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! 
 
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Didn't someone say the best things in life are free?
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Amazing scenery in Fiji & Australia

For more, visit my new blog :)

 
One look at my iPhone weather app and I knew that this rare occasion of beautiful weather MUST be spent outdoors. The boyfriend’s mother is also visiting so this doubled as an excuse to make the trip to Phillip Island for the first time since moving to Melbourne.
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Located about 140km south of Melbourne, Phillip Island is a popular tourist destination, most notably known for the “Penguin Parade”. This unique experience allows visitors to watch the famous “Little Penguins” (AKA the smallest species of penguins standing at 33cm tall and the only penguins native to Australia) waddle ashore from the ocean, dart across the beach and wander into their burrow homes.

Photography/filming was strictly prohibited at the Penguin Parade but this is a short clip of the Little Penguins eating at the Melbourne Zoo!
We, of course, had to plan this trip out to fit our spontaneity, budget and time limitations. Spontaneity equaled expensive accommodation because of last minute planning, which didn’t agree with our budget. Work commitments also didn’t allow us to stay longer than one night but any kind of public transportation would take hours. Solution? Rental car! Goodbye $250 accommodation for ONE night and 32038413-hour-long public transportation and helloooo $47 rental car! (Thank you Europcar Rentals!) This would allow us to drive there and back in one day at 2 hours each way.

Since the Penguin Parade is shortly after sunset (the Little Penguins have to wait for it to get dark to make it more difficult for predators to catch them), we started our day off hiking Cape Woolamai. This 3 hour (including time for photo opps plus appreciation of natural phenomenon’s), 5.5km hike brought us to a spectacular view of Phillip Island and The Pinnacles (bottom, left photo), as well as to the highest point on Cape Woolamai. For people that love hiking, this was definitely worthwhile, although not very challenging. If you’re in for a good walk and a breathtaking view of natural rock formations, then this is a must. If you’re looking for a difficult and dangerous adventure, then well, I heard you can climb these crazy steep rocks. 
After dinner, we headed for the Penguin Parade. We debated getting the “Penguin Plus” seats, which seated you in the very front, but were perfectly happy with our general admission tickets which allowed us a good view to watch our adorable little blue friends scurry across the sand in groups of about 20-25 and up towards their homes. The Boardwalk, or walkways back up to the main building, was the best part. We got as close as possible to the little guys in their natural environment, saw them interact, sit on their eggs and heard a little too much of their “mating” sounds (September is apparently mating season).

We also got to learn “heaps” about Little Penguins. While out at sea, they eat HALF of their body weight every day. During incubation periods, the male and female take turns sitting on the eggs (usually 1 or 2) and switch off every 3-4 days. Since they eat so much (imagine eating 50+ pounds of pizza every day…yummm), they are able to hang out for those few days while their spouse swims about. This conservation center also overturned the myth that penguins mate for life. They actually have a 17% divorce rate and often find new hubbys/wives every year due to divorce & mortality rate.

Tips?

Get there at least an hour early to get good seats! This was probably the main advantage of the Penguin Plus tickets – they were lead to the front right before sunset to avoid sitting in the cold for an hour/hour & a half. But the difference of tickets: GA=$22 // PP=$44
 - One thing that might make a difference for you is the fact that they are a not-for-profit organization so all proceeds go to the penguins:)

Do NOT bring food – I witnessed one of the dozens of crazy, ravenous sea gulls land on my boyfriend’s head and steal pizza out of his mouth. Seriously. This was the LEAST I have ever enjoyed eating pizza, having to guard it from hovering, fearless birds. They strictly prohibit photography inside/on the beach and as much as I wanted to photograph the penguins, capturing the moment where a bird steals my boyfriend’s pizza definitely takes the cake.
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End of our hike:)
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I was desperately wishing there was one underneath our car.. (no luck)
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Watching the surfer's at Woolamai Beach
 
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So after my span of seemingly “soul-searching” kinds of entries, I deemed it necessary to fiiinally actually write about you know, living in Australia and all. And so don’t worry, this is a TRAVEL entry, not a life entry (thank God, I know).

