Sunday, August 30, 2009


So it's official! I am a teacher at Hakseong Elementary School teaching third through sixth graders! Now... let's recap the last few days of orientation. They were both hectic and exhausting. The second to last night of orientation a bunch of people from Class 5 went out to enjoy the Jenju nightlife. After some Soju(Korean's version of Vodka), and a few liters of beer (see photo) we all loosened up and really started to enjoy each other's company and the idea of living in Korea for a year!

Thursday was the day that everyone was waiting for. We had to present our lesson plan in front of the class, endure some constructive criticism, and we were finally being told what school we would be teaching at. Following the school announcement we were led into an auditorium to enjoy more cultural performances at the closing ceremony.

Everyone got up early Friday morning to lour our designated bus to our respective provinces. The ride to Ulsan was about three and a half hours but the scenery was beautiful. Korea is surrounded by water and filled with tree covered mountains which make for some striking views. When our bus arrived in Ulsan, we went straight to the Metropolitan of Education (MOE) building where we finally got to meet our co-teachers.. I stood on the side of the street with my pile of luggage anxiously waiting to meet my teacher. Teachers were running around holding up signs with the name of their school on it. Other EPIK teachers around me were meeting their teachers as I stood there patiently waiting. It felt a little like being picked last in gym class. I began to wonder if my teacher looked out the window, saw me and ran.

Finally my name was called and we met. His 'English' name is Johnson. He stands about five foot four and just as sweet as can be. We said hello, shook hands and got in his car. I could tell he was very nervous and he informed me that he was worried all week about meeting me and speaking English. (Most Koreans are very shy and scared to speak to English native speakers). Once I told him that his English was very good, he gained some confidence and we had a nice conversation on the ride to the motel. That's right, I am currently staying at the Zeus Motel until the previous English teacher moves out of the apartment. It's quite an experience. It's a swanky little motel and I can't help but laugh every time I enter and leave it; but it's in a good location in town and only about 300 yards from my new school. My first night in Ulsan I found a pizza place! I cannot tell you how excited I was. I had to eat something other than rice for a change and pizza has never tasted so good!!! The area of Ulsan I am in is very developed. I have had the opportunity to walk around and I like it. I am right next to their sports stadium, and only a $2.00 taxi ride from their mall and grocery store. I really like it so far. I still feel like I am on vacation but I am sure that will ware off after the first week of classes. I have included some pictures of the area in Ulsan I am staying.

Sunday, Johnson stopped by the hotel to take my temperature (they are paranoid about the swine flu) and to see how I am. He then took me to a Home Plus store or their equivalent of a Wal-Mart. It's huge! It has three floors and they have everything you could possibly need. I bought an iron and some indoor shoes for school. Apparently, you wear whatever kind of shoes you want to school, then you have to change to your 'indoor' shoes once you get there. They are not the least bit attractive but they are comfortable which is important. He then drove me around showing me where some other stores were and drove me past the East Sea (or the Japanese Sea as they call it in Japan). It was very pretty and is famous for their rocky beaches. A good place to go and visit in the summer months he told me. Well, that's as much of an update as I can give at the moment. Wish me luck on my first day of school Tuesday, September 1st!!!!

Random funny story: So yesterday, Andrew and I were walking around trying to find where my school was. I had the address in hand that Johnson wrote out for me both in English and Korean and thought it was going to be no problem. Well, Andrew and I had completely different interpretations of his hand drawn map and got lost (thanks to Andrew). I ended up asking a guy walking on the sidewalk for help. He spoke no English, and since I can only say, hello, nice to meet you and thanks you in Korean, this posed a bit of a problem. Now on this paper that Johnson had given me, he wrote down his name and his number. This guy that was walking us to the school (because he couldn't give me the directions in English) was trying to ask me something I think but I had no idea what he was saying. He took the paper and began to dial the number. Horrified, I tried to indicate that he didn't need to call Johnson, I just wanted to see the school and now that I had I was going to leave. He started laughing (probably at my gestures in an attempt to communicate with him) and started talking in Korean. I just looked at Andrew with this 'oh crap' look and then he hands the phone to me. I tried to explain to Johnson what had happened but he just kept asking me why I didn't call him when I was having trouble. I felt so bad because it got way out of hand and all I wanted was to see the freakin' school!

