BLESSED TO BE HERE

Orientation is finished! EPIK put on a wonderful closing ceremony. And after the ceremony, many of us went out to celebrate at a favorite local spot in Jeonju. It was nice to enjoy one last evening together before going our own ways.

A short bus ride in the morning brought those of us teaching in Chungbuk to Cheongju. During a brief formality, we lined up to be introduced to our main co-teachers. After my name was called, an eager woman waved her hand.

Meet Chloe: A hot-pink-Toms-shoe wearing Korean. Although petite in size, she has enough spunk to fill a room.

We immediately discussed plans for the day. She'd take me to meet my principal and vice principal. Then we'd tour the English department, have lunch with my two other English co-teachers, stop by my new apartment and apply for my Alien Registration Card (ARC).

It didn't take long for Chloe and I to bond. After a 20-minute drive to Ochang, it was as if we'd been friends forever. Chloe speaks English well (although she doesn't think so), and we have a lot in common since we're about the same age. I even asked if I could borrow her shoes. Not really, but what if?

My principal and vice principal were very welcoming, and wanted to know more about me. We communicated through mostly gesture and Chloe. Of course they asked if I had a girlfriend.

Paul and Christina, my other co-teachers, seemed thrilled to meet me as well. After a short tour of Bibong Elementary, they whisked me away to lunch at a Korean restaurant. It must've been a combination of nerves and spicy food that had me dripping in sweat. Thankfully, no one seemed to notice. Note to self: Invest in undershirts.

I was escorted to my fully furnished studio apartment after lunch. Paul and Chloe showed me how to use the stove and turn on the hot water. Thanks to new items purchased for me, and others left by former EPIK teachers, I won't have to buy anything.

Chloe and I arrived at Cheonju's Immigration Office around 2:30PM. Applying for an ARC doesn't actually take very long. However, when dozens of foreigners apply for one at the same time, it takes nearly four hours.

Instead of waiting at the Office of Immigration, Chloe and I drove around Cheonju, sang along to K-Pop songs, and chatted over lattes and cheesecake at Holly's Coffee. I can't think of a better way to wait.

We didn't make it back to Ochang until early in the evening. Even though Chloe had a lot of work to do, she insisted we check out Homeplus (one of Korea's largest chain stores). Before dropping me off at my apartment, Chloe drove around Ochang, pointed out unsafe areas and ensured I knew my whereabouts.

I'm blessed to have Chloe as my main point-of-contact in Korea. I'm blessed to have a beautiful, fully furnished studio apartment. I'm blessed by the opportunity to work alongside three enthusiastic co-teachers in a school with amazing facilities. I'm blessed to have such a strong community of support amongst other Guest English Teachers. And I'm blessed to be in South Korea as part of EPIK.

To put it simply, I feel blessed to be here.

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