I’m finally onto my next adventure across the world!! My flight here was one of the most stressful experiences but since I’ve landed, everything else has gone rather smoothly. Once I landed in Seoul, I immediately found the 3 other girls that were teaching and on my flight- we were the only westerners within a 5 mile radius, so wasn’t too difficult. The 4 of us headed to the hotel that our recruiter set us up in. We beat everyone else to the hotel since we arrived at 5AM- super early. After relaxing for a bit, the sun finally started to rise and I was excited to see where we were.
At this point, I have no idea how many hours I had been awake due to the time change and then completely skipping Feb 16th, but I knew I could not go to sleep if I wanted to get rid of jet lag. My roommate Kelly and I did a pretty good job of staying awake and we walked around outside. I found a coffee shop and a girl we were with knew some Korean, so she tried to help me order. I had mentioned that I wanted a coffee and the girl told me what to say-so thats what I told the guy working there. I got a blank stare reaction from him, so I then said “ok vanilla latte” and got the same blank stare. Then, I repeated the original phrase a few more times-still no luck. Turns out all I was saying was “I will have 1 please” and obviously the guy was confused thinking “one of what, stupid American.” After a few minutes I was able to order my coffee. As soon as I got my coffee, I attempted to put a lid on it and again failed miserably. I already stood out because I’m a westerner and then I’m wearing a bright fuchsia jacket and now I can’t even figure out how to put a lid on my coffee cup. At this point I was so embarrassed and had no other option but to bolt out of the coffee shop-I mean who can’t put a lid on a cup right? During the afternoon, we took a short nap and watched about 6 hours of animal planet because it was the only channel in English.
The next morning, I felt great and wasn’t really suffering from jet lag anymore. This was the day we met all of the other EPIK teachers at the airport and got on our bus to head to orientation. Orientation was in Suwon, which is about 1 hour from Seoul. We were staying in the dorm at a local university-lucky us!
Since this was the day that everyone arrived, we had time to explore the city. It really felt like we were in the US still but just surrounded by a different language.
All of our meals were held in the cafeteria, which was located at the bottom floor of the dorms. As a way to save money, most of the schools turn the heat off in the common areas, so we only had heat in our rooms. And there was no heat in the cafeteria, so I would literally eat my meals with my double layer north face jacket on-not fun. All meals were buffet style and at the beginning of the line, they provided a sample plate so you knew how to arrange your plate. I laughed at this, but it actually was pretty helpful.
Most of the time was spent listening to lectures about living in Korea or teaching. They were all very helpful and the instructors tried to make their lectures as entertaining as possible. At night we would go out to a local bar-we called it a bar but it was actually a restaurant. The guys that worked there loved us for some reason-I’m still not sure why because 10-20 Americans together gets pretty loud. The people in Korea are so incredibly nice and really do anything they can to accommodate us. They would bring us snacks for free and every time it was something different. One day it was fries, and another hashbrown patties. A popular activity in Korea is going to the Noraebangs, which are karaoke rooms. This is different than in the US because your group goes into its’ own room and you pay by time, but only your group is in there. This was so much fun and everyone was singing and having a great time.
In the middle of orientation, we took a field trip to the Korean Folk Village. It was so cold this day and we were outside the entire time. The village was very interesting and we saw different types of temples and performances. I’m in awe of the intricate design of these temples.
Once orientation was over, it was time for everyone to go their separate ways. Its so weird that we created such strong bonds in a short time, but now I have people to visit and places to stay all over this country.
I’m sure y’all are wondering what my impressions are of Korea, so here ya go: the people are so nice and funny and there are about 5 coffee shops on every block. A lecturer told us that Korea is about the size of Indiana with a population of 50 million-so New York and Texas combined. And 70% of the country is mountains so all of those people live on only 30% of the land! Isn’t that crazy??? Yet, somehow the streets are clean- it’s unbelievable.
Today, I learned a very valuable lesson at Dunkin Donuts: I ordered my coffee and saw a pump that I assumed was sanitizer so I pumped some onto my hands. I very quickly realized that it wasn’t absorbing and my hands were getting very sticky-uh oh. Yep I just pumped a large amount of liquid sugar onto my hand and it was solidifying into a sticky glue. The girl working there saw me do this and didn’t say a word. I was trying to find some water to pour onto my hands but couldn’t find any and anything I touched would be covered in this sticky mess. I was so embarrassed again, so of course I ran outside into the rain/snow. Lesson learned, never assume it’s hand sanitizer!!!
I just moved to my city Daejeon and am trying to get settled. Let’s hope this next week of teaching goes smoothly!