It has been three weeks and I can safely say that I LOVE my job. I don't think I've ever been able to say that before. Not that serving food and cocktails to needy, rude people didn't just tickle my fancy - but this job is a wee bit better :)
Like I said before, my students are absolutely crazy, often out of control and usually drive me nuts - but there's just something completely fulfilling about teaching. I'm not going to get all "Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul" and say that there have been so many moments where I felt like I have inspired students or that I've made such a huge difference in their lives at all, but teaching is just fun. When the students aren't being disrespectful or rowdy, they actual listen to you and you get to call the shots. It's nice being in charge. But obviously it's more than that - it's just fun talking with the students, learning about their culture and even thinking up lesson plans and games to play is kind of exciting. Yeah, I know it's only been three weeks, but I hear the first month is the hardest anyway.
Getting settled with things OUTSIDE the job, however, has not been a picnic. Getting a bank account, a cell phone, internet at home & a bus pass all seem like impossible feats when you get here. You have to get this "ARC" card which stands for Alien Registration (Card?) and you have to get this first before you get anything else. But to get your ARC, you first have to get a medical check. So after they finished attaching strange clamps on me and thinking that I was about to wake up in an ice bath with a missing kidney, I was cleared and able to go to the Immigration Office for my ARC.
You have to have someone Korean go with you everywhere because most people don't speak English so my co-teacher brought me everywhere, thank God. So after sitting in the Immigration Office waiting room (which rivaled DMV wait times), I got a temp card while I wait for my real one to come (which takes 3 weeks. If you ever come here - make sure you get this temp card on the spot because it has your ARC # which is just as good as the card).
After that, I was able to FINALLY open my bank account! Which meant I also got my flight & settlement allowance! (Thank God because I was down to about 30,000 won. & unfortunately, that's only about $30). I also was able to sign up for a cell phone contract the other day. So long are the days of desperately searching for open WiFi hotspots to figure out where the bus has left me stranded because I'll actually be able to use 3G on my iPhone :) Thank you baby Jesus!
So I don't know if I've mentioned, but Nate and I have separate places. His place is ginormous - and when I say ginormous, it's about the smallest one bedroom apartment you'd find in The States, but with a pretty big bedroom. Regardless, it's probably bigger than most places in this country. My flat is tiny but I love it. Minus the finicky heater, old school internet (no wireless interent so I'm using an "ethernet cable" - when is the last time you've ever even said "ethernet cable"?) and questionable closet.
Have I mentioned that Korean heaters are super duper genius inventions that the US needs to adopt immediately? They aren't normal heaters that blow out warm air - they have water pipes that run underneath the floorboards (everyone has hard(wood?) floors) and when you turn your heater on, hot water goes through them so your floor heats up and keeps your toes super toasty. I've never loved sitting/laying on the floors so much. They're super efficient though, and keep your place warm a long time.
My "closet" is in this little outside area which isn't outside, but it's just 0 degrees for some reason. It's the section of my place that has the washing machine (I think every place here has its own washing machine, which would be more amazing if it was accompanied by a drying machine - but beggars can't be choosers) and there's a door that opens up to my tiny closet. The tenant before said that she wouldn't put clothes out there because they would always stay damp so for now, I have a ghetto clothes rack in my room that I'm soon to Pinterest into something fabulous. I wanted to avoid putting pictures up of my flat because it's super boring, but I will anyway on my next post and then I'll hopefully have some amazing "After (post-Pinteresting) Photos" to add later.
The Asian Ways (the strange and sometimes brilliant ways of Koreans):
- Everyone wears slippers to school - students AND teachers. Everyone wears their normal shoes but then changes into slippers inside
- Needless to say, everyone also takes their shoes off inside homes. & even some restaurants as well
- Everyone brushes their teeth at school after lunch - this may be in part to the mass amounts of kimchi consumed
- It's not uncommon to sit on the floor in a lot of Korean restaurants
- Students will often bring the teacher's things (computer, notebook, etc) to and from class for them from the teacher's office
- Most apartments/flats here are key-less so everyone just has a code to unlock their door
- Disposing of trash, recycling & "food waste" is absolutely ridiculous (yes, that means you have to separate your food waste from your garbage) You have to pay for special trash bags and then everyone just piles them up outside and somebody supposedly picks it up every day (I'm not convinced). You also have to purchase special "food waste" containers & then also buy special "chips" (& not like potato chips - like little SD-card-sized chips) at the market to be able to get your food waste picked up. This is not a brilliant method, in my opinion.
