Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Mom, What do you want for Christmas?

For the first time since 2011, I will be going home for Christmas. Yes, I know, I'm still in Korea and my blog is practically dead, but I will try to do better!

Anyway, I posted the following on my facebook page and so many people asked to share, I thought I'd drop it here. Yes, I wrote it myself. Yes, it is my words. No, I did not copy it from anywhere else. Hear my heart this holiday season.

Mom, what do you want for Christmas?
"Mom, what do you want for Christmas?" Every year my boys ask and I never really tell them the truth. Inspired by a friend's post, here is what I really want for Christmas and this will be my answer from now on whenever my boys ask me, "Mom, what do you want for Christmas?"

What do I want for Christmas?

I want you. I want you to call. I want you to send me notes or letters or cards. I want you to visit me. I want you to ask for my advice. I want you to tell me about your job, your girlfriend, your worries, your joys, your fears, your everything. I want to listen to you talk because your voice is the most beautiful sound on earth.

I want you. I want you to share your adult life with me. I want you to laugh with me or even at me. It makes no difference because I love to hear your laugh and see your smile. Your joy is my joy and I want to share it with you.

I want you. I want to hear about your terrible boss or rude waitress. I want to know how your doctor appointment went. I want to know you are okay and if you are not okay, I want to know that, too.

I want you. I want you to spend your money making a better life for yourself. I want you to have food in your fridge and a comfortable place to call home. I want you to have nice clothes to wear and a reliable car to take you to a job you love.

I want you. I want to know you how much I love you and cherish you. I want to sit back and watch you grow and get married and raise a family. I want you to be happy and healthy.

So, my sons, what do I want for Christmas? Very simply, I want you because you were the best gifts I ever received and nothing could be better. I love you to the moon and back....infinity.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Four Years...

Four YEARS!! 

Four years since I turned 40.
Four years since I turned my life upside-down and moved to the other side of the planet.
Four years since I could walk down the street without seeing a taxi.
Four years since the first time I tasted Kimchi.
Four years since I bought my first scooter.
Four years since I learned my first Korean word.
Four years since I said, "See you later!" to American life

Four YEARS...

Wow. What an amazing adventure it has been! I keep so busy these days, that I often forget to update my blog...well,  I NEVER remember to update it. I post most thing on my facebook, but I figured a four year anniversary should be worth some sort of entry.

What can I say? I have fallen in love with my adoptive country. The people are kind. I have learned to like more and more Korean food. I can even read Korean now, even though I may not have a clue what it means! I understand more than I can speak. There have been more ups and downs than I can even imagine. More "hello's" and even more "see ya later's". 

I think that is the hardest thing of an expat's life. There are always new people coming and going from your life. Some come just for a short while and make a HUGE impact, while others hang around for a bit. I have made some true, lifelong friends while living in Korea. I am certain I could go anywhere in the world and have a sofa or bed or even just a blanket for the night. It's amazing how quickly we bond and share our lives with one another. But there is always the goodbye part that is so hard.

Another thing is the reverse culture shock every time I visit the States. Then I come back to Korea and "this" feels like home. I have amazing friends and family in the USA, but sometimes I just feel like I don't belong there anymore. Everything is the same, yet different. My perspective on life is different. My habits are a bit strange to my American friends, yet seem "normal" to me here. It's difficult to explain to anyone who has never lived overseas. I'm not really sure how to describe it. I mean, I'm American. I have lived in America for most of my life. So, why does it feel so foreign to me? sigh...

My life in Korea is good. I have a great job at a university, a beautiful apartment, and even bought a car last year. Driving in Korea is NOTHING like driving in the States!! I'll be in big trouble if my horn ever stops working! LOL!! 

I started a facebook group called Suwon Newbies in September, 2011, and it has grown to over 2,500 members. This group is a place where people can go and ask questions about daily life or get advice on how to do something in Korea. Basically, it acts as a lifeline to our little community and makes one feel less alone. I'm really proud of the group and how people help each other. A while back, I was dubbed, "Mama Suwon". haha...At first I balked at the title, but then I realized it was an honor and a term of love and respect. It feels good to belong to something that is about the greater good of others and not just myself.

I also recently started traveling as a leader/helper with a local travel company. I love going on the beach trips and meeting new people. It seems I have a knack for organizing a kitchen and cooking for vast amounts of people! Who knew??

My youngest son, Bryan, was here with me for the last three years, but is now in the States. It's strange not having him here and a bit lonely at times. It's funny how you get used to what you deem as "normal", then it changes. That's the one thing about expat life...It is ALWAYS changing. 

I'm currently under contract at my university until February, 2016, so I know I will be here at least that long. After that, who knows? Of course, life has a funny way of moving us in a different direction than we plan, so I have to leave it up to God to direct me wherever I'm supposed to be.

