I really like her and regard her as a mum figure.... This is her in the middle... the other two teachers teach 4th grade.... also so sweet! Mrs Lee is full of smiles whenever I see her...
Mr Kim is like my Korean dad. He does anything and everything for me... from sorting out my cellphone to my laptop... to throwing my trash away...to taking me shopping... to making sure every electronic appliance works - he is so sweet, it's just unreal. And when he battles trying to say something in English, he lets out this amazing little giggle and very soon he & I are in a fit of laughter because we can't understand each other. But he is such a humble soul. He works in the school's admin office and he makes sure I am short of absolutely nothing....
Mr Kim's wife (Mrs Ham) .... they are married, but have different surnames... called me yesterday when I was at the PC bang. She wanted to meet me. But she couldn't understand when I said - MRS HAM COME SUN JIN 6:30. Anyways, we met... and she took me walking around my area. She knew I was looking for somewhere to get a good massage, so she went hunting for prices.... and she wanted to take me to the "HELS KLUBBEH" (health club) cause she knew I wanted to join some kind of gym.
She held my hand and walked around, pulling my arm and making sure I understood when something was too expensive. She even bought an umbrella for me to use when I walk in the heat. She is amazing... and soooo sweet. She gave me trash bags, hangers etc... from her own home... and she just wanted me to go and see where she works (in the Science lab at school). ....And she bought me banana's cause she heard me say FRUIT.
The language barrier is huge, but she is so adorable that she just has to smile, and my heart will melt. Here she is on the left with my co-teacher, Angelina.
Hyun Jung is the teacher for disabled children, and when she didn't see me in the teacher's room @ lunch, she called me to ask if I was OK and if I'd eaten.... she is sooo sweet and her English isn't too bad (so we converse well). She wants me to go and visit her classroom... this is her on the right:
Walking into a new class, within seconds I can already pick out who are the noise makers, the mischievous ones and the shy ones....
In nearly every class, I was asked the following (along with some interesting other questions): They asked in Korean, and my co-teacher translated for me....
Where are you from?
Are you married?
Do you have a boyfriend?
Why aren't you married / don't you have a boyfriend?
What is that? (my BINDI)
Where do you stay in Korea?
Why are you in Korea?
How did you come to Korea?
How long is it from Africa to Korea?
What animals live in Africa?
Are there animals near your home?
How old are you?
How old are your parents?
Do you have a brother or sister?
Is that real gold that you're wearing?
Can you give us your phone number?
Do you speak Korean?
Do you like Korea?
What Korean food do you like?
What is your favourite colour?
What is your favourite season?
Do you have a dog?
What is your house like in Africa?
What is your blood type?
Do you like wrestling?
What are your hobbies?
I showed the children photos of my parents and brother.... oh my goodness, they scrambled out of their seats to get a closer look....and all I heard was ooooohhs and aaaaaaahss... they all reckon that my father and brother are very 'handsum' and that my mother is beautiful.
AND - my bindi caused a stir in every single classroom. They were simply fascinated by it, and I told them that when I sleep I take it off. I told them it's a "steeekuhh" (sticker) and I demonstrated simply removing it from my forehead to which they replied AAAAAAHHHHHH
Mr Kim's son was also fascinated by my bindi, so I just gave it to him....
I put the gloves on and got working in the bathroom. I scrubbed that toilet like there's no tomorrow. As I mentioned before, the bathrooms here are completely different. The entire bathroom is like a shower. The shower head is connected to the tap in the basin and is a hand held shower. .... thankfully, the toilet is normal.
I had an issue where the basin got filled with water and I didn't know how to unplug it. So I went next door to my neighbour, and a man (probably in his mid 20's answered the door). Obviously, he didn't understand me and wanted to close the door in my face, but he came to my bathroom with me - (it's really not as weird or freaky as it sounds) and he showed me how it's done.
After cleaning the bathroom, I ironed all my clothes before packing them in my closet. By midnight I was beat, so got to bed...after watching some Korean TV of course....
I felt like a celebrity at school... I mean, really - the younger kids screamed (I'm not overreacting) when I walked into class. Some pointed, looked at each other and stared.... others couldn't really be bothered!