- Kids here are obscenely busy. After 8 hours of normal school, they often go to another school. High school kids aren't home until around 11pm.
- [Some of] My kids are GENIUSES. This kid started paying with Rubik's cubes 2 months ago.
I made the mistake of continuing to watch Rubik's Cube videos after posting this and then my kid didn't seem as impressive, but I've definitely never met any other 14 year old who can even solve a Rubik's Cube, let alone in a minute & 10 seconds! I'm on the hunt for a prodigy violinist next ;)
Finishing the Grueling Paperwork:
So if you have read any of my previous posts about applying, you know that this hasn't been the easiest process, to say the least. My life has become a constant example of Murphy's Law but against all odds, I have successfully arrived here in Korea and will be starting work on Monday! But I'll get to that later.
After my whole "setback
" that I wrote about before (getting put behind 6 weeks because my fingerprints for my FBI criminal background check were "too low of quality") I got my fingerprint done again at the police station (WAY more legit). I sent my prints back to the FBI and included a handwritten letter begging whoever read it to PLEASE try to process them as quickly as possible and that my job and essentially, future, depended on it. So maybe the FBI happened to be in their slow season or something, but I'd like to think that someone
had a heart and sped the process up a bit because 3 weeks later, my background check was in the mail!
So long story short, I emailed my agency, Footprints, telling them that I had all my documents and that I could pretty much start as soon as possible if a position became available - and what do you know, the next day, they emailed me back saying that there was a position in the same group as Nate (by the way, Nate was all set to go & would be leaving mid February to do orientation and then start teaching on March 4th).
Moral of the story? Stay hopeful and positive that things can turn around because it's always possible! Granted, I spent a good amount of time sulking and wallowing because I thought I hit a dead end - but I at least continued with the entire application process and it ended up working out! So thank you to my mystery hero at the FBI who helped me, you're a LIFESAVER!
So here it is future English teachers, EVERYTHING you'll need in order to get your visa and finally board that plane to your next adventure:
Click HERE to be redirected to my new site - First For Everything - for information on all documents needed, booking a flight and packing.
A Few Things I Miss AlreadY:
- Target - mainly the overall concept of going to one, single store and purchasing everything you will EVER need.
- Vegetables - I don't know if it's not in season right now or WHAT, but the vegetables here are limited.
- ANYTHING IN ENGLISH: Imagine going to a completely different city with no car, no map, no internet and essentially, no CLUE, whatsoever. One can use their basic instincts and common sense to navigate the town and find a shopping outlet or bar. Or you know, they can ask a nice-enough looking civilian for directions. Here in my new home, barely anybody speaks a lick of English and there are a lot LESS signs and words overall in my native language than I had hoped for. It has been an adventure in itself trying to figure out public transportation and interpret these crazy hieroglyphics to find a store that sells a curling iron (which has been unsuccessful, by the way).
- Internet on the Reg - need I say more?
- Soft Mattresses - Apparently, Koreans enjoy sleeping on stiff boards (with no fitted sheets).
- & of course, my Friends & Family. Miss & love you all!
This is a list of things we needed to get and how much it cost:
Getting things NOTARIZED with an APOSTILLE, TEFL online course & The Application:
For more information, please click HERE
to be redirected to my new site, First For Everything.
For some reason, my fingerprints are extremely faint. Apparently it's genetic. That, or I burned them all off after serving in a restaurant for however many years. So I said that it takes the FBI around 6 weeks to get our criminal background checks after we send them our fingerprints. Well about 6 weeks after sending them (& also, the SAME DAY that I got offered a teaching position in Ulsan, Korea), I get an envelope in the mail with the worst possible news: The quality of your fingerprints is too low. Please resubmit new fingerprints.
