Last Thursday, we met our coordinators for our respective areas and found our school names and where they were located. Finally, it was confirmed to me that I was teaching elementary school. Great! It was my first choice (I'd rather not deal with the raging hormones of teenagers). Next, I found out that it is near a university here in Incheon. That's cool. But there was still the nagging question of "where the heck am I going to be living?" It was a question I'd have to wait another 5 days to answer.
On our last morning of our EPIK orientation in Seoul, 18 or so other teachers and I got to preform for the rest of the 200+ new teachers. While they had been learning Korean over our few days there, our small group was selected to learn how to play Korean traditional drums. It was actually pretty fun! Here's a video of our performance and a picture of me all kitted out (NOTE: while you can't see me in the video as I'm blocked by some one, I'm the one that says "Drumming's cool, drumming's wild - let's play drums Gagnam style!")
*Thanks to Cory for filming and posting this!*
|Sitting on the floor (especially cross-legged) gets harder with age|
Since the teachers at the schools in Incheon were only finishing their contracts on the 29th of April, and ours started on April 26th, there was no place for us newbies to teach or live. So, we got a bonus 4 days of orientation that was Incheon-specific. Some of it was really helpful. Some of it was clearly time filling. But, all in all, I'm glad I went through so much orientation. It gave me a chance to get to know the other teachers I would be seeing & hanging out with regularly in the city, in addition to getting to know the city itself better and learn a few useful Korean words/phrases.
|My new stomping grounds!|
We also got the chance to go to one of the rural islands near Incheon and see North Korea from across the river! For those that know me well, you'll know how excited I was by being so close to such a foreign and isolated land. We went to a peace monument/museum and looked at exhibits (all written in Korean) and read (or at least attempted to read) about people's wishes to be reunited once more. They also had those viewing stations where we could pay 50 cents to get a close up view on the other side of the river. Of course, I did it, but as I looked at the desolate land in front of me, I felt very odd. I felt like I was spying on these people. Like I was at some kind of side show where everyone gawks at those who are different.
|View from across the river|
|Through the viewfinder!|
|We were about 2.3km away from one of the most isolated countries in the world!|
That said, I should also mention that I did not in the least feel tension or fear to be there, so close to "the enemy". It just felt normal, like there was no division. If you didn't see the barbed wire fence on the drive in, you'd have no idea you were in a technical war zone. It certainly doesn't feel like it, no matter what the media tells you.
Getting to know the others who will be working in Incheon has been a Godsend too. We've bonded well over soju drinks and norebang. They will be part of the crutch that helps me get through the hard times of this year. I'm glad to have had more time to get to know them well.
And then came Tuesday, and everything changed.
To be continued...