Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Departure Day

It has been one week since Departure Day, or D-Day as most of us have referred to it. D-Day was last Wednesday, when Fulbright Orientation came to an end and all 120 (or so) of this year's Fulbright teachers gathered only to be scattered to all different parts of the country.

It was very much like Placement Day, but this time all of the returning ETAs (those who have renewed their grants for a second or third year) were with us. And in the audience, in addition to our OCTs and the Fulbright Office staff, were hundreds of teachers, principals, and vice-principals from our schools, who had traveled hours to tiny little Goesan to meet us and bring us to our new homes and schools.

The night before was a frenzy of packing and reminiscing on the six awesome weeks of Orientation. I took the opportunity to play some final games of Contact, Bananagrams, and Pirate Scrabble. On the morning of, people seemed a bit quieter than usual, but otherwise it felt like any other day -- mediocre breakfast at the Jungwon cafeteria included.

But then everyone got dressed up, and everyone started bringing out their luggage, and then everyone started bringing out their cameras to take photos, and then it hit me that everything was about to change.

The ceremony was quick. Lots of ETAs were given flowers from their co-teachers and school administrators, including almost everyone in Jeollonam-do. We then ate lunch with the people from our school, not in Jungwon's sorry cafeteria, but in a super-fancy (and predictably ostentatiously decorated) banquet restaurant in the university guest house. Where was all that good food hiding all summer?

After lunch, there was so little time left before the school staffers' meeting with the Fulbright Office was over and everyone started disappearing left and right for their placements. It definitely felt a lot like the aftermath of Commencement, just a few months ago. Everyone was everywhere, it was loud and hot and people were fairly emotional... Also, it was raining, hard. Symbolic much? I just wanted to leave quickly before it got overwhelming.

And so I did, and my co-teacher Saerona and I drove out of Goesan (we had some trouble with our GPS; I think there's been a lot of recent road construction around our tiny town) and south for three hours until we arrived in Changwon. My new home for a year. Here in Changwon, the real adventures have begun!
A fraction of the D-Day photos I took. Center: I met another Swattie! Melinda Neal '11, who is renewing her Fulbright grant for a second year in Jeonju. Left, from top to bottom: Ryan and Rachel, my Gyeongsangnam-do (경상남도) buddies! (We are the smallest provincial group of all of this year's ETAs.); Andrea and Hana, reppin' the greater Philly area (Swat, Bryn Mawr, and Villanova); Tracey, the first ETA I met and my trans-Pacific traveling buddy; Kelly, fellow lover of the liberal arts discourse. Right, from top to bottom: Jet, my awesome roommate who's teaching his middle school boys in Daegu how to dougie; Sara, my ukulele-and-Ultimate-playing friend; and Katelyn and Jason, fellow Pokémon Masters. I hope to be able to visit all of my friends around the country this year!

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