Getting Oriented

It’s only day 4 but it feels like I have been in Seoul for weeks.

Today marks the beginning of our official teaching lectures; up until this point we have undergone a series of cultural experiences and what-to-expect lectures.


It began on Friday with the opening ceremonies, when the director of the English program in Korea went through the seven English-speaking countries with representatives here for EPIK.  A handful of Kiwis, South Africans, Irish & British.  A fair contingent of Canadians.  An overwhelming onslaught of Americans.

One Australian.

Jared has gained instant notoriety among our orientation group of about 250 people for being the lone Aussie.  We are orientation group #3, so chances are there are several other Aussies out there, but he’ll be the only newbie in Gangwon province.  So when people say, “Which one’s your boyfriend?”  All I have to say is, “The Australian,” and they all go, “Oh, right,” and laugh.

Our opening ceremony featured a performance by the Tae-kwon-do team from Mindong Elementary School.  Ten little kids in white outfits filed out onto the stage and immediately the whole audience went, “awwww.”

Then they proceeded to kick the crap out of wooden boards in elaborate fashion, hollering, “YAAAAAAARRGHH!” the whole time.

Then we had a lecture on Korean history and politics from Dr. Choon Kun, who essentially told us that things with North Korea were reasonably tumultuous, but we really have nothing to worry about.  I am happy to take his advice.


Medical exam in the morning – this meant undergoing a complete fast beforehand, including water.  Couple this with the anticipation of a ‘blood-gathering’ session and I was one anxious camper.  The medical was set up in several easy-to-follow stations.  We shifted from height and weight to an eye test (fairly positive I failed), hearing test, general health test, blood taking & urine test.  Then an x-ray on a bus.  All very weird.

Jared & I found a palace during lunch – entry was 1000 won, about 1 US dollar.  It was awesome.


In the palace was a taesil.  This is where the royal family stored the placenta and umbilical cord of their royal children.  To each his own.

In the evening we had Korean class, which was extremely beneficial – we learned to introduce ourselves (“My name is… I am Amerian/South African/Irish/etc…. I am a teacher… Nice to meet you”) and read ten basic vowels plus six consonants.  It is thrilling to see the characters of the Korean alphabet on signs and be able to (very slowly) sound them out.  Not that I can attribute meaning to the sounds.


Today was our designated Korean Cultural Day.  We started with a visit to a folk visit.  200 teachers, all clad in baby blue EPIK-logo polo shirts…not conspicuous at all.

At the folk village, we saw a traditional music performance.  The musicians were very happy:

They were also agile:

Then a tightrope performance:

Followed by lunch:

After lunch we went to the cultural center, where we participated in two hands-on classes.  First was jang-go, traditional korean drums.  The hour flew by as we all became musical geniuses, bursting with pride as the whole class managed a simple rhythm.  I want one of these for our home.

That was followed by a lesson in mask dancing – unfortunately, no photos.  We all wore flowing silky socks on our hands and galloped around the room at the discretion of our enthusiastic instructor.


As I write this it is now day 6 – final day of lectures.  On Monday we started at nine, four 90 minute lectures broken up by a lunch break, followed by dinner and another Korean class.  This time it was a plethora of information condensed into an hour and  a half.  I couldn’t keep up.  I suppose that is why EPIK called it ‘Survival Korean.’


Tuesday was a mirror image of Monday.  Lecture topics included lesson planning, English Fever, activities for running English camps and teaching to multiple intelligences.  More Korean class – I can write my name and tell kids to be quiet (please listen).

In the evening we went to Noribong, known to us as karaoke.  We were a group of nearly 20, and rented a room full of bright lights and disco balls for a two-hour duration (curfew at the dorms is midnight).  Highlights of the evening included a group sway to ‘PIano Man’ and a rousing rendition of the Black Eyed Peas’ ‘My Humps’.


Here we are on the final day of lectures.  Tomorrow we meet the Provincial Office of Education (POE) supervisors.  Placement information has been filtering through to several teachers via email, but Jared & I are still waiting.  We expect to know by Friday, if not before.

The week is going quickly – this time next week we will be teaching.

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