The End of the Beginning

After another long week of lectures, it was time for a fun weekend in Seoul. All of us TaLK scholars got on a bus on Saturday morning and headed to the Myeongdong district of the city for a fantastic performance called NANTA. NANTA is  a mixture of comedy, drama, martial arts, dance, and cooking, with plenty of audience involvement. It was an awesome experience. I couldn’t record any of it, but here is a promotional video:

After the performance, we had a chance to walk around Myeongdong, one of Seoul’s main shopping districts, and have lunch. A group of friends and I headed to the gigantic Lotte department store food court. It was the largest food court I have ever seen and was completely overwhelming. After lengthy deliberation, I decided to settle for some traditional Korean bibimbap. After lunch I went to the nearby humungous grocery store/market where there were tons of interesting things for sale.

The streets of Myeongdong.

My bibimbap being prepared in the Lotte department store food court.

Some of the interesting things for sale in the food court.

Yummy bibimbap for lunch.

Fresh fish in the Lotte grocery store.

An entire octopus for sale.

I then hopped on the subway to Itaewon, another shopping district popular with foreigners. I didn’t stay for long…I was just there to get a cheap pay-as-you-go cell phone. I got a phone for $30 and put $10 on my card. It really was a cheap phone…the menu is terribly designed and for some reason “q” and “z” are under number 1!? I did manage to get a delicious mango ice cream popsicle next door, however.

A super delicious mango ice cream popsicle!

Following Itaewon, a friend and I traveled to the World Cup Stadium to watch the opening soccer game of the season between Seoul and Suwon. The subway was packed with people heading to the game and the atmosphere was exciting. The fans were so vocal and passionate about their teams. There was singing and chanting throughout the entire game and at the start of each half there were even fireworks! In the end, Seoul lost to Suwon 0-2 (unfortunate, since I was cheering on the Seoul side). Still, it was a great experience.

The Seoul World Cup Stadium, constructed for the 2002 World Cup.

The view from the World Cup Stadium.

Fans starting to arrive.

Inside the stadium.

After the game, I made my way to Hongdae, the same district I had gone to the weekend before. In fact, I went to the same bath house I had stayed in before. This time, there were 30 of us TaLK scholars there and the staff were kind enough to put most of us together in one room, which was darker and cooler than the main common room. I got much more sleep that night than on the previous Saturday and I once again enjoyed the baths the next morning.

After leaving the bath house, some of us headed to the Yongsan district, where there is a huge electronics market. I looked around at some cameras for a bit, but I don’t typically trust second-hand electronics places so I didn’t buy anything. We also stopped by a gigantic mall which was attached to the subway station. The mall was nine stories tall and quite overwhelming! After we were all shopped-out, we took the train back into Jochiwon.

We had so many rainy days in Jochiwon.

A typical weird breakfast during orientation. Broccoli for breakfast…yum.

On Monday, it was time for lectures once again. We had a special k-pop dancing class that day where we learned to dance the chorus and verse of the very popular song “Gangnam Style” and the chorus and rap part of “Like This.” It was a fun break from the other lectures.

Dance demo with the class instructors and some really good TaLK student dancers.

On Monday we also met our POE (Provincial Office of Education) supervisors for the first time. We all got dressed up in our best clothes and gathered in different rooms to meet them. My group, going to Busan, was very small and it was the first time we had all been together. We nervously awaited our supervisor. She soon arrived, accompanied by a previous TaLK scholar. She seemed very nice and she gave us many brochures about Busan. The meeting made us all even more excited to be going to Korea’s second largest city!

The Busan group, dressed to impress.

During orientation, all scholars were divided into six groups. Each group was required to make a video to present on Tuesday of our third week. So on Monday some of us worked on the video. It was lots of fun and brought back memories of my past video-making days.

Some of us were tired of cafeteria food and ordered chicken and pizza instead.

On Tuesday, we ended lectures early so we could all show our video clips. Most of them were very well produced, but ours ended up winning first place! Our group was rewarded with a free pizza party which we greatly enjoyed! On Tuesday night we also had a dance party and other socializing.

TaLK scholars assembled on Tuesday night to view the group videos.

Group 3 video directors and editor giving a “thank you speech” after we won.

Our video director (left) and the director of the TaLK orientation (right).

Our video! (“Shabadabadoo” was our group slogan.)

The reward for first place…a pizza party!

Our group coordinators, Neil and Julie, opening the pizza.

The delicious pizza which was devoured in record time.

The TaLK dance party.

On Wednesday and Thursday, it was finally time for practice teaching. On Wednesday we co-taught with two other teachers, and on Thursday we taught with one other teacher. Overall, it was the most valuable learning experience I had at orientation. It helped me to better understand the challenges of teaching more than any of the lectures.

Me and two co-teachers demo teaching. Here we are beating out the rhythm to a song on the desks.

Our demo teaching was so good that even the window washer wanted to sit in!

Thursday night was our last night in Jochiwon, so a group of us went to karaoke to celebrate. Koreans absolutely love karaoke…overall it was a pretty fun time. There was also a goodbye party that night where I got to say goodbye to many of the friends I had made over the past three weeks.

A beautiful rainbow over our last night in Jochiwon.

The next day, we had our last group meeting where we thanked our coordinators for the wonderful job they had done. We had our closing ceremony, with speeches from various education officials and a thank you speech from a fellow TaLK scholar. We were treated to a tremendous buffet lunch in the cafeteria. After three weeks of average cafeteria food, it was an overwhelming meal and we all overate! It was then time to say a final goodbye to everyone. It was truly a bittersweet farewell, as we were sorry to have to leave so many friends but we were also very excited to be going to our provinces.

Our group coordinators saying goodbye. Neil (left) was a former police detective in Australia but changed careers to become a teacher. He was an awesome coordinator. Julie (right) is a Korean college student and it was so fun to get to know her.

Group 3 assembling for the last time.

The TaLK orientation closing ceremony.

What a wonderful orientation we had!

The campus on the morning of our departure.

Getting ready to depart….

Goodbye Korea University!

The bus ride to Busan was great. We had a very comfortable bus all to ourselves and the landscapes were beautiful. The clouds were quite low, blanketing Korea’s lush mountainsides.

On the bus, ready to depart for Busan.

Goodbye Jochiwon!

Beautiful landscape as we journeyed southeast to Busan.

Our journey.

After three and a half hours, we arrived in Busan, near to Busan National University. Busan is the second largest city in Korea and is situated on the peninsula’s southeastern coast. We were all very excited to see a little bit of the city. We dropped off our bags at our hotel and then went to the nearby shopping district to take in some of the sights of the town. We had a delicious dinner of samgyeopsal (bacon-like strips of pork).

The view from my hotel room window in Busan.

The small hotel room that I shared with a roommate.

The most complicated toilet I’ve ever seen in a hotel. Looks like something from the hospital. Unfortunately, all the settings were in Korean and I didn’t really want to experiment!

The streets of Busan near Busan National University. One small area of a huge city.

The Busan gang ready for our first Busan dinner.

The really cool restaurant we were taken to.

Yummy samgyeopsal (bacon-like pieces of pork) and assorted side dishes.

Our group, full of great food, and excited to explore Busan!

After a few hours of walking around and finding the subway, we returned to the hotel for a good night’s sleep. The most amazing week in Korea so far awaited us….

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