Living without a cell phone for a month will be grand (<–sarcasm).
That’s not the cultural part. The cultural difference is the politeness of Koreans.
I cannot get a cell phone or internet (or a paycheck, for that matter) until I have my ARC (Alien Registration Card–similar to an SSN), so I went to apply for that yesterday. I planned to meet Ryan–another teacher–at the Bupyeong subway station at 1:30. Before I left my school, at the last second I asked my co-teacher to write the address of the Immigration Office down so I could show a taxi driver where I needed to go, just in case (Ryan knew how to get there, I didn’t). I waited until 2:07, then figured something had happened and I’d have to go at it alone. I had some minor freakout moments–I’m just getting used to navigating subway systems, let alone other forms of transportation, and in a foreign language!–but found the right connection.
My first time hailing a taxi was fun–the little things make me so proud of myself! I slid in and said, “Anyanghaseyo (the polite form of Hello)” and handed him my paper. Our conversation after that was me telling him, in broken Korean, that I am a teacher at Gwan Gyo Middle School. He asked me how old I was (he is 61!), and then if I was married. That was the extent of our Korean/English conversation!
About two minutes after I got to Immigration (the left side is labeled for “Chinese,” and the other is “Non-Chinese” because there are so many migrant workers from China!), Ryan showed up, so I should have waited two minutes longer! Turns out his bus had broken down, so he had walked 20 minutes towards Bupyeong until he grabbed a taxi the rest of the way. A couple other teachers were there, including one who had his co-teacher with him. I LOVE her. Not only was her English virtually fluent, but she insisted on helping us with the application process (which I found out really needed a translator to go smoothly!), and then giving us a ride back to the station. It took her an extra 30 minutes at least to help us and drive us back, but she kept insisting she wanted to. She even offered to drive me back all the way to my home near Bus Terminal! But I think that was one of those, “I’ll say this but not really” things–anyways, we just accepted a ride to the station.
That is why I love Korea. Sometimes the politeness is entirely inefficient, like when someone tells you, “Maybe that will happen” when they mean, “Hah, yeah right.” But other times, it’s grand!
The first time I went outside of my house, I basically turned left–which was the direction I was pretty sure the subway station was in–and started walking! When I got to where I was sure the station must be, I grabbed a random girl and pointed to it on the map, and asked, “Subway?” She and her friend went out of their way for about a block or two to take me directly to the station. I love them.
I want to bum some internet off of people who have it already–because their co-teachers paid for it for them; again, how great is that–so I can put pictures in these things.
Aw, I just helped some students correct their lines for a play they are doing. I think next week? The students are competing to put on English plays. This one was the story of the Frog Prince–very entertaining to read! I can’t wait for the plays!
Now off to E-mart (think Wal-Mart–they also have Lotte and Lotte Marts everywhere, too) with my co-teacher. I need to brighten up my studio apartment (called office-tel here: instead of ho-tel, since it’s the size of an office, hence, office-tel). When I post the video, you will see why–all white, and very drab!