Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Annyoeng Haseyo (hello) from Seoul

I arrived in Seoul on thursday afternoon and have been insanely busy with my orientation since. The EPIK (english program in Korea) appears to be extremely well run and organized to the extent that we must sign attendance for every class (including movies). But then i am sure those of you who have travelled outside of the west know that this is often just a sham and it is really insanely chaotic and makes one feel a little like a child (organizing 400 people does that though i suppose). Our schedule goes something like this breakfast 7:30-8:30 consisting of some very strange korean version of american food) like the burger that was served this morning) or a Korean breakfast with soup, rice, kimchi, veg and some meat. The we have class from 9-10:30 and again from 11-12:30 with a break inbetween where we are given water flavoured coffee and white bread. After that we get lunch from 12:30-1:30 which is Korean only fortunately and is awfully similar to breakfast. On saturday we got kimbop which was really good and actually vegetarian. It consists of rice, veg, an egg and lots of hot sauce. After lunch we have two more classes with a break, where they feed us another snack. Then we have dinner from 6:30-7:30, I have actually only been to one dinner so far and it was our welcoming party in the high school gym (of course with all this food they are feeding us you don't really need dinner). In fact it is funny for a culture that is quite obsessed with being thin that they are feeding us like this. Then after dinner we have some other mandatory thing like a movie or a class meeting. This obviously does not give us much time to go and explore Seoul unfortunately.

So far on the first day we had at least three orientations to become oriented before the orientation, which made for a very long first day especially when jetlagged. Fortunately saturday was a far greater success we had four classes taught by experienced EPIK teachers or local korean teachers, of which three were exceptional and one slightly depressing and perhaps even a little frightening (I'm glad i am not one of this man's students). Then on saturday night I got to get out of the movie and out of our cage and check out Seoul. A bunch of us who used the same recruiter went out for korean bbq and met up with other teachers who are in the country. Dinner was interesting, definitely not veg friendly but i ate the side dishes and had lots of soju, the korean version of sake, which our recruiter dave paid for. Then we went to the Wolfhound, as we were in Itaewon, the expat area. It was so surreal i walked in the door to some scene out of good morning vietnam with american military and koreans in short skirts, of course the fact that wonderwall by oasis was playing and there were tons of english teachers and some jamaicans and nigerians in the back playing pool through this image of a little. It was almost like being home but you could just tell something was off. I had an awesome time and did not want to leave when we were informed the last train was approaching, which we missed anyways and then caught a cab to the wrong university. Thanks to a wonderful stranger driving along we returned safely and cheaply to the school. Finally today we got to go to the Korean folk village which was a nice break from being stuck inside a classroom. Infact it was really cool and huge, every time we turned a corner there seemed to be more. There were houses from every part of the country from farmers, to commoners to the rich and of course a palace. There was also a government office, trade workshops for silk weaving, paper making, farming, a haunted house, amusement park and my personal favourite a beautiful buddhist temple a top a large hill. We got a tour which was very informative and got to see presentations of traditional male musicians and dancers with the craziest hats you have ever seen and a tight rope walker who puts the people form cirque to shame. This man could literally bounce up and down on his rope dropping down to sitting and back up to standing and with no safety at all. It was a really cool trip.

Tonight we actually got time off and i was going to go to a korean bath but i am far too tired after last night, but tommorow night i will go for a sauna, scrub, massage and bath. We are in class all week and then get to meet our provincial supervisors on thursday and fly off to Jeju on friday. I am getting very excited and have some awesome people coming with me to Jeju. But now i am tired so i am going to sleep, as some of you prepare to rise.