We arrived at Incheon International airport Monday at 4:30pm in South Korea. We had to wait for Terry Hwang from Korea Nazarene University to arrive with KNU’s charter bus. After waiting for the rest of the native English speakers to arrive at the airport, we departed at 9pm (6am Monday in the Midwest) for a two hour bus ride Cheonan City.
Meeting the other English teachers at the airport was a huge encouragement, as we all quickly became friends while telling some of our stories. Many of us had similar passions, and our reasons for coming to South Korea were not unfamiliar. While we sat there talking, we all realized our common solidarity…we were now guests in a host country where we were now the minorities!
Our first day in Cheonan was nothing less than jumping in the cold, yet exciting water of cultural immersion. As with a sudden splash of ice cold water, our entire beings were almost in a state of shock when we arrived back in our apartment at then end of our day. So much happened, and the sensory stimuli was almost overwhelming. Yet, I must say, I loved every minute of it (this coming from one who is in the “honeymoon phase” of the culture shock process).
Much of our first day was business oriented, as we still had some things to tie up before settling into a routine. The new native English teachers make up a group of 16. In order to obtain health insurance, we had to complete the application and requirements for an alien registration card. Part of the requirements meant that we had to go to the local hospital for physical examinations.
The tests that they conducted on us were: for color blindness, vision, height, weight, chest measurement (I’m not sure why they needed this), and blood pressure. Then we moved to another room where they took x-rays of our chests (my friend Brandon Chapman who is a pre-med student thinks they were testing for TB). After, we had to pee in “hello kitty” cups, and give a couple vials of blood. It was a crazy morning, but we all got it done.
After our hospital visit, we had an authentic Korean meal. It was a totally new experience for both Jill and I, as neither of us have been exposed to this cuisine. Our reactions were surprisingly opposite. I enjoyed it (and even liked the kimchee), and Jill was the picky one! It is usually opposite for Jill and I; I’m the picky eater, and she’s the one who likes everything! Note: I’ve added some video of this meal!
Later in the day, we had the chance to walk through some of Cheonan. Jill and I needed to buy some groceries, so our good friend Tori Palmer (who has already been here for half a year) took us to the local “Lotee Mart.” The mart is as close as we’ll probably get to a Wal-Mart. Walking down the streets of Cheonan is similar to the experience of a big city like Chicago or New York. Lots of high rise buildings, street vendors…and smells. There are many Korean advertisements and neon signs. It’s even more overwhelming to be bombarded by the sights and smells because we are alien to the culture and language. But, being a city dweller, it hasn’t been too difficult an adjustment (of course this is only the first week).
If you’ve ever been to a store where there are no signs to guide you to the products you are looking for, then you will know a bit of what it was like in Lotee Mart. Add this dilemma the fact that all the products are primarily written in Korean, and you have a bit of a challenge to find the things you need. Fortunately for us, we had Tori, and her friend Courtney with us, and they guided us to the things we were searching for.
Our next door neighbors are seasoned cross-cultural workers and missionaries named Larry and Martha Wilson. They invited us and some others who were available to go out for dinner to get to know us. We went to “Signore Pizza” and had some authentic Italian fire baked pizza. It was a nice conclusion to our night to sit and eat some familiar food, and get to know our new friends. We look forward to this new adventure that we find ourselves on.
Our apartment is a cozy one bedroom loft style environment. We live on the fourth floor, and have a kitchen, living area and a small separate bedroom. Our ceilings are really hight and we have these great big windows the open onto two patios that face the west and overlook a nice trail and park. It’s a bit of nature, while we live in the heart of the city. One genius thing I already like more about Korean housing is that the heat comes from the floor. Our floors are heated, so in the winter, when we get out of bed, we are greeted by a warm floors! This makes absolute sense, as heat rises anyway. I’ll post pictures of our new place as soon as we’ve finished unpacking!
Keep us in your prayers, that we might acclimate well to our new life and host culture, as you are in our prayers!