Orientation

I finally realized that I never posted about orientation! Psh, I’ve been having some major brain fuzzies since I got here. There’s just so much to think about right now. I’ve been in Daegu three weeks now, so it’s high time to talk about orientation.

When I first got to Incheon airport, I was in an odd state of mind. There was the bit of panic about being in a country where I do not speak the language. The jetlag was present. I had just spent about 13 hours on an airplane next to a screaming five year old. No fun. Overall, I was excited. I was in Korea! This is the first foreign country I’ve even been to, besides Canada.

Canada doesn’t count as much though, because I took a ferry from Washington to get there. Not exactly a strenuous journey. Plus, they speak English, so it’s not the same kind of upheaval.

Incheon airport is pretty nice. They have displays of a variety of traditional Korean crafts, and an internet cafe on the top floor. There’s also some pretty great duty free shopping, and eatery.

I had my very first kimbap triangle. The packaging confused me at first, but I’m an expert now. The trick is to pull the little tab on the wapper. The seaweed is separated from the rice to keep it from getting soggy. If you just unwrap the ends like I did, the seaweed will come away from the kimbap entirely.

I also split some doughnuts with another girl. We got a banana strawberry one, and a glutinous rice one. Both were pretty tasty. The glutinous rice gives the doughnut a very chewy texture. I liked them both a lot, but I realized there were poppy seeds in the glutinous rice one! I only took two bites, and threw the rest away. I still had my physical in two days, and I did not want to take any chances.

After I had passed through immigrations(I’ll never believe I actually did that), I headed over to luggage claim. Because I had painted my bags, they were very easy to spot. So glad I did that. Incheon Airport provides complementary carts for your luggage. I really needed that with two bags weighing about 50 lbs each. I’m not that strong.

All of the EPIK teachers camped out around a couple of benches near the food court. We were an odd bunch, surrounded by all of the Koreans. I bet we looked pretty sweaty and nasty after everyone’s long flight. I’d had a chance to freshen up on the plane. Asiana Airlines provides free toothbrushes, toothpaste, and mouthwash. That had helped me feel much better, but my face still felt gross.

Because I had arrived early, I had to wait five hours for the first bus into Jeonju. The orientation was at a university in Jeonju, which was a three hour bus ride from Incheon. That first day involved a lot of travel.

I fell asleep at least twice on the bus. The plane wasn’t that comfortable to sleep on. For some reason, the bus lulled me into napping, even though I was trying to see as much as possible.

We took a break at a rest stop around the two hour mark. These are pretty common here, and there’s usually more to do here than at the gas stations back home. A few of us wandered around to where they had some giant squirrel statues, trying to shake off the lethargy.

After fifteen minutes, it was back on the bus. The last hour went pretty fast, and then we were off. Everyone lined up for room assignments. You were placed with whoever of the same sex was next to you in line. That worked out in my favor, because my roommate was one of the girls I had talked to on the bus. None of the awkwardness of being placed with someone you’ve never met.

You know, like that first day in college dorms, when you have no idea what kind of roommate you got.

We ran to dinner after that. The food was really good quality at orientation. And yes, every meal included kimchi. Why wouldn’t it?

I conked out at about 8 o’clock that night. The great thing about that was I had recuperated pretty well the next day. I still got up around 4 in the morning, but I didn’t feel tired the next day.

We had the opening ceremony after breakfast that day. There was an awesome Taikwondo demonstration, and a speaker about Korean culture. He was also a foreigner, so he had some good points for us newbies.

The second day, we had our physical. I was a little nervous about it, mainly because they had forbidden us from drinking anything the night before. I have rolling veins; and if I don’t drink anything about an hour before I have my blood drawn, it can get nasty. The phlebotomist was really good though. I watched him put the needle in, and I couldn’t feel a thing. I’m one of those weird people that can watch themselves getting their blood drawn. Even when he took the needle out, there was barely any pain.

Some people were so anxious, they had to be taken behind a curtain, and have someone rub their arm and talk to them while their blood was drawn. I guess that can really bother some people. Honestly, I ‘d rather get my blood drawn than go on a roller coaster. Everyone has their own quirks.

I was craving a glass of water and some real food by the time it was over, but they only had grape juice and pastries. Eh, anything is better than nothing. The pastry didn’t do much for my blood sugar though.

Now that we were a little settled, classes began. There were three or four classes every day. On top of that, we were expected to design and present a lesson. We were all so busy! The lectures were all great, but it was a lot to cram into one week.

There were classes on classroom maintenance, lesson planning, working with a co teacher, speech intonation, and a bunch of other topics. Everything was useful, and I’ve used some of the ideas already. Probably the one thing I’ve used the most are the different ways to gain the attention of the class. Some of the different methods are different claps, or turning off the lights. They’ve all been pretty effective.

We also had Korean lessons around 7 o’clock each night. These were really useful. I had learned Hangul and some basics before I got here, but it helped to hear a native speaker. I’m still having trouble with numbers. It’s not that I don’t know them. It’s just hard for me to translate in my head when someone tells me the price of an item. Hopefully, that improves with time.

At the end of the orientation, we presented the lesson we had worked on with our group. I had two other group members, and taught a class for third grade. We only had 15 minutes to cover a 40 minute lesson, so it was pretty crazy. I’m glad that’s over with. I put too much stress on myself with that project.

The best part of orientation happened after classes- exploring Jeonju! I didn’t get to see much, since I only traveled within walking distance. What I saw was great though. In the area around the college, there was a lot of restaurants and cafes. It was a little out of the city, so most of the buildings were rural. There was a lot of urban gardening, which made me very happy. People were growing onions in the tiny space by their apartments. Little fields were full of pepper plants, and squash. I loved seeing so much green right next to the city.

The city was so wonderful. I’ve been in LA and Chicago before, but Korea trumps the US in density. There are so many people, and so much shopping in one area. It’s all vertical, because of the scarcity of flat land. Most of Korea is mountainous, so they use whatever ground they can.

I went out a couple of times with my roommate and a few others. We saw the Lotte Mart, where the big Toys R’ Us was on the third floor. One time, we tried out a bar in the city. Most bars in Korea make you get food with your order, so we got an omelet. I’d never had eggs with beer before. The funniest thing was that we got Japanese beer instead of Korean beer. It was mighty tasty though.

Just walking around all of the streets and seeing what was there stood out as the most memorable thing. Window shopping and people watching were so much fun. There’s always a lot going on in a big city, and I love to fade into the background and watch it all take place.

A lot of the EPIK teachers were nervous that whole week, because we weren’t supposed to know which school we had been placed at. We spent five days learning to teach elementary to high school, when we had no idea what would be appropriate. It didn’t make much sense to me, but I got an email from the teacher I was replacing about four days into orientation. What a relief! I was so happy to be placed in elementary. I feel like that age group is much easier to design creative projects for- at least for me.

I’m very happy to be in my apartment now. No more living out of suitcases. The big reveal is still to come. When I first arrived, the apartment was pretty empty. I’ve been waiting till I have it decorated to show you all. Soon!

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