Orientation Novella

My first time waking up in Korea, the jet lag was compensated by the incredible view out my dorm room window: mountains, a distant “city” (we found out why city is in brackets later), and exotic plants. What more could we ask for? Well, a few things as we came to learn, the first and foremost the keen desire to be located closer to the actual heart of Ulsan. It turns out our orientation year was unique, and special; we were closeted away in a town that is closer to Busan than to Ulsan, which meant that even if we didn’t have a strict code of conduct sheet ordering us not to leave the premises, getting into town to explore would have been a feat of the most incredible kind…especially for a bunch of Canucks and Americans who didn’t speak the local lingo!

Nevertheless, orientation week was beneficial to an extent; we made a brief escape from the language academy where our lectures were held to give a micro lesson for students at Eonyang Middle School. Lucky enough, that’s the town where I am currently living so I got a glimpse of it ahead of time! Despite my initial impression, and most peoples’ insistence that it’s “in the stix”, Eonyang is actually only a 30 min. bus ride away from downtown, and has incredible hiking trails, beautiful temples, and is home to the best bugolgi in Korea! Not a shabby place to end up at all.

The end of orientation week brought us a  tour of Ulsan (finally); even though it was raining and we had to cancel some of our activities (like a visit to Ulsan Grand Park and a chance to play in the whale paddle boats!), we still got to see some neat stuff. We were told we would go to Munsu Footbal (Soccer) Stadium…we drove by it slowly and waved to it through the rain, I think I have a blurry shot of it from the highway. More satisfying was the chance to wander around Samsadong for a bit and check out Hyundai Department Store and the surrounding area. To be honest,  the most useful bit of information was provided by Zach ( a fellow teacher), who showed us where the expat bars (Sticky Fingers, for one) are located…definitely a useful thing to know for anyone who finds themselves starting to speak in broken English and overly enunciated sentences.

We also went to the Ulsan museum, where I got some fun shots of traditional Korean rooms, old armour and a diorama that commemorated the joining of the road from Ulsan to Eonyang…something which I am more than happy about since I am now in Eonyang and hitch hiking a ride from a goat doesn’t seem too appealing. We rounded off our day with a trip to the whale museum; we were supposed to see a dolphin show but there was such a plethora of kids that seeing the dolphins meant sticking our cameras over tiny heads and teetering on tip toes to try and get a shot of a grey blur that I think was the dolphin.

Our last day of  isolation, errmm I mean orientation, was spent in the boonies that was our residence. A few of us – Uri, Courtney, Alan, Monique, Mike and I – decided to pull a great escape and wandered into town  to stretch our limbs. After a 30 min. hike down the mountain, there wasn’t much to look at except a Lotte Mart (picture Wal Mart) and a CU (convenience store); but we did get our funky anime bus passes, which is something! We also decided to attempt a hike up the mountain that the university was nestled on…barely over half a km. up, we were exhausted, sweaty, and put to absolute shame when we decided to turn back and were passed by MUCH older Korean folk on their way DOWN the mountain we had given up on…and of course they hadn’t broken so much as a sweat.

But, like any smart people do, we traded in the hiking for food and attempted our first solo dinner out on the “town”. I’m beginning to understand how peasants must have felt in the days of early Canada, when every sign had to have a picture, and town criers read out the news because the general populace didn’t know how to read. Lucky for us, there were plenty of pictures to point and nod enthusiastically at, hoping we would get something that was at least edible for dinner. Uri and I ordered bipimbap – which was not, as  I thought, a soup – but rather a rice dish that the servers had to bend over and mix for us, and show us how to eat, much to mine and Uri’s chagrin and the gut-busting amusement of everyone else snapping pictures.

The dinner was definitely a good finish to the week, and helped cancel out the weirdness of bidding adieu to the people we had lived with for said week. Fortunately, even though we were all going our separate ways to greet principals, apply for alien residency cards, and move into hopefully-not-too-small apartments, a “long distance” here means a 30 min. bus ride so we’re never too far from a friendly face, and sometimes even more importantly, an English speaking ear.

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Holy batman, I’ve just landed in South Korea.

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downtown Ulsan

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the view from our residence; life’s tough.

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armour at Ulsan museum

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discovering the nooks and crannies of Ulsan…aka navigating our way to the expat bars for future reference

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elbowing the teeny  tots out of the way to see some dolphins

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our first meal NOT at the language academy, can I get an amen?

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Abbey road finds SK

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a long walk into town from the uni, but the sights are so worth the burning calves

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