Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Flight booked, check.

Flight 1Sunday, September 12, 2010
Departure:07:15Portland, USA - Portland International
Arrival:09:00San Francisco, USA - San Francisco International, terminal 1
Airline:Korean Air KE6092
Aircraft:Canadair Regional Jet 700
Operated by Alaska Airlines
Fare Type:Super Saver/Economy Restricted
Baggage:2 piece(s) per traveller
Change of plane required. Time between flights = 3:10.
Flight 2Sunday, September 12, 2010
Departure:12:10San Francisco, USA - San Francisco International, terminal I
Arrival:17:00+1 day(s) Seoul, Korea (Republic of) - Incheon International
Airline:Korean Air KE8024
Aircraft:Boeing 747-400
Fare Type:Super Saver/Economy Restricted
Baggage:2 piece(s) per traveller

Monday, August 30, 2010

Why hello, S. Korea VISA.

 I have my VISA! I cannot believe it; the little sticker in my passport feels magical, its power being to make life changing experiences finally feel real!
The process of obtaining  my VISA went as follows:

1. Arrange an appointment/interview with the Korean Consulate in Seattle (2 weeks prior)

2. Travel to Seattle for interview. The task seemed daunting, but at least Seattle is a place worthy of visiting. Once I arrived at the address, I walked in the large glass doors of the enormous building. I saw elevators and stairs, but had no idea where to go from there. Luckily, I spotted a computer directory and found the Consulate on the 11th floor.

3. Check in with the assistant. I provided her with:
  • My VISA application
  • VISA checklist with issuance #
  • My passport, 1 passport photo 
  • 1 sealed transcript record
  • $45 for the VISA
  • $19.50 for a return envelope

      I knew I was there for an interview, but after paying for the VISA and envelope, I thought for a second that I was in the clear and ready to go home. Like I said, the thought lasted for just one second until the assistant handed me Visitor Badge #1. 

      4. Called in for an interview. The assistant pronounced my name correctly! Rarely am I ever called for anything with the proper pronunciation of my name, so that was pretty impressive. The assistant took me to a nicely furnished office and told me my interviewer would be with me in just a moment. The door shut behind her and I was alone. I looked outside and saw that the sky had turned a dark gray and all of a sudden I got really nervous. Until then, I had yet to think about what questions they might ask me. It seemed weird that I had gotten a job, but was being interviewed again. Quickly, I thought about some responses that I could provide for some generic questions I had seen people mention on Daves ESL Cafe forums in reference to their own consulate interviews. This took just about two minutes, and I was then left to scan the Korean language, history, and travel books lined up on book shelves that covered the walls. I kept thinking: "Sheeeet, what if I fail the interview. What if I've come all this way and I can't get the VISA I need to work in Korea? Then, what will I do with my life? There are no teaching jobs here!!!"

      5. Interview. After about 5 minutes, the interviewer joined me and urged me to move from the hard chair I had been sitting in to the comfy, leather couch. She sat on a leather chair diagonal to me. She was very friendly and made me feel at ease immediately, but it was clear she was also very serious about the interview. I was asked the following questions: 
      • Why do you want to teach in South Korea? 
      • What teaching experience do you have? 
      • What other work have you done? 
      • What makes you happy? 
      • What makes you sad? 
      • How will you teach English?
      I guess I was a little surprised by the intensity of the interview because I had heard from others that they were asked questions in a group setting and were responsible for only one or two. Regardless, I passed and the interviewer told said to me: "You have prefect English and will do very well. I just want you to make sure to  research how to teach English in Korea before you leave." OK, done!

      6. 2 days later, I received the passport with the VISA sticker in the mail. I was impressed with how quickly it came, as I had been told it might arrive in 2-3 days, but they were not sure because they were backed up with applicants.

      HORRAY! Parts of me wish I could leave for Korea now as opposed to 13 days, but then there is also the part of me that wants to say proper goodbyes to all those I love and will miss so very much, including this little guy:

      "Can I come, meow?"

      Sunday, August 15, 2010

      What if?

      Today a representative of EPIK called me. I didn't have reception so I missed the call, but in a message they informed me that they want to take me off the wait-list and place me at a public school in Busan. Busan sounds amazing, but I feel ready for Anyang. There is sort of an adjustment period that I've experienced even before leaving. It's difficult to explain, but essentially, I feel comfortable with my soon to be position with GEPIK and living in Anyang. Still, there are a million "what if" questions prancing throughout my head. What if being further south is safer? What if I'd be happier living near a beach? What if the people on the forums are right and the foreigner population in Anyang really is difficult to get along with? What if, what if, what if....AHHH!

