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The Land of the Morning Calm

My journey to Korea and an EPIK Orientation

rain 10 °C

August 2008, Career Day, Stellenbosch University.
It's almost Spring time in South Africa and thousands of high school students are swarming the university campus for career day. As a first year, I am casually strolling back to my residence with my roommate. We look at some of the displays without much interest while we wait for our Iced Lattes. On the way out of the building, a woman dressed in traditional Asian clothing (which I would only much later learn to be a traditional Korean hanbok), hands me a flyer. Generally I hate having flyers pushed in my hand. I almost throw it away but put it in my bag, so as not to offend her.

Later that evening I am unpacking my bag and find the flyer. My roommate and I joke about the sayings on the front, especially the one about "Blazing Fast Internet!". But I did read the rest of the flyer and somewhere something clicked in my head. It wasn't enough for me to realise it yet, but it was enough for me not to throw away the flyer. Although I didn't realise it at the time or even thought that it could be a reality a few years down the line, this is where my Korea journey began.

June 2010, Winter Holiday, Port Elizabeth
While in Port Elizabeth for the holidays I visit a friend's grandmother with him. While there she tells us about these dolls that she made to raise money for the home she is staying at. The dolls were in time for the 2010 Soccer World Cup and all of them were representing the teams in the World Cup. Being a generous grandmother, she showed us the only two that was left and said we could have them. A South African doll and a South Korean doll. I wasn't biased to any doll and as my friend said he wanted the South African doll, I just took the South Korean one. I kept it and put it away in my drawer of mysteries.
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At the end of 2010 I finished my degree, emptied my room at University and brought a million things back home, I decided to clean out my room and throw out. Black bags were filled pretty quickly as old notes, papers, posters, nonsense trinkets, clothes and things I didn't want anymore got thrown. Through all this cleaning, a pamphlet and a long lost little Korean doll popped up. Sitting on my floor, it all suddenly came together. I do believe the universe gives you signs. Would I be dumb to ignore these signs? I decide then and there to do it and go to Korea.

After a year of working, saving, going to Europe and then eventually quitting my job for Korea, I am now here in the Land of the Morning Calm.

1. Korean work visa
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EPIK is the English Program in Korea. This is a government funded Ministry of Education program that places teachers in Korea. On the application, a possible three choices were given for placement in Korea. I chose Incheon as my first choice and then two random provinces as my second and third choices. While on holiday in Mozambique, I checked my email and was so extremely happy to find out that I got my first choice Incheon as placement. Unfortunately you do not find out your school or area until the very last day of orientation.

Arrinving at Incheon airport on 19 March 2012, I'm tired and irritated after the longest flight in life. More than a day travelling, I felt like killing every Korean in sight. We did meet up with the EPIK co-ordinators quite soon and boarded the bus to Seoul. This bus takes approximately 1.5 hours from the airport as it is raining and traffic was heavy. Seeing Korea for the first time, I struggled against falling asleep in the bus. We arrived there soon enough. In Seoul, Spring has supposedly already come, but my fingers are freezing off.

2. Welcome
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The EPIK orientation consisted of about 5 days of lectures from early in the morning to late at night. Lectures consisted of Curfews of 12pm were put on the dorms and every night we had to work on our lessonplans that we had to do at the final day of orientation. The whole group was divided into four classrooms. These classes consisted mostly of people going to the same cities. I was part of Class 1-B. I even learnt how to write my name in Korean.

3. Korean class
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4. Teaching our Lesson
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In the end our group drew in votes with another group in our class for best lesson.

After all of this stress and planning and lessons, we had some fun. EPIK took us on a Field Trip to Namsan Traditional Village. Here we wore Hanbok, the traditional Korean clothes, learnt a Korean dance, made rice cakes, and watched a performance by some traditional Korean performers.

5. Field Trip
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6. Super stylish dad and son
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For our last evening before heading out to our different areas and schools, we were taken to Marisco's Seafood Restaurant which has a massive buffet. Eating here was almost bad, because you simply have to leave out so many things as you cannot have everything. I could only manage two plates, which you can see both look wildly different.

7. Marisco's Buffet
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After dinner, everyone headed back to the dorms to pack for departure the next day. The next morning we had a simple ceremony thanking everyone for their hard word. We also got our medical results back with a printed out photo of our groups and a ceritificate stating that we completed the hours for orientation. As everyone got into their seperate busses, nerves and excitement started to pile up. Soon, we would meet out new co-teachers, see our schools and our little apartments. Korea suddenly became very real and exciting.

Posted by Anja Fourie 21:55 Archived in South Korea Tagged south_korea dolls teaching_english epik epik_orientation land_of_the_morning_calm Comments (2)

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