Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Students and Felt Filled Classroom

Holy frijoles, Batman! Can you believe I've been back in Korea for more than a month?!? The time has flown by. I have yet to get a phone or internet because I can't do that without my ARC (Alien Registration Card). I believe I really should have gotten it by now, but the school says next week. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Anyway, I seem to settling in. My apartment is still kinda shitty, but I'll take care of that once I get a real paycheck. Work is good. They work our asses off, but I do prefer it to my old school where I wasn't allowed to do anything lesson plan wise. At GATE, I'm pretty much able to do what I want, as long as I teach the concepts I'm supposed to.

I've already fallen in love with my students. Well, most of them anyway. Right now I have 9, but I'm sure more will come soon. According to my principal, just everyone wants to get into my class haha! Oh yeah, I'm that good ;). Nah, really though, people just want IN at that school in general. Apaprently it's a pretty good school. I mean, they DID hire me!

I may have told some of you out there about my felt filled classroom. GATE believes that every inch of wall space should be covered in felt...that's right, FELT! My co-teacher, June and I put a lot of hours into decorating Garnet class (all of our classrooms are named after gems), and I think it looks pretty great...even if it does look like a rainbow puked felt all over!

This is my loft. I've always wanted a classroom with a loft:)

A felt filled wall...I Spy Vowels

Another felt filled wall and my awesome TV. I never use the white board. I have a computer and projector in my classroom and both are connected to the TV.

Teachers' Desks.

Now pics of my cute kids :)

My twins, Tony and Ricky.






Chloe...she doesn't like her photo taken at all!

And here they are working very hard.

Guess that's all for now. I'll post some apartment pics soon. I wanna do before and after:)
Love you all!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ah, Korea!

Before I begin, I'd just like to say that I am very happy to be living and working in Korea again. This post and the last one are a very tiny part of what goes on here, but I felt the need to share.

So I've been adjusting to living here in Korea again, and I've learned that I have forgotten how to survive in this country. The stares, the pushing, the crowded elevators are taking some getting used to again.

The Stares Yes, hello! I am white. I am female. I have big boobs. I've walked past you, yet I can still feel your eyes digging into my flesh. I turn my head to see you craning your neck in order to continue your stare.

The Stopping in the Middle of the Sidewalk What a wonderful day for a walk. I can't wait to...oh I'm sorry for bumping into you. I didn't expect you to just stop walking to look at your phone. I guess I need to do a better job of watching where I'm going.

The Pushing Oh, hel. Hel. Hello. I'm sorry, was I in your way? I thought I was walking down a completely empty sidewalk yet you still pushed me half way into the street to get past me and then didn't say anything. The crowd around me must be invisible to my plain foreigner eye.

The Crowded Elevator Awesome, an empty elevator! *Walks in and sees about 20 Koreans running for the elevator door before it closes. Hits the "close door" button, but it doesn't work. Ends up squished at the back of the elevator for 12 floors. Wanted to go to the 4th floor.*

Getting out of an Elevator *Sees Korean guy get right up to the door, his face practically touching it.* Don't worry man, it's all yours. You obviously have some place extremely important to be.

Pedestrians vs. Cars I'm just walking down the street la la la. I'm coming up to a crosswalk. I begin to cross. HOLY SHIT A CAR IS SPEEDING DOWN THE ROAD AND ISN'T HITTING HIS BRAKES!!! Oh thank goodness Hyundai makes good brakes!


I'm crossing the crosswalk as a car is turning onto it. Oh hello car. I'm just walk...hey, why the hell aren't you stopping?!??! (The other day, this ended with me punching the hood of the car.)

I really do love it here!

And I love you all!


I don't understand it. At home, if you walk past someone and make eye contact, you smile or say hello. It's just something you do. I'd like to consider myself an intermediately experienced traveler, and in my experience, most people that I have encountered at least smiled at me when we made eye contact. This is NOT the case in Korea. Koreans are too busy living their very busy lives to be bothered with something as menial as a smile. This is unless of course you are an ajumma or ajoshi and feel the need to crank your neck to get a good long look at the waygookin with the big boobs!

Most Koreans walk along with their phones permanently attached to their ears via earbuds and shut out the world. I walk around with my music blasting in my ears too, but I don't let it distract me. What stumps me more than Koreans not acknowledging others, is the fact that other foreigners don't acknowledge each other. Is it really that troublesome to give a smile or say "hello?" Are you so miserable here that ya can't recognize that someone from your corner of the world is walking past you? Are your facial muscles too tired from teaching bratty children all day? Maybe I'm asking too much, I dunno. I just hate those awkward moments when you see a Westerner approaching you and you don't know which way to look. Should I look at her? Should I look away? Down? Where?!?!? Is it too difficult to just give a fellow human being who is in your shoes a small smile?

