Sunday, July 31, 2011

Planes, Trains, & Automobiles...or Buses, Taxis, & Feet

This has been a momentous week in many, many ways. One of the big things for me, though,  has been learning how to get around our area. Last weekend we spent a lot of time getting oriented with our neighborhood. At the beginning of the week, we started to get an idea of where our school is in relation to everything else. For Eric, life is pretty simple because he can take the bus to and from school every day and he doesn't need to know how to do it on his own unless he wants to (or he misses the bus!). I have a different circumstance, though! Because I'm part time, and I don't have a classroom to prepare, I get to leave early in the afternoons after all of our meetings are over. There is no half day bus,, I get to figure it out on my own!
My first attempt was on Wednesday. It was the day that it was really pouring down rain, making traffic awful, and making it a lot tougher to get a cab. I walked down the hill from the school (which is on a large road and there are usually lots of cabs) and I didn't see any cabs, so I figured I would start walking. I know that our house is to the right of the school, but it is also up the hill behind the school. Our bus has to take a strange route to get to school avoiding some small streets and impossible turns, so I had yet to see a direct walking route. I started walking and was not finding a way to get up the hill on any of the roads, so I decided to turn around and walk the 3 blocks I'd covered back to the front of the school. I managed to hail a cab this time and tell him where I wanted to go (Kyeon-li-don). He then proceeded to take the longest route through the worst traffic! I was not happy. I was hot, wet, and sitting in a cab that smelled very Korean. It was expensive, and I had a terrible headache, but I did finally get home after about an hour!
My second venture home by myself was Thursday. I managed to get in the taxi on the correct side of the street this time, so he went the direction I wanted him too, and when he looked confused, I was able to give him another landmark, so that he was headed the way I wanted him to go. This time it only took me about 5 minutes and cost about half what it had the day before (and I only spoke Korean to him--a major accomplishment in and of itself!). My next challenge was to return to school with the kids by 3:00 for our trip to Costco. This is a challenge because you can't simply say "Yongsan International School of Seoul". I could try to say it in Korean, but they still might not recognize, and I can't remember what it is. So, instead, you tell them the name of the subway stop that's outside of the school. The problem with that is that the school is actually opposite the subway stop, so if he takes me to the stop, I have to trudge up the hill to the school with the kids. So, I had to direct him (using all the Korean I know) the way I wanted him to go, so that he could take us to the front doors of the school (for 10 cents more!). We made it (on time even!).
Today, I chose yet another route home...on foot. I know we'd told some of you that it's about a 10-15 minute walk from our house. I don't remember who told us that, but they were wrong! It took me about 40 minutes to get home from school on foot (it probably isn't the shortest route; I haven't had anyone show it to me. I figured it out on my own!). I started by going up a huge, extremely steep staircase, followed by a huge, extremely steep hill. Then I found the extremely steep (and long) hill that we live at the bottom of, and walked down that. Just when I felt like I was getting close, I got to start up the hill that we live on. It is not huge or extremely steep, but my calves and thighs were already burning...I was ready to be home. I will add that it was not raining this afternoon, but the sun came out, and by the time I got home, I was dripping with sweat and needed a shower!

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