Friday, August 30, 2013

Well that was a first

I've seen a lot of strange things in the past two years, but this has got to be the winner. A truck full of pig carcasses. I reallllllly wanted to take a picture of the guy hauling them into the shop on his back, but I thought that might be crossing the line even more than stopping in the middle of the street and pulling my ipod out of my purse was. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

5 things

1. Last night I went to Costco with Anna and InAi. We ate Costco pizza for dinner, and it was enormous and delish. And I just remembered I have a leftover piece in the frig! Then we filled our cart with chicken and vegetables and pears and grapes and shaving cream and a lifetime supply of floss. At one point we were the only people in the aisle, and it was so wonderful. Usually everybody is there with their entire extended family and at least one unhappy child and there are stranded carts all over the place, but if you go on a Wednesday night you can be the only people in your aisle. I thought it was great, the other 2 were less impressed. And then I was reminiscing about my first year in Korea when we would go shopping at Costco and then rush home to Ulsan in trains and taxis before all our meat defrosted.

2. Anna and I came home and needed to re-arrange the freezer to make room for everything we just bought, which led to cleaning out the freezer. Which led to touching and throwing away a lot of things I would have rather not touched. Like some freezer burned fish. And a mysterious clump of something that resembled mashed potatoes. Which then led to sneaking the food garbage outside, because it's not supposed to go out until Friday but it was Wednesday and we weren't keeping that stuff inside for 2 more days.

3. I. am. tired. I've had to wake up early every morning this week to go to the hospital, then to immigration, then to immigration again (a story of its own that I will tell you later). Plus my body is not used to working. Don't judge, but I haven't worked since the end of February and its hard to get back into the routine of getting up on time and teaching all afternoon. Those little guys drain all your energy.

4. This morning was the first all week I was going to be able to sleep in, and I was excitedddddd! And then the doorbell rang. And it was the downstairs lady coming to tell us we can't use the water. They're doing construction or something and everybody's water is draining into and flooding her apartment. But don't worry, they're working on it and it'll be fixed in 3 or 4 days. Umm, what?! Sorry not sorry, but this is 2013 and I need to be able to take a shower every day. And who would even construct a building with all the pipes leading into one apartment?! A fool, that's who.

5. Today I taught science and I did an experiment with the kids. The point was to see how wind and water can move sand and soil and to figure out which is more effective. It had the potential to get very messy so we spent half the class outside doing the actual experiment part. 3 kids got sand in their eyes, somebody somehow inhaled a little bit, one kid was afraid of the stray cat wandering around, and the highlight for another boy was getting to dump the tray of wet dirt into an abandoned lot. Success?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How I make my money

Monday I started my new job at a hagwon called American Adventures. The owners are Americans and their vision is to run the place as much like an American school as possible. Kids are split up into classes by English level, not grade level. We teach English (obviously) plus science and social studies, and starting in the fall they'll be doing some fun science experiments and history projects. Class sizes are teeny tiny, which is exactly what you need in a language-learning setting. It'll let me get to know the students really well and give them a lot of teacher time. There's this new language arts curriculum in the States called Wonders, and they bought it so I'll get to teach out of that. But my bosses are giving me tons of freedom to kind of teach how I want and what I want. 

The school's logo

This situation is really rare - there aren't hagwons in Korea like this. Once I got my visa I let myself start thinking about how exciting this job is going to be and how much I'm going to be able to do with these kids. I loved my students and my schools back in Ulsan, but their English level was overall pretty low. One of the classes at American Adventures just finished reading Charlotte's Web. That's a decently hard chapter book, and they did it and they understood it. I'm going to get to read chapter books with them, and teach them how to write essays, and get to know them as people because they'll be able to talk to me more. 

This is not the job I thought I was going to have when I came back to Korea. It's not even the 2nd or 3rd job I thought I was going to have. I didn't even apply for it, my pastor Mina interviewed with them and she told them about me because she thought I would be a good fit for the school. I believe this is the best job for me, and I can't wait to get to know my new kids and start teaching out of my new textbooks and see where this year takes me. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I'm not illegal anymore!

Recently I had to do what we foreigners call a visa run. I came into Korea with a tourist visa, which basically let me be in the country for 90 days. Once I got a job I had to apply for an E-2 visa, which lets me work here legally. If you work without an E-2 visa and somebody of importance finds out, your employer can get in a lot of trouble and I think you can get deported. Not so good. 

This is the tough part about wanting to live and work in a foreign country - the paperwork. And the inconsistencies. You look at the website and it tells you one thing, you call and the person who answers the phone tells you a different thing, and then you ask your friends what their experience was like and you get another different answer. It really all comes down to who you get when you walk in the door and what kind of a mood they're in at that moment, and that is something you cannot prepare for. 

So I gathered all my papers (which is a process of its own) and went to the immigration office. They kept them, took about a week to give me a visa number, and then I had to take that visa number to a Korean consulate in a foreign country and apply for the visa. 

