Sunday, August 31, 2014

I Told You I Would Be Bad At This...EPIK Days 5, 6, and 7

So this post will cover the last couple days of the EPIK orientation because I can't possibly expect anyone to read a single post that comprises the last several days.

So Monday was filled with more lectures, which were honestly starting to get old. Now that I am writing, this it seems like it was so long ago, not just last week. Monday's lectures consisted of Preparation for Lesson Demonstration, which was actually a workshop to work on the fifteen minute lesson demo we had to teach in groups of three. So we basically sat in a room for an hour and a half trying to figure out how to use the computers in Korean. The next lecture was After School Classes and Camps. This is helpful because the reality is that everyone is going to have to teach during summer and winter breaks at camps that vary in length. I didn't realize that some people would have to do after school classes if they didn't meet the 22 hour teaching minimum. So far as I am aware between my two schools I am covered and therefore have the after school hours to myself. Then came the secondary education lecture which I had been waiting for because I have two middle schools. Of course I was kind of disappointed this was one of the more lacking lectures, but it provided some information. The final, and most welcome lecture, was classroom management. The lecturer for this one was awesome and gave some of the people without a teaching background a look at what to expect. So the reactions to some of her stories were rather hilarious. 

Tuesday was the day of the demo lesson so everyone was nervous and dressed to impress. I admit I was nervous too. We had the oddball lesson assignment titled "Piano in the Jungle" even though it was about ordering food at a restaurant. Then there was also the part where we were last because we presented in grade level order. Our lecturer did things a little different from the norm and told everyone to act like a normal student would, including behavioral problems. So that tended to be an issue for everyone. 

I can honestly say there weren't any groups that completely bombed the lesson, in my class at least. When it came time for our group to present I did my signature nervous pacing and then went into my alter ego teacher mode. It went really quickly and it was admittedly difficult to make a fifty minute lesson (high school periods are fifty minutes long) into a fifteen minute lesson, but we did pretty well if I say so myself. When it was put to a vote we came second for the best lesson, but we lost to a really enthusiastic group that did an elementary school lesson with singing and dancing. So it really isn't that bad for a lesson without any of the corny things that high school students would roll their eyes at. 

That night we had to bring all of our large luggage to the lobby so that the next day would not be a disaster of about 300 people with at least two suitcases each bringing down everything at once in three very slow elevators in an 18 story building. So we packed away our lives one more time and waited for our designated luggage to lobby time. During said wait we decided to go for bingsu which is a shaved ice dessert that is very popular here. I got a coffee oreo bingsu that was way to big to eat alone. So of course I finished it. It was good, but I would definitely check the size for those before ordering. 

The next morning was when we moved out to our placements and said goodbye to friends heading to other cities. That was a bit difficult to do seeing as we had been holed up in one place for a week in our bubble of English. The people heading to Gwangju were the last to leave because we were the closest to Jeonju where we had the orientation. It was a quick hour ride to where we met our co-teachers. I will leave the co-teacher meeting for the next post and of course my new apartment. As aforementioned, that's too much for one post. So here ends the orientation recollections. Now begins the real adventure of teaching in Korea. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

EPIK Orientation: Days 3 and 4

So I warned you from the beginning I would be bad at this whole regular blogging thing. Hence an update three days after the last. Of course, it is difficult to make updates when you aren't doing very much. day number three wasn't anything super duper special to be honest. We had more lectures, though interesting, there were more than one could stand when you already have a degree in education and you're in a foreign country ready to explore. Friday's lectures were on Cooperative Learning, Co-teaching, Lesson Planning, and EPIK Duties & Regulations (sort of an expectations and open question forum). And then of course there were more Korean lessons. Friday's lesson involved learning how to count, which I admit I hadn't mastered, but I think I'm doing well now. Of course this was the Sino-Korean number system. There is also the traditional Korean numbers that are used at the same time and therefore also necessary. Eventually I'll get around to learning those too.

Now Saturday was an awesome day. We actually had a field trip and it was my first time truly feeling like I was in another country. Having been cooped up with hundreds of other English speaking folk has sort of made me feel like I've been in a bubble. So back to Saturday. We went to a Hanok Village and got to experience so Korean traditional crafts at the Jeonju Cultural Arts Center. It was amazing to see all the old homes. There were also so many shops and places to get snacks, but I tried to behave because of a number of reasons: 1. We were being provided a lovely, and free, lunch of bibimbap and 2. I don't want to have to pack up anything else I buy because I have yet to get to my final destination of Gwangju. So we basically strolled around all the historical places and I completely let out my inner nerd and took a couple hundred pictures along the. (Note I am too tired and lazy to post said pictures now, but eventually they'll make their way up, probably by need of pack mule.) After our free time stroll, then our lovely traditional, and free, lunch we headed over to the cultural arts center and learned to play some traditional drums. I completely failed at this of course. I am going to blame my uncomfortable position sitting on a hard wood floor. It was awesome though, as was our enigmatic mohawked instructor. After making a fool of myself, we made much needed fans from basically construction paper and some sticks. It's beautiful, but I don't know how long it'll last.

