Nowon is an endearing district in the most northeastern part of Seoul—the last three stops on the light blue line. It’s about 25 minutes to Seoul center (by light blue line) and 15 minutes from Myeongdong (aka my favorite place). It’s snuggled between some mountains and a stream from north to south that splits the district in half.
When I heard I was in Nowon I was a little disappointed. I mean sure, it’s in Seoul, but the arctic circle of Seoul. Far from the Seoul I thought I knew. When my Korean teachers heard I was moving to Nowon, they were like, “oh I’ve never been there but I’ve heard it’s nice.”
And I was confused; why would a substitute be stationed so far away?
But in the last three days, my thoughts have changed.
I’ve already come to enjoy my little part of Nowon. I’m in Junggye, the very central neighborhood, and a block and half away from Nowon station. Which means I don’t have to take a bus to get anywhere (Suwon station) that can take me somewhere! (Seoul). And right around the subway station is what they call a “culture street”. It’s basically what I call the “Korea Core” — Nature’s Republic, Saem, Tony Moly, Aritaum, Lotteria, O-lens, Ho Bar, Baskin Robbins, Tomato, Sol Bing, Daisoo, CU, barbecue, dakgalbi and street food. It’s like on SimCity you can click and drop an identical area. The only thing that changes is the type of cobble stone and strange statues in the center. If you’ve been to Korea, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
So my neighborhood in Suwon had nothing like that, and it’s just lovely being able to grab some food on the way home or not have to take a bus to buy my Nature Republic Concealer or 1000 won hair clips. My area in Suwon wasn’t destitute—it actually had many of the Korean Core—but they closed at 9, leaving me 30 minutes to run out of the office and get rice (if I got out on time and they didn’t close early). Whereas here, most of the places are open past 12. And by open I mean not only lights on, but shopkeepers still actively trying to lure you in with a free snail face masks.
I have more snail face masks than I will ever need.
I get out at 9:30, but it feels much earlier than 8:30 ever did.
As for my actual job, well, I’m still not entirely sure.
I report to the Nowon campus, which I have to take a bus to. But it’s only a few stops.
A more active person without a broken toe could probably walk.
They refer to me as their “backup teacher”. Their office is HUGE, 4 times the size of my own, and there are 6 foreign teachers and like 10 Korean teachers. There are no superfluous daily meetings, and the Director is a cute woman in her late 20s (or she could be in her late 30s and just hid under her umbrella her whole life) who deals very little with the actual employees. She brought me ddokcatsu kimbap on my first day, but that is the most interaction I’ve had with her.
My first day by the way was a hot disaster. No other foreign teacher lives in my apartment, and apparently all the teachers have changed their numbers, so it took 2 hours to get to work. But that’s a sad side story that we don’t need to delve into.
Just know that I’ve been at work for two days now and from what I can understand I’m basically there to help with anything. You need these book reports graded? Okay. That study clinic? This speaking test? This class? I’m basically a handyman around the school doing things the teachers don’t have time for. I have 6 months of experience doing these things because we didn’t have a “backup teacher”, so I know my way around these tasks. At least that’s on days when I’m actually at the campus. I’ve also heard that I will be traveling from time to time, but only two days into the term, I haven’t done any of that.
That’s all I really know right now. Oh except—my new apartment has a real shower (no head over the sink), and a washing machine, but still no internet.
There’s talk of me moving, a final time, to a nicer place. But the chances of that are 50/50.
Having to relearn everything is a little stressful—the bus system especially—but I’ll figure it out.
I always do.