Monday, October 4, 2010

This Water Tastes Like Melons

Oh, this is beautiful. Only took thirty-nine days and some vaguely pathetic pleading with a cranky but probably overpaid middle-aged T World rep, but I'm back in the world of telecommunications. It's red, it's shiny, there are some still-mysterious functions on it, but I HAVE A CELL PHONE.

010-4927-3009. Save that.

Korea Cell Phone Fun Fact #1: Texts cost 20 won. To put this in perspective for the folks in the states, 1,000 won= roughly 1 US dollar. Go Korea.

Just tested out a little bit of the Korean I practiced last night to great success. As long as someone wants to have the exact same conversation as "Sangmin" and "Jaemin" in this Teach Yourself Korean book I will have that sh*t on lock.

A few useful expressions covered in the "Cheers!" Unit of this text:

"Soju hana chuseyo."
- Please give me one soju.
(I lied. This will never be useful. I'm not sure I've ever ordered one at a time.)

"Kurigo anju-do chuseyo. Mwo issoyo?"
- And please give me bar snacks. What snacks do you have?

- Cheers!

I would type it out in Korean, but I'm not feeling that motivated at the moment. My procrastination level hasn't quite peaked yet.

What we were talking about again?

GEPIK Orientation? Sure.

So, this year the new GEPIK teachers' three-day orientation was held in Osan. Seemingly simple enough; Osan isn't super far from Icheon. Never been there though, so there is some trepidation. My cohorts for the trip- Gustie, Veanessa and Ben- tentatively agree that going up to the Seoul Express Bus Terminal would at least put us semi-close to the subway line we needed, so we got some tickets for the 8 o'clock. (Which we nearly missed while chatting on the platform.)

This was a stupid idea.

Gustie's co-teacher had given her some directions to Yatup, but being a little squirrely about going to a new terminal, we figured we couldn't go wrong with Gangnam. Well. Turns out...

So, we got to the Express Bus Terminal at 9:00 AM. We were supposed to meet the bus for people from Icheon, Yongin and Yeoju at the Jukjeon station. This was at least twenty subway stops away, with transfers. No way in hell we're doing it in 30 minutes.

Begin: Plan B.

There was (in the infinite wisdom of the GEPIK coordinators) a latecomers bus. It was set to leave from the Osan station at 10:45 AM. Basically, Osan was a similar number of metro stops, but along a different line. We figure surely we can get there by 10:45. So, executive decision. We're headed to Osan.

Plan B actually looked as though it would work. For about half an hour. It's right around 10:30, and we're optimistic about our chances. Three more stops. We can make it.

Then the train stops.

Everyone gets out.

We're oblivious to this for a few minutes before a Korean man tells us that this is the last stop. Say what?

We are very confused. The subway map clearly shows a continuance of this line to Osan. We're only two stops away, on a platform in the middle of nowhere. We are cursing Korea for this ridiculousness.

Just as we're contemplating trying to catch a cab (that probably would have had to materialize out of pure willpower) a train pulls up on the other side of the platform. Heading to Osan. This is insane. As it turns out, the line we were on has this weird one-stop offshoot from the platform we were on. Therefore, we had to switch from the LEFT side of the platform to the RIGHT side of the platform, to get to a different train going basically the same direction. Srsly.

Unfortunately, this is not the last of our problems. We miss the latecomers bus by about five minutes, so we are forced to take a cab. Our pre-orientation packets claim this trip will take about twenty minutes. Okay.

We scurry over to the taxi stand, pile ourselves and our stuffed backpacks/suitcases in, and hand the address over to the driver.

Blank, blank eyes, my friends.

This man has no idea where we're trying to go. We attempt to explain in our broken Korean. Osan? KSA? The address is written in English. We don't know. Other taxi-takers are waiting and annoyed. This is useless.

We go through about three different drivers before one finally claims to understand where we're trying to go. And even then, only with the strict guidance of the blessed GPS on his dash.

We finally pull up to the conference center. Frazzled, but miraculously not late for the opening ceremony. We have thirty minutes to get our room keys and dump our crap off. We gratefully exit the taxi.

And it's weird.

There are Americans everywhere. You don't really realize how unaccustomed you've become to hearing regular-pace English until you finally hear it again. It sounds insane, but it's sort of unnerving at first. These people can understand you. You will not have to play charades or gesticulate wildly to indicate that you are an American and happy to be in Korea. Yeah, it's weird.

But that was just the beginning.

Still to come: meeting and mocking people from lesser Midwestern states, learning samul nori and playing ping-pong with no paddles.

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