So I'm sure you can do the math. Mid-November + 6ish weeks = Beginning of January = Just in time to get my background check sorted to start my new job. Mid-January + 6ish weeks = too late to take the job in Korea. All because of my non-existant fingerprints. I called the FBI and they said that my new prints can't be expedited and that they treat every request as a new request. And there's pretty much NO arguing/reasoning with the FBI. I got my prints redone today at a Police Station (I originally got them done at a UPS -- don't EVER get them done at a UPS for 2 reasons. a) This situation. b) They use actual ink, which can smudge, whereas police stations use these computers where you put your fingers on this machine and the computer records them, makes sure that they're legible & then prints them onto the cards as if they're ink). I informed the agency of my setback and they said that I won't be able to go in February but to try for the "last minute positions".
So what have I learned here? Well there is absolutely no silver lining whatsoever, and the only thing I've learned is to not get fingerprints done at a UPS. Not exactly the fairy tale, love story, lesson-learning, epiphany-reaching kind of story. Sorry.
Alright, let me try again.... I have learned that you can plan everything out exactly and do everything right but sometimes that's still not enough. But that doesn't mean you should give up trying or cry for a week straight (although crying for a day straight is absolutely acceptable). It's just one of life's hits that you'll look back on later and think, "I can't believe I came from there to where I am now". So now I've just gotta figure out the future "where I am now" part. It's still possible to go, even if I have to wait a few months or even a year. Everything eventually works out.
& on a last note: I hate you, UPS. That's all.
One of the my absolute favorite parts of Melbourne that I can NOT get enough of is the street art. Graffiti has such a negative connotation - unless you live in Melbourne where it is a widely accepted form of expression and one of the most popular and creative forms of art. I realized today how precious this type of art is when I walked down one of the most notorious graffiti laneways, Hosier Lane. This street is across from the Atrium entrance of Federation Square and has some of the city's best street art.
The last time I was here was a few months ago. As I walked down the alley way, it was like it was the first time I had ever seen it - and then I realized that's because essentially, it was the first time ever seeing it. Most street art gets painted over eventually - which makes sense since it's public domain. As tragic and senseless as this concept of painting over & defacing art seemed at first, I began to realize that it was all part of this urban culture. It makes the street art of Melbourne that much more exquisite - that it is ever changing. You can essentially never walk down the same laneway twice because there is always different artwork to see. It makes the city a permanent [not-so-blank] canvas that artists can continue to create amazing things out of.
Hosier Lane 19 March 2012
Hosier Lane 21 September 2012
Had I known at the time that I had already photographed this laneway, I would have attempted to get the same exact angle/shot so I could compare. There's always next time:)
Some of my Favorite Street Art I've Come Across:
This laneways is opposite of David Jones
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The Atrium from Hosier Lane
If only I knew what bar this was taken at...
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Bike trail along the river between Bridge Rd and Victoria Victoria St
Brunswick Street Laneways
Chapel Street Laneways
*buY a chocolate hair dryer --- that really bothered me too.
I actually didn't end up taking the job at the sports marketing agency. I thought long and hard about it and decided that it was too much of a commitment to be getting paid ZERO dollars to do training for like, 4 weeks. Luckily, I had an interview the following day (after getting offered the 1st job) at this company, World Series Paintball.
So the job posting doesn't say much and so I go in and of course, it's another sales gig. This one however, seemed like a lot less training/commitment and so I thought, what the hell - let's give it a shot. So I had an "observation/job shadow" thing last Friday for World Series. Not what I expected. They go around to industrial areas mainly (sometimes to Unis as well) and try to sell them these "Gold Pass" paintball tickets. Which, you could argue is a scam, but it's actually a pretty good deal. To sum it up, we promote these "$5 tickets" for "everything you need to get you started" (AKA padded suit, gun, mask, entry & 100 paintballs) - which would actually be a good deal if you didn't HAVE to purchase 200 more paintballs when you got there for $40. So no, it's not $5 to go paintballing, it's $45 if you're actually wanting to shoot your gun. And if you were to go there without the "Gold Pass", it's $50 for the same thing (minus the extra hundred paint balls). So it's still kind of a good deal. But not really.
