Sunday, November 27, 2011

observations about south korea, volume one.

1. there are no traffic rules. seriously, driving here has to be one of the most terrifying things ever. cars pull u-turns in the middle of the street whenever they feel like it. red lights don't mean stop. motorbikes and scooters claim use of the sidewalks. the lanes are narrow, everyone changes lanes recklessly, and bus rides are nauseating. thank goodness for the subway.

2. everyone is SO nice. my korean is very, very limited. and by limited i mean i know like... three words. and most of the time, the person i'm trying to communicate with knows barely more than that in english. but i've gotten some of the best help and customer service ever. one day during training, a few of us got a little turned around getting back to the subway. we asked a couple high school aged girls and they tried to help, but ultimately the language barrier was too much. a couple minutes later, they came up behind us on a street corner to show us a map of the subway on one of their phones. they were so concerned that we would be lost and went out of their way to be helpful. it was really sweet.

3. heated floors are pretty much the best invention of all time. so much better than vented heating. for. real. nothing like getting out of bed on a chilly morning and stepping onto a nice warm floor.

4. the food is amazing. everyone, get yourselves to a korean restaurant asap. even if it may not be 100% authentic because you aren't IN korea, it will probably still be delicious. i want to eat all of it all the time. and it's so cheap!!

5. korean children are so cute i might die. seriously. kids are adorable anywhere. but there's something about the little korean kids toddling around in their giant puffy winter coats that just makes me melt every. single. time.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

training week, in a nutshell.

this past week has honestly been the longest week of my life. i've had stressful weeks before -- pretty much every finals week in high school/college, the experience of closing down a store with blockbuster... but this was... not enjoyable.

it was, of course, heavily compounded by the fact that jetlag is a bitch, but still. the pressure placed on the trainees was in-tense. basically, if we failed training, we had to go home. and be out a ton of money. well as a job. AND it was all compacted into four days. four very long, very exhausting, very still-jetlagged days...

the first day was orientation/medical exams (which was quite the process itself...), then days two-five consisted of getting up at 6-7am, getting ready/studying, getting to the subway around 8am so we would be at the training center around 9am, 6-7 hours of training (learning methodology, jargon, mock teaching), back to the hotel around 4 or 5pm, maybe a break for an hour to nap/internet, and then studying with my group(s) until 1am-ish. so that plus the exhaustion from the previous week of getting ready to move to the other side of the world? i. wanted. to. die. actually, i just wanted sleep. if i hadn't been so tired? training wouldn't have been nearly as stressful.

i was lucky because i had good training groups (we were all divided into groups of 4-6 based on the courses our locations would need us to teach) and good trainers. and overall, my mock teaching went well and i do have to say that i learned a ton. i actually feel prepared for the classroom on monday. well, at least when it comes to the material. getting up in front of a bunch of kids? that'll be something else. i still have a lot to learn about actually teaching, and most of it can't really be taught.

needless to say, it's such a relief to be on the other side of training. chungdahm isn't messing around with their training week. it's hard. and not everyone makes it through. but going into the classroom is going to be a whole helluva lot easier now and i'm glad i received the training.

today was my break from it all. i have tomorrow free too, but i've got prep to do for my monday lessons. getting to my apartment yesterday and being able to sleep later than 7am this morning was incredible. tomorrow i think i'm going to sleep until i wake up. and then probably nap. i have at least a week of sleep to catch up on.

i'll post tomorrow about my apartment (which i love!) along with some pictures. i think living in korea is going to be pretty damn fantastic. :)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My first 24 hours: A recap.

Fun fact: When I opened up blogger to post an entry, it was all in Korean... In fact, quite a few websites are trying to be in Korean. Thank goodness for Google Translate! Haha.

Well, I made it! Safe and sound. Now that I've been here for almost a full twentyfour hours, I figured it was time for my first blog post from this side of the Pacific.

Packing was a bit of a nightmare... The weight limits for bags had us all very stressed out. I don't know how many times we made Dad hold a suitcase and stand on the scale so we could get an idea of its weight... We thought we had both of my suitcases under the 50 lbs. limit, but when we got to the airport, they definitely were not. Luckily, the nice woman at the United Airlines desk didn't seem to care.

Unfortunately, I couldn't pack
my Maisie dog. :(

We had another panic moment when we saw something online saying the combined weight of my carry-on and "personal" bag could not exceed 22 pounds. My carry-on was a good 23 pounds on its own... But again, when my bag was weighed at the Asiana Airlines desk at LAX, they didn't say anything about it being over. It was such a relief. I was envisioning being THAT person at the airport -- sitting in the middle of the floor, frantically pulling things out of my bag so I could meet weight limits.


Flight route. Saw some gorgeous, snowy mountains and landscape
out the windows. (And since we stayed north and near land, there
was no sign of mysterious islands with smoke monsters.)

Flying on Asiana was enjoyable. Plenty of legroom, good food, and I didn't have anyone in the seat next to me, so I was able to curl up and get a little sleep. I also quite enjoyed the luxury of having my own television and access to lots of movies. I only ended up watching two -- Midnight in Paris and Deathly Hallows Part I, but they definitely helped pass the time. (I thought of watching Deathly Hallows Part II as well, then remembered I was physically/emotionally exhausted and that movie makes me cry. Decided I didn't want to look like a total mess on the airplane.)


Menu! Pretty sure the guy a couple seats from me thought
I was a weirdo because I took pictures of everything.

Meal number one. (I got the steak instead of bibimbap because
my stomach wasn't pleased with being on a plane. Decided
to stick with something I knew.)