I think many people come to Korea thinking they've found something new. They're gonna go teach English in a country where no one has gone to teach English before. Maybe going to teach in Korea is a big thing in your small town of East Bumfuck, but in the big scheme of things, you're one of thousands, Bud. In fact, you're one in about 20,000. Smoke that, you pretentious asshole! :)

They learn that they are one of thousands as soon as they get off the plane. From then on, they develop this icky persona that screams "I honestly believe I'm better than you." They will only date Korean girls, they study Korean like crazy and then feel the need to correct you in public when your Korean is wrong, they only drink in Korean bars, they wear skinny jeans and black rimmed glasses without lenses (a dead giveaway that this person will not be of any interest to you), and they talk to the Korean staff more than the foreign staff. So to those dumbasses, I say "Get off your high horse and come down to reality with the rest of us lowly foreigners." And to the rest of you, SMILE when you see someone walking by you, you just may make their day :)

Love you all!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Back in the R.O.K.!

Well I've been here for a week now, and I'm still not used to the time difference. I'm trying to get comfortable in my new apartment, but won't feel fully comfy until I put some money into this place. It's pretty ghetto, but I think I can make it work. One awesome thing is that I'm right behind the main road of Gangnam in Seoul, which is a pretty happening area. I still haven't gotten much of a chance to roam around and explore, but I will. I landed in Incheon last Monday, the 20th, around 4pm. The flight was good, but I was stuck in a middle seat between a vegetarian who ate nothing the whole trip and a Philippino man who ate way too may shrimp flavored chips. I can't sleep on planes, so I mostly watched the few movies that were available to me. If you haven't seen the Snow White movie with Julia Roberts, I recommend that you do. Since I could hardly move, my legs and feet swelled like crazy, which is not a comfortable feeling. So I landed and made my way through the airport...immigration, luggage, converting the little money I had into won. Then I went out and found a Korean man with a creepy smile holding a big piece of paper with my name on it. This was my ride to the school. During the ride, he tried to get me to teach him English, but it didn't go very well. He also tried to test me on my knowledge of Korean foods. Listen buddy, I'm no newbie to this place, don't try to trick me with your bibimbap and japchae trivia! Anyway, I thought I was going to the school, but the guy actually dropped me off at my apartmwent. A man named Chris was there waiting for me and he showed me where I'd be sleeping for the next year. It's not horrible, but it's not great. Pictures will come soon, I promise. I do have a full size bed, so I'm definitely cool with that. I also have a cute little balcony that overlooks the Best All convenience store at the corner. The biggest disappointment is the kitchen. Those who know me know that I love to cook, especially for other people. Well, doesn't look like that's happening here. A 2 burner gas range just isn't gonna do it.

The best part about getting to my apartment is that Chris handed me a map of the area and told me this was the way to get to the school in the morning...then he left. Great, I get to find this place on my own. Even though I was extremely jet lagged and it was raining out, I thought I better find that place that night instead of waiting til morning. I set out and thought I followed the map, but I could NOT find this damn place. My friend Paul had found it a couple weeks earlier, so luckily I was able to contact him through a random coffee shop's wi-fi. He met me and helped me find it. Apparently, the map I was given SUCKED, but at least I found the place.

I went to work on Tuesday and met everyone. My first week consisted of observing classes and working with my Korean co-teacher on getting the classroom ready. I learned that getting the classroom ready at GATE means stapling an immense amount of felt onto the walls, leaving no piece of the wall visible. My co-teacher June, is great. I think we're gonna get along very well. My kids don't start until the 30th, but I do have to give a presentation to the parents on the 29th...eek! I had to make a big powerpoint presentation and everything. So far, things have gone pretty well. I am slowly adjusting to being back in the land of the morning calm, and am looking forward to having some great adventures!

Love you all!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Insane Visa Process!

Well next Sunday, August 19th, I will be boarding a plane to Seoul. Yes, I am going back to Korea to begin another adventure in teaching English. This time around I will be in a part of Seoul called Gangnam. I'm very excited to experience living in the city this time around, although I must admit I am quite worried about what my apartment will look like. I'm imagining something insanely small, but hoping that it will allow some natural light to come in.

Similar to the process I went through in 2008, getting my visa has NOT been easy. It seems like immigration is changing visa requirements everyday. In case you have stumbled upon my blog and have yet to go through the visa process, let me take you through the steps:

1. Get a federal criminal background check. You must obtain fingerprints (from any police department) and send them along with this application and $18 to CJIS. You can find all the info you need here. Now keep in mind that the process can take up to 8 weeks after the FBI receives your paperwork. Also, make sure you get your background check authenticated. You will need this for the Apostille. I also recommend sending a self addressed stamped envelope and spending the money to get this express delivered to you. I did not do this, and my first record check got lost. I had to pay to have FedEx overnight it to me.

2. Get an apostille on your background check. Once you receive your background check, you must send it to the US Department of State in D.C. They say the process takes about 10 days. You can get all the info here. FRIENDLY TIP: DO ALL OF THIS BEFORE YOU EVEN BEGIN LOOKING FOR A JOB!!!!!!! Many schools know that this is a long process and therefore will not interview you if you do not have this part completed.

