Waiting to board the big flight from ORD to ICN my nerves started to play with my mind a bit but I soon met several GETs (Guest English Teachers) and through conversation with them I lost track of my nervousness. Upon landing I realized it caused by the actual flight than by the move.
My bags were slow to get to me, something i’m sure all travelers always worry about. A few other GETs and I rolled through customs and made our way to a currency exchange. That eager, excited feeling I usually get when switching money was absent; I still haven’t really taken a good look at the currency I’m using and it has been about two weeks since I arrived.
In the lobby of the airport there were droves of other GETs standing around with heaps of luggage on carts. we were organized into groups and shuffled out to a bus and whisked off to Daejeon in West central Korea. On the bus I sat next to our Korean guide, who was an elementary school teacher. I felt like I was a little kid nagging, asking a million questions when all she wanted to do was shovel kimbap, think sushi rolls but sliced thinner, into her mouth and catch a few minutes rest. She was understandably tired; the staff had been organizing the even, day and night, for about a week . I think the thing that really stood out most though were the huge power line towers. Korea mainly gets its power from coal and nuclear. There were also clusters of huge apartment towers sprouting out of the nothingness that surrounded them. It was a cool metaphor like the Earth repelling sprawl and forcing it up and away.
When we arrived at KT Estate, Korea Telecommunication company’s conference campus, it was raining and we had to lug our suitcases and backpacks down a big flight of stairs. Before we could check in we had to have a quick medical check, basically our body temperature taken by a nurse, to ensure we weren’t carrying the Ebola virus, then we got to check in and meet our roommates.
Our rooms were essentially dorms. Nothing Fancy. My roommate, Jeremiah, was a quirky guy from Virginia. one of his suitcases was an 8 foot long ski bag. We didn’t have too much in common but we got along fine, mainly just staying out of one another’s way, though I think I may have stayed up way to late skyping with friends one night. He seemed to sleep through it though.
My main friends at the orientation were; Travis from the flight, Kayla a girl from Texas who i met in a common area ranting about Self driving cars, and Carmen who was sitting near by and jumped in to the conversation when I mentioned something about Walmart and their project in South Florida that will endanger an endemic ecosystem. We also had Kori and Jeanie and a few others join the ranks. We even had our own cool kids table… no seriously it was RIGHT in front of the huge Air conditioning machine. It was two tables put together and even the cafeteria ladies didn’t bother to separate them after meals and no one ever sat in our spot, but that is probably because it was the furthest from the food drinks and exit.
We stuck together pretty much all day every day. The conversations gradually shifted from Environmental conservation and urban planning to talking shit and talking about Sex and shit and mainly a combination of the latter three. I didn’t think I was very social at the orientation. I guess after so many days back to back it is hard to keep up the energy levels.
we did have a curfew of midnight but we managed to go out one night and play drinking games on a bench in front of a 711 and then go to a Norebang, or Karaoke bar, which I will say was not my idea of fun. but i ended up having a good time mainly just because of teh god company.
The lectures we had at the orientation were all great with the exception of one. Bennet. That’s all I will say of him. I felt like I was back in the College of Education and at a workshop of the SCATT program. so many good ideas all around. We also had some basic Korean culture and language lessons. there was a race to see which team could move 5 beans from one cup to the next across the room using only chopsticks. Our team rocked it and did it in a flawless one minute 30 seconds with no drops.
On the last day of orientation we had to present a 15 minute lesson plan about a topic that was given to us; ours was Present progressives, I am + verb+ing. we came up with a fun skit to introduce it. Kayla and Jeanie, who turned out to be my team members for the presentation, began the class with a little chant while I was pretending to be asleep in the chair I snored really loud and interrupted them. They looked at me and said what are you doing and I said that I am sleeping and asked what they were doing. Then we repeated it with reading a book and I read out loud interrupting them. On the third go round I stood up and juggled, which was funny because another kid in the class, later, did something with juggling. The only thing we really got nailed for were not having hand outs, which we were told we didn’t need and the judge said we should have flipped around some activities, which I originally had that way but I let the other two convince me to do it their way. Overall it was actually sort of fun and we didn’t do bad.
Finally the moment we had all be waiting for was here. We were to meet the people from the Ministry of Education. Decked out in our suits, expecting a formal greeting and shaking hands, we were sat in a big lecture hall while they ran down some details of our contracts. then our contracts were passed out, we signed them and we lined up to have them signed by the Ministry of Education and they confirmed our individual pay grades.
After that mess was over-with they turned us loose explaining that our placements were posted on a Santa’s naughty list style scroll of paper hanging on the back wall. None of the info was in English except for our names. I am glad I know the Korean alphabet because i was able to quickly search my area.
The following morning we loaded our bags onto the buses going to our respective cities and waited around saying good bye to the friends we had made at the orientation. Our bus was mainly empty but we had about 12 to 15 people heading to the southern region of Seoul. I was stunned silent for most of the trip; so much had happened at orientation and today even more would go down. I tried to enjoy the tranquility, bracing for who knows what lie ahead when I step off the bus in Seoul