Day 2 at Dogye Elementary School was notable mostly for being entirely uneventful. We got picked up at 8, got there at 9, sat around for 3.5 hours, ate lunch - grilled tofu from home with kimchi and rice with millet from school, without chicken and beef stew from school, sat around for another hour, and then "Samcheok Education Office go." Okay. We were driven the 45 minutes back to Samcheok, the town we're living in, and introduced to the county Superintendent and many "School Inspectors" -- again, they're huge on titles here. I swear, people that seem unable to say anything more than "thank you" and "okay" in English can rattle off their titles and the titles of everyone else in their office without batting an eyelash.
The great thing was, we were introduced to the administrators with every other foreign public school teacher in the county. After 5 days in this very foreign land that was desperately needed. Melanie visibly relaxed upon seeing our friends from orientation. I didn't realize how much I needed to talk with someone in actual sentences until we went out for dinner and drinks later. As we were being herded (we've all taken to calling the people that guide us around schools and serve as our translators our "handlers". It's a surprisingly accurate label.) out of the meeting hall in the county office, we strained our necks to yell back to each other "6:30 at Dunkin Donuts - dinner!" "Okay, see you there!" That's actually not an exaggeration. It was like a scene from a bad movie with family that had been held separately by captors and then were pushed past each other in a hallway of a dank cave. But before we would have our dinner, Melanie and I were herded to the hospital.
At the beginning of 2008, Korea implemented new immigration policies for foreign teachers. Something about a pedophile teaching in Thailand. Anyway, we had to jump through a bunch of hoops in the US to secure our visas, and a few remain for us here. One is a medical test, supposedly for HIV and drug use. Which is why I was surprised when I was herded (there's no other word that describes it) to a chest x-ray machine. But somehow being in a world where I don't know what's going on 99% of the time puts me into an acquiescent state. So chest x-ray I had. And a blood test, pee test, vision test, height, weight, blood pressure and pulse, and colorblindness test. Because we can only imagine what would happen if Korea started letting in colorblind teachers. All that for the discount price of 35,000 won (about US$30). Seriously, it was a cheap physical, and I can't remember my last, so it was probably a good thing (no visible tumors in my chest... that's positive!), but when we found out that our friends Kate and Chad had been herded to the same thing and had said only blood and pee and gotten just those for about US$10, we were a little frustrated. But it's all part of the experience. Just gotta role with it. Roll with the hour commute, roll with sitting around in the teachers' office with nothing to do all day, roll with them wanting to charge us $35 a month for lunches we can't eat. Actually, we're not rolling with that one. But this whole experience is a fantastic exercises in releasing control.
After the hospital we met 11 foreigners downtown at the Dunkin Donuts. Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robins are the two foreign chains we've seen in town so far. No McDonalds or KFC... it's refreshing to know there is a limit to the penetration they've achieved, retreating though it is. Six of us went to dinner at a neighborhood place -- sitting on the ground, served by the owner, big Korean menu on the wall. We ate huge communal dishes - one "tang", a very peppery soup with mushrooms and greens - and one "galbi", a very spicy beef rib soup/stew. I like spicy food. I had one sip of the galbi broth and it made me hiccup three times! We drank two bottles (very moderate by Korean standards) of soju and talked for hours about our first five days outside of orientation. It was absolutely blissful to chat it up with people sharing our experiences. After a few hours of alternating hysteric laughter and sighs of consolation, we agreed to form a Tuesday night eating group. That will be awesome. I'll bring my camera in the future to share what I can of the food with you.