After a nice long day, of course I had to go and celebrate with a friend on her birthday. If you know me, you know I am not much of an assertive person in larger groups, so you would be surprised to learn that I went to a noraebang, in other words to karaoke. This was only made possible by the consumption of a particular substance (only one), and I was still very reluctant. This is why I only managed to work up to two duets: "Don't Stop Believin'" and "We Are the Champions." After our hour was up we joined another much larger group of EPIK teachers celebrating another birthday and laughed at the insanity that ensued to the soundtrack of 90s songs. Eventually we made our way to another establishment with more beverages meant to be consumed by those of a particular age limit. We tried something I can't remember the name of and if I could I wouldn't be able to spell it. It wasn't bad, though I wouldn't necessary order it again. After some indepth conversation about the school systems of Asia versus the US (what else are teachers going to talk about) we headed back to the dorms before we were locked out after the midnight curfew.

Though I am mostly through today and therefore today's events there is still more today to be had and I will therefore leave today's occurrences for the next blog...whenever that might be.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

EPIK Orientation: Flying In and Day 1-2 of Orientation

So I feel like I am behind on this whole blog thing already. I've either been doing something orientation oriented or trying to battle jet lag. (It has been quite the battle.)

The flight to South Korea wasn't that bad. I met tons of other people at JFK airport, so we were able to get acquainted and bond over the impending insanity that we voluntarily signed up for. It was a long fourteen hour flight, and I had kindly given up my window seat (and included wall to rest my weary head) to a little old lady so she could be with her family, so I ended up in an aisle seat, which was okay as there was direct access to the lavatory. But still I had no chance of sleeping, as is always my plight on planes. Upon landing we were greeted by the infamous humidity of Korea, and honestly I think that was a small taste of the potential Korea has to make your hair curl and become a bird's nest of massive proportions. It was pretty simple getting through immigration and on toward baggage claim. I have to say Incheon International Airport has the FASTEST plane to claim I have ever encountered. It was absolutely fantastic.

Upon making our way to the exit gates and toward the EPIK desk we did our sim card buying for immediate access to the technology we have come to so dependent on.  At the EPIK desk you get a little packet of the immediate schedule along with a map on how to find the EPIK desk at the airport, which you had to already be at to get said packet...yeah. Everyone was excited as we boarded the bus to Jeonju University for orientation, that is until we learned it would be an additional three and half hours to there. At least we had a rest stop, which was a brief twenty minutes which allowed for a restroom break and a bag of chips (which couldn't be brought back on the bus, and were sadly trashed half full.)

We finally arrived at the university around 9:30 pm and made our zombie way up to our rooms. The beds are cinder blocks and the pillows are bricks, but it is not an airplane or bus seat, so it does the trick. I managed to only get about four and half hours of sleep, because my body is evil. I couldn't actually fall asleep until 1 am (even though I hadn't slept the entire way from New York)  and of course I woke up at 5:30 am, because that makes so much sense when you hadn't slept for over thirty hours. But I digress.

On Wednesday we made our way to a surprising good breakfast, and then a tour of the campus so we would have an idea of where we were going for lectures and whatnot. And of course there was a nice damp humidity the entire time. My first convenience store purchase ended up being hair spray. Eventually it was time for the opening ceremony and it wasn't not as dry as I was expecting. The speakers were cordial, brief, and refreshingly funny. Then there was the Jeonju University Taekwondo team. They were absolutely spectacular. There were synchronized forms put into dances as well as flips, kicks, and tricks, and then the  amazing board breaking skills.

After this we had a class meeting and learned the do's and don'ts of orientation and found out about our lesson demonstration. This is a work in progress of course and I will update on it along the way. If I remember that is...

So on to today, Thursday, the real start of orientation. Yesterday was an easy day, a day to get over jet lag. A day where I ended up in bed by 9 pm and out cold. Today we had the medical check up. It involves having pretty much everything looked at: height, weight, eyes, hearing, blood pressure, blood test, x-ray, and urine test. All of this done without breakfast so the results are nice and clear and we are nice and starving. It wasn't awful, but it just involved a fair bit of waiting that could have been better used for eating.

After the medical tests we had a very welcomed lunch (which they kindly made earlier so we wouldn't start dropping like flies). Then the lectures started. Today we had two. My class (class 3) saw the lecture on Elementary School Curriculum and English Comprehension, and admittedly, much like the open ceremony, they were much better than I expected. The lecturers are very personable and friendly. I really have to hand it to EPIK for bringing together a great group of people that give good and much needed insight into what to expect and how to be prepared for what we'll encounter in the real world.

After dinner we were divided into our "Survival Korean" classes. There are the much larger beginner classes and smaller advanced classes. I, of course, fall into the beginner class despite my efforts to learn a thing or two. I am at the point I can (slowly) read hangul (the Korean alphabet) and I know a number of words, but I can only form maybe five sentences, but it's better than nothing. Today ended up being really simple stuff, which ended up being the five sentences I know. So I felt advanced, but of course tomorrow is another day.

So that's what I've been up to for the past three-ish days (it gets wonky because of time changes so the -ish is necessary). I am not going to proofread this now, as I am falling victim to jet lag at the moment, but expect edits here and there when I have a functioning brain to do so.

On a side note, feel free to ask any questions and I will do my best to answer them.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Intro...

So this is my first time blogging, but I figured that since I am going away for a while I should keep folks at home updated, and thus I have created a log  for those things I wish to remember and some things I'll probably regret, but in the end it will surely be worth it.

This is not my first sojourn. I have in fact been quite active in my travels, but that doesn't make parting from my family and friends any easier. This round I am heading to South Korea for a full year. So far my longest trip abroad has been about four months in England to study abroad. But this time I am doing this completely alone. I fly out tomorrow. Follow along and see where my travels take me...