Thursday, 20 August 2009

Welcome to EPIK! (Part 1)

JEONJU UNIVERISTY… The Place for Superstars ~

Rewind a bit. Once Ken and I finally landed in Incheon International Airport (i.e. SOUTH KOREA), our journey wasn’t over quite yet. Since we were a day late into Korea, we had missed the shuttle bus providing rides to EPIK teachers to the orientation at Jeonju University. Luckily, one of the Teach Away Inc. representatives, Jessa, was right at the airport terminal and led us to purchase our bus tickets (a 3-hour ride to Jeonju, Jeollabuk-do). Now that’s dedication as a Teach Away recruiter.


Pretty much passing out on the bus, we finally arrived in Jeonju…but again, we hadn’t reached our final destination. Dropped off at the Jeonju Core Hotel, we had to take another 25 minute taxi ride to the university. Being a major city, the channel of flashing store signs along the strip gave us a moment of sobriety.

Finally at the university, we knew that our major problems were over. Us stumbling EPIK travelers were greeted with open arms by EPIK coordinators and finally we were exactly where we needed to be.

They coordinators greeted us with everything we had missed on the first day of the orientation – information books, nametags, pens, and thermometers so that we could take our temperature every morning.

Ken and I were both led to our dorm room, and it was a good thing no one else was staying in there – we both completely passed out and it probably wasn’t a pretty sight.


Flash forward to the next morning…wonderful Western food for breakfast with some dishes having a Korean twist to them. Bulgogi (marinated beef) with scrambled eggs, a healthy serving of kimchi…and some espicy side dishes providing a special Korean touch to the food. Ken grew particularly attached to the Seoul Milk that they were serving (it tasted more like cream though…1-part coffee, 9-parts Seoul Milk…mmm…Nick, Ken says you’d love this milk…too bad we can't ship any to you). Having missed the first day of the orientation, we went straight into the mini-lectures from experienced English Teachers in Korea (and man, these teachers were actually enjoyable to listen to). They represented the way teachers should teach in the classroom – lots of games to soak up the never-ending pool of energy from the students, and the idea of making a fool of yourself whenever you can to keep the students attentive (they are teenagers after all). What did we have to look forward to next? The medical checkup. We were stripped down to our bare-buttocks (for the chest x-ray of course), and measured in every way (height, weight, vision and hearing), but the worst part for me must’ve been the taking of blood samples.

The nurse was incredibly nice, so I had to hide my winces as she missed my vein, tried to find a new one, dug into the another vein, and decided to move to my left arm (of course, I had told her about my poor blood pressure in both of my arms). In my left arm, she found the best vein she could find – and that vein still required much jabbing and digging-around by the needle. Her worried look and frequent murmurs of “Am I doing this right?” to her supervisor made me a wee bit lightheaded has the blood-bag filled up in slow increments.

[6 hours later in our dorm room…right before we went to sleep…9:00pm…I started to feel hot…but no big…I thought it was just the humidity…]

[9 hours later…I woke up with a wonderful surprise…just on the brink of a fever…37.8oC…]

Lead-headed, I went to see the EPIK nurse. Actually, I think I walked a straight line better in the delirious state I was in compared to every other day. I must’ve looked like normal, as I was resting my head on one of the vending machines near the nurse’s office. I had a pleasant three hours where I played “Don’t Sway and Look Like You’re Going to Vomit.” When I could finally see the nurse, she immediately took my temperature…and gave a nice little yelp – 39.4oC. Swine flu anyone? 

Of course that’s what she thought at the time…I insisted that I thought it was an infection from the blood samples they had taken. “Sterile.” She told me, “Sterile.” I told her I had gotten an infection once before from blood being drawn and had the same symptoms, but she was convinced that that was not the case. She gave me a Tylenol and I pretty much stayed in the office, sitting in a chair while she was treating other patients, until supper. Before having a little supper, she thought about taking me to the hospital to have me checked by a doctor (Swine flu! Swine flu!). After supper, however, I visited her office once again, and my temperature had gone down to 37.8oC. Okay, so maybe not Swine flu, but whatever this sickness was, it was moving through my system.


[Next day…]

Wow. Massive stomach pains. Whatever had sizzled my head was moving down, down, down. I managed to go see the nurse and tried explaining again that I thought I had an infection, but she was convinced otherwise. So, she gave me a hotpack for my stomach. After one minute…ooh the pain……Knock me out for a bit, take out my stomach! I was willing to do anything. Of course, there was Ken to my rescue, shining like a knight on his mighty steed, fed up, and determined to find some real medicine for his princess :).

- Jess


  1. Wow epic story so far guys! I must admit, im really jealous!! What a great life experience you guys are going to have. Think I can fit in a box and mail myself over for a visit?

  2. So are the last few lines a subtle way of telling us that Ken blew up the clinic (and on his trusty steed) and you guys need MFAS to fly over and staff it for a few months?

  3. What an incredible blog. You have a very animated and vibrant writing style Jess -- an absolute pleasure to read. And the videos complete the picture.

    What a fantastic experience. Enjoy!

  4. Adam, if you can fit yourself in a shoebox, I'll pay for your postage to Korea...

    Susanna, McGill First Aid is ALWAYS welcome to stay with us. Can you claim it as a business trip?

    And Valerie, I'm so glad you're enjoying the blog! Please keep sending us comments!

  5. How were you guys a day late? Oh no!! Did everything work out?