I have obviously been struggling with quite a few things in life right now (yes, I realize this is already starting to sound like a LIFE entry, promise it’s not…not completely anyway), and so here is a list of the ongoing BATTLES I have with this country. (I still love you Australia, don’t worry)

Public Transportation:

There are pros and cons to everything. I thought that the good outweighed the bad in this area, but I am increasingly despising public transportation a little bit more every time the tram is late (which is several times a day).

I am honestly almost impressed at how the Trams & Trains know me so well. And when I say “know me”, I mean HATE me. Or how it bases its being on Murphy’s Law. How can it possibly know that I need to go to an interview across town, so it makes sure the times on the internet are wrong? And then of course, when I get to the tram stop 2 minutes late, the tram was on time and I had missed it. When EVERY single other tram I wait for, is always AT LEAST 3-5 minutes late. You can almost rely on it (unless you’re trying to make it to an interview of course).

The best solution I have come up with for this problem, is to not check times. Always go extra early and more often than not, you end up waiting less than you would if you had prepared and checked the times online before (because like I said, they’re often wrong, and the trams are always late anyway). This unfortunately will not work after about, 7 or 8 o clock when you decide to go out in the city to get drinks because the trams don’t come as often (perhaps every half hour or so). So you may end up waiting longer than you would if you had planned it. Fortunately, you’re usually somewhat inebriated in this situation so waiting isn’t a huge issue. 

As frustrating as it may be, I still enjoy the economically sound (AKA cheapness) and peacefulness of riding on public transportation. There’s no better time to gather your thoughts and relax. Unless you, like me, have a tendency of falling asleep in any kind of moving vehicles and have had to be woken up by the driver on multiple occasions because you’ve reached the last stop. On the last tram of the night. 
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Escuela:

So school has never been my strong point. I guess that’s not really true. In elementary school I was a real “star”. Unfortunately, “uni” involves a tad bit more effort and focus, that I just don’t seem to be able to muster. So I thought that I had senioritis last semester but I didn’t even KNOW what senioritis was until this semester. Granted, these classes don’t actually count for anything because I’m graduating regardless, so I have a good excuse for lacking motivation. However, it’s too bad because these classes can be quite interesting. When I do decide to go.

Other than the battle of trying to even make it to classes, I also have a little bit of difficulty keeping up in one of my classes: Contemporary Australian Politics. When I began the class, I had no idea what the Australian Political system was like AT ALL, but that's not even the problem. It’s actually their viewpoints and perspectives that I have trouble with, because sometimes it’s just so completely different to how we think in The States.

For example, we talked about Australia’s Welfare system. Each class, a few people come to class prepared to debate certain topics. Yesterday we talked about Welfare and “Mutual Obligation”, which in short, is just certain things people that are receiving Welfare need to do in return. Such as getting a college education or doing specific types of community service, regardless if it’s related to “what you want to do in life”. So I kid you not, but students were legitimately saying that these people, who the government was GIVING money to, shouldn’t have to do anything in return. And this just BLOWS my mind because I’m thinking, why should tax payers have to pay for the living costs of lazy individuals? And I mean, if you know me at all, I am in no way conservative/Republican/right-winged AT ALL. I have an almost socialist view of how I would want our society to be.

But anyway, students were arguing for these teen moms and unemployed people – who mind you, aren’t necessarily from poor families and neighborhoods. We’re talking about your normal every-day people who just don’t want to work. It’s NOT hard to get welfare in this country. My teacher admittedly went on about how he got welfare when he was younger because it was so easy to get and you could literally live off of it fairly well. We’re not talking food-stamps here. These people get decent checks in the mail of amounts that people in The States don’t get for actually doing labor and working.

And so they’re arguing about how the Australian government is acting as a dictator by saying these teen-mom-welfare-receiving individuals need to get an education (which they will PAY for) because if someone doesn’t want to go to college, then they shouldn’t be forced to. I thought OUR government babied us, but it turns out that we’re quite harsh. (Granted we have a very high poverty and unemployment rate) but people shouldn’t just be GIVEN money and so much support by hard working tax payers because they don’t feel like working at a job that “isn’t what they want to do”. Tony Abbott, the Liberal Party leader (and “Liberal” to Australians means Republic basically), named these people “job snobs”. There are people here that could get a job and are qualified for jobs, but they don’t want to get work because it’s not the “right job” for them and are waiting around for the right one. And THESE are the people who are receiving welfare. Obviously there are people in need that are receiving it as well, but far too many people in this country get a free ride. There’s a “high unemployment rate” (which to them is about 5%) & also a shortage of skilled labour in many occupations (http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/stories/s27562.htm). (I actually have to write a paper about Welfare and I decided not to because I figured I was going to fail the class anyway. And yet here I am, quoting politicians and citing sources).

