Tag Archives: jeonju

EPIK Orientation: Cattle Herding

20 Aug

Since I’ve gotten to Korea, I’ve felt a bit like a piece of cattle being driven from one location to another, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Let me explain.

Before I can actually begin teaching, I have to complete a 10-day training course along with the rest of the EPIK (English Program in Korea) teachers. Over the last 2-3 days, people from every english speaking country in the world have trickled into the small University in the city of Jeonju where our orientation is being held. True, it was hard to sit through a 4-hour bus ride after being on the plane for thirteen hours, but we’ve all finally made it and for the most part it’s been chill.

The cattle analogy comes from the fact that we’ve been herded from one location to another since arriving on the Jeonju campus. Meals are served 3 times a day (all for free!) and we funnel into the skyway that takes us from the dorms to the cafeteria where we consume meals that are at times less than pleasant, but always include rice and Kimchi–fermented cabbage drenched in chili paste. Yesterday we took a campus tour and were paraded around in the heat and humidity. We could hardly understand our tour guides–who also double as our group leaders for the remainder of the orientation– due to their use of crappy blow horns, and more than once I felt like ditching the whole damn group in search of a beer and some air conditioning. I’m almost positive that I shed a few pounds in sweat and every time we left a building I prayed for relief.

Kimchi: served every meal, everyday.

Next up was the orientation opening ceremony. After some unnecessary opening remarks from the big wigs of Korean education, we were treated to several performances by the school dance and Tae-Kwon-Do teams. Honestly this was the best part of the entire ceremony. The dance team performed a traditional Samgomu Ogomu dance (5-drum dance) that made me want to jump up and start pop-lockin right in the middle of the auditorium.  These women creating beats that would make Kanye blush–no joke. The ceremony was a formal event, and I handn’t had a drop to drink yet, so I opted to stay planted in my seat and enjoy the rest of the ceremony. The Tae-Kwon-Do display was no less impressive. Not only were these kids busting out formations in perfect unison, but there was also a part where the did nothing but break boards in various ways. It brought back memories of me and my brother practicing karate moves that shattered plenty of house appliances growing up. Sorry mom. They ended their performance with a music videoesque routine that combined breakdancing, martial arts, and raising the roof in various ways. I wanted to give a standing ovation, but was too afraid no one would join me in it–a decision I regret.

After the ceremony, the group was once again herded to another building that resembled a circus tent and we were treated to a welcoming dinner. Among all the traditional Korean cuisine there were also fried chicken wings, french fries and–I’m not bullshitting–neck bones. For those of us unfamiliar with neck bones, they’re one of the most countryfied delicacies ever to grace a southern dinner table. Right up there with chitterlings and ham-hocks. I was astounded. Even with holding back, I was able to put down 8 wings and (discretely) several neck bones before a cute black women from L.A. leaned over and said “I see you got excited over the fried chicken too!” It’s been my proudest moment since arriving in Korea.

The herding continued today at the medical check-up. I was up bright and early at 630 a.m. to get to the student center. There, the EPIK administration checked my blood, eyesight, hearing and blood pressure, and gave me a piss test (literally, they handed me a dixie cup, wrote my name on it and pointed me to the nearest potty) and took chest x-rays. The whole thing was done in an auditorium similar to the one the opening ceremony was held in. It might as well been a feed lot. Needless to say, I’m glad it’s over.

Tonight we begin our training, starting with Korean language classes and tae-kwon-doe lessons. This young cow is more than excited. Hiyyeeee Yah!


Kimchi Dreadlocks

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