Yesterday evening my colleague and I drove to Cheongwon, a city about two hours south of Seoul along Interstate 1. We went there to speak to a group of teachers hired by the Korean National University of Education to teach English to Korean students at institutes scattered throughout the country. The drive to Cheongwon was absolutely terrible. A monsoon rainstorm hit us full force about an hour south of Seoul. Visibility was extremely low. Traffic crawled to a near standstill on the freeway, and we fought to stay on the road through the gusting wind and heavy rain. Dozens of cars lined the freeway shoulder, their drivers reluctant to drive again until weather conditions improved. A 15 mile stretch of road was especailly precarious to drive. The road surface was frequently submerged in water, causing our vehicle to hydroplane at times. Occasionally we coasted through more than a foot of water pooled on the roadway. I’m positive that if the freeway builders had built the interstate with proper drainage, road conditions would not have been as bad as they were. It is very difficult for water to drain off the roadway surface when it is surrounded by protective concrete barriers. The drive felt a bit like being on a jungle boat cruise as our vehicle blazed a trail through the murky, churning water. We kept on driving, intent upon reaching our destination. The rainstorm was not about to stop us from meeting with the teachers. The rain let up a bit just before we arrived at the university. By the time we finished our visit, the rain had stopped, and we had little difficulty driving back to Seoul.
We addressed a group of about 45 English teachers in a cozy auditorium. The presentation started around 6:15 p.m., and I finished up my portion around 8 p.m. My Korean colleague spoke for another 20 minutes or so. I talked about some of the things the teachers may need to know while living and working in Korea and what we can do for them if they are in need of assistance. I gave them some cultural "do’s and don’ts" in Korea as well as some helpful suggestions on how to have a good experience while in Korea. I talked a bit about how I went from a quiet suburban life in Seattle to serving overseas. My presentation was very much as I outlined in Monday’s blog entry entitled "Adjusting to Life in Korea." I spiced up the presentation with moments of levity. I could tell by their intermittent laughter that most of them enjoyed it. I also shared some anecdotes from my own experiences in Korea. My colleague’s presentation was also well received. She talked about opportunities available to them to volunteer and share American culture with Koreans. I hope some of them take the opportunity to volunteer.
They were a great audience. Considering that the audience attended our presentation late on a Friday night after having sat through an entire day of lectures, I couldn’t be happier with the results. The audience really seemed to enjoy the presentation. They asked good questions and seemed to listen intently when I gave examples of what could happen if they run into trouble in Korea. Examples are always a good way to keep the audience’s interest. Afterwards, eight members of the audience stayed behind to ask me how I got my job. I was happy to talk to them about the application process.