Monday, August 30, 2010


Day 1- August 19
We woke up before 8am so we could shower before breakfast.
There's something you should know about bathrooms in South Korea- there are no shower stalls persay, what there is is a detachable shower spout stuck on the wall, generally right over the toilet or sink, with a drain or two on the floor underneath the sink. The bathroom is your shower stall. The toilet paper holder has a little metal cover that flops down onto it- which is really just for looks.... I put my toilet paper in a cabinet when I shower. Also, korean public restrooms will rarely have toilet paper and they sometimes look like this (a.k.a. squatty) or this (a.k.a. don't touch the buttons!).
Showers completed- without accident- we ventured down to the 3rd floor for our university quality korean dining. I won't describe all of the meals at orientation so I'll simply say this... the combinations were occassionally baffling such as; scrambled eggs, kimchi, and spaghetti for breakfast- they were also surprisingly good, bi bim bap, bulgogi, or spicy mystery meat in quanderous sauces. I tried many new things, figured out I don't like a lot of it, and even managed to find a few things I did like. Though seafood salad with biddy octopuses in it, I'll pass on that next time- it was like chewing on a spicy sunction-cupped tire.
Oh right, when we checked in the previous night we were given name tags with class numbers on them. There were eight classes in all, we had class six- all of class sixers were going to Daejeon to teach. I guess this was the first year that they decided to group the classes like this, it was incredibly convenient that we spent the entire orientation week with a group of people that would be in the same province as us.
Class 6 was given a campus tour at about 10am- it was so hot outside, about 95F with insane humidity, luckily Brian and I had foregone formality and were just adorned in shorts and t-shirts; others, assuming we were supposed to be more formal, were dressed in long pants and dress shirts. Casual was quite alright for now.
As for the tour... If you believe that brevity is the soul of wit, you would have loved this tour. Our Korean tour guides, perhaps not confident in their english, didn't really talk a lot.
Guide: This is the laundry room, ok.
Us: What?
Guide: Laundry, that one for guys this one for girls, let's go!

Guide: Peace Hall, you will have lectures here. Let's go!
Us: What did he say this was?
Those of us that could hear: Peace hall, for lectures?
It was less of a tour and more of a nice walk, I think Brian and I actually changed our shirts when we got back to the room because we had sweat so much.
At 3pm all of the Epikers, about 300 of us, went to an opening ceremony. We watched some fantastic performances- traditional korean fan dancing, the JJ univ. taekwondo team, and a drum dance. Afterwards a practiced EPIK teacher gave us a presentation on life in Korea and what to expect as a teacher. Directly after the ceremony we all marched to an welcoming dinner which comprised of a buffet that never seemed to end- this is where I tried the seafood salad...
We also met Martin, a fantastic Scotsman whose favorite food is deep fried . Seriously, he informed us that in Scotland they will deep fry anything! Mars bars, steaks, ice cream, criminals- anything. I imagine his house looks something like this.
After dinner we decided to find some Soju, to see what the fuss was all about. The three of us started walking to a 7/11 that we had heard was around the corner by the dorm when we were joined by a 4th. In any gathering where you have at least 300 people there is something that can be said, there will be awkward or socially inept individuals. One such individual joined us for our sojuventure. Of course we didn't really mind, I mean you have to give everyone a chance, right? That being said, he had a gargantuan cold sore (it wasn't that bad) on his upper lip- right side. It was staring at me, he's getting his own soju I hope.
Brian bought the soju, about half a litre for 1500 or so won, aproximately a dollar twenty-five. It came in a plastic bottle with some korean on it, which probably meant soju- the only english word it had said 'Original'. He twisted off the cap and took a sniff, not bad, we took turns smelling it for a few moments. We had heard soju described as being a combination of hydrogen peroxide and petrol- an englishman had given the description. Brian's first swig went down smooth, he liked it! Next was Martin, also a fan. Then I took a swig... it was good! The englishman's description really wasn't far off, but it was much better than that. Sort of like a less alcoholic vodka, 20% instead of 40%, without the bite. And really, if petrol wasn't so bad for you, wouldn't you want to drink it too? A lot of people like the smell of petrol, and taste usually isn't that far off from smell.
I didn't want to pass it to the 4th but I did... and he took a swig. The bottle kind of sat in front of him for a minute as we discussed the taste. Probably not wanting to waste the bottle, Brian reached for it and non-chalantly wiped off the rim. He drank some more, bottle hovering tipped downward just above his upraised mouth. So I wasn't the only one to notice. Likewise, Martin did the same. I passed... the Soju was now about half full and sitting on the table- we decided to just give it to the 4th. We got up from the table and meandered our way home, feeling a slight tinge of a buzz, more due to sleep deprivation than to the soju. We parted ways with our new scottish friend and ended the day with showers in our dorm room.

(August 19-27)


I've been in Korea for just about two weeks now- and yes, I do love it. Thanks for asking.
I had never really flown prior to coming here, just one-way to Chicago from Manchester, I'm not counting that. So my first time flying was a one-way trip to Incheon National Airport in Incheon, South Korea. It couldn't have been a better decision; although sitting down for close to 20 hours straight wasn't really ideal... it had to be done. Fortunately for me my flight included an in air friend, Mr. Brian Fairbanks, who after a whirlwind tour to Australia was a veteran traveler. His presence certainly eased whatever anxiety I had been feeling about flying. That being said, I still managed to not sleep at all during the entire trip so it took me just about a week to fully recover from jet lag. Every time I managed to doze off it just happened to be right when the attendants were passing out food, of course the smell of airline bibimbap and "steak" roused me from my somnolent state. We landed in South Korea; with full bellies, at approximately 5:30pm on Wednesday, having left from Boston at 6:20am on Tuesday. There was a 13 hour time difference in there to account for the lost time. My first time on another continent- check.

ICN was a fantastic airport, by the time we got through immigration our luggage had just started coming onto the conveyor- perfect timing. Having gathered our belongings we began the search for the EPIK (English Program in Korea) stall and bus stop. We trekked to the far end of the terminal and found a congested group of foreigners with a wealth of smiling Koreans wearing EPIK shirts herding them out the door to a bus that had just arrived. We checked in at the station, they gave us numbers and we were asked to wait until our number was called- at which point we should bring our passports up, show them our visas and wait for the next bus to arrive. Whilst waiting we were interviewed and photographed- is it obvious that I hadn't slept in about 40 hours?

The bus arrived and about 20-30 of us were escorted to it, our luggage filling the bays and invading the seats. We were the 12th bus of the day- our gracious hosts almost looked more tired than I did. So ensued three more hours of traveling, although this time there were no clouds to obscure the scenery. The signs were in several languages, Korean, English, and the occasional Chinese; and the speed and distances were all metric- fascinating!

We made new friends on the bus ride to Jeonju; rather, we submitted a friend application to a wonderful couple- they responded several days later with a unanimous 'yes' for me, Brian is still trying to earn the title of friend. He might achieve this on Wednesday over some tea and bruised peaches. Finally at about 9:37pm we arrived to the front door of Jeonju University's dorm, or Star Tower- after checking in we got lost getting to our room (went into the wrong tower), managed to find our way back to the correct elevator and settled down into our spacious dormitory double. Getting into bed and lying down was the first time I had stopped moving in about 48 hours- though I hadn't the faintest idea what awaited me in the next week of training, I had no trouble getting to sleep.

(August 17-18)

*1000 Won and a sticker to the first person that can tell me the campy slogan of Jeonju University- yes, it is in English.