This week I'm only observing so, I'm being introduced to the various classes. Children were able to ask me questions - and oh boy, KIDS DON'T HOLD BACK!!! I'll write a separate post about this...
Children followed me from the class to the teacher's room, while others walked passed me, gasped and bowed their heads saying "Ahn-yang-ho-say-yo". It was incredible. I joked with YunOck that I'm walking down the passages waving the royal wave....
Some kids just scream "Hiiiiii.... how are you?" ....when I reply, the run away in fits of giggles...
If you know me, you wouldn't be surprised if I say that.... I went to speak to them!!!
This was the conversation:
Me: Hello! Um...Are you English-speaking?
(they both took a weary step back)
Woman: Why do you want to know?
Me: Cause I just moved here and haven't met anyone who is English-speaking.
Woman: No, we are from Pakistan
Me: Oh, what do you do?
Woman: We are on holiday
Me: I see... when are you leaving Korea?
Me: Awww..ok, well...enjoy the rest of your stay! Bye..
They must've thought I'm nuts... :)
Anyways, this is what the area around GS Mart looks like:
I remembered I wanted to buy sandals for school... so went to this store near where I live...
After dinner with Mr Kim & his family, we went to GS Mart (Korea's version of America's Walmart). I mimed everything that I needed... from bathroom mat to cheese. A lady asked where I'm from so I said NAH MA GONG (I learned that that is "South Africa" in Korean). She got very excited and said that there is another South African in the area who comes to shop there often.
Here are some pics from GS MART:
Then I went to the immigration office with Angelina....to sort out my ID card.
There were 3 Indian men (they were from Pakistan). I know this cause I snuck a peak at their forms. Oh man, the way they stared at me... but I can understand, I mean - there aren't THAT many Indians here in Korea... and you don't just see them walking around.
When I got home, my electronics had arrived - microwave, kettle, toaster, TV (!!!!!!) I was so happy....
Then I went to Mr Kim's home (Mr Kim works in the admin office). Mr Kim, his wife and their two little children have really taken me as their own. When I explained to his wife that I needed to buy a few things, she gave me things from her own cupboards - from trash bags to hangers to loo paper.
I had a traditional Korean meal with Mr Kim and his family... I had bi-bim-bap (think that's how it's spelt...)
It all happened so fast, which is why I don't have pics ....
As the vice-principal said something, Angelina said that I should give a short introduction about myself.
....then I realized what was happening. The school has their own broadcasting system and instead of them going to assembly (as we know it in South Africa), messages are broadcasted to students who are sitting in their homerooms. Before I knew what else was going on, I was pushed to the podium, and said - "Good Morning, I am Sheetal Makhan from South Africa and I am the new English teacher". Then I was pushed out the room and taken to the 6th grade teacher's room.
I only realized the effects of my "on screen appearance" when I walked down the passage and nearly every student stared at me, pointed at me ... as if to say, "it's HER!!!" When the children passed me, the stopped in their tracks and bowed to me, saying "Ahn-yang-ho-say-yo" which means, HELLO in Korean.
I was overwhelmed. Simply overwhelmed.
I went to meet the principal, who spoke to me in Korean..thank goodness for Angelina who translated .... hmmmm, he even said that I must enjoy my stay in Korea and that maybe I will find a good Korean man to marry, cause Korean men are very good people.
.... seriously, did someone alert my principal that I'm single?!!!
More to follow in next post....
On Saturday, after dinner with Angelina (my co-teacher), Mr Kim (school officer) and his wife, we went to a store to buy things like cleaning agents, bins, iron, ironing board etc...and there was someone from the store who helped us back to my apartment with all our things (basically a few metres down from where I live.
Then we went to a "PC bang" - "bang" means "room"...so, PC ROOM (aka Internet cafe). Angelina had to go home, and I assured her I'll be ok to get home by myself.
A girl was watching me, and I tried asking her... she told me to follow her. I followed her to a cafe where there was a man, woman and a baby. I said SOUTH AFRICA...PHONE. The man said to me, "SAUDI ARABIA?" Thank heavens he had a chart in his store, so I point to the SA flag, and he sold me a call card.... and he let me use his phone...
..I called home, and spoke to my brother. My folks weren't home. Then I called my mother on her cell... and while talking to her, I thought - OH CRAP I don't know where I am and how am I going to get home? It was 00:30 now.