Monday, August 24, 2009


It's been a while since my last entry...a lot has happened and I have had very limited internet access:(  Well, first things first, I left the USA on August 18th at 10:30am and arrived in Incheon, South Korea at 5:45pm on August 19th.  After 15 hours in the Air and a 14 hour time difference, needless to say I was exhausted.  The EPIK recruiters were waiting with smiling faces and a sign as we walked off the plane.  We then boarded a bus for a four hour ride to Jeonju University, "The Place for Superstars," where our nine day orientation would take place.  One of the first things I noticed about Korea was the humidity.  It is intense.  The weather is hot and not all buildings are air conditioned.  It can be miserable.   The dorm that I am staying in is very nice and brand new.  It has a very modern feel. I just hope that this doesn't set me up for false expectations for my apartment in Ulsan.   My first day of orientation Ihad a campus tour followed by an opening ceremony.  Very interesting and the cultural entertainment was great!  
Day two of orientation was the most anticipated, but not in a good way.  We had two hours of lecture in the morning followed by a medical exam.  We were not allowed to eat or drink water for six hours prior to our exam.  Let I remind you how hot and humid it is here.  We had several people fainting before the exam and one during her blood test.  Let me paint a picture for you.  Everyone was in an auditorium.  We waited in our seats until our row was called.  On the stage were several stations; height and weight, an eye exam, color blind test, blood pressure, and blood testing station.  There are no curtains seperating anyone, and no gloves were worn by the medical staff.  It was just strange considering how paranoid everyone is here about the Swine Flu.  The rest of my days at the orientation are
very scheduled and full of information.  I have about six hours of lecture classes each day with several breaks in between.  Most of the information is very useful.  
At night, there are optional Korean classes available.  Interested in learning the language I attended the 'beginner' class.  I put that word in quotes because it was far from an introductory course.  The teacher is very nice, but speaks no English.  I assumed we would be learning the letters, numbers, easy phrases like, "How are you? How much does this cost? Am I eating dog?," etc.  No...that is not what it's like at all.  She wrote the Korean vowels on the board and began pronouncing them.  Five minutes later, she was putting them together and makeng words.  Then, she was calling out people in the class to say them.  No one knew what was going on, or how two verticle lines, a circle and a half horizontal line makes the sound "Ah."  It's really a beautiful language but I need the very basics first.  It's going to take me a while.  
Yesterday, August 23rd, everyone went on an all day field trip.  We toured Keumsan Temple and then a small village,Hanok.  Both were very neat places and I felt like I was able to emerge myself in the Korean culture since being cooped up at the University.  We then enjoyed an interesting Korean cuisine, BiBimBop.  It's very healthy but super spicy.  When I got back to the hotel I was exhausted but decided to drag myself to the Korean movie that was being played in the outdoor
 theater of the dorm.  It was called '200 Pound Beauty.'  Even though I had to read the subtitles to understand it, it was very good.  Similar to an American comedy.
I don't actually find out what age group I am teaching until Thursday, and then we meet our co-teacher on friday and take a bus to Ulsan to find our permanent living arrangements.  It's been great so far, the food is taking a little while to get use to. Cornflakes have become my new best friend :)

Friday, August 14, 2009

It's Almost Time!

August 18th will be here sooner than I thought. That is the day I leave the ever so comfortable "Johnson County Bubble" for a year of adventure teaching English in Ulsan, South Korea. I am more excited than nervous at this point. There are just so many unknowns that it will be nice to get the rest of the information during our nine day orientation. I have yet to learn what age group I am assigned and I am very anxious to find out!

I will try to update this blog as often as I can. I am still trying to learn how to use it. Montgomery says it's easy but I think she underestimates my technological capabilities :) I hope everyone finds this blog informative and hopefully somewhat entertaining!