I can't remember the last time my weekend was actually the weekend. I've always worked serving jobs where the busiest work days were Friday & Saturday night. So apart from the occasional Friday-Johnny-V's-$2-drink-nights that I would partake in (I miss you, San Diego!), the "weekends" weren't really anything to look forward to.
So now here I am, working a 9-5 (well technically an 830 - 430, but that just doesn't roll right off the tongue unfortunately) and I have this blessed gift called the weekend where I can do whatever I want and not worry about getting called in to work because somebody took 6-too-many shots at JV's and is too hungover to come into work Saturday morning (granted, this was usually me). So of course every weekend, the boyfriend and I make heaps of plans to go hiking, explore different parts of the city, work out, go out to a nice dinner, go to the movies, etc. And maybe get 1/7 things accomplished. Hey - laying in bed all day watching Homeland is often exactly what you need after a long week of teaching Crasians (that's crazy-Asians, if you didn't know.)
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There's a reason why KFC grew test-tube chickens that didn't grow feet.
Fortunately, this past weekend was somewhat productive. The boy & I went to New Downtown and hung out with some friends after unsuccessfully trying to catch a movie at the cinema. You'd be surprised at how difficult it is to try and find movie times in this country (we did end up finding this site). We also tried chicken feet for the first time, which will definitely be the last time as well (we order by looking at the pictures on menus & pointing. It looked like regular chicken). After forcing myself to take a bite, it wrapped perfectly around my tongue as if a bird were perched on it. I tried to chew a few times but it was pretty much all cartilage and I ended up spitting it out. Oops. I did try another one in hopes that I just got really unlucky with the first attempt (the second attempt wasn't much better, but I was able to chew. Kind of). It didn't even taste bad but the whole concept of an entire chicken foot around my tongue just didn't fly (no pun intended). Sorry Korea.

On Saturday, after streaming the Kings vs. Lakers game (which almost made me cry), we explored a bit of Old Downtown & shopped a bit (I was on the hunt for a fabric store but everything I found was super outdated & expensive. Korea is not the most fashionable when it comes to interior design, I've realized). We stumbled upon a cinema and ended up seeing "Warm Bodies", which I would highly recommend. & then successfully made use of Nate's PS3 and got a "work out" by playing Everybody Dance, Table Tennis, Bocce Ball, Archery & Tekken. I mean, we'd go out for a jog if the air wasn't completely polluted and didn't almost kill me a couple weeks ago (there's this thing called Yellow Dust. Google it.)

For Easter Sunday, Nathaniel and I volunteered at the Ulsan Orphanage. He got to play soccer with a bunch of middle school & high school kids and I played with the littler ones inside. Asian kids are the cutest thing in the world. There's an organization called T-Hope Korea that has a bunch of different volunteer opportunities at orphanages or for autistic children, etc. I always miss my family extra during the holidays but couldn't be more grateful to have them after hanging around the orphanage for a couple hours.
We didn't get to go hiking like we planned, but there's a LOT more weekends to look forward to. & hopefully much better weather as well :)

Some Good Finds:

I have a slight obsession with avocados. We found avos at Costco - 5 for around 11,000 won, which is about $11. Not too bad, but I miss living in Cali where you can get 2 for a dolla.

I got to make my favorite brekkie this weekend with my green obsession:
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*1 slice of wheat toast
*1/4 of an avocado - sliced and spread across toast
*1 teaspoon of olive oil - dripped over avo to taste
*1 teaspoon of balsamic vinaigrette - dripped over avo to taste
*1 egg over medium - (or however you like your eggs)
*Fresh ground pepper & a pinch of salt

x2 (I usually have two because they're so delicious)

+ a cup of green tea &/or orange juice

=

the perfect breakfast

Costco was also a good place to find: 
cheese, bagels, cream cheese, towels (yes, full-sized! FYI - most Koreans use tiny, tiny towels the size of hand towels. No, I have no idea how this works or why they never thought to upgrade. But anyway, most stores only sell the aforementioned towels so finding large ones was an amazing find), & your usual bulk foods. Cheese is another hot commodity in Korea so Costco is pretty much our savior. Not to mention, the pizza is still excellent, which is a reason in itself to make the trip here.
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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Recently read Gone Girl & would highly recommend it! This is actually the reason I didn't leave the house 2 weekends ago & got zero accomplished (this & Final Fantasy, in my boyfriend's case). But in all honesty, I literally couldn't put it down. It's one of those books that made me want to read more books. Currently working on a book list that I'll post soon :)

For my fellow lazy-watch-a-TV-series-all-day-couch-dwellers:
This is an excellent app to have on your iPhone if you stream/watch movies/shows from your laptop (which is connected to your TV). This app syncs to your laptop so you can use your phone as a mouse. AKA you don't have to get up to pause/rewind/turn up the volume/switch to the next episode. I realize this has absolutely nothing to do with Korea, teaching English or even being a productive human being at all, but it's awesome, so that's all that matters.

Until next weekend :)
 
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.

The Setback:

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.
 
Sorry, this page has moved.
Click HERE for "Teaching English Abroad: Step 2" at my new site, First For Everything.
 
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Sorry, this page has moved.
Click HERE to be redirected to "Teaching English Abroad: Step 1" at my new site, First For Everything.