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!
When I first arrived in Australia, they told us at our International Students trip that we would experience emotions on the "W Curve". Which, initially, relieved me because I realized I wasn't the only one that was having adjustment issues. I have a tendency of putting up a front like everything is okay and I'm having the time of my life at all times. Not the case when I first arrived, which I have already explained. But anyway, Got through the culture shock and have been going through the recovery the last week or so. Nathaniel finally got here so I'm sure that was part of it. But even if he wasn't here, although I'm obviously glad he is, I think I still would be okay.
Anyway, I moved out of my sh*thole of a house, pardon my language. You know how I said before that the hard part was finding someone to fill my room? Wrong (again). The hardest part was finding a place for both me and Nate to live in. I decided I wanted to be closer to the city & basically just out of the middle of nowhere (AKA Burwood). So we went through the grueling process of searching for places and calling/texting/emailing dozens and dozens of people. We finally found a place that was a tad bit expensive, and when I say a tad bit, I mean extremely and ridiculously expensive, yet BEAUTIFUL place in Hawthorn. It's an amazing location right by all these shops and restaurants and bars and shopping and EVERYTHING. It's about 15 minutes to Deakin and only a 10 minute express train ride to the city. MONEY. (Literally, a LOT of money hah.) But it was soo worth it so we decided to go for it. If we both decided to do housing separately, we'd each be paying more, so it's really not that big of a deal that I'm paying almost as much a WEEK as I did for a MONTH of rent at my old place in San Diego. It's on the 4th floor at the top of the building, has a huge balcony/patio, the whole place is huge & clean and new and beautifullll.
So we moved in and that was yet another arduous process. We had to take multiple trips to the new place from my old place via TRAM and lug all of our luggage on and off and walked miles and miles (okay, Nate did most of the carrying). And so the last 2 days have been spent making our room a room. Because, oh yeah - this room wasn't furnished either. So we made due with an air mattress for the first couple of nights and then decided to finally hit up Ikea - yup, they have it here too - and break the bank a little bit. We didn't do half bad either. I feel like a broke college kid all over again:) We also had a great time lugging back a bed (in a box of course because it's Ikea. But it's stil a bed, which is very heavy) and a bedside table along with other random stuff.
I also opened up a bank account here finally (& a joint bank account w/ Nate - yikes! Our bank teller thought it was very exciting that it was our first time opening a joint account together. OOOH, and the savings accounts here give you 5.5% interest. RIDIC. If you ever come here, get an account where you can withdraw or transfer all of your money from your home country to Australia and just keep everything in your savings so you can earn interest). We've finally cooked some real meals for ourselves and have groceries in the fridge for the first time in months. This is also the first time in 3 months that I've had a real closet and a real room. I've been moving from San Diego to the bay to Sacramento to Vegas back to San Diego to Australia and had roughly 14 different residencies all together. So it feels nice to finally not live out of a suitcase.
A few great discoveries I've learned the last couple days: Australia has Groupon! They also have Yelp, which is equally as exciting! We found a couple good asian restaurants and markets that were pretty cheap (the only cheap thing we've found in Australia). We walked around the city yesterday for the first time and discovered how HUGE it is and amazingly beautiful as well. & Nate made some delicious rootbeer floats with Captain Morgan, A&W & cookies 'n cream ice cream - BOMB:)