안녕! anyeong! “Hey,” in Korean. Either I have become so comfortable with the idea of uprooting myself and being dropped into a foreign culture, or I have figured out a way to shut off my brain and not even acknowledge the fact that I am four days from leaving for South Korea or SoKo. Three years ago I wrote my second blog post, also four days before I was leaving to teach, but that time, if you have been following me, i was headed to Spain, where I knew the language and the customs and culture were not so far removed from what i am used to.
I have been reading a book called American/Korean Contrasts by Susan Oak and Virginia Martin. The book provides tons of information but it is not even reasonable to expect to retain so many intricacies but it has been informative and provided me with a basis, though i have about a quarter of the book left.
I also found an amazing resource out of Monash University in Australia. They have created a free PDF, Korean course in levels one and two with accompanying audio. I was studying intensively during my last few months in Korea but since the last few week in Spain I really haven’t dedicated much time to studying 한국어 hangukeo, the Korean language. In adition to the book I had been watching some videos on TTMIK.
I was really on a roll and even got into watching Korean shows a few nights a week. I finished City Hunter and Cafe Prince, and Phantom, totally different styles but all three enjoyable. The first is all about a vigilante who was trained from infancy to avenge the deaths of 25 military men that the government turned their backs on. The second was a sort of social criticism about gender norms and roles. A hard working androgynous person and a guy who has no desire to follow the family legacy fall for each other full of other fun and interesting characters. And Phantom is about a hacker who uses his computer skills to help police catch criminals. plenty of crazy twists and lots of action plus a few cheesy CGI scenes.
As you see in the picture, my bags are packed. I have my visa in hand, which if you saw my last post you know, and my flight is booked. I am going to be teaching with EPIK or English Program In Korea, which “is a program to improve the English speaking abilities of students and teachers in Korea, to foster cultural exchanges, and to reform English teaching methodologies in Korea. It is affiliated with the Korean Ministry of Education and is operated by the National Institute for International Education”, according to the EPIK Wikipedia page.
EPIK organizers created a facebook page where participants could organize and ask questions. Someone suggested organizing a flight list to help coordinate meetups in the airport since several flights will have more than a few people doing the EPIK Program. My flight will have about 15 confirmed EPIKers on board.
Once we get to Korea we have to check in and then we will be catching a bus to our training facility about 3 hours away from the airport. We will have training from about 8-6 every day it looks like, with classes in how to teach , how the education system in Korea works, speeches from government officials and survival Korean. On our second day there is a mandatory health check-up and blood test. as long as everything looks normal and they see that I am not a glue sniffing dope addict, I should be fine. Although i’m sure they could use the test results to disqualify a person they simply didn’t like the looks of; wouldn’t be the first case I am sure.
After about 8 days of orientation we will hop another bus to Seoul, where I will be living and teaching so that we can meet our cooperating teachers and school directors. I have brought two small bottles of wine from a local winery as gifts, despite hearing it could be taken as a bribe, but going back to that earlier mentioned book on customs, says that’s how they roll.
I am interested to see Where I will live. Housing is included in this gig and the flight was reimbursed too! 99 percent of guest English teachers live in studio apartments. This will be my first time having my own apartment, solo, ever. I am generally OK with being by my self. I have traveled alone to many places but I could always, usually return to a hostal full of people or in the case of my shared apartments, to the company of my roommates. I am just having visions of me in place of Scarlett Johansson at 4am, unable to sleep asking myself, “does it get easier?” In the mean time I will just keep writing.
See you in SoKo when I have internet and some free time.
찰가요! Jal-gayo. Bye!