Monday, August 22, 2011

Day 3 -5 of our EPIK orientation

Day 3 and 4 of orientation was jammed full of classes ranging from elementary school reading skills to Tae Kwon Do to lesson planning to Korean language and history.

So far Tae Kwon Do was my favorite! They had us running around like fools up and down the gym doing twists, turns, body rolls, kicks, punches… all while screaming from the bottom of our bellies.

Our dorm rooms are nice… with internet in the rooms, A/C, and awesome views. The dormitory here has ZERO tolerance for alcohol… One guy already got sent home for being caught with alcohol in his room. So if you’re coming for orientation, DON’T risk it. It’s NOT worth it. There are plenty of bars and restaurants walking distance from the University and the city center is only a $5 cab ride away.

A few of us decided to go check out the Jeonju dance scene last night. We took a cab to the city and did a bit of street shopping. Was comforting to know I can buy an array of sequenced sparkly scrunchies and headbands at 10pm on a Sunday night.

Also LOVED the motto of the Korean underwear shop: "WILL YOU PLAY WITH ME!!!!!"

Since it was a Sunday night, we didn’t expect too much action at the dance club… but around 11pm the University students started trickling in. I tried to bump and grind my way over to them and make new friends, but they were not interested. Instead, all they wanted to do was practice their choreographed K-pop line dancing. I’ve got two syllables for that… AWE-SOME. When I get to Busan, I will definitely have to hit up the clubs and start learning some K-pop moves. Maybe then they will open up to learning some of my bumpin’ and grindin’ skillz.

Day 5 of orientation was a cultural fieldtrip to Hanok Village, Nambu Market, a cultural center where we made Korean fans and watched the local papermaking process.

We ate a deeeeelish lunch of bibimbap and then headed over to Gyeonggijeon Shrine for a Samulnori performance before driving to Keumsan Temple, with time to splash around in the nearby river which had a stone waterslide.

Normally I would be running about… but my legs were SOOOOO sore from a combination of climbing the 15 flights of stairs (should’ve waited for the elevator), Tae Kwon Do boot camp, and dancing all night long the night before.

Hard to believe we’re already half way through orientation. The next few days will be packed with more classes and preparing for a mock lesson we will teach. Luckily we were put in groups of 3 and only have to present for 15 minutes. We will find out our exact placements on Day 9! Can’t wait to find out which school I will be at.

Hopefully I can squeeze in another night out dancing if my legs recover from last night.

Friday, August 19, 2011

An EPIK Adventure begins!

A new adventure begins.... This time in the land of kimchi!!! (spicy fermented cabbage)

I arrived in South Korea yesterday to start a one year contract teaching English in public schools through the EPIK program.

Over 1,000 eager yet groggy EPIK teachers landed in Seoul, where EPIK was waiting to greet and shuttle us on buses to our various orientation venues. We all have to attend a mandatory ten day orientation covering culture, language, the Korean education system, teaching, with a field trip or two sprinkled in between.

My orientation is at Jeonju University which is a 4 hour bus ride south of Seoul. They pulled over at a rest stop half way through the trip. I was amazed to find a "Lactating Station." I wasn't lactating at that time, so I opted for the florescent pink ladies' room next to the K-pop music stand instead. We didn't arrive to Jeonju until just before midnight. We loaded our bags off the bus, were given a care package form EPIK (containing a banana, apple juice, pastry, an awesome pink EPIK towel, alarm clock which I still can't figure out, and other goodies) we were assigned a roommate for orientation, headed up to our dorm room, groggily unpacked, showered and then CRASHED.

The first 1/2 day of orientation consisted of getting our medical exam. It was set in a huge auditorium on stage. They shuffled us through 10 or so different stations... including a trailer park x-ray van set up outside. Many of us were dehydrated after our flights, but weren't allow to eat or drink for 10 hours before the exam... yet were expected to give a urine sample. I didn't perform too well under the pressure. ;-)

After medical we had the whole afternoon to relax. I went back to the room to stretch out and get my blood flowing again with some yoga - but 20 minutes into it, a guy with a mask opened my door and came in with a long tubed weed killer looking machine and without any explanation started spraying every nook, corner, and cranny with some weird mist!!!! bizarre...

Afraid of inhaling who knows what, I decided to try and find the University gym. I was wandering around aimlessly, and asked a guy where the gym was. He didn't speak a lick of English, so I started playing charades and pumped some pretend iron. His eyes lit up with excitement and told me "CAR!" I jumped in and he was kind enough to drop me at the gym. We had a conversation neither one of us could understand... it was so sweet and reminded me of Japan. :-)

The gym also brought back memories of my first gym experience in Japan at the JET orientation in Tokyo ( But instead of mechanical workout bulls - Korea was all about shaking machines. My legs turned to jello as I stood on this vibrating, shaking, balancing pad... then after that I joined a cute granny as we strapped belts around our bottoms and were shook up even more. I watched the cute granny and copied some of her cool moves on the shaker.

After lunch we had a few hours to rest before the opening ceremony – which was surprisingly very entertaining! I remember the opening ceremony of JET – which was speech after speech after speech after speeeeeeech. EPIK took their ceremony up a notch by having different cultural performances. Colorful fan dancing, Korean drumming, dancing with drums, the awesome man with a huge rope on his head which he twirled around, and my favorite – The Jeonju University’s Tae Kwon Do team. They started out with serious intense music with screams, punches and traditional forms of Tae Kwon Do… then all of a sudden the music cut and uppity cheery K-pop (Korean pop music) blared through the speakers and they went into a cheesy high school musicalesque choreographed routine!!! I loved it. Too funny. They also were doing acrobatic flips, spins, and kicks breaking boards, and chopping apples with their feet flinging the remains into the audience. Not what I expected from an opening ceremony… I was quite impressed and forgot about my jetlag.

Jeonju University live up to it's motto on our towels: "The Place for Superstars!" yessssssss......

After the ceremony we were broke into our classes which were divided by the cities we are placed in. Each class has two Korean leaders who filled us in on the rules and schedule for the following 9 days. They also helped us apply for a bank account, and signed us up for Korean classes. Here we go again!!!

At 6pm they had a Welcome Dinner… which was overflowing with food, food, and more food. Kimchi, sushi, tofu, stirfries, fried rice, bean salads, fruit trays, dessert tables, and more. We had a toast and spent the rest of the evening chatting.

Two days down.... only 8 more left to go. ;-)