Four years. 
A lot can happen in four years. I have only scratched the surface on my blog. Just know this. I am so very glad I took a leap of faith and jumped into the swirling waters. I have learned to swim on my own. I have learned to swim against the current. I have learned to be me and people actually LIKE me! 
Four years.
Where will you be in four years? Care to join me? We always have room for one more!

~Angela  a,k.a "Mama Suwon"

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How an American can get a Driver's License in Korea

First of all I will tell you that driving in Korea is an experience one will never forget. Traffic laws are not always obeyed and buses and taxis think they own the road. It can be quite dangerous and is not for the faint of heart. You MUST always be aware of your surroundings. With that being said, if you still would like to drive, you CAN get a license in Korea.

There are two ways one can accomplish this goal. As of January 1, 2013, this information is accurate as some laws have changed.

Option #1: Trade in your foreign license for a Korean license
This process seems to be the easiest and fastest. However, a new law took effect on January 1, 2013, which requires you to have an Apostille on a copy of your stateside driver's license. Prior to January 1, 2013, you only needed to have it notarized. That is no longer the case. If you choose to go this route, here is the process:

  1. Gather all necessary documents to take with you:
    1. ARC Card
    2. Passport
    3. Valid Stateside License
    4. Copy of valid stateside license with Apostille
    5. Three (3) color passport size photos
  2. Go to your local driver's examination center and find the Foreign Driver's License counter
  3. Present all documents. You will then be instructed to take a written test. It will be in some form of English and you have to read carefully.
  4. Once you pass the written test, they will take your stateside license and issue you a Korean license. Fee for this is 10,000 KRW.
You get your license back when you present a plane ticket showing them you are going back to the States.

Oh, there is one disclaimer to the written test. If you are a resident of the following states, you have a reciprocity agreement and do NOT need to take the written test: Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Texas, Virginia, Washington, DC., and West Virginia

Option #2: Take all tests required by Korean law and get your Korean license without giving up your stateside license. Bring ARC card, passport, and three passport sized color photos.

Here is the process and the fees associated with each process:
  1. Complete Safety Education - this is all in Korean and takes one hour. It is mandatory before you can take any tests.
  2. Health Check - very simple eye exam. Be sure to bring your glasses if you wear them for driving. (fee 4,000 KRW)
  3. Apply for Written Exam - request English and complete the exam. If you fail, you may retake it the next day. If you pass, you go on to the next step. (fee 6,000 KRW)
  4. Apply for the Driving Course Test - this is a simple test to see if you can turn on the car, windshield wipers, headlights, turn signals, put car into gear, and react to an accident. You may ask for the instructions to be in English. If you fail, you may retake in 3 days. If you pass, you go on to the next step. (fee 15,000 KRW) After passing this step, you can get your Temporary Driving License which is good for one year (fee 3,000 KRW)
  5. Apply for On-Road Driving Exam - driving road test with instructions in Korean, though the test itself can be requested in English. Be sure to know the laws regarding a U-turn and changing lanes. If you fail, you may retake the test after 3 days. If you pass, you may now get your driver's license. (fee 21,000)
  6. Get Driver's License Issued - take all of your paperwork inside and get your license! (fee: 6,000)
License is good for 10 years.

Once you have a Korean license, if you want to, you may apply for an International Permit. Simply take your Korean license, current passport, and ARC to the International Permit counter and present your documents along with one passport sized color photo. They will issue you an International Permit that is good for one year. (fee: 6,000 KRW)

There is one other option worth mentioning. If you don't plan on driving a car and would like to get a license for a scooter or motorbike, that is entirely possible! Visit your local examination center and find out when they give the test for that because it may not be daily. For this license, you simply need your ARC and passport to start the process. The process is as follows:

  1. Take a one hour Traffic Safety Education course. This is all in Korean, but easy to understand with the video.
  2. Complete the written exam.
  3. Complete a short driving course. 
  4. License is valid for 10 years.
Q: How do I take the driving test without a car?
A: Cars are provided for you. Everyone uses the same type. The same is true for motorbikes; they are provided.

Q: Are the cars automatic or manual?
A: They have both available and you must specify which you prefer. Please note, if you test on an automatic transmission, you may NOT drive a manual car. 

Q: Was the test hard?
A: No, it was not really hard, but confusing at times. 

Q: Do you have to complete all the tests in one day?
A: I completed all the tests in one day because I went to the very first education class in the morning. My son got his motorbike license over the course of two days.

Q: Do the people speak English?
A: Don't count on it! I originally went to the examination center in Gangnam and the information was available in English. I tested in Yongin and the paperwork was all Korean.

Q: If I get a Korean Driver's License, is it also good for my scooter.?
A: According to the clerk I asked in Yongin, yes. He did say to keep an eye on the laws because that could change in the future.