3. Get a copy of your university diploma and get and Apostille from your secretary of state. Korea no longer wants your actual diploma, which is a good thing.

4. Once you are offered a job, you'll send all that paperwork, along with some passport photos (I had to send 5), your signed contract, a copy of your passport, and a completed medical form to your recruiter or school. When your school gets your paperwork, they will send it to immigration. You will get your visa issuance number in about 10 days.

5. After you get this number, you can head to your nearest Korean consulate to get your visa. They no longer do interviews, so if you have the time, you can do this through the mail. I went to NYC consulate and they needed official transcripts from my university, so make sure you have those on hand. I also had to fill out an application and pay $45. Once you apply, you can have you visa in your hand the next day.

6. Pack your bags and go! For your sake, I hope obtaining your visa is a lot easier than it was for me! :)

My Reverse Culture Shock: 18 Months Later

I've been back in the states for about a year and a half and I never dreamed I would miss Korea as much as I do. I'm sure some of you who have lived abroad have heard of the term "reverse culture shock," and I believe I am still experiencing this phenomena. Also referred to as Havershock, some symptoms include nostalgia, disappointment that nothing appears to have changed, and being let down by the lack of interest of others. These are the symptoms I feel most relate to me most.

Nostalgia: I reminisce about Korea quite often, especially when talking to friends who I met while living there. I think about the people I met, my students, the trips I took, the food that only ajummas really know how to make (my kimchi fried rice is ok, but nothing compared to what they can do!), and just all the fun times I had there. Yes, I did have some stressful times, but the good times totally outweigh the bad.

Disappointment that nothing appears to have changed: I don't know what I expected when I came home, but I found that I was a completely different person while everyone and everything was pretty much the same. I found that I wanted to go out and try new things, whereas most people here were fine with doing the same ol stuff all the time. The same old bar, the same food, the same old everything. I know I sound like a stuck up bitch right now...I'm not saying doing the same things is bad. In fact, I enjoyed those things when I got home because I missed them. I just feel like people get too comfy with their everyday lives and I don't see myself being happy with that for myself.

Lack of interest of others: Now this one kinda makes me sad. I thought that people would be interested in my stories of traveling abroad and seeing the world. Sadly, some just thought I was bragging and thought I saw myself as better than them. This really hurt me. All I wanted to do was bring my 2 lives together. I talk about the times I had while living overseas and friends and family still mock me with things like "This one time in Korea..." and "Well, in Korea they..." Ok, I get it! I talk about Korea...A LOT! But who wouldn't talk about a place that was such a major part of their life for 2 friggin years?? Excuse me for wanting to share those experiences with people I love.

I missed being home while in Korea and now I'm home and miss being in Korea. I will be going back in about a week and I know I will miss this place like mad. I'll miss Saturday night karaoke, impromptu family get togethers, bonfires, singing Rob Zombie, hanging out on the porch with my cousin, all the damn cute kids in this family, trips with the girls, and so much more. And even though my loved ones don't understand my need to travel and live abroad, I know I have their love and support no matter where I am in this world...and I will miss all of them a ton!
Love you all!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Philippines!!!

Thanks to the idiot who stole my wallet last summer, I didn't get to go anywhere for vacation. This year I decided to go big...and alone. I had been super stressed with work and being homesick, I needed to go somewhere where I could just relax and not worry about anyone else having a good time. My friend Emily (O.G.) went to this awesome resort in the Philippines with her mom last February and had a great time. I decided to check out the website, and it looked like the perfect place for me to I booked a trip for a week at Sangat Island. I flew to Manila and then had to fly to the island of Coron. Now, there are about 7,000 islands in the Philippines. When I got to immigration, the officer had no idea where I was going haha. I then got on the smallest plane ever for the 30 minute flight to the island. I got to the airport, if you could call it that lol. It had 2 gates: This little guy welcomed us all to the airport: When I got to the island, I met a rep from the island and had to take a 30 minute car ride to the port. It was quite an interesting ride. We had to stop a couple times because there were animals in the road. The bridges were made from plywood and 2x4's. I thought I was going to die lol. Then I had a 35 minute boat ride to take. I was put on a boat with 3 people who work on the island. I was a bit nervous at this time...what the hell is going to happen to me? What kind of situation did I get myself into? If I hadn't known someone who had been here before, I would have really been freaked out. Anyway, the water was pretty choppy and apparently there was a storm coming, so I was forced to wear this: I finally got to the island and was brought to my room, which was AMAZING. You walked out the door and there was the beach.

I also had a little friend who came to visit on occasion. The island was beautiful. I mostly spent the days relaxing, but I did go on a snorkeling trip one day. I joined a wonderful family on this trip. They were very kind and treated me like a family member. We stopped at 5 different islands to go snorkeling. I've heard people describe crystal clear ocean water, but seeing it for yourself is indescribable. I also did some sea kayaking. It's quite enjoyable! Sadly, all good things must come to an end, including this fantastic vacation. I had an amazing time and felt refreshed and ready to get back to work...yeah right!

OH! I almost forgot my favorite photos!

Love you all!