Anyway, I think I've been talking about this "deal" so many times this week that I keep going on about it and can't think about anything else. So yeah, we go around to industrial areas and get rejected dozens and dozens of times. I didn't do terribly for my first week. But to sum it up - I got up at 6am every morning to be at the office by 745, have an hour long meeting, work from 10am-530/6pm and not get home until 7. Every day. Well every week day anyway. I didn't do amazing either. I said I didn't do terrible, but I also didn't do amazing. These girls do a damn good job selling to random old men and what not, but I, on the other hand, ended up making a total of $164 all week. And that's including the commission from the "Ten Pack" Nate & I purchased, so really I only made $129. Did I mention that this job is commission based only? As in NO base wage AT ALL? As in I made one hundred and twenty nine dollars working over 40 hours. That's $3.25 an hour. I think Asian child laborers make more than that.
Surprisingly, the money issue was not the reason my life as a sales rep only lasted 4 days. I could've gotten a lot better at it and I could've made a lot of money. The girls there make a minimum of $800 a week. My boss, who still goes around selling Mon-Fri makes over 150k a year. Granted she gets more commission than we do and also makes commission off our sales as well.
I personally couldn't do it anymore because I am just not cut out for it. I am a firm believer in the fact that you can only truly be successful at something if you're passionate about it and love it. I didn't love it. I borderline HATED it. I love chatting with people and I spent most of this job making random conversation with people about anything NOT paintball (while also NOT making money). I talked to this guy yesterday for 40 minutes, half the time about what I was going to do about this job I hated. I don't feel comfortable trying to sell something that people don't want, need or will ever even use. I hear myself "pitching my sale" to them and I can hear how fake and insincere I sound. Because I don't care if these people go paintballing or not. Granted in restaurants, I don't really care what people eat, but I at least can give people a good experience while getting food in the restaurant they CHOSE to come eat in.
Bottom line, I don't have the drive to be a good sales rep like those other girls. They did an amazing job and made ridiculous amounts of money, but it's not for me. I hated going into company after company with signs on their doors saying "No Sales Rep/Hawkers/Canvassers" (all synonymous to ME). Most people were nice about it anyway but still, 98% of people I talked to said no to me. And I was even okay with getting all the "no's", I just hated bothering people so much.
So that is my life as a Sales Rep. Four days total. And now I'm left with a sprained foot (we would walk miiiiles and miiiiiles everyyyy day. I made poor judgement about what shoes to wear), only $129, a week of my life gone, one more job added to my list and another career path I can cross off. I'm okay with it. Yes, I've always been one to jump around jobs, but there's no point being miserable in a job at my age.
A reminder for myself.
So I've been back in Australia a week now. Spent a glorious weekend doing absolutely nothing but hang out with the boy, watch movies (including the Dark Knight Rises for the 2nd time), sleep and relax. Come Monday, Nate had to go to work and I was left with nothing to do, seeing as how my cafe job would have to wait another week since they had already made the schedule (which didn't include me). I decide to apply for a few jobs since I'm going to have to pay for SE Asia somehow.
I decided to go for the promotions jobs since they're rather easy, flexible and pay decent. I applied for three and the next day, I got a call back asking if I wanted to come in for an interview that day. At the time, I was actually out trying to find Nathaniel his birthday present. His birthday isn't until the 22nd this month but I decided it would be a fabulousss idea to get us some bikes so we can go bike riding! Although this plan doesn't seem super brilliant right now, as I look at the weather forecast and it's supposed to rain the rest of the week. Like it does everyy week.
