EPIK Orientation Winter 2015: Part I

I know what you’re thinking: I’ve been in Korea for over a month at this point–so shouldn’t I have more interesting things to talk about than my work orientation?! Well yes, I could talk about terrorizing my students, fighting Korean bureaucracy, or even the joys of getting a taxi at 4 am! I could…but that will wait for another day.

To recap: I left Oregon on February 17th and arrived in Seoul Incheon Airport the following evening (February 18th for those of you who majored in English because you suck at math). I managed to find my hotel and crashed…

February 19th 
I woke up at a semi-normal morning time (yay for exhaustion!) and hauled my jetlagged ass back to the Incheon airport. There, I found myself in the international terminal and was directed to the EPIK! Welcoming Desk! of EPIKness!

Some terribly perky person asked if I had my passport and visa, and then gave me a number and told me to sit and wait with the other 200 English speakers milling around the terminal. I was promptly confronted by Promotions Boy and his camera: “Smile pretty for the video!!” I ran off to the nearest coffee shop instead. If I’m expected to be perky, I need ungodly amounts of caffeine–which the 16oz Starbucks didn’t begin to give me. I hid from Promo Boy and made new friends with some of the other new teachers.
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At some point, the EPIK! Yay! EPIK! people called my number, double checked that I did indeed have a passport and visa, and my bags and I were directed to a bus. Said bus spent the next 4 hours sitting in Korean traffic–which is the “let’s see how close we can drive to a bus / Oh, look there’s space to drive on the shoulder–let’s do it!” variety of traffic.

Fun fact: EPIK recruits from the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. This meant I got to amuse people from all over the planet with my Jeannette-isms and general profanity while we were bored on the bus.

We eventually arrived at our compound–some sort of campus that’s specifically used to train new employees. We’d be there for the next 8 days. And so the rules were explained: no alcohol or smoking on campus, 12am curfew, don’t break furniture, don’t dye your hair in the sink (remember dears, rules exist because one stupid person once did exactly that).
I hid in my dorm room with LAN cable Internet and felt like I was back in freshman year (Holy Hell! It’s been 8 years…Now I feel old…Dodges angry looks from mom and anyone over 25!)
Randomly, my Orientation Roommate was a fellow Oregonian and ex-UO, ex-Honors College! What are the odds…

February 20th

I woke up at some ungodly hour (6:30 I think) and got dressed. I’d packed all my dress clothes on the top of my suitcase in preparation for orientation. This turned out to be unnecessary–people were wearing everything from suits to hoodies and the staff was more concerned with running the event than policing our dress code. By the time I’d figured out that I didn’t need to wear my blazers everyday, it seemed like too much work to dig through my bags. Plus, I look hot in blazers!

Breakfast was the first of many meals at the lovely KT Cafeteria. In my stubborn quest to master the slippery metal Korean chopsticks I managed to introduce my eggs to my nice pants. Plus I figured out that I really like kimchi and aloe juice (yeah, that is a thing. It’s green and very refreshing, with chunks of aloe floating in it).

The rest of the day went by in a blur of speeches and more speeches. We had a welcoming ceremony that involved a brief Korean history lesson and several variants of “How to NOT Offend Everyone in Korea.” Plus some dancers!
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February 21st: Medical Check-up Day!

Because immigration, I had to have a comprehensive medical check! Yay! Oh wait, no the opposite.
My check-up wasn’t scheduled until 11:30, but because REASONS I was supposed to neither drink or eat until after the testing. I get…irritable when I’m not fed regularly. To avoid biting someone’s head off, I lurked in my dorm room until test time.

The check-up happened on-site, with about 20 different stations. It went pretty fast once I got in there. They measured my height and weight, tested my terrible eyes for color-blindness and general vision, and did the fastest hearing test ever–seriously, like 10 seconds. I got poked for a blood draw and had to pee in a cup. Then they took us to the waiting X-ray vans–with nurses bellowing at all women to make sure the weren’t wearing underwire bras.
Since I’m healthy and had been off any kind of meds for weeks in preparation for the check-up, I passed with flying colors! In fact, everyone passed. But some had a few…complications
-Guy forgot to remove his nipple ring before the chest X-ray. Cue one confused tech.
-Korean nurse had apparently never seen a color-blind person before and was very irate at the poor guy who couldn’t see the pretty numbers.
-Girl couldn’t pee because, SURPRISE, not drinking for 9 hours tends to dehydrate you.
-Half the people couldn’t pass the vision test because it was on a very blurry PowerPoint. I’m guessing they graded that one a curve.

After lunch, we started some of our lectures. Now, I’d honestly been prepared for a nap or ten during the lectures, but they were great!
We had a class on “Cooperative Learning,” which is pretentious teacher-speak for “games and activities are more fun than grammar drills.” I was skeptical that my high school students would be interested in many of the activities–they were mostly geared toward elementary, because the vast majority of EPIK teachers are placed in elementary schools.
The second class of the evening was “Making Your English More Comprehensible.” Basic premise: I need to be louder, more animated, and more ridiculous in class. Hmmm, I don’t think this will be a problem.
To finish the night, we had “Survival Korean Class” until 8:30–because it might be good to be able to say “Hello, nice to meet you” to your boss.

Out of sheer Jeannette-ness, I defied the EPIK! Plan and didn’t crash at 9 pm. Yeah, I’m pretty sure their plan was to keep us out of trouble by exhausting us. It usually works… But instead, I went looking for beer and found fried chicken!
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I also might have found some happy South Africans and joined an impromptu street dance party…

Orientation Continued

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