February 19, 2009; 8:30 am
I am in my first full day in Korea. I hadn't really slept at all the night before. My mind is still swirling with brain hyper-activity since my departure. I think I'll end up pulling the Guinness World Record for insomnia. I am quite excited about spending my first night in my new country. I enjoyed my hotel stay except the bizarre toilet experience. I took the shuttle van back to Incheon Airport. The weather this morning is rather dreary: cloudy and chilly. It's like I never left Chicago. I really enjoyed passing through the city of Incheon, and seeing the mini mountainous landscape. The streets are clean; however the pollution seems to be a problem considering that it's near a heavily-populated city such as Seoul, and by a busy airport. There were plenty of people walking around with their mask on. Plus, I happened to see a stray cat walking on the street. After arriving to the airport, I returned my rented phone, and headed over to the EPIK booth. They gave me a schedule of the orientation, and the exit gate for the bus departure. Right now, I'm waiting for the 10 am EPIK bus to arrive. I can only hope that there are no goofy surprises. It seems like I'll have a temporary roommate and orientation will seem quite intimidating, if not overwhelming, on top of the plethora of things going on.
February 20th, 2009; 3 pm
To continue where I left off, I started meeting up new colleagues when we were awaiting our bus. I met different folks from all over the English-speaking countries including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada just to name some predominant ones. I met a few Chicagoans with EPIk as well. My recruiter came out of nowhere to greet me while I was waiting for the bus. Our bus ride to Dankook University; Cheonan campus in the Chungnam province was about a 2 hour ride. Getting our luggage was a phenomenal pain in the rear end. There were hardly any room so we had to sit next to our baggage. Outbound traffic was running smoothly , and the roads are very similar to Chicago. You have your tollways, but without the IPass though I don't know if they do it electronically. The tunnels are similar to lower Wacker Drive. Despite some of the similarities that Seoul shares with Chicago, the people there are quite polite, low-key, and pleasant for the most part, not to mention, the abundance of beautiful Korean women that lurks around the area especially in this campus. :-).
Our coordinator gave us directions during the bus ride. Meanwhile, I was talking to my new friend Ife who lived in southern Illinois, and Melissa who came from Wyoming, and shared our experiences and ambitions with our teaching abroad goals. We stopped by the Social Science building to pick up our gift bag. In it, we received an EPIK hoodie, a croissant, a small orange, two towels (they reeked of gasoline smell), a converter plug, and our orientation books. I walked into my dorm room, and I must say it was quite pleasant. The bathroom is normal, and the toilet is not what I came across from the night before, except one small thing. The shower is on the same floor so the entire bathroom gets very wet when you're taking a shower. We had our lunch and dinner in the cafeteria. The food was fairly interesting though they take their kimchi very seriously. Heck, they even serve it for breakfast. Korea 101: Kimchi is spicy cabbage, and it's their popular specialty. I will hopefully post photos on here, as I've been posting them on my Facebook. I definitely enjoy having Logan as my roommate as we've shared our interest in hockey (he's a Canadian), and of course, shared our experiences and goals just like what we've been doing with other new colleagues.
I woke up this morning still having issues falling asleep. They were announcing the schedule reminders through the intercom this morning, although rather pleasantly unlike the military-like reminders that people associate with intercoms. So far, the orienation has been nothing but pleasant. The view around the campus is beautiful. Mountains, snow-covered hills, and statues dwarf your typical American campus. I attended our first orientation session in which they discussed opening up a new bank account, handling culture shock, Korean mannerisms, and a preview of what the next few days would be like. Tonight, I'll be attending the opening ceremony in the auditorium, and this weekend, we will head out to a Korean Folk Village. Tomorrow, I have to go through a medical physical exam. Until then, thank you for reading my recent adventures. I hope to make this an exciting read for all of you. On a special note, thank you to the newcomers for reading my blog. I appreciate your comments. I am looking forward to posting more entries, photos, and video clips.