I’ve been in Korea for about 12 hours now. It’s disorienting and intimidating. I loved the hell out of Japan and figured Korea wouldn’t be too different. But Korea is not the same as Japan, and being alone is not the same as being with Chris, Jamie, Ellen, Steve, Rob and Roy.

I arrived at around 7 am, after fifteen hours in transit with an wildly swinging outlook on the whole venture. Sometimes it felt like an exciting adventure; sometimes like a sick horrible mistake.

I emerged from customs at Incheon to find a guy holding a piece of paper with my name on it, and he ushered me outside and into a minivan. He didn’t speak much English, so I mostly watched the scenery go by. Something I realised very quickly was that Korea is not Japan. Japan is gritty and grey and industrial, but there’s an underlying cleanliness to it that Korea lacks.

Upon arrival at the school I met my Korean supervisor, Sarah, and one of my fellow Western teachers, a Canadian called Valerie. There’s another Australian here whom I haven’t met yet, but that’s it for foreign English teachers. Apparently we’re getting another new one at the end of this week; with any luck they’ll be as clueless as me. Anyway, they left me to settle into my apartment, which is on the top floor of the school. It’s very… well, I don’t want to say crap, but… crap. The size doesn’t bother me (it’s just a kitchen, bedroom and bathroom, but I’m only one man). It’s just kind of old and dirty. There are pipes all over it because it serves as some kind of plumbing hub for the building. On the bright side it has wifi and airconditioning. Yeah, Seoul in June is fucking hot. I was warned about that but figued it was just Canadians and Americans who didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘heat.’ Although it’s not so much the heat but the humidity.

Anyway, I slept for about four hours because I got none on the plane (some jackass was snoring behind me), woke up feeling disoriented and confused, and went to go take Valerie up on her offer of showing me around town a bit. She took me for a walk around the neighbourhood and bought me lunch. I did some grocery shopping (grapes! peanut butter! bread!) then we came home again. Apparently we’re going out again tonight at about 8 for welcoming drinks… shame I can’t actually drink since I’m still on antibiotics.

And tomorrow I start teaching. Two new Korean teachers are also starting this week, and apparently Sarah is fairly new at being a supervisor, and we’re still short one teacher. So it will be somewhat chaotic. This is either a good thing or a bad thing: my incompetence at teaching will fade into the noise, but at the same time I doubt I’ll be getting much help.

So yeah. This is really, really hard. Much harder than I thought it would be, and I haven’t even started teaching yet. The worst thing is that I’m already feeling homesick. It’s not so much the foreignness, but the fact that I’ve jumped into this completely alone. All my friends and family, everyone who loves me, is on another continent. And try as I might I can’t block out the thought that according to plan, I won’t see them for a year.

Chris said he felt the same way for the first week or so when he went up to Mornington. Then it passed. I hope it does for me too. I’m nowhere near as tough as Chris, yet I’m doing something exponentially more difficult than he is – a harder job, a foreign country and a longer period of time.

I hope it will pass. Because if I turn tail and run back home… then what am I gonna do?