we had done no more than introduce ourselves to our schools, co-teachers, principals and vice-principals, and then it was the weekend. friday, we didn’t have to go into our schools because we had a “business trip” downtown to the gwangju education office. this was a very unorganized attempt at getting us our ARC (alien registration card) and getting us to sign up to be members of the GIC (gwangju international center). oh well, it was fun to reunite with everyone from our training and hear about their schools and apartments.
friday evening, david had a dinner with his teachers, so i was left with a couple of hours to myself. after a long 2 weeks of not working out, i decided to go for a run. we’d passed an outdoor track earlier in the week while walking on Jeonnam National University’s campus, and since i’d yet to see one person jogging anywhere on the streets in korea, i figured the track was my saftest bet for a somewhat indiscrete run.
words can’t describe how good it felt to stretch my legs and just go. the track has a beautiful, open view of the blue skies and mountains in the distance (a nice break from the endless concrete of the city streets). everywhere around the track, people congregated. tiny old korean ladies in floral prints and sun visors power-walked, young couples strolled holding hands, tiny dogs raced in the grass, old men meditated on blankets in the shade. a salmunori drum team practiced beats, and another group of young people did synchronized stretches on the lawn. in the middle of the track, a lively soccer game was in play, and basketball courts were in full use off to one side.
something clicked on that run, and it’s hard to explain, but i’d been feeling a little unmoored in this new place, so out of sorts with myself. this run diminished my feeling of being an outsider. no one was staring at me, and i was speaking the communal language of savoring God’s creation; His clean mountain air and His gift of a body that can be disciplined to thrum the pavement with a regular beat. i was just another face in this crowd of people. it was refreshing, it required no words, and i hope i’ll be doing it with some regularity in the year to come.
friday night: we met a mass of friends down at the speakeasy, a local, overpriced expat haunt run by an irish guy. the plan was to meet up with some more seasoned teachers, and get a little advice. we were a little late, but had some good conversations and made some new friends. later, we moved with the crowd to the german bar and witnessed some good karaoke (and some terrible karaoke, but maybe that’s the same thing) before calling it a night.
saturday we slept in, did some laundry, and cleaned our apartment. we got a late lunch at a place almost right outside our front door, and david fell in love. we ate a whole meal of kimbap and kimchi jjigae (soup that comes out in a bubbling cauldron) for 5 dollars. the soup may sound strange, but it’s a great spicy red soup, and they give you tons of sides.
saturday, late afternoon we headed back downtown in search of art street. david made friends with an employee at dunkin donuts, and at another coffee stand, and then we meandered down art street. aimless, we followed the sound of music to an outdoor concert, where a foreign band was about to take the stage. the opening song was a jimmy eat world cover, so we decided to stick around, and in turn made friends with another couple sitting next to us. turns out they’re new teachers to the area as well, from southern california. it was good chatting w/them.
after the concert, we explored downtown, and made our first attempts at buying clothing. as i stood in line at a small boutique to try on a top, behind half a dozen other korean gals waiting to do the same, an employee came up to me and told me i couldn’t try it on. why? i have no idea. maybe she thought i was too big for it? yikes. who knows. either way, i bought the top, and it looks just fine (ok… it might actually be considered a dress for a korean gal, but it works great as a long top for me… so i may have to improvise a bit over here. i still don’t think i would have stretched it out). david got a nice grey vest, and then we spotted a couple of our friends wandering downtown too, so we walked w/them.
a group was meeting at the YMCA at 8 to go see a movie. we met up w/that crowd, but when we made it to the theater, the only english movie was some ridiculous assassin action flick, so 5 of us split off from the group and went to papa john’s pizza instead. man, the pizza was delicious (probably the first gooey cheese i’ve had in 2 weeks), plus they had a great salad bar w/fresh fruit and veggies. it was a great change from the fermented standard korean fare, and i’m sure we’ll go there again when craving some western-style grub.
sunday AM, we met up with a few people to go to church. it was a long walk through a maze of streets to get there, but arrived in time for the 11:30 english service. it was a small crowd, about 30 people, and it was funny to realize that to the church, we were seen as a community outreach or mission, for them to offer a service in english. we really are the foreigners around here, aren’t we? the service was good. great to sing some worship in english, and the pastor is a great speaker from LA.
lunch was a funny place called “pastabucks” that looked like it was trying to rip off starbucks’ label, and it served pasta in bread bowls in the shape of a heart. cutesy cute and loaded with carbs. the pastor and worship leader ate with us, and it was fun to pick their brains about korea. we sat chatting long into the afternoon.
back home, we went for a run together around the track as the sun set. for a late dinner, we found a japanese influenced place and got some delicious sushi rolls and fish. now home, we are anticipating the week to come with a little bit of anxiety – tomorrow we both go to our “visiting schools” (the schools we only work at on Mondays and Tuesdays). I have yet to meet this 2nd co-teacher, or be inside this school yet. so, it will be back to the formal introductions all over again. but i am looking forward to teaching, finally. that is why we came, after all. it’s about time to start figuring out what i’m up against, getting a routine in place, and working out how i can best serve and teach these kids.