Anyway, like I said, these are the battles I’m dealing with. Like shutting my mouth during the class debate so people didn’t think all Americans are heartless. Since you know, these people are just “lost and confused and don’t know what they want to do in life”. Umm yes, I can relate, yet I’m still working two jobs and I’m not even a citizen of this country. But like I said, their perspectives are just so different. Australia is so much more laid-back and relaxed and I suppose, much nicer (as in the opposite of mean), than America. And maybe this kind of perspective has given them an advantage. I mean, it’s given them a LOT lower of an unemployment rate so I guess they did SOMETHING right. In the States if the same issues were brought up, our government would laugh at them and would definitely NOT give them any money just because they haven't found that right job that suited them. But then again, America is a power-hungry country with a high poverty/unemployment rate that can't afford to give any money away because we spent all our money on the war. (Still love you though, US!) So I guess it's all about perspective on which of these two countries is better off. And in what sense "better off" would mean.

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Work:

So it seems fairly hypocritical that I am going to complain about work right after that whole welfare shpeal…schpeal? However you spell that word…but at LEAST I have a job. Although I don’t think this country would give me welfare checks regardless, so maybe I’m just biased ha. Anyway, I’m struggling with this whole “not-tipping” concept. Right, it’s great when I go out to bars and restaurants and the price on the menu is what I’ll ACTUALLY be paying, and not 30% more (tax + tip). But when I’m on the other side of it, NOT receiving tips, it’s quite a bust.

I’ve worked in the serving/restaurant industry for what, 7 years now? Ever since my lovely little hostess gig at the Denny’s down the street from my house in Orangevale. And even THEN I got tipped. Anyway, I have dealt with a fair amount of abuse from customers saying their food sucked, or their drink wasn’t strong enough, or they put too much tomato sauce – whoa, I mean KETCHUP – on their burger so they need a new one and blah blah blah. Okay, you’re giving me money – like literally handing me money that I get to put in my pocket and go home with and spend on drinks later. SOO, I will put up with your nonsense. But Mr. I-don’t-want-to-get-out-of-my-seat-and-order-at-the-register-even-though-this-is-a-café-where-everyone-else-is-but-you-should-serve-me-at-my-table-and-then-I’m-going-to-yell-at-you-because-you-should’ve-known-I-wanted-a-large-sized-latte-even-though-I-never-told-you-but-you-should’ve-read-my-mind – I don’t want to deal with you because YOU are not giving me my future rum&coke money. I am clearly losing a lot of patience with these people. Especially since I live in & work in this apparently “up-scale” town of Camberwell where even Australians can be snobby and a PAIN in my “arse” (that’s what Aussie’s say instead of ASS…weird). 

Unfortunately there’s no way to spin this battle to make it into a half-full cup of water or whatever the phrase is.

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Oh the Weather Outside is Weather…:

(Forgetting Sarah Marshall reference if you didn’t know. If you didn’t know, go watch it). So I for some reason, used to call San Diego weather bipolar. And I’m honestly confused as to why I did that. Because from what I remember, it was about 70-75 degrees and PERFECT about 300 days out of the year. Yes, there are 65 more days where the weather was a little less than perfect. Perhaps 65 degrees or 80 degrees. Every now and then it would rain.

I now know, like how I know how what senioritis is, what BIPOLAR WEATHER is. People actually call Melbourne the city that has 4 seasons in a day, or something more eloquently said than that. I am literally sitting in my room at this moment with the sun glaring off the neighbors’ window and straight into my eyes, when it was dark and cloudy about 10 minutes ago. No joke. It will rain for 20 seconds sometimes and then suddenly subside long enough for the sun to come out for about 15 minutes and then 10 minutes after that, I hear thunder and lightning. Sure, it sounds kinda cool. But what the hell am I supposed to wear when I’m getting dressed for the day? 

