Here we are, 2011

Happy New Year, everyone! I can’t believe 2011 is here already; 2010 definitely went too quickly. 2011 is doing the same, as it’s taken me a few days to update this.

Looking back on 2010, I really can’t believe how much my life has changed. I started the process of applying to EPIK/SMOE (I applied to both programs, but put Seoul/SMOE as my first choice) in February of 2010. I had heard about it through my brother, whose friend was already working here as an English teacher. It sounded like a fun experience, so I wanted to give it a try. From February – August 2010, I was preparing for this fantastic journey. Filling out the paperwork (and making my passport pictures fit onto that tiny box on the PDF form!) and working with my recruiter all while finishing up my last semester of college and preparing for other job interviews – gosh, it all seems like a whirlwind now. I had reservations before leaving, specifically about a month before I was set to leave – when I finally received my notice of appointment and believed I actually had a job here. Shouldn’t I have given more thought to such a crazy idea? Why was I replacing excitement with fear? I alluded to this fear in one of my first posts, partly because of people who were surprised (both negatively and positively) about my decision. After four months, I can tell you, I am so glad I jumped into this with both feet, and never looked back, or else I may have taken the easy way out and tried to get a job in Ohio. No. Coming to Korea has been one of the best decisions I have made. I have made so many new friends and had some great experiences, and that is why I know 2011 is going to be just as fulfilling as 2010. So now let me tell you about my New Year’s.

On New Year’s Eve, some friends and I had dinner in Hongdae before going to see what we called the “bell thingy” near Jongakk station. Dinner was delicious; I had a type of sushi roll. After dinner, we went near the bell tower to count down to the new year. It was packed – apparently over 10,000 gather there each New Year’s Eve! Being crammed together definitely helped with the cold – it was -14 degrees Celsius (just for a comparison it’s about the same time at night and it’s just -3). After the bells and shouting Happy New Year at the tops of our lungs, half of our group took the subway back to Hongdae, while the other half of us lit off fireworks in the street. So many people were doing it, and it was a great way to ring in 2011. We were lucky to get a cab back to Hongdae, and met up with the rest of our group around the same time they returned. It was a really fun night.

New Year’s Day was just as fun! I took it easy and met up with friends in the afternoon. We went ice skating, grabbed dinner and coffee afterward. It was another chilly night, but it was definitely a new, fun thing to do. There were so many people on the rink, we were practically skating on snow! After each hour, they kicked everyone off the ice to clean it with shovels, water and one zamboni. We ended the night with noraebang, where we sang everything from “Don’t Stop Believin’” to Backstreet Boys (2 of their songs in a row!) to Bruno Mars and Taio Cruz (sadly mentioned in my last post – hey, they’re catchy songs, right? At least it’s not “Whip my Hair” 😉 ).

On Sunday, I went to Mass with friends, and then we had breakfast. I had Ddeok guk (rice cake soup), which you’re supposed to eat on New Year’s Day, and then you’ll get another year older. (Lunar New Year’s in February is more popular here; that and Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving, are the two biggest family holidays here.) I hear different things – that you get a year older on January 1 (Solar New Year) or that you get a year older on the Lunar New Year in February. Regardless, I’m basically 25 now, since I gained a year on my last birthday and again on the new year, making me realize that age really is just a number. 🙂

Sunday was relaxed… I got cable last week, since it’s inexpensive and I get a lot of channels. But, there is a downside: I got hooked onto a Korean drama: “Secret Garden.” I didn’t even need English subtitles, and now I can’t get away from it! So between Friday and Sunday, I watched all 14 episodes with the English subtitles, and then watched the 15th on TV in plain Korean on Sunday night. Let me tell you – it’s addicting. I don’t want to watch another drama, for fear of getting hooked to it too! Soon I’ll be following the Kpop bands, as one station explains the music videos in it. 😉 There is another good reason, though – I will be able to identify more with my students.

For example, today. I had my first introduction lesson with my winter camps (more on that later). I told the class about myself, writing words (like Secret Garden and Shinee) on the board. The students went crazy! It’s a neat way to connect with my students, so I’m looking forward to using it in future lessons once the new school year starts up in March.

So I was nervous about winter camps – I have 3 weeks at the district camp, and 1 week at my own school’s camp (the last week of January). But the district camp is fun so far. I’m teaching writing to middle school students. We’ll see how it goes, but so far so good. I have some students from my own school.

That’s all for now. Happy 2011! (I bet pepero day is going to be HUGE this year.)

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About caitlininkorea1011

An American living in Seoul, South Korea: teaching, learning, and traveling.
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