Thursday, May 5, 2011

Teacher Training in Buan (24 - 25 February)

Part of our contracts with EPIK state that we have to complete a certain number of ‘training sessions’ during the course of the year: This Thursday and Friday is part of the required training.  NZ1, NZ2, Catfish, another South African and I meet at the Intercity Bus Terminal in Gunsan to catch the 8am bus to Jeonju.  We arrive in Jeonju’s Bus Terminal where it’s just a short taxi ride to the designated meeting place before getting on yet another bus to Buan – a little town only an hour south of Gunsan but which will take us roughly 90 minutes to reach. 

Our first stop in Buan is at a restaurant for lunch where shellfish soup is on the menu so I’m starving by the time we reach the resort where we’ll be spending the night.  We have a full schedule ahead of us and waste no time getting to the conference room where we’re subjected to several hours of lectures by other GETs who supposedly have words of wisdom to impart with the rest of us.  I try to get involved in the lectures but, honestly, I feel like I’m wasting my time.  I can honestly say that the only thing I learn over the course of the two days is that I’m increasingly embarrassed by the behaviour of so many other foreigners ‘teaching’ in Korea. 

I’m grateful that the ‘training’ session is only two days and by lunch time on the Friday, I find myself wishing that I could just go home.  We still have a cultural experience involving a trip to Naeso Temple in Buan.  Much as I enjoy these cultural experiences, I really just want to take a bus back to Jeonju and back to school where, even sleeping at my desk, I’m being more productive than sitting through another minute of foreigners trashing Korea, Koreans and EPIK in general.   Naeso Temple is pretty but, having just experienced a temple stay at Geumsansa, I can’t help being disappointed in my surroundings – the mountains behind the temple, however, are magnificent!

Surprise Happenings in Jeonju

We’re finally on the bus heading back to Jeonju where Catfish an I decide that we’re in need of Western food for dinner.  She proposes dinner in Jeonju before heading home to Gunsan and promptly goes to ask the coordinator if she can recommend some restaurants.  We decide on Outback Steakhouse  which is one of the places at which we can use the vouchers that we won for our teaching videos back in November. At the bus terminal, we say goodbye to the kiwis before taking a taxi to the restaurant in downtown Jeonju where we ravenously attack a platter of ribs, chicken, quesadillas and more.

With our hunger sated, we head back to the bus terminal and are confused by the massive protest happening in the streets of Jeonju heading downtown.  We’re starting to wonder if these are students protesting and what is happening – particularly since the line of protestors seems never ending.  Unfortunately, we’re not able to find out any information.  Back at the bus terminal, the smell of turpentine is strong and we notice people washing off paint on the stairs of the terminal: apparently the protestors paintballed the terminal which makes us even more confused as to what is going on and whether or not it’s safe for us to go into the terminal.   Across the road, several police men are dressed in full riot gear and heading in the direction of the bus terminal which serves only to increase our curiosity as to what is going on.

What Happened?

We follow them into the terminal, with Catfish taking several photos of them, and discover that it’s business as usual inside.  We decide to purchase tickets and get out of Jeonju as quickly as possible.  Tickets in hand, Catfish approaches several people determined to find someone who speaks English.  She finally finds a young student who, in very broken English, attempts to tell us that someone is striking.  We thank him and move away only to hear his friends (who have returned from wherever they’d gone) cheering him on with big ‘bro’ hugs about having spoken to the foreigners.

Still not entirely sure what is happening outside, Catfish approaches a woman outside on the platform and again asks what happened at the terminal: Her eyes widen, she ums and ahs for a few seconds while frantically backing away with profuse apologies of “no, no, no, sorry” as she turns and flees.  Not to be deterred, we get on the bus and Catfish asks the two women sitting behind us what happened.  With the help of their Korean-English dictionaries on their mobile phones, they manage to convey that the protest is over the inhumane treatment of pigs and cows recently affected by Foot and Mouth Disease (Korea simply buried infected animals alive much to the disgust of many people).  We thank them for their explanations and settle back to enjoy the final bus trip of the day, eager to be home once more.

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