Last week I taught my students how to talk about superheroes. So what a fantastic opportunity to talk about my very own real-life Korean superheroine.
The blossom of the Korean cherry blossoms, the persimmon of my Korean fruit bowl, the kimchi of my Korean meal… The absolute best thing that could have happened to me during my traverse through Koreatown!
Prior to my arrival I had many concerns, would I like korea? Do I have a true metaphorical picture of this country coined ‘the hermit kingdom,’ where such a name implies secrets and the unknown? Furthermore can I stand in front of 70 foreign fidgeting eyes, each day fulfilling my professional objective, and personal intention, to impart some sort of English enlightenment? Among this never ending list of the pre-korea move jitters, my primary concern fell to my mystery co-teacher.
When working in Korea through the EPIK program each new NET (native English teacher) is assigned a co-teacher from their school. Their guide to all things Korea. Not only to hand you your textbooks, show you your desk and welcome you to your new place of work, but to help you arrange your life in this new, bewildering hangul-clad environment. An environment where until you can master a new alphabet, mere daily non-thought requiring tasks put a strain on your mental strings. Ordering a meal or shopping at the supermarket became overwhelmingly nerve-wracking and perceived as an almost unachievable task. (These are tasks I have now come to enjoy, locking away (most of) the nerves).
So with this pressure on their role in my new world, I couldn’t escape constantly questioning who this mystery teaching counter-part would be. As the sole source of English communication both within and beyond the Hak Yo (school) walls, I was apprehensive to say the least.
Well I was a lucky ducky when they appointed me with the wonderfully reliable, supportive and sweet Kim Kyeongseon…
She has guided me through the gloom and doomy days and brought me out of the other side smiling.
She brought me home-made pickles
fresh oysters from her hometown
and introduced me to the bowling ball sized, native to Korea, pears
She answered without annoyance or hesitation all of my constant nagging questions involving how to tackle everyday life: how do I use the washing machine? How do I turn on the heater? How do I catch the bus? How do I pay my bills? What is this food called? How do I use the squat toilet? (Well, not quite the latter).
The day after I lost my purse, feeling low and helpless with no id, bank card, money or smile, she fled to my rescue, generating smile after smile along the way. She picked me up from my second school, cancelled my bank card and turned a miserable day of reapplying for a formal necessity of plastic, into a fun day of exploration in Busan (Korea’s second biggest city). Once the necessary was done we climbed the Busan tower, scoured the second-hand book market in Nampo-dong and indulged in fried korean treats…
In a city where until two weeks ago I was unacquainted with any foreigners, and a country where I am a foreign sailor among a sea of korean fish, she has warmed my heart and alleviated the inevitable lonely feeling this generates. She’s a real-life superheroine!