I am drowning in names. I started teaching on Monday. I have 15 different classes of middle-school girls wearing the same uniform each week. That's something like 530 identically dressed Korean girls around the same age. I want to learn all of their names, but I think it might be futile. Yesterday I asked students who came into my office what their names were, but 24 hours later I've given up on that as a conversation starter. I'm just not going to remember.
Outside of having to answer the question "teacher, you remember my name?" things during the first week are going pretty well. On Monday I introduced myself in broken Korean to the other teachers at the school, said hello in English and Korean to the students are an outdoor assembly, and then started my first class. Teaching this week isn't too challenging; I have the students ask me questions about myself from cards I give them and run through a corresponding powerpoint about my family and hometown. If they ask a question they come up with, I give them candy. I 'm getting a little tired of talking about myself, but on the whole it's gone decently. For the make-your-own question part, I've gotten "How old are you?" and "Do you have boyfriend?" in all of my classes, but I've also been asked, "What is your dream? " "What is your favorite fruit?" "What is your bloodtype?" and, probably the most random, "Did you eat breakfast?"
Overall, I like my school. The girls here are incredibly cute and energetic, I have my own office, and the other English teachers are really nice to me. Learning to teach will take time and practice if I want to engage all of the students —today some of the girls were zoning out-- but I am optimistic that I' ll get better. My homestay is also going well.
I do have moments, though, where I really struggle. Last week I signed up for yoga classes at a gym in town. It's a little over a mile from my apartment and off of the main rotary. I can find the rotary without difficulty, but after that I don't know where much is. Last night I tried to make it to my first yoga class and got horribly lost. Except for the four main roads and the rotary, the streets here do not have names. Any of them. There are few obvious landmarks or big buildings, either. Most of the streets here are nameless tiny, curved alleys with restaurants and convenience stores and small apartment buildings that to me all look the same and seem to repeat over and over. I had forgotten both my phrasebook and my cell phone, and no one I saw for two miles was, if not non-Korean, at least non-Asian. I went into a convenience store and asked where the gym was, but as I don't know how to say "gym" in Korean and had no way of finding out, the storegirl looked lost and said something that sounded like "bread store" in English. In hopes that she actually meant "bread store" as in, there are English speakers in the bread store, try asking there — I went to the closest bakery. Five people in the "bread store" tried to help me, but none of them spoke English, I still didn't know the word for gym, and my attempts to pantomime "gym" got understandably crazy looks. Eventually I saw a store I had heard about from the teacher at my school last year; she had been friends with the owner of this store and said that she spoke English. The shop owner did; she was really kind and drew a map for me. With her guidance, I eventually found the gym, though I missed the yoga class and almost broke down when trying to explain that I had a membership and wanted a locker to the very confused man at the front desk.
I am happy here, but there are times when I miss the United States and the ease of belonging very much.