I hopped on a plane and flew to Fukuoka, Japan. I was told to get off the plane and go straight to the consulate because I had to be there by 1:30. So I made my way to the subway station - still carrying all my luggage, bought a ticket, looked at the map, and figured out where I needed to get off. The directions I had said this: go out of exit 1, walk towards the stoplight, and turn. With directions like that I figured I was going to some small area of the city that had very few streets and stoplights. But no. There were very many stoplights and intersections and choices. And I am not exactly what you call good at getting places. If I have detailed instructions that include landmarks I'm golden. You tell me to turn right at the McDonalds and I can do that. Tell me to walk past the tall green building and turn left, and I can do that too. Tell me to walk north for 10 blocks and I will ask you which way is north? How is that something that people just know? Tell me to "walk towards the stoplight and turn" and I'll end up wandering around Fukuoka in 100 degree weather for quite some time. Luckily I found a nice old man in a bike shop who spoke some English and he pointed me in the general direction of the consulate. I still couldn't find it after about 10 minutes so I said screw it and got in a cab. I assumed the cab drivers wouldn't understand where I was trying to go, but I found one that did. That cab ride ended up lasting about 30 seconds and cost wayyyy more than it was worth. No wonder that driver was so happy. 

I signed in with the unpleasant guard and walked into the consulate at 11:40. Not bad considering I had been lost pretty much since I stepped out of the subway. I walked up to the woman and told her I was there to apply for my E-2 visa, and she pointed at the clock and told me I was too late and I should have been there by 11:30. I don't even know what my face must have looked like, but on the inside I was thinking no, the website said 1:30, I'm not staying here an extra day because I was apparently 10 minutes late, just do it anyways, please please please and before I even said anything she said "Ok, it is very hot today, come back after 1:30." Strange logic, but ok! Thank you kind lady. There was a Hard Rock Cafe down the street so I sat there listening to some 80s music and eating a club sandwich until it was time to go back. 

After that I was free until the next afternoon when I had to pick up my visa. I had a list of things the internet said was good to do in Fukuoka, but I was afraid of getting lost in the heat again so I did the stuff that was close and easy. I went to a park and walked around a little, which was fun because we don't have a ton of nature in Korea. And somebody had the bright idea of putting a Starbucks in the park. To him I say, job well done. 

Later on that night I went to a mall called Canal City. It's this indoor/outdoor monstrosity with a canal (hence the name) running through the middle of it, and plants growing up the side of the buildings. Every half hour they had a fountain show, and there was this big area where kids could play and adults could squirt water at them.

 I liked their traditional clothes

Alex I took your face to Japan! You were my bookmark.

The next day I went back to the consulate to pick up my visa. I was so relieved to finally see that sticker in my passport, I could have skipped out of there singing a song. But I didn't because that would have been weird. I put that expensive, important document in my purse and made my way back to Korea. And when the immigration lady at the airport stamped it I felt such relief. I am official, I am legal, and they cannot make me leave for at least 13 months :) 

Monday, August 26, 2013

I'm baaaaaack!

Actually I've been back for a while now, about 3 months. I moved to Busan at the beginning of June and it has been so great to actually live here. When I left Korea in February I knew I was going to spend some time at home, catching up with everybody and all that, but I also knew I was going to move back. I really like being an English teacher, I have great friends and a great church here, and I know that this is where I'm supposed to be right now. Busan was the first place I visited in Korea. I loved it immediately and I have loved it ever since. It has everything - the beach, mountains, H&M...what more could you ask for? 

My first time at Hauendae, April 2011

I spent most of my weekends last year traveling back and forth from Ulsan to Busan. I would rush to get to the train station after work on Friday, spend Saturdays here with friends, and leave again Sunday night. It has been so great to just be here, all the time. To be able to see people during the week, to not always be watching the time worried about when I have to leave. The train tracks are right by where I live right now, and every time I see a train rush past I'm so grateful that I'm not on it. Half the time they sold more tickets than they had seats for so I ended up sitting on the stairs in between the cars. I'm glad those days are over. 

No more Korail :)

Since I've been back I've been spending a lotttttt of time at the beach - like 2 or 3 times a week and it's been so wonderful. Ever since I can remember I've loved the ocean. My favorite vacations have been the tropical ones. My idea of a perfect day is the beach, a fun friend, and a good book or music. And let me tell you, I've had my fair share of those this summer. Too bad I didn't grow up in California or Florida, or really anywhere with a coast.

Pretty Gwangali

I've taken a few day trips: to go bike riding, to a painted village, and to an island with a botanical garden. I went to a baseball game and wore an orange bag on my head, because how else do you cheer for the home team? I celebrated my birthday! My 3rd and best one in Korea. I've been doing a lot of reading and coffee drinking, and just relaxing and enjoying life. It has been a really good, fun, relaxing summer. 

It's good to be back.