Still talking to my mum, I saw 2 Indian guys pass the store and I waved frantically at them. They were from Bangladesh and their English was none the better. SUN JIN APARTMENT, I repeatedly said. NO ONE as in NO ONE understood what the hell I was saying.
I mentally prepared myself to be raped or mugged... I mean, what the hell was I doing walking around the streets of Sinchen-dong on the night that I arrived? I was close to tears. I had no idea where I was.
Then....the guy who took my parcels to my apartment earlier saw me, and noticed I was lost and he walked me home. I was shaking. I was tired... hungry...and needed a shower.
....so around 01:00 I had a shower. I was so upset about getting lost that I didn't care that I couldn't find my shower gel. I used shampoo. (Manuka shampoo from the Body Shop to be precise)
My apartment was bare and eerily silent. I went upstairs, sat on my bed and thought - OH MY GOD....what have I done coming here? How will I ever get the hang of things?
I fell asleep for an hour, and woke up @ 3am. It felt like I slept for 6 hours. I was frustrated and the silence was deafening. I went back to the PC bang, and made sure I knew where the hell it was. Well, it's really just straight down the road from where I live.
I needed to get onto MSN / GOOGLE TALK. The man had no idea what I was saying when I said GOOGLE TALK? I burst into tears in his face... and he gave me a cup of coffee from the coffee machine. My friend, Jayme was online and I asked her to call my brother to get him online.
He logged on and I said - WHAT HAVE I DONE COMING HERE? Then I asked him to call Cliff & YunOck, who spoke to me..and YunOck spoke to the guy working there in Korean. For the next 4 hours, I sat at the PC bang (5am....6am...) I couldn't bare going to my apartment.
It's now Sunday... at 7am, I went home... fell asleep at 8am and woke up at 3pm. Within 10 minutes of waking up, I went back to the PC bang and sat there till midnight. I downloaded Skype, and spoke to friends. I even managed to upload pics on a PC that was 100% in Korean.
When I got home, I only got to bed around 2am... woke up @ 3am... and again at 5am....and then at 7am... I thought the jet lag would never wear off. I was so upset.... and so lonely....
...but things slowly picked up (as you will see read in my next post).
Sunday, August 26, 2007
I connected my camera to the PC and uploaded pics without knowing what the hell was on the screen...I guess I've been blogging for quite some time now that I kind of know which buttons to press - even though they're not in English.
I had more pics that I uploaded, but lost them cause my PC shut down as I ran out of money.
Airport in Singapore
Arriving in Siheung
My first Korean meal
Saturday, August 25, 2007
When we arrived, we could just feel the humidity as we stepped off the plane. After immigration / customs, we picked up our luggage, freshened up and proceeded to arrivals where a Mr Jo was waiting for us with a nice big sign: VIOLA & SHEETAL...WELCOME TO KOREA!
The drive from Incheon Intl Airport to Siheung was about 1.5 hours and after random bantering with my Mr Jo, Viola and I passed out in the backseat. I was dropped off first. We went to my school - Sinchen Elementary School where my co-teacher, Angelina and the school officer, Mr Kim met me.
Initially my apartment wasn't ready and I was going to be put up in a hotel, but plans changed and I am in my new aparment. I was ordered a brand new bed which was assembled right before me... and afterwards, went to get a bite to eat with Angelina and Mr Kim. Mr Kim's wife and 2 kids soon joined us and we went shopping for other little items that I needed - sponge, dishwashing liquid, toaster etc etc etc...
Would you believe that my neighbour has already expressed her hospitality towards me and gave me a bunch of grapes and a bottle of juice :)
Mr Kim's son seems very intrigued by me and keeps talking to me in Korean. Then when I don't answer, he asks his father things about me - where am I from.... etc etc.. but it's ok cause I've been warned that kids tend to stare at foreigners... they just look different! I have seen the most beautiful Korean children since arriving, and their parents had no qualms when I asked if I could take photo's of them!
Anyways, my apartment building is called Sun Jin and is on a corner. It's very modern and when you enter, you don't need a key or card.... just a pin number! When you enter on the right is a bathroom - not quite what us SA's are used to... then I have a kitchenette, a living room area and a few stairs leading to the sleeping area. My closet, desk, chair etc will arrive soon I am told.