Anyway, I go on gumtree.com and find tons of bikes around the price that I want. Yes, I'm getting my boyfriend a used bike for his birthday. Sounds pretty lame, but the idea is that we'll go on lots of fun bike rides together - that is, if the rain EVER stops. So my one problem - actually one of my MANY problems, is that I do not have a car. So my idea is that I get a bike within about 10km of my house so I can just ride it back home. The first place I go - and yes, this blog is now ending up being about my bicycle hunt rather than my "big kid job" - I end up really liking the bike and so I buy it. It fits me fine and if the seat is raised, it will fit Nate too, so I figure it's a good bike to start with. So I pay for the bike and was meaning to ask this girl - or any person for that matter - if I'm supposed to be wearing a helmet. I don't know if that's a stupid question, all I know is that in California, you don't need to wear a helmet when you ride your bike. In Hawaii, you don't even need to wear a helmet when you ride a motorcycle (random, I know).
So I text my friend Ash and ask him if I need to wear one. No response. I jump on the bike and see an older guy riding his bike and he's wearing a helmet - granted he's also wearing super short bike shorts with a matching shirt and helmet, so I figure this guy is just super hardcore. A minute later, I see another guy riding his bike without a helmet, so I'm like, wooo I'm in the clear! So I'm cruising down the street, headphones in, jamming to my music, thinking about how much I looove riding bikes and how free I feel and how it's going to be soooo awesome being able to ride my bike everywhere and then of course - I look over my right shoulder and I'm legit getting pulled over by the cops. Of course.
"Do you have some ID on you?" he asks. "Am I doing something wrong?" "Do you think you're doing something wrong?" "Am I supposed to be wearing a helmet?" And at this point, the cops are just laughing at me. Obviously I'm not from around here. I explain that I literally had just gotten the bike 5 minutes ago and that in California you don't need to wear helmets, etc etc. They didn't ticket me or anything (luckily). I just couldn't believe I got pulled over within MINUTES.
Anyway, I got one bike down, one more to go! So actually, as I was about to ride away, right after I texted Ash, is when this sports marketing agency called me about coming in for an interview that day. So I went in a few hours later and things went really well. There were a ton of people in there so I wasn't too hopeful I would get a call back, but a few hours later, they called me asking if I would come in the next day - today. They had explained that it was a sales job and that we represented a lot of major sports clubs in Australia, such as the AFL (Australian Football League), Special Olympics and so on.
Today, I went in and along with a couple interviews, actually went and job shadowed them. Didn't really seem like my kind of thing, unfortunately. Sales has never super interested me. We went back to the office and I spoke with another employee and she explained how the entire company works. Overall, there's a LOT of room for growth and you can do really well if you try hard and are motivated. And I actually think it's something I can do and be good at.
Unfortunately, this isn't the ideal job to get when I only have two months here until I start traveling for a month and then go back to The States. And they actually offered me the job at the end of all my interviews. I had a feeling I might get it because I was getting along with everybody I had met, and in my head, I said if they offered me the job, I would tell them I would have to think about it first. Of course when it actually happened and she excitedly offered me the job, I just said "awesome, sounds great!" which could definitely (and was definitely) interpreted as an acceptance.
So now here are my issues: Do I take a job where I won't be able to make a lot of money right away (when I'm trying to save money right now for traveling)? That also has reallyyy long hours? But it will definitely pay well in the future. But if I go home, then there won't be a "future" and then 2 months could potentially be wasted. Granted, I'll probably learn a lot, but it's not really fair to me or the company to spend two months here to just quit after not even getting anywhere. And so if I decide NOT to go home, then that means...I won't be going home. And I DO want to go home. I have friends visiting for a month in December that I'm supposed to show around California. And that was just always the plan - to go home for the holidays. But if I stay, it could turn into a really good job because it IS a really good opportunity. But then Nate's visa expires in March and he might not be able to stay in Australia either way. And also, am I really ready to have a big kid job? I still wanted to keep traveling. i wanted to go teach English in Italy or Spain or somewhere in Europe. I don't know if I'm ready for real responsibilities. But I DON'T want to be working at random cafes/restaurant the rest of my life. And working at a million different restaurants doesn't exactly improve my resume.
Decisions, decisions. Training starts on Monday so I have a few days to figure it out. To grow up or not to grow up...
1) If you don't like how something is: change it or change the way you look at it.
2) Facebooking while abroad is a great way to make you sad and miss everybody
3) You can't rely on people that are 15,000 miles away to make you feel better. Be a big kid and rely on yourself.