Well, today was my first official day of orientation. They seem to be breaking us in easy—which is good because most of us are suffering from a fairly bad case of jet lag being a whole 12 hours off our normal circadiun rhythms. We didn’t have breakfast until 9am which was nice, but since I woke up at 5 and couldn’t sleep, I needed a little snack to get me by. This whole time difference is really going to take some getting use to. Ok, well before I tell you about today, let me back up and cover my arrival.
Last night, I arrived at Incheon just after 7pm. I got all my luggage loaded onto a free cart and headed to customs. Then came my search for the SDA Language Institute’s representative who would drive me to my temporary home for orientation. When I entered the main greeting area of the airport, my heart sank as I saw the dozens of tiny paper signs (most of which I couldn’t read) waving in my face. Luckily it didn’t take too long before I saw the large foam bord with three very familiar letters: SDA. As much as I enjoyed my attempts to communicate with the Asain couple I sat next to on the plane, I was so greatful to see an American holding the sign. Aaron Proctor, the Adult Training Supervisor, gave me a warm welcome to Korea and helped me find a place to wait until the other two girls from my flight arrived.
I first met Janice D’Gracia (above). She’s a fun spirited Hispanic from New York who loves the Yankees. We chatted for a bit and then got on our laptops to check e-mails and facebook messages. Shortly afterwards Julyann Pagan came along to join us with her cart of luggage. Turns out that both Julyann and I went to Southern. She was a Health Science major—we probably saw each other in Hickman once or twice as we both found the other familiar, but we never officially met until now.
Aaron went to find the last person we were waiting on, Kenton, who had arrived on another flight. In the mean time, us girls got to know each other a little more. Aaron came back after a bit and hearded us down towards the exit to meet Kenton. Because I was the first person to arrive, Aaron was kind enough to push my 200 lb cart for me, while I got the priviledge of holding the 1/2 lb foam board sign :)
Kenton is Austrailian. Need I say more? Well to be a little more specific, he’s a 6’7” Austrailian who is extremely funny. He’s from an island I forgot the name of, but he mentioned something about Wyoming. Anywho, I told him right off the bat that I was going to be his best friend. I love cool accents :)
We then hustled our way to the van outside the airport. I had to rescue Julyann from near death once because her cart got stuck on something in the crosswalk. Unfortunately, pedestrians do not have the right of way here. One can easily get run over if he/she isn’t carefull. Once we got all our stuff packed in the van, we settled in for a 1 1/2 hour trip to the Institute. It was a pleasant ride. Aaron found out that Janice is a Yankees fan, which presents an interesting situation considering he’s a die hard Rangers fan from Texas. I don’t know much about baseball, but I do know that the MBL Championship games are a big thing and these two teams are playing eachother right now. Their rivalry is actually quite amusing. I think they enjoy the friendly smack talk just as much as we enjoy listening.
After getting us to our apartment at the Institute, Aaron showed us the ropes. Aparently Koreans don’t really use showers like we do. The shower is kinda like those kitchen sinks with the pull out handle that sprays water on hard to reach dishes. Litterally, the shower nozzle is an extension of the sink and you just stand there and spray yourself down while all the water goes through a little drain on the floor. Another big adjustment for me has been the toilet situation. Not the actual bowl, but the clean up process. Koreans have rudimentary sewer systems and can’t put anything but biohazardous material in them. So anything that doesn’t fall under that catagory has to be put in the trash, including all toilet paper! Gross! I won’t go into too much detail, but it kinda makes the bathroom stink if the trash goes for more than a day without being emptied.
Julie and Janice wanted to make some quick phone calls home at the main office, but I had taken 2 benadryl at the airport and was ready to crash. When I woke up this morning I was mentally awake, but it took a bit for my body to catch up for some reason. I read my Bible for a bit and spent some much needed quiet time with God.
At breakfast we got to meet the other new teachers. There are 2 other girls and 3 other guys. The girls are Natalie (Chinesse) and Rasheda (Jamaican) who are both from Canada. The guys are: Mark from LA (also Bio pre-med), Anthony from Floriad and Orion who is also from LA. There’s another guy, Justin, who will be coming on Thursday. There are a total of 10 new teachers in our orientation group. After getting to know each other a little over some yummy Korean cereal and soymilk, we went down to the Japanese Chapel to have worship with Aaron. Several other office staff joined us to introduce themselves. They were Tasha, a friendly 1 yr patron from Maryland; Leo, from South Africa is the most senior of all the foreign staff and is serving his 11th year here; Nonna, from the Philippines and Hetani also from South Africa. After a nice study on Moses we had a myriad of papers to fill out regarding our alien registration cards and bank accounts. Tasha then took us on a short walk to the bank to open our new accounts. I have 641,830 won in my account, which is just over $500 USD. This is suppose to sustain me for a month and 1/2 before my first paycheck arrives, so I hope it lasts.
With some Korean cash in our pockets, we hurried back to the institute for lunch. I enjoyed my first meal of rice, kimchi and seaweed. It was so delicious! After filling our stomachs we visited the boys “alley” as we call it. They live down the street from the Institute in a small vintage Korean alley way. After discovering that they have a nicer apartment than us, we were very upset. They did offer to let us use their showers though, which I thought was nice, despite it being kinda impractical…not to mention awkward. Despite the fact they have nicer appliances, poor Keonton doesn’t fit inside the showers or on his bed. He’s simply twice the size of your average Korean.
Soon afterwards, we headed up the hundreds of steps to the Samyook Hospital (above). Aparently Samyook means 36. But no one seems to know why both the school and hospital have a number for a name. At the hospital we had more tests done than I’ve probably ever had in my life. This is a slight exaggeration, but it was quite extensive. We were drug tested, poked and pricked, x-rayed, sight and hearing tested, as well as given an oral exam…aparently I cause a lot of trauma to my gums and need to not chew so hard. Very enlightening.
After all that fun, Tasha took us to the hardware store to buy adapters for our computers and other electronic devices with foreign plugs. We walked around a bit afterwards to several other shops. Janice and I both need a purse. During our search, I discovered that many streets in Seoul are very similar in smell to those of Paris. If you’ve never been there…it stinks like 2 day old urine. Not a very pleasing smell to the senses. I don’t know why it’s this way, but I suspect it has something to do with the rudimentary sewer systems.
After an unsuccessful search for purses, we headed back to the room for a chance to charge our computers. Then it was time for supper…which was very similar to lunch. I have a feeling I’ll be seeing a lot of this stuff. After supper was cleaned up, we made a plan to meet at 7:30 to do a little trip into the city. We boarded a bus and headed to a nearby train station that Nonna had told Natalie about. It was a point of interest due to the big shopping mall inside. Our little excursion was very enjoyable and I took a few pictures. The shopping center had really cool artistic decorations both inside and out. It also had many western stores like Dunkin’ Donuts, Cold Stone, and TGI Fridays. Additionally, it had a Wal-Mart type super store inside called Lotte Mart. We walked around for a while, but soon got tired and decided to head back. It was fun taking the bus, but can be very crowded at times. I’ve been practicing my Korean too…mostly just the 2 words I know. “Anyong-haseyeo” is hello, and “comesahamnida” is thank you. I need to learn a few more as you may realize, but I’m making progress :)
Well, now it’s almost midnight and I have to be up in a few hours to start my day again. Oddly enough, I’m not that tired…maybe because my body thinks it’s only 11 am. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll adjust sooner or later. So I’m off to bed, but more exciting things will come later via this blog. Maybe not in this much detail though. Goodnight!