The Republic of Korea (ROK)

So far, I've only had one person ask me if I'm going to North Korea or South Korea. I consider this pretty good. I thought there would be more confusion. For those that don't get that joke, here's a brief explanation: North Korea is the one with the crazy dude that is currently launching missiles. Not only is it nearly impossible to get into or out of North Korea, but I would probably be shot on sight if I so much as looked at the border wrong. That is not an exaggeration. The picture above is an artist's representation of Kim Jong Ill, the crazy dude running the train wreck of a country that is North Korea.

For those that may not know, or those that want to procrastinate whatever it is they should be doing, I'm going to talk a little bit about Korea (the not-crazy one) and what I know so far about it.

South Korea is the little tiny thing outlined in red on the upper map [click to enlarge]. Right across the sea from Japan, cut off from China by North Korea. Since it's a penninsula, a lot of the country's culinary culture revolves around seafood, which is terrifying for me because I abhor every kind of seafood. I will probably lose a lot of weight and offend people through this aversion. Because of the proximity to Japan and China, a lot of the culture and language is "borrowed" from the two.
On the lower map, there's a red dot and a city name (Chuncheon) written in red. This is my first destination on my ********* scholarship. Chuncheon is the capital of its region (kind of like being the capital of a state in America) and that's where Kangwon University is, where I'll be having a six week orientation. The object of the orientation is to act like a cultural and lingual immersion. I think this is a funny joke because really, we are all just being dropped in the middle of a churning pot of faux pas and cultural misunderstandings lurking around every corner like a sniper, just waiting for us to take one wrong step.
I'll be addressing more specific aspects of the ********* scholarship, the country and the culture as I experience them and unknowingly insult them, most likely.


The Prelude

The abstract: I won the scholarship!

A quick back story follows, in case you wanted more details. Read it, don't read it, it's your life, man.

30 January —
Recommendation was received, announcing that the application was approved by the American half of the selection committee. Now, it is flown to Korea, where the Korean half of the committee will consider the candidates best for their country. Decisions will be made any time between February and June.

26 March —
Sitting in ENGL202C lecture, I notice a new email simply titled "DHL Package". I delete it. Then I get so bored in class that I decide to just open it up. Apparently, a package was sent to my old address from last semester. Why would there be a package sent to my old address? It was just my birthday two days ago, maybe some kind relative sent me a present but forgot that I moved out of the dorms over winter break. Or maybe...

After running across the campus in half-tearful, half-delirious state that was probably either hilarious or terrifying to all spectators, I was holding the envelope in question. It was from Korea. This was either a very expensive rejection letter or it was the verification I had been waiting for since September.

My brother happened to be in the Commons building--irony? coincidence? fate?--and saw me clawing at the tape holding brown paper envelope closed, despite the comical shaking of my hands and tears spilling all over the place.

“Dear Ms. *****:

“On behalf of the Korean-American Educational Commission and the ********* Foreign Scholarship Board, it is my pleasure to inform you of your selection for the 2009-2010 ********* English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Award. This award is for the period of July 5, 2009, through July 17, 2010, including a six week pre-service orientation/training program in Korea. Congratulations!”

Bastards. Didn't even have the grace to put the "Congratulations" at the start of the paragraph, instead leaving me to skim the paragraph three or four times before I was convinced that I'd won.