Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Starting off with a bang (aka Ulsan Arrival Part 3)

As the morning rolled around, the four of us talk people rolled out of bed and into the showers…where we discovered that the hot water had been turned off because of construction…okay, that sucks, but some of us managed. I decided that I would have breakfast instead, but when I found the cafeteria, I was a big sign that said it was closed due to the same construction that was keeping the hot water off. Thinking that there was no way that the school would leave us stranded without food, I went on a search and found a cafeteria open in my own building, but as I walked it, the lady who ran the place pulled me aside and in Korean asked me what I thought I was doing. Well, I thought I was eating, so I said, “breakfast” and she started asking me a series of questions. I understood enough to explain to her that I lived in the building and that I was a student, but she told me that the International Students were supposed to eat in the other building…which made her realize that it was closed. So, I thought that I would then be able to eat, but apparently living in the building doesn’t qualify you for food there, and so I got escorted out and told that I could find food at the restaurants off-campus.

The hell? All I knew was I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t shower, so I got dressed in my mostly empty room and went out with Thomas to the spot where we were told to meet the other international students. A bus rolled up before long and we ran Maria and Rochelle came walking up, so everyone got on and started our international adventure, which included a trip to the Hyundai Motors Factory, a hike near the Ulgi Lighthouse and the Daewan Rock Formation, lunch at an expensive restaurant downtown, and ended with a trip to the Munsu Sports Arena (the sight of a world cup tournament). It was all great, but I specifically liked the Daewan rock formation, because of the mythos and because of great view of the ocean. For those of you concerned, the myth goes that really formidable people don't die, but become Dragons who guard the Korean Nation with all their might, and this location is the burial tomb of Queen Munmu. They claim that when she was submerged under the sea, she became a dragon, and the rocks signify this. Despite Thomas getting separated from the group, it was a great time.

The Arena was pretty cool too. It was huge, seats about 45,000 people and has a museum to the 2001 World Cup Finals. The stadium is still used continuously for these kinds of events, so it was really kinda cool when they let us run onto the field and pretend to play soccer. We took some pictures, but because my camera died (such is the problem when you go a trip like this is a camera that uses AA batteries) I just kinda chilled with everyone on the grass. I wanted to go back out the Munsu stadium, which surrounds the building, because it has a lake and some paths, and all kinds of stuff, but I didn’t want to get left behind, so I stayed with the group. When I left, I noticed someone had tagged the garbage can with Kong-lish graffiti that said, “Merallica.” I’m betting it was supposed to say Metallica, but some unwitting person messed it up.

However, we did eventually come home and then had a weekend that for me was slow and boring. My roommate came in, but then left again because he had some experiments to get to. Turns out that his name is Rookie and he wants to learn English really well because he’s wants to work for the Hyundai Heavy Industries Corporation, which is one of the largest in Korea, designing ships, which is why he has experiments. However, in order to get a job at one of the top 10 companies in Korea (and Hyundai Heavy Industries falls into that category) you have to speak English well, and the higher the Toefl/Toeic score, the better off you are. It’s like a mandatory requirement, so at the University, almost everyone has to learn English: Political Science majors, history majors, Engineering majors…and even foreign language majors. Yes, even the people who are getting a degree in Chinese or any other non-English Language have to learn English in order to get a job in Korea after graduation. That pretty much blows, but that’s just the way things are around here.

Oh well. I just hope I can learn enough Korean by the time I leave here that I will be able to communicate with people. If this sitting in my room thing becomes a habit, I may never learn anything impressive…not nearly to the same degree that I can communicate in Japanese. I have to get out there and start talking to people once I get to that level of fluency that I can communicate with more than one or two sentences in a row. The problem is, it just seems like the whole system of language acquisition here in Korea is ass-backwards, and I don’t want to harp on anyone, but really. I mean, in truth, second language acquisition pretty much sucks in the US too…it’s like no one really knows what they are doing.

But anyway, to sorta speed through the next few weeks (because they really do go by that quickly) I started teaching at the Elementary school, and I love my kids. They seem to like me too…

Actually, I’ll start with that in the next post, I don’t want to blow through that so quickly.

Well, Happy Trails people.

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