The First 72 hours: A rant
I have not felt an exhaustion like this since I was running track competitively.
My flight to get to Korea was split into two. First flight was 3 and a half hours long. The second flight was a 14 hour straight shot to Korea and it was the longest 14 hours of my life with the least amount of leg room I’ve ever experienced on an airplane before. I’m talking so cramped my knees were actually aching from being bent for so long.
But anyway, I arrived in Incheon and met up with my recruiter and the six other people that were recruited through him. We stayed at a guest house literally two minutes from the airport and the very next morning we all went out for breakfast then headed into Seoul to explore the city.
People always warn you about the heat in South Korea, so I came with a mindset that I thought could be deemed as “prepared”.
There is NOTHING that can prepare you for the heat and humidity that resides in Korea. You will sweat. You will stink. And you will hate every waking moment of it.
I could be standing completely still and the sweat would actually be pouring off of me, running down my stomach and back, and pooling in the little dip of my neck between my collar bones. I actually thought I was melting. If you are coming to Korea in the summer time, be sure to drink twice your weight in water. You will need to in order not to die from heat exhaustion and dehydration.
Later that afternoon, we all got our things together to head back to the airport so that we could meet with the rest of the people that were placed into Jeonnam by EPIK. Overall, I believe it is a total of 30 Jeonnam teachers. We all had to pile on two buses and our poor bus driver had to shove our endless supply of luggage onto the bottom. He deserved a tip just for getting it all to fit. Never mind the fact that it was a million degrees outside while he was doing it.
The first shock/disappointment came when we were told that we would not be getting dinner. Quite a few of us were shocked and a bit upset about it. You mean to tell us that we have been sitting at this airport since 2:45 waiting for a bus that was supposed to pick us up at 4 but didn’t get to us until 5:09 AND we have to drive 5 hours down to Yeosu to get to our hotel, and we’re not getting dinner?? Reaalllyyy not off to a great start here.
But on the bright side we did make a stop for a bathroom break and were able to buy some “filler food”. The rest stop we stopped at had some stalls that were selling versions of street food. I say ‘versions’ because none of it was really fresh. It was all reheated rest stop food that looked like Korean street food, and that was…well…disappointing. But at least I wasn’t dying of hunger.
The very next day (today) we basically hit the ground running and were thrown into orientation. The Jeollanamdo orientation is completely different from EPIK orientation so we actually don’t even get to meet teachers from EPIK. But they had lots of activities planned for us today which, frankly, I hated all of it. Our entire first day was those teambuilding-icebreaker-theater class workshop things that everyone secretly hates.
Class after class after class was constantly getting up in front of the group and acting things out; creating a scenario based off of a word or prompt you were given and acting it out; being given an emotion or a sound or something ridiculous and ACTING IT OUT. Like…????? Did I come here to be a theater major or did I come here to be teacher??
By the end of the last class, I just stopped participating. I am already an introvert, and doing all these extrovert, over the top, group activities has me feeling double the exhaustion because I feel like I have to “put on” my extrovertness just to get through everything. Many other people are holding up just fine and in fact, are going out tonight to drink and socialize. I want to do nothing but stay in my hotel room and get under my covers and sleep. After this blog post, I already know I’m going to konk out as soon as my head hits the pillow.
The next shock/disappointment came when we were all told that we have to give demo lessons. I was expecting this. But I had heard countless times that this demo would be in pairs because of the whole co-teaching thing. Well, hardy har har, we’re doing them alone. And our audience is going to be giving us the feedback. I can understand needing critiques and feedback, but about 85% of the people here have never taught anything in their lives, and 95% of these people don’t even have their degree in education or an education related field. Why would I want their suggestions on teaching??
The final slap in the face…
The final disappointment came when I found out that I am being placed in a high school.
A high school.
The absolute last level I wanted to be in. And at this point, I’m now feeling like someone out there in the universe is laughing at me. I wanted to be placed in Daejeon but I get placed in rural af Jeonnam. I wanted to teach elementary school (and even did my application lesson plan for elementary aged children!) and I get placed in a high school. I’ve come to understand that applying for EPIK is just one big, time consuming formality, and where you get placed is a crapshoot. With the exception of one couple in this intake, no one chose to be placed in Jeonnam.
And it gets better…
I will be at Boseong High School. When I asked the coordinator of all this if he could tell me anything about the Boseong area, and I kid you not, this is all he says, “You’ll have green tea for life.”
I looked at him like…
“Anything else?” I asked him. And he immediately starts talking about the neighboring cities instead, which all happen to be 40 minutes or more away. He could tell me absolutely nothing about the area except that it has green tea. I spoke to one of the Korean teachers that was conducting our theater classes learning activities and even he knew absolutely nothing about the area.
I’m trying to remain positive. I really am. I chose to come to Korea to step outside of myself and gain a really valuable learning experience that I can take with me for the rest of my life, but at the moment I feel like a complete Negative Nancy. In all honesty, this is what I want to do:
But I can’t, and it’s too late to go home. I’m here.
I am convinced that this is why they wait until the last minute to tell us our placements, because they know that so many people will change their minds and not come. I will be 100 percent honest with you, had I been told that I was being placed in rural af Boseong and teaching at a high school surrounded by nothing but grass and mountains, I would have stayed myself at home. True story.
But here I am. There is no turning back now. So I will have to make the most out of it.
I wore a shirt just yesterday with a Bible verse on it but it wasn’t until I took it off to go to bed that I actually read it. “She has no fear of bad news. Her heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:7. My goal is to keep this verse very close to my heart this week and try to understand that things will be okay. I don’t want to continue to spew out negativity because that will only set myself up for a negative school year, and ultimately fail as a teacher. My wish is for this to be an amazing experience, but I really needed this rant.
I will just have to see what tomorrow has in store.