Tagged: AsiaTEFL conference Ilsan Kintex
This topic contains 2 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by Andy 1 year, 9 months ago. This post has been viewed 838 times
January 12, 2020 at 1:56 pm #4384
- Total Posts: 103
This is kind of late notice, but I have been busy with life and blah blah blah. Anyway, AsiaTEFL will be holding their 2020 conference this June at the Kintex Convention Center in Ilsan, South Korea. The conference is a ways off, but the late notice is for submitting a presentation proposal, the deadline of which is January 15.
AsiaTEFL is always a big conference, and it will definitely be a good time to do some networking, meet some people, and hopefully learn a thing or two.
I will certainly be there, and while I am excited about the conference, I also have some tenuous connections to Ilsan in general and Kintex in particular. When I first came to Korea I had no idea what I was doing. It was 2004, and things were quite different back then. I basically applied for a job and was offered one without having any idea where it was (I knew nothing of Korean geography anyway) or what exactly I would be doing (teaching kids in a hagwon, obviously). I was hired and sent a plane ticket in a very short period of time and just came without thinking much about anything.
So I was on a flight from JFK airport to Incheon (Korean Air if memory serves), and a kindly ajumma was sitting next to me (I didn’t know what an ajumma was at the time, but whatever). About halfway through the flight she starts making small talk with me, asking where I am going. I tell her that I am off for a lifetime of adventure, teaching English to kids in Korea. She says that’s exciting and asks where. I say Korea. She says yeah, but where in Korea? I realize at this moment I have no idea. I sit there dumbly, mumbling something about being picked up at the airport. She can see I am worried, so tries to soothe me by saying that she is sure I can just call the school if there is a problem. I don’t have the phone number. I sweat for the remaining seven hours of the flight.
Fortunately someone was waiting for me at the airport, holding a little sign with my name on it. He was a taxi driver and couldn’t speak any English. This was ok, I thought, even though I wanted some reassurance. We drove for like an hour and he stops in front of a building and tells me to get out. It is dark and there is nothing around. He makes hand signals like this is it, and also that I should pay him something. I have no Korean won, and am confused. I don’t know anyone or have any phone numbers, it is dark and if I get out of the taxi I will just be stranded.
The guy sees that I have no idea what is going on and calls someone. Soon enough a woman comes down from the building and says hi. She and the taxi driver start screaming* at each other. After the taxi driver left, I went inside the building with the woman and into the school where I would be working. I had just been traveling for like 20 hours and was extremely confused. She tried to be friendly, but I was exhausted and just wanted a place to rest and get my bearings. The class ended while I was sitting there and a bunch of teachers and kids came out, and the woman gave me a little bit of money**, bundled me on a bus to be taken to a motel where I would spend the next five nights as the one room I would be moving into was still occupied by the previous teacher.
I didn’t realize that motels in Korea are different than in the US. Hah! The school bus driver takes me to this place and inside it is all red velour and dim lighting. Ok, I thought, there are some design differences here, but that’s fine. I get a room and go in and close the door. I feel safe, I made it, I have a place of employment, a room somewhere with a door that locks, I am ok. I breathe. Then I decide to see what is on the TV. I hit the power button on the remote control and an adult movie just pops up on the screen. The volume was set at 100. It was deafening! That was a surprise. I quickly adjusted the volume and turned on a different channel. Ok…let’s look in the dresser and cabinets to see what’s going on in there. Wow, this place has a LOT of adult items. That’s fine.
I’m hungry and curious, and decide to go out on the street and hopefully find something to eat and just kind of look around a little. The motel I was staying in was directly in front of Daehwa Station and there was a bunch of stuff around there, but literally nothing was in English, I knew no Hangeul and had no idea what anything was. I saw a Family Mart and recognized that it was clearly a convenience store so walked inside hoping to find something simple. Unfortunately, due to my jet lagged state and general idiocy all I saw was like dried squid and weird eggs and stuff. I left hungry.
For like four days I didn’t eat. I met the other teachers at the school, but they were all staying in Tanhyeon-dong, which was like a 30 minute walk from Daehwa, so they weren’t all that helpful (not their fault, I was also a jet lagged weirdo). Finally, though, the one room was vacated by the previous teacher and I moved over to that side of town. I (coming from suburban America) was staying in like a 100 square foot (10sqm) one room on the ninth floor of a tall building. It was exciting! There was a singing room down on like the 3rd floor and the soundproofing was bad so I could hear bad singing all night long. To someone else it would be an annoyance, but to me it was MAGICAL! Also, there was a Family Mart on the first floor of the building, and I had gotten over (most of) my fear, so on my first day moving in I pantomimed to the lady working there that I wanted to try some kind of noodles but didn’t know which. She recommended Japagetti in a cup (probably because she thought I didn’t like spicy food, but whatever), and literally every day for a month I ate cup Japagetti for dinner and washed it down with soju from that convenience store. It was wonderful, and I decided almost immediately that I would never leave.
Also, at that time, Ilsan and Tanhyeondong were like farming communities. There were little farm gardens everywhere (kind of like Songdo today!), and the train was a commuter train (now it is part of the subway network), so there was a man who sold paper tickets and collected the paper tickets again when you got off the train. It was so exciting back then.
Anyway, I got moved from that school to a branch in Bangbaedong after like two months and never really went back to Ilsan, but I feel a certain fondness for the place.
As for my relationship to Kintex, well I realize that I got incredible off topic here, so that story will have to wait until another time.
At any rate, I hope to see some old friends and new at AsiaTEFL this year. 🙂
*NOTE: They weren’t actually screaming, but at the time I wasn’t familiar with Korean intonation and conversational style, so was taken aback. I thought they were about to come to blows, but they were discussing the extra payment (the taxi driver believed that he should receive more money, the woman believed that the upfront payment covered it).
**NOTE 2: Back then you couldn’t just use international ATM cards or even credit cards at regular businesses, so she gave me a bit of cash until the bank opened the next morning and I could exchange some currency.
January 13, 2020 at 3:42 pm #4386
- Total Posts: 250
Rating: five stars!
Never mind about Kintex, we want more stories about when you came to Korea!
Sort of like you, my first building had a Family Mart that I depended on, but it also had a Chicken Mania restaurant, whose manager had spend some monhths in Las Vegas (he told me) so he could speak some English. I ate fried chicken about four times a week for my first couple of months.
January 19, 2020 at 1:54 pm #4389
- Total Posts: 103
I believe I visited that Chicken Mania a couple times myself. In fact I seem to recall a certain Texan gentleman who shall not be named that destroyed one of their chairs. Man, time flies.
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