Final Thought:
Don't be afraid to go and try. The people were very kind to me and sometimes ushered me from place to place as there are stations for each part of the process and it can be confusing to try to figure out where to go. They want you to be successful. Give it a go! What have you got to lose?

For additional, up-to-date, accurate information please visit the Koroad Road Traffic Authority by clicking  here. Happy driving and stay safe!!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Thoughts for the New Year...

January 1, 2013

It has been a long time since I last posted and so many things have happened! I am not even sure where to begin! The thing about blogging is I have a problem with trying to catch up when I get behind, then I am soooo far behind that catching up is impossible. So, with this new year comes a new post and, hopefully, more regular updates!

This journey started in Summer, 2010. When I came to Korea, I planned on staying one year, then returning home. When that year came to a close, jobs were difficult to come by back home, so I made the decision to stay in Korea and took a position in Suwon at a university where I teach English to young adults. I can honestly say, I love my job! It is rewarding and challenging and different every single day. Again, when taking the position at the university, I was uncertain as to how long I would stay. Now, the longer I stay, I find it more and more difficult to even imagine leaving! I mean, I have wonderful friends, a fantastic job, a beautiful apartment, a loving boyfriend, and a good, good life here. On the other hand, I greatly miss my friends and family back home, but it all seems to come down to this one thing: a job. 

The Ever-Present Question
"When are you coming home?" I swear, I get asked this at least twice a week if not more! The answer is simple. I have no idea. I know I will be in Korea until at least the end of 2013, and it is highly likely I will stay another year beyond that...maybe longer. Honestly, I really just don't know. It is hard to compare my job now and my lifestyle to my counterparts in the States. While my life is not a bed of roses and far from perfect, it is comfortable and relatively stress-free. 

Why I Stay
While it is not always easy living in another country, there are many perks that I do not have in the USA. While living in Korea, I can travel to other countries relatively cheaply, I am experiencing cultures I have only read about in textbooks, and I am providing an avenue for my sons to experience life outside of the United States. My oldest son, Brandon, has visited Korea twice and seen things he has only dreamed about. My youngest, Bryan, lives here in Korea with me. We vacationed in Taiwan last summer and he is making international friendships that will last a lifetime. My boys are learning to respect people from all walks of life and they try to understand cultural differences and respect those differences. It's so fun to watch them experience life this way!!

Thoughts for 2013
As we move into 2013, I hope that my experience in Korea continues to be positive. I never imagined when I came here almost two and a half years ago that I would have the experiences I have had. I have met some amazing people from around the world and now have friends in virtually every corner of the globe. The decision to move to Korea did not only affect me, but also my family. Fortunately, it was a good decision and has been a remarkable journey for me and my boys. I hope that you will find the curiosity rising in you and you, too, will do something a little crazy this year. You never know where you may end up and the adventure that awaits you!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Settling in Suwon...

Less than two weeks ago, I made the move to my new city...Suwon, South Korea, and embarked on another chapter of my life in Korea. I have a new apartment (with no furniture at the moment), a new job (which I am completely happy with), and a new city to explore (which is MUCH bigger than my sweet little town of Uljin!).  

Here are just a few things I have experienced in the past few weeks.

Renting an Apartment: It sucks! Housing in the city is very difficult to acquire...well, decent housing. I think I should do an entire blog post on renting in Korea, but I must say here that it is a challenge not meant for the weak-minded. Everything from the deposit to the actual rent is negotiable and can change on a moments notice. Oh, the things I could say! Regardless, I did find a very, very nice place in the center of the city close to shopping and other amenities. Ok, so finding the apartment sucks, but the actual apartment is FABULOUS!!!

Moving: It sucks! That's about all I can say about that. I moved from Uljin to my friend's apartment while waiting for mine to be ready, then moved into mine. Additionally, I still had stuff in Uljin that had to be moved to Suwon. This is NOT an easy feat! Through another friend, I was able to secure a mover and got all of my belongings in one place. Whew! While challenging, it was managed and now all of my things are in my new apartment. I just have to unpack...

Driving in the City: It sucks! The traffic in Suwon is insanely busy and not at all like my sleepy Uljin town. It is going to take some getting used to, but I think I may be a bit too scared to actually drive my scooter here. Oh, how I love my little scooter, but I love living more and don't want to find myself plastered to the pavement. I am considering selling him to a new, less-afraid, driver, but I must think on this some more. Regardless, traffic is insane, but still nothing compared to Seoul!

Purchasing Appliances and Furniture: It sucks! Not being able to speak Korean can make this a bit challenging. Even if one manages to find a good deal on something, a truck of some sort must be procured in order to move said items to new abode. Ugh. However, it has been kind of fun scouring the second-had stores and looking for good items. I also managed to find a lovely Korean high school girl who has been acting as a translator for me. Oh, Katy! I am soooo happy you are here!