My iPhone weather app says it has a 40% chance of rain. I look out the weather and it’s completely sunny. I get ready and the clouds take over so I put on my rainboots, only to trudge around in school in them, feeling like an idiot while everyone else is wearing sandals in the sunshine and humidity. The only thing worse than that is deciding on wearing Toms and getting completely soaked because it starts pouring rain. And usually I would just bring my umbrella just because of how sporadic the weather is, but the wind & rain destroyed mine. That was also during an episode of battling the trams and having to run to my interview. (Evidence below).

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Fortunately, all the rain and bad weather (I’ve actually NEVER been in so much rain in my entire life) makes me appreciate every single day of good weather. Unfortunately, most of the days happen to be on the days I’m stuck inside working. (Murphy’s Law at it again..or is Catch 22? I honestly never could remember which was which and which applied to my life. Probably both ha). But regardless, it's nice to wake up to a beautiful day when your weather app told you there was a 95% chance of rain every single day. Every now and then, the unlikely 5% can endure:)

 
Brighton Beach. Laser Tag. Healesville Sanctuary. Melbourne Zoo. Moomba Festival. Movies.

Heard about Brighton Beach and how they have all these cute little beach sheds along the beach and so Nate and I went last week. It wasn't the most amazing beach, but the sheds were super cute. It didn't even take too long to get there. We live in a super convenient location right next to a train station that goes pretty much everywhere, sometimes with a few layovers. Brighton Beach was about 40 minutes from us. It might seem long but it's not bad if you consider the lack of parking you have to do. AND it's SO cheap to get around on public transportation. I have a "MyKi" card and a concession card (student discount) and it's $4 a day, for wherever you want to go. I discovered a couple weeks ago, though, that if you pay for a few weeks in advance, it's even cheaper. So it's only like, $2 a day for me, or $50ish a month. Which isn't bad, comparing it to the $60 I spent a week on gas back home.
We also went laser tagging at DarkZone. It was definitely, by FAR, the most intense hour and a half of laser tag, or maybe just LIFE in general hah. There were maybe 35 or so people and we all were on 3 separate teams. It was pretty much all college students and the venue was HUGE. I think it was 3 stories or so and everybody had a home base that they had to protect. Definitely the best $15 I ever spent.

I've been DYING to hold a Koala Bear (& possibly kidnap it & bring it home) so Nate and I went to the Healesville Sanctuary. Unfortunately it's illegal to hold koalas in Victoria so I'm gonna have to go to Queensland to find one haha. Healesville was AWESOME though. It's not your typical zoo, though, where everything is super caged up and separated. All that separates you from most of the animal is a simple fence where they're just hanging out so you can pet them and feed them (2nd pic is me feeding a wallaby!) We visited the animal hospital right when they brought in an eagle with a broken leg and wing. We got to watch them care for it and one of the doctors showed us the eagle's x-rays. Yesterday, we also went to the Melbourne Zoo, which was more like your standard zoo but still more open than the zoos I'm used to. I've only really been to the San Diego Zoo, which is like, world famous & humungous, so these zoos are a lot different. They're just so much more open and all of the animals are way more active, which is the best part.)
The Moomba Festival is an annual Festival set right in the city on the river. They have a waterski tournament going on the entire weekend and fireworks every night. And then of course all your typical games and rides and food. We didn't go on any rides because it was like, $10 a person to go on anything, but we had fun just walking around. I saw someone with a huge. purple plush Sac Kings basketball and they told me they won it so we searched everywhere for the booth. By the time I got there, there weren't any Kings balls left :( The fireworks show was awesome - they had it synced with famous opera music and it was coming from the middle of the river.
I absolutely LOVE this city. Despite how expensive it is, there's so many things you can do, and a lot of things you can do for free. Like the Moomba Festival - you might not be able to ride any rides for free, but at least it's free to go. I feel like there's just so many hidden secrets about this city you can only find if you decide to just wander around, or get lost, like I have on a few occasions : )
I've been fortunate enough to get lost and find some AMAZING graffiti, a beautiful bike trail along the river and the random [not-on-purpose] humor these crazy Aussie's have everywhere.
God i LOVE this city.