The world just tilted and I think I’m slipping

I’m not sure what’s going on here. I’m in an internet cafe called a PC and there’s Starcraft blaring from every machine. A 16 year-old kid is smoking next to me and no one else even looked at him when he lit up. I’ve wandered around a small corner of Chungju and have finally figured out cardinal directions from my apartment.

 My TV gets 10 channels one of them, Super Action, plays American movies so I watched Con Air today just so I could hear English.

I still don’t have internet at my place because I need to find an ethernet cable and an adapter, but I’m too scared of talking to someone in Korean to go by myself.

I have a cell phone, but I didn’t get my phone number from the woman who gave it to me because when I asked she gave me her number. I was too nervous to ask again.

I made a list of things I like so far about Chungju this morning because I was feeling so negative about life today. So on to the good.

1. The food. I went to dinner last night with two other teachers from ESL School and it was great! We went to a “more traditional” Korean restaurant that’s just up the block from the school. We were served tons of food with the beef we ordered. I did okay with the chopsticks. (I didn’t even have to ask for a fork!) Kimchi was better than I was expecting and all the other stuff I ate I couldn’t name was good. We got to cook the beef in a barbecue in the middle of the table then wrap it in lettuce with sauce, spinach, kimchi and a bunch of yumminess I didn’t recognize.

2. James and Mina. The two teachers I went to dinner with were very nice. They went out of their to answer my questions and listen to me talk about how weird everything was. They were adorable, too. James kept apologizing that he wasn’t very social because he and Mina spend all their time together. Turns out he’s been in Korea for two and half years just so he can be with Mina. The adoarbleness of those two is amazing.

3. The boss lady and her family. The director at ESL School is so kind and generous. Her husband picked me up from Incheon Airport to drive me two hours to my apartment. He brought along their son, Antony, to translate. Antony was very sweet and did a great job helping us talk with each other. He even helped me with my first store experience in Korea. The Shins are a wonderful family and I’m lucky to have them help me while I’m here. Mrs. Shin even bought me groceries so I didn’t have to go to the market when I got here.

4. My apartment. Even though it’s small and most everything has to be in one room, I’m so happy to have my own place again. Two weeks of couches made me instantly grateful to have a place to call my own.

5. My neighbor. I don’t know her name, but she speaks English and has been tremendously helpful. After dinner with James and Mina, I walked back to my apartment. At this point, it was dusky out and getting dark fast. As I approached my building, I noticed the doors were closed. They had been propped open earlier so I was a little surprised. When I tried the door, it was locked. My key ring had two keys, but I didn’t see anywhere to put the second key. Next I went to the side door, where I saw the key pad. The Shins had left several hours earlier and hadn’t mentioned any pass code. I hadn’t noticed the key pad and so I hadn’t asked for one. Just as I was about to start crying because I had no cell phone, no one to call and no idea where the police were, a woman walked out of my building. I ran after her shouting, “Excuse me! Excuse me! Do you speak English?” She answered, “A little.” Then of course spoke in perfect English. She gave me the code and even made me punch it in before she left me on my own. I love my neighbor.

6. Everything is within walking distance. On the corner, there is a 24 hour market. The school is two tiny Korean blocks away. There are easily ten restaurants and bars within a few blocks of me. There is a bus system, but so far I’ve been able to walk everywhere I’ve needed to go.

7. ESL School. Everyone there is helpful and kind. I wish people were a little friendlier, but they are eager to help. I think maybe the Korean teachers are just self-conscious about their English and don’t like to talk very much. James is very quiet and also bilingual so sometimes they forget to talk in English unless it’s directly to me and I can give them a blank stare until they switch. Mina is super nice and goes way out of her way to introduce me to everyone and get the conversation going. I start classes on Thursday so I have plenty of time to get ready, too.

8. The market. The store I went to this morning was pretty cool. Lots of items have what they are written on them in English and Korean so I was able to pick up some food, vodka and beer. What’s that? Oh yeah, my Utahns, I bought vodka at a grocery store. Be jealous. And I didn’t even get IDed. I know, it’s shocking.

9. Today’s Korean twist. Koreans seem to be fascinated by America so they have a lot of things written in English and Korean. I’ve seen tons of kids and teenagers wandering around wearing shirts advertising American products like Jeep and Pringles. But my favorite weird take on something I consider American was the Energizer bunny. Only he’s not a bunny here. He’s a battery–complete with arms and legs. Let the image soak in. A silver battery with arms, legs and a face yelling at you in Korean to buy him. Yep, it’s that kind of twist.

I feel pretty good about things so far. I think I just need to give myself some time to settle in and get used to the craziness. I miss you all. I hope to have internet at my place soon and then you’ll start getting photos.

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About kristamaesmith

I'm a writer based in Salt Lake City, Utah where I cheer for the Jazz, walk my dog, and spend too much money in local restaurants. I work in marketing for higher education and blog about food, travel, film, and whatever shiny moment catches my fancy.
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2 Responses to The world just tilted and I think I’m slipping

  1. Anita Boeira says:

    Just read your post. Awesome. Makes me cry a little bit. It feels so scary to start out life somewhere different. You are inspiring! Keep it up, I’m sure within a few weeks you’ll be loving it.

    • saltcitygirl says:

      Thanks, Anita. It is scary being some place so far from everything I know, but it’s exciting too. I’m definitely doing better now than when I first got here. Thanks for reading!

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