I won't lie - I am missing home, especially for the menial things. Language is a definite barrier, and one has to constantly break down simple sentences for mutual understanding.
I'm @ an internet cafe right now which is a few metres from my apartment. After I send a few mails off, I'll head on home, take a shower and get to bed.
Pics to follow shortly.
Love to one and all in South Africa. xxx
As I write this, I'm @ a free internet terminal @ Changi aiport in Singapore. It's just past 06:30..our flight was good (all 11 hours of it) but we were kept entertained with the 100 channels of movies. I watched 2 Bollywood movies (Namaste London & Dhoom 2), a Korean film and Shrek 2. And how lucky was I to catch my current fave song playing (Timbaland's 'the way i r').
Food on the flight was good... we were served lunch...or was that dinner? and a nice breakfast. Since Viola and I were confused out of our minds where we were and what time it was where ever we were flying over, we decided to enjoy our flight according to South African time.
So...we had wine with lunch (which I gulped down during some turbulence) and then had Bailey's just before breakfast. Hmmmm....!! but hey...it was about 11pm SA time, so it's fine, isn't it?!
I had my fair share of drama in Cape Town @ the airport. At the risk of being teased at...let me just say I was overweight in excess baggage (over 10kg)....I had to go and buy another bag to unpack some things in ... but was still over. The lady told me I had to pay over R5 000!!! HELL NO...so I sent some things home with my mum.
Anyways my time is up and Viola and I are going to a coffee shop..
xxx Thanks for all the messages...
Thursday, August 23, 2007
To those I've not had a chance to say goodbye to, I apologise.... promise to keep in touch via e-mail / texts.
Monday, August 6, 2007
My family got the Internet at home about 11 years ago when not many people even knew what it was. The more addicted I became to the Internet, the higher our phone bill was for the month! And yes, I am ashamed to say that I became slightly addicted to chat rooms. Much to my school friends’ envy, I was meeting people from all over the world and started making e-pals (the online version of pen pals).
I met my first e-pal in a chat room. He was 16, lived in Canada and was a DJ. I 'met' 2 of his other friends, and believe it or not – ten years later, we are all still in contact!
Networking sites have been around for a while, and after getting e-invites from friends, I usually give in and register. I have done it all – hi5, myspace, Orkut and the rest. But the most addictive and time-consuming site of late is Facebook. Through Facebook, I have been reunited with nearly half my matric class. People who I thought I’d never see again and who I have been trying to track down are all of a sudden being added to my growing list of friends.
I have even joked with some of my friends that I need to go on a Facebook fast! It has really become the new cyber drug of internet users all over the world. What starts out as just logging in to check messages turns into a whole hour of random bantering with long lost friends, seeing who’s added new photo’s to their profile and who has left a message on my wall. Many companies have even started blocking the site, which does not allow employees to log on.
But what’s the addiction? How is Facebook different to other sites like myspace and hi5?
One of the main features of the site is that you can set your privacy settings so that only people you accept into your friend network will be able to view your profile. Once you’re on your friend’s profile, you can leave a message on their ‘wall’, send them a private message, maybe send them a virtual hug, look at their latest photos and generally see what they’re up to or what mood they’re in by checking out their status. With the increasing features appearing on the site, it’s no surprise that an hour can fly by once you’ve logged onto facebook.com.
And for friends who don’t want to be entwined into the addictive world of Facebooking, I have another means of keeping in touch with them – via my blog (www.sheetalmakhan.blogspot.com) Without the hassle of sending dozens of individual e-mails and photographs, I simply update my blog. Anyone can log on, see what I’ve been up to and leave comments on various posts for me. This will be especially useful when I embark on my travels within the next few weeks and I will be able to keep a travel journal of some sorts.
The world is shrinking and it’s no longer surprising to bump into a long lost acquaintance in a foreign country. Thankfully, my family and I are not technophobic and I am a self-confessed techno-addict.
I check my e-mail throughout the day and now and again sneak in a quick chat with a friend who’s online. Blogging has become a part of my routine, while Facebooking has become a habit I am seriously trying to ween myself off from!