Meal number two. Chicken and rice.

My flight landed in Incheon around 7pm. Getting through immigration was really easy, which was a relief. And by the time I got to the baggage claim, pretty much everyone else had picked up their bags, making mine quite easy to spot on the carousel. I grabbed a little luggage trolly and was on my way. Hit a spot of confusion at the ATMs... but it ended up being really obvious (I was really tired) and taking out cash was quick and simple.

Like a boss.

The next leg of my journey had me a little nervous -- I had instructions to get on a bus that would take me to a different location so I could find a taxi that would take me to my hotel in Seoul. I had pictures of these vehicles in my welcome packet, so I figured I'd manage just fine, but still. My jetlagged brain wasn't feeling very optimistic. Luckily, it was very, very simple and the instructions I'd been given were perfect. While waiting in line for the shuttle I actually met another trainee who'd been on my flight, so that was nice. It's always good to have a friend. The bus and taxi got us to where we needed to go and didn't cost much at all.

Once we got to the hotel and checked in, we ran into about a dozen other trainees, including my roommate, in the lobby. They were all venturing out to find food and drinks, but I was way too exhausted to feel like going anywhere. Everyone I met seemed super nice though, so I'm looking forward to being in a training group with them this next week.

I crashed out completely at the hotel by about 10:30pm and didn't get up until 8something this morning. So far the jetlag isn't too bad... Fingers crossed.

I had today free since training doesn't start until tomorrow, so I got to actually see some of Seoul. I met up with my friend John and he took me on a tour of sorts. We hopped on the subway and went all over the place. I'm not really sure where all we went because we did a lot of subway riding and a lot of walking, but he took me through the shopping district and to see some of the lanterns from the festival that's been going on for the past week (and ends today). Since it was daytime they weren't all lit up, but impressive nonetheless.

Seoul Lantern Festival.

SO cool. I wish I could've seen this all lit up.

This guy is Haechi, the mascot of Seoul.

He was an excellent tour guide and tolerated my sleep deprived ramblings like a champ. I'm pretty sure I was still relatively coherent overall, but I caught myself not really making sense a few times. Oh, exhaustion. I will not let you win. Then he treated me to a delicious lunch and I've gotta say, I'm already a fan of the food here. I want to eat all of it. All the time.

Yummmm. That's kimbap on the left, then clockwise on the
right: seaweed, some weird kind of radish, kimchi, and a mystery
thing that looked like sliced jalapenos (but wasn't).
Not pictured: bibimbap, which was also delicious.

Now I'm back at my hotel, in my pjs, planning to spend the rest of the night studying up for the exams we have tomorrow morning over grammar and the like. All the walking today definitely wore me out a little, so I should be nice and sleepy by the time I need to go to bed in a few hours.

So! It has been a good start to this grand adventure. I'm looking forward to meeting everyone in training tomorrow morning and I'm really excited to explore this country. I don't think it's really sunk in yet that I'm here. I mean, I'm very aware I'm in a new country and all that, but the fact that I've MOVED here? Not feeling real yet. Part of me still can't believe I actually made this move, whereas the rest of me is just so ready to get out there and enjoy living in Korea. :)

ps. Family and friends -- some of you have already said you would, but for everyone else: If I start slacking on updating this blog, GET AFTER ME. I do want to document this whole experience and share it with everyone back home, so don't let me get lazy!

pps. I DID enable anonymous comments, so if you wanna leave me a note, you don't have to have or log into Gmail to do it! But if you leave an anon comment, please sign your name so I know who you are. <3

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Things I've learned about moving to South Korea.

Here's a handful of things I've learned about my journey so far... I'm sure there will be much more to come once I'm actually IN the ROK, of course, but for now, some observations and advice about the application/preparation process.

1. Submit that FBI Background Check ASAP!
Seriously... At best, it's going to take eight weeks. And even when it DOES take eight weeks, sometimes it gets lost in the mail and you have to call the FBI half a dozen times until they finally send you a replacement. (This isn't fun and equals several more weeks of waiting for a silly piece of paper that just says, "No records found." Thanks, FBI.)

As soon as you even start to possibly maybe consider finding a job abroad, SUBMIT THAT DAMN BACKGROUND CHECK REQUEST. I'm not kidding. It'll save you so much grief and stress and frustration. Trust me.

2. Call around to verify processes before heading out for paperwork errands.
Check with your local police department about the FBI CBC -- you have to get fingerprinted to submit the CBC and the station by your house may or may not offer that service. Also, if you need a copy of your diploma notarized? You probably gotta get that done in the state that issued the diploma. Same with apostilles. For me, it was a pretty easy roadtrip up I-35, but it's something to research as you make plans.

3. Make copies of EVERYTHING.
This should really go without saying. Obviously, you wanna cover your ass and have copies of all your stuff. In fact, it would be wise to also have .pdf scans of everything saved on your computer. Because really, it can't hurt anything, and it's likely you'll need them. (Quite a lot of original paperwork gets sent off and away, so having copies of the original contracts/forms with your information and signature is very smart.)

4. Be patient with the consulate when you submit your visa code/paperwork.
I submitted all of my stuff on a Thursday afternoon and was told it wouldn't be ready until the following Tuesday. (Today, actually, so fingers crossed it IS ready at 4pm as promised...) I know some of the delay is caused by the weekend being smack in the middle, but be aware that it can take longer than a day or two.

That's all I have at the moment. I have two and a half weeks left before the big move, so I'm positive I'll have another "things I've learned" entry in that time. Probably packing related... I'm really not looking forward to that process... Wish me luck!