      HERE is the best collection of Anyang photographs that I've found thus far.

      Wednesday, August 11, 2010

      Arrrrr, matey!

      So, I read on one of the numerous Daves ESL Cafe packing threads that it's a great idea to bring something "American" to give to your students on your first day of teaching. The author of the post mentioned that she handed out miniature flags to her students and that they loved them. Now that is just a little too "American" for me, but I recently discovered this pirate booty that also comes with markers for coloring at the local Goodwill. Since they are made of thinly sliced wood, they are super lightweight.
      I think I'll bring them with me. Pirates are sort of American, right? After all, our culture is obsessed with the modern day pirate.

      In other news, I finally received my VISA issuance number today. This means that I can now apply my VISA and then purchase my plane ticket for departure on 9/12. Holy cow, this is real.

      Monday, August 9, 2010

      Apostille, What?

      Upon starting this blog, I originally planned on outlining the application process step-by-step for anyone that might be interested in teaching English in South Korea. I have since decided against such a post. Partially because such steps can be found all over the web and vary greatly depending on various factors (Ie. public vs. private, recruiter vs. direct, current location, etc.), but mostly because, by doing that, I'd bore us both to tears.

      Instead, I will quickly address the part of the application process that proved to be the most confusing for myself, and that process would be that of obtaining apostilles on both the Criminal  Background Record and Diploma. And by quickly, I mean I am simply going to introduce you to photographs of a Notary and an Apostille, my reason being that there are instructions for receiving the apostille all over the web, but 1. they lack in visuals, leaving you thinking: "What the eff is an apostille?" and 2. they fail to differentiate between a notarization and an apostille and that you must receive the notary prior to the apostille, leading you to think: "What the eff is a Notary?"

      So, here they are:
      A Notary

      An Apostille

      I can't believe these two simple markings caused me such grief...

      Tuesday, August 3, 2010

      Island of Fantasy

      “Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” -Cesare Pavese

      As I plan for my departure to South Korea (on September 13th), I keep reminding myself that not all can be known before my arrival. There must be that element of discomfort or state of being "off balance" as I experience the unknown. It is in these opportunities that ones limits are truly tested, where one learns and from that knowledge, grows, and that one establishes an appreciation for a new culture. Packing lists and documents are important, but after that, I must set boundaries to prevent myself from being overly prepared.

      Meditating just above this so called "boundary," I've recently read a book titled Island of Fantasy: A Memoir of an English Teacher in Korea, by Shawn Matthews.

      I was drawn to the story, not necessarily to learn more about Korea, but to learn more about Shawn. During an online Korea browsing session months back, I came across his blog, which is absolutely amazing and has been web archived here and published here. A few clicks around and I soon learned that on May 26, 2006, Shawn took his life via jumping off his friend's apartment building in China. My only connection to Shawn is that I will soon be teaching English in Korea, yet for some reason I felt eerily drawn to his story. Two months after finding his blog, I still couldn't get him out of my head. So, this week I purchased his book and read it in just 3 days.

      In his memoir, Shawn is a personable, Radiohead loving, Koje-do English teacher. He deeply loves his cat, Clara, yearns for a loving relationship with a Korean girl, and has a worried mother and grandfather back home in New York. Unfortunately, he also works for an awful hagwon that hardly treats him with the respect he deserves.

      As I read Shawn's story, I felt like I was in Korea with him, like I could have easily been sitting at a bar with him and his friend Choi, drinking Cass beer and having a grand ol' time. On the surface, Shawn seems to make light of most situations or, as his recruiter might state, view "the glass half full." But then there are the numerous reference to jumping from high places that, myself as a reader, couldn't help but feel uncomfortable reading and wonder what the implications of these statements were.

      P. 21 "Unable to cope, she'll jump off a tall building. Sure, hopeful thinking, but it was me who hurt." -in reference to an ex girlfriend in the states
      P. 22 "'I wouldn't care if that damn cat jumps off the balcony and never comes back.'" -his grandfather says, obviously bluffing, about their cat
      P. 155 "Forget the exit, I though; I'll just jump out the window." -in reference to escaping an embarrassing doctors exam in Korea

      Obviously I do not know Shawn personally, but in reading his book, his words and wonderful writing ability bring his story to life and make it simply impossible to believe that he is no longer with us. His book reinforced my goal in not over thinking/planning for this trip. He left for Korea just one week after securing a job. In Korea, he explored without set plans, made himself available for unique relationships, and added humor wherever needed. I genuinely wish that I could have met Shawn Matthews.

      My thoughts and condolences go to his family.

      Next I will read Shawn and I, Chapter 1, by friend, Jake Harding.

      Koje-do Sunrise III