I learned one indisputable fact on the flight from San Francisco to Seoul yesterday.
No matter where you are in the world, teenage boys smell.
I was seated next to an unaccompanied minor with a very active gastrointestinal system. At first I thought there must have been a baby behind me, but no baby soils its diaper that often and with such venom. Also, there was no baby behind me. Only the nice Korean boy to my left, whose air-fouling abilities were made more acceptable by his reasonably nice manners. All I could think was, “This could be one of my students. I really, really hope I get young kids and not middle schoolers.”
Our bags were among the very last to burst from the bowels of the conveyor belt, so after the relief of knowing we were not stranded without clothes, Jared exchanged some Aussie dollars for won and we set off for the EPIK check-in desk. I kept looking around, waiting for the grand epiphany that would send me reeling, the one that made me go, “Holy crap, we’re in Korea.” But it didn’t happen, probably because of the Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s that populated the airport. Thanks to Ronald & Co, anywhere you go feels a little bit like home.
The EPIK desk was hopping, surrounded by new English teachers and their towering piles of luggage. Our flight was 45 minutes early, so after a slight delay, 20 of us climbed onto the shuttle bus. The orientation is being held at EPIK headquarters in Seoul, at the National Institute for International Education (NIIED). The lobby was set up for registration, with various stations manned by EPIK staff members handing out name tags, polo-shirts, room keys and welcome packs.
Jared and I, being unmarried, were not allowed to share a room. I collected my awesome welcome pack (EPIK-logo towel, alarm clock, orientation packets, banana, converter) and met my roommate, Nour from Minnesota. Luckily we were both exhausted and neither of us judged each other for crashing at ten PM.
It is now just six o’clock am; jetlag was my alarm clock this morning. Today’s schedule includes a lecture in the morning and opening ceremonies in the afternoon. So far, it is a lot like being a freshman in college. We are all friendly and easily impressed (free alarm clock? Awesome!)
Soon it will be time for breakfast – cornflakes and pancakes, from what I remember seeing on the menu last night. Then the action kicks off, and the day of discovering my placement draws nearer. Smelly teenagers may well be the reality check that I am going to be a teacher in Asia for the next year.