I moved to Korea a little over a week ago (August 17th) but haven’t had the chance to start this blog until now. I thought I would write several entries at once and try to catch up. 🙂 However, I am currently pilfering internet from an unsuspecting neighbour by balancing my laptop on top of my microwave on top of my dresser, so posts might be sporadic until I can get my own internet connection. My “borrowed” connection is neither dependable nor consistent. 🙂
On the morning of my departure, I woke up a little before my alarm. I lay in bed watching the sky turn from pearly grey to pink and wondered for the thousandth time what on earth I was doing. Was flying half way around the world the right thing to do? Surely there were jobs in Canada?
It was too late for second thoughts. I had burned my bridges, put all my eggs in one basket and thrown away my parachute. I had run through most of my savings and would soon have to either sell myself on street corners or work at McDonald’s; I’m not sure which would be worse. The contract had been signed, my bags were packed and the ticket for the trans-Pacific flight purchased. There was also the year’s supply of deodorant (thanks Alison!), fluoridated toothpaste, and tampons – I didn’t want to waste those. Or the Gravol and Immodium that would never get used if I stayed in Canada!
Perhaps my nerves were due in part to the uncertainty of my new job. I had received a contract from the Ulsan Ministry of Education offering me a job and assuring me that an apartment would be provided. Other than that, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. What age group would I be teaching? Where would I be living? Did I have an address? Would there be other foreigners at my school? In my area?
Perhaps it was a sign of my advancing age. A few years ago, I had embarked on international adventures willy-nilly with nary a thought to my own accommodations or safety. Now I wanted to know who would be picking me up at the airport and where I would be going. (It may have been foolish but I assumed someone was picking me up…..)
I got up, had my last Canadian shower, ate my last Canadian PB&J for breakfast, quietly peeked in at the sleeping Mini Maynards, and went outside to wait for my ride to the airport. My friend Sue had very kindly offered to drive me. A few tears, some hugs, a few more tears and I was on my way!
I flew from Ottawa to Toronto (1 hour), then Toronto to Seoul (14 endless hours). Once in Seoul, I took a bus from Seoul Incheon International Airport to Gimpo domestic airport (1 hour). This was followed by 5 hours in a hot and humid waiting room blearily feeling my hair quadruple in size and trying desperately to stay awake . Finally, I boarded my last flight from Seoul to Ulsan (1 hour).
There were a few other foreigners on my flight and they all sat by the window. I heard their oohs and ahhs as we flew over Seoul and then several other large Korean cities but I stayed firmly planted in my aisle seat. If I can’t see that there is nothing between me and the ground but 30,000 feet of air then I can pretend I’m on a bus. Denial at its best.
We were met at the Ulsan airport (which I think was quite small, I don’t really remember) by a man from the Ulsan MOE (ministry of Ed) and his son who loaded us and our luggage on the purple party bus (see the picture below). We drove off into the night, presumably through Ulsan. I fell asleep within seconds of boarding the bus so I’m not sure where we went. 🙂
Hours or minutes later, we arrived at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology or UNIST. We were staying in the dorms during our training. I stumbled off the bus, followed everyone else into the elevator and collapsed into the bed I was assigned. I didn’t even notice until the next morning that the bedding was a little unusual.