Riding buses and subways and cabs-Oh my! It doesn't totally suck, but it can be frustrating to get on the wrong bus going the wrong way at the wrong time...ugh!! On a positive note, I have discovered many useful places and things on my little mishaps including a Goodwill and good restaurants. See, it's not all bad~

This transition has been a bit more challenging than my initial transition to Korea. I think it is because of two things. One, I was scheduled to fly home this weekend after completing my one year contract. I was looking forward to seeing family and friends, especially my oldest son, Brandon, but I could not secure a job in the States. Second, I have had to do many more things on my own, such as finding an apartment, securing furnishings, finding my way around a big city. Overall, I cannot complain. I have a great job in a beautiful city. I'm living in a three bedroom/two bath apartment near a gorgeous park for the same price as I would pay for a studio back home. I have my youngest son here with me and friends across the country and around the world. This is one wild ride, but at least it is an awesome adventure! :-)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Saying Farewell to Uljin

It is hard to believe a year has passed since I first began preparations to come to Korea. Now, the time has come to bid farewell to my little seaside town and the precious friends I have made here. 

To process the thought of leaving my comfortable place, knowing I will never live here again, I began reflecting on the past year and what it has brought to me.There have been times of emotional highs as well as times of devastating, overwhelming sadness. Never will I forget the late nights of noraebang with my friends or the thought provoking trivia nights. The drives on my scooter up and down the east coast brought me so much joy with the warm sun on my face and the incredible scenery to take in! Walking to the market from my little apartment to get fresh fruits and veggies as well as the best chicken in town or taking my hot pink bicycle out for a spin were just little joys that put a smile on my face. Walking to work and having children shout, "Angela Teachuh", then running up to me so we could share some time as we walked to school together is simply priceless. Having a great job with a fabulous boss was icing on the cake. So many of my expat friends had difficult working conditions. My school was excellent! 

I also had the privilege of having one of my friends, Jen, come to Korea and visit me in April! That trip did wonders for me! It was so nice to have a little slice of home here with me and sharing my little joys of Korea was so much fun! The arrival of my 16 year old son, Bryan, to Korea in June brought me unspeakable joy! Sharing my simple life here with him brings me joy that is beyond words. Watching my friends accept my son and embrace him as the "little brother" of our tight-knit group brought on feelings I cannot even describe. They are wonderful people and memories will be forever cherished.

Being alone in a foreign country can also be quite sad at times. There are days where homesickness is overwhelming and just thinking about the distance separating you from your family and friends back home is exasperating and terrifying. The time sometimes seems to go fast and other times it seems to crawl. However, I have to admit, the good times over the past year far exceed the sad.

Though it is hard for me to say "farewell" to my little seaside town, I am excited about my next adventure as a university professor. It has been a dream of mine to teach on the university level and now I will. The good thing is that I will still be in Korea and can visit Uljin any time I want. I must remember that this is not "goodbye"; it is only "until we meet again". So long, Uljin. You will forever have a special place in my heart and will never be forgotten.

Friday, July 29, 2011

My next move...

The time finally arrived when I had to make a I stay or do I go? After being in Korea for close to one year, one has to weigh all options and decide if it is time to return to the homeland or stay a bit longer and see what happens. 

I have spent the last two months combing job boards (mostly and applying for positions both in Korea and back home. I applied for several types of positions, including private academies, public schools, and universities. I was interviewed and offered one position at a public middle school. I turned it down because of money and benefits. I then was accepted by EPIK (English Program In Korea) to teach in the public school system in the city of my choice. This looked like a good option, so I hung on to it for a minute, then decided it was just not what I wanted. Then came the offer from a private academy near Seoul. Hmmm..good pay, good housing, benefits not bad, but it still seemed like a dead end. What exactly did I want? None of these jobs were "bad", they just were not the right fit. Oh, and as far as jobs back home, I did not get so much as one single rejection letter.

I decided to really think about what I wanted in my next job. I decided on the salary I would accept and the benefits that were negotiable and non-negotiable. I created a target: University positions only. Now, let me explain how this works. Universities don't use recruiters. The easiest way to get in is to know somebody who knows somebody who can put in a good word for you. Then, you have to be in the right place at the right time. Competition is fierce and I was told by anyone and everyone who currently works in a university that this was the case. They were right. I cannot tell you the amount of resumes I sent out. Then I started getting responses from these universities. Then interviews. Then an offer! Then a better offer!!

I have finally settled on a position and will start the next phase of my career as a University Professor at a well-known university in South Korea. I'm excited, blessed, happy, and content with this decision. I'm looking forward to another year in Korea and advancing my teaching career in a new way.