Friday, March 02, 2012

6 months in Korea

I'm finally breaking the several-month silence on blogging. It's been Winter Break in the Korean education world, which is the longest break of the academic year, but for some reason my general productivity during break shot pretty low. I've got a whole bunch of half-written blog posts, most just waiting for the insertion of a few photos and some more-developed ideas.

So for this post, I'm not getting ambitious. I'm keeping it simple: This weekend we're celebrating 6 months in Korea. Last fall, one of Carlos' soccer teammates, a chef from Spain who has lived in Korea for a few years, told us that if we could make it 6 months here, we'd be able to settle down and make it home for a few years as well. So far, it seems he was right. We may be foreigners, and our Korean still suffers pretty badly, but I can say pretty confidently that we're now settled.

We know where to buy what, we know how to accomplish all our basic activities without needing assistance from a co-worker or other bilingual friend. We've established some friendships, we're familiar with all our neighborhood has to offer, we know where all the buses through our section of town can take us. We have completely outfitted our apartment with new organizational systems, we've purchased a brand new exercise bike that we use constantly. Lucas has gotten accustomed to a lot of the sights and sounds here, he gladly says hi to people he sees, he can walk a mile through our city with me before he starts to tire, and most importantly, our little boy is now officially a preschool student here!

It turns out there was only so much we could accomplish with Lucas here in our tiny apartment and around the neighborhood. His skills and interests are rapidly growing and we're struggling to assemble engaging-enough activities with the space and resources available. Plus, we've had a really hard time finding kids for Lucas to play with, as we're not really able to communicate with most of the parents in our neighborhood. Some kids are fine with solitary play; Lucas is not one of those kids. Many kids in this neighborhood go to various preschools (or really, "Kindergartens") here, both public and private.

Lucas is considered 5 years old here; in Korean culture, you are 1 year old when you're born, and although the anniversary of your birthday constitutes a celebration, your age doesn't actually change until the New Year. Which means that although Lucas is 3 in the US, he's 5 in Korea, and it's the age where kids start entering preschool. Around the end of January, we started tossing around the idea of finding one for Lucas, but were a bit nervous about him being plunged into a Korean-only environment.

My co-worker suggested checking with a little private bilingual school in our area of town. She told me it's run by native English speakers, and they offer a really thorough curriculum. We went to check it out and the school was as enthusiastic as we were about opportunity to enroll Lucas; he's their only native English speaker. Korea's school year launched today, March 2, and Lucas went off to his first day of preschool. The program runs for 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, which is A LOT for his age by US standards, but it's the only way they do it here. They do all the usual preschool stuff, mainly in English with a lot of Korean used as well. The kids attend TaeKwonDo sessions, they cook together, they celebrate major North American holidays, they take monthly field trips. Included in the very reasonable tuition is lunch every day and shuttle service to and from our apartment complex. Really couldn't pass up this opportunity, when the alternative meant Lucas building helicopters with his MegaBloks as his most exciting daily activity. So off to preschool he goes...

I am so grateful to my husband for taking these pictures while I was at work!

At the bus stop, bright and early

Still waiting for the "School Shuttle".  It was running a bit late due to being the first day.

On board and ready to happily head to school!

I love how the school sent me this text message mid-morning
to soothe my motherly anxiety over my little boy's first day of school
Lucas has been talking nonstop since arriving home from school. Has nothing but great things to say about school. So it seems we've all found our little place here. Carlos and I agree that we've invested a lot in settling here, and the investment is just now starting to pay off. We also agree that it seems absurd for our family to even consider going elsewhere at this point. So, six months in, Korea seems to be home for the near future. Thank you for accepting us, Republic of Korea!