Today was the first day at my new school (aka first day as a legit teacher, aka first day in a real job after graduating)!
Well actually, let me backtrack a little. Yesterday was D-day. Or departure day. Either way it was fitting.
I woke up terrified. Well, maybe just nervous. But throughout the day my emotions ran high and in a constant flux. At the time we had renewees also staying with us (ETAs who were renewing their contract for a second or third year), so the dynamic in our room was already off. If that makes sense.
I have a lot to say in this post, so a lot of this is stream of consciousness. I’m sorry if it’s difficult to read.
So, between my regular roommate, our renewee roommate and I, I woke up first. Having that time to be alone with my thoughts only made me more and more nervous, and I didn’t have access to the usual things in my morning routine – a physical Bible, coffee – because they were all packed up. Once my roommate(s) woke up, however, we could talk, and I felt a lot better.
We had a lot to do first thing in the morning, including moving our luggage and clearing our rooms out for check-out. Goodbye Jungwon dorm room!
After moving around so much without having at breakfast, by the time we got to the cafeteria, I was feeling slightly nauseous and light-headed. No doubt the nerves didn’t help.
We then gathered with our remaining luggage (carry-ons and miscellaneous bags) for meetings and goodbyes. I managed to hold myself together, but only because I cried so much the night before. Ridiculous. But almost everyone was affected Thursday night, especially when our RA Taehwan began to cry as he read us the goodbye letter he’d written. Thinking of it now still makes me tear up. But I’m so fortunate to be having a wonderful experience in both my homestay and my school so far.
Back to Friday… when we FINALLY got to the departure/school-personnel-meeting ceremony, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to stand the whole time. Just like in our placement ceremony, we all stood in a large semi-circle around the auditorium called the Sky (on the highest floor), this time with the renewees. I have two people in my province (Gyeongsangnam-do), and one is a renewee I only met that day. We waited in line for our names and schools to be called, and then we were expected to step forward, search the crowd of principals, vice principals and coteachers to see who was standing up, and bow (part of a Korean greeting, or insa). This year, everyone received a small bouquet of flowers, courtesy of Jungwon University, but some schools also brought their own flowers and gifts.
The most memorable was Emily Mann’s school, which featured a short man wearing a pink bunny ear headband and large, very loud party popper (almost) to the face. I really hope someone got pictures, and I can’t wait to hear about her experiences this year.
When my name was finally called, a man with glasses and a bright yellow shirt brought a big bouquet of flowers. He was my Fulbright (or main) coteacher, Mr. Hong. I was teary during almost the whole ceremony anyway, but I was so happy that my school had gotten me flowers. We were told to really memorize our teachers’ faces, because afterwards, at our chief orientation leader’s word, we were supposed to rush into the crowd to go find our school. It was just as chaotic as it sounds, and I began questioning whether or not Mr. Hong had really been wearing a yellow shirt.
But we made it out, and were both very excited to meet each other. After an enormous banquet and a few goodbyes, we left Goesan. It’s a weird feeling, since I realized while in Seoul that I’d become accustomed to our marble mansion/palace/prison at Jungwon. When I was tired, I found myself longing to go back to my dorm room -what? (By the way we visited Seoul last weekend. Pictures, and maybe writing, to come.)
Mr. Hong drove me to Gimhae in his car; it was four plus hours, but we also stopped at a couple rest stops and had snacks. Rest stops in Korea are much nicer than the ones I’ve been to in the US. Everything is there in one spot – giant restrooms, snack stands, restaurants, touristy shops and more. Maybe I’ve only been to janky US rest stops. But the best part was running into Ivan – a fellow ETA going to Busan – and his coteacher. Haha. I was so surprised. It turns out that his coteacher actually lives in Gimhae and teaches in Busan, while Mr. Hong lives in Busan and teaches in Gimhae. Looks I’ll be seeing a lot of you Busan folks. :)