Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year from BEIJING, CHINA!!

Hello, Everyone!!

It's been a while since I have updated my blog as many of you have been following my Korean Adventure on Facebook. I have been on winter break and spent the last few days in Beijing, China and today had the pleasure of visiting The Great Wall of China! More on that later...

It is hard to believe 2010 has come to a close and it is surreal for me to reflect back over the last year and discover where I was this time last year and where I am just one year later. I must say that for as much as I miss my family and friends back home, I do believe that making the move to Korea was a good one. I'm completely enjoying my time in Korea and would have never imagined I would spend New Years Eve in CHINA and New Years Day hiking the Great Wall!! Really?? Who does that? Oh yeah..I do! ;-)

As far as my travels during my first four months in Korea, I have been to Gyeongju and taken a weekend with the Silla Culture Center to see the Tombs of Kings and Queens as well as learn about the great Silla Dynasty and the history of Korea and Japan. I have participated in a Tea Ceremony, wore traditional clothing, flew a kite, walked a famous pond at night with a lantern, and learned more about Korean culture than I ever even imagined possible. I have seen the mountains of the eastern side of Korea, visited the Grotto and seen the largest Buddha ever, visited several temples and shrines, and even went to a festival at a Buddist temple. I have enjoyed the Hot Springs in Deokgu and jimjibangs in Pohang. I have shopped the markets of Seoul, Deagu, Pohang, and (of course) Uljin. I have made friends from Korea, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, and England and discovered English is NOT the same everywhere! :-) I shared Thanksgiving with thoughtful Korean co-workers who realized I was homesick and took me out for a special traditional Korean meal, and spent Christmas with great friends of six countries all in one place enjoying excellent food. I have ridden my scooter north and south two hours each way from Uljin and even got to attend a Korean wedding as the only foreign guest. I have tasted all sorts of food from Korea and many tasty treats from my eclectic international friendship network. I take a belly dancing class twice a week and am trying to do yoga. I have taken a trip to China, seen Harbin preparing for the Ice Festival, shopped and bargained at the Silk Market in Beijing, eaten real Peking Duck (yummy) and tobogganed down the Great Wall of China. Now, on New Years Day 2011, I am sitting in the Happy Dragon Hostel in Beijing, China, tired, my legs are sore, it's colder than I can even imagine, and I'm happy. I'm content, cold, and happy...and I like it. :-)

So, in this New Year, I have a challenge for all of you reading this. Try Something New!! Get out of your comfort zone and just do it! Take that trip you always wanted to take! Go see that famous wonder you have always wanted to see! Taste that food that you are afraid of, but have heard was wonderful. Friends, life is too short to live with regrets. Unfortunately, we all have our regrets, but there is nothing we can do about them. Live for today. Enjoy each moment you have been given on this earth and make the most of your life. Life is too short to be unhappy or stuck in a rut. Some people may think I have totally gone off the reservation by moving to Korea for a year. Maybe I have, but I would not want to change anything about these last four months other than maybe having my boys here to share this experience with me. I have made a lifetime of memories in the last four months and am looking forward to the next eight.

Blessings to you and yours in the New Year! Happy 2011!!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Surrounded by...Haesindang Park

Well, I have been in Korea for a little over six weeks and it's finally starting to feel like I sort of live here. I am settling into a routine during the week of chatting with family and friends in the morning via Skype, going to work in the afternoon and then relaxing in the evening. Sometimes I take myself out to dinner or meet up with some other expats for the infamous fried chicken and beer. On the weekends, I try to find at least one interesting place to visit or thing to do that is totally Korean. I sometimes just choose a direction and GO! I may have a loose plan, but that usually just involves a general direction. :-) My pink bicycle is great for stuff in town, but my scooter is wonderful for short, little trips just outside of Uljin and even as far as Pohang.

This weekend I am hoping to go to one of the many festivals offered. Last weekend, my friend and I visited Haesindang Park near Samcheok on the East Coast of South Korea, about 30 minutes or so north of Uljin. What is Haesindang Park? Funny you should ask!

Haesindang Park is a fa
mous park noted by locals and rumored by foreigners. See, when a foreigner tells someone from his or her home country what this park is famous for, no one believes us. (I actually sent my parents and a couple of friends to Google before my visit) It's just the way it is. Why? So glad you asked!! It is because the park is full of giant phallic shaped sculptures and statues. Yes, really. If you are on my facebook, you have already been privy to some pics. If not, I will share a few here so you may get the idea.

Why these sculptures, carvings and such? Another good question. According to, the legend is as follows:

Legend of Aebawi and Haesindang – There once lived a young maid who was engaged. One day, the maid took her husband’s boat out to sea to harvest seaweed. Her husband dropped her off at a rock that was at a distance from the beach. After promising to pick her up later, he returned to the beach to do his work. Later, the weather changed, and brought with it strong winds and pummeling waves. The man couldn’t rescue his wife and she ultimately drowned. Since then, the village people caught no fish and some said that it was because of the dead maid. To soothe the spirit of the dead maid, the village people made several wooden carvings and held religious ceremonies on her behalf. After a while, the fish slowly returned and the villagers were able to live comfortably again. The place where the maid died was named Aebawi Rock and the building where the religious ceremony is held twice a year was named Haesindang. The ceremony is still honored today as a traditional folk event.

There is also a version of the legend that speaks of a man relieving himself into the sea and the fish slowly begin to come back after that. There is a statue at the park depicting that act. So, as it goes, it is a legend and though there may be several versions, the main idea is the same.

In addition to the park, there is a museum of folk art and there are many captions in English. It is nice to be able to read about the things in the museum, even if I don't quite understand the logic behind it. :-)

Regardless of how tasteless we as westerners may find this, this place was built to honor and appease the young virgin as the village would not have survived if the fish had not returned. Of course, Asians as well as westerners do find humor in many of the statues and everyone does seem to take a few tasteless pictures (as you can see by the next picture of a group of Asian tourist posing for a group picture), but it is all done in good fun and humor.

Perhaps we could learn something from this. Am I suggesting building a "Penis Park" anywhere in the United States? Uhmm, no. However, I do find it important that we honor and please The One in whom we place our trust no matter what others may think...

Until my next adventure...

Monday, October 11, 2010

My First Month in Korea

Wow! I cannot believe I have been here a month already! I am finally starting to settle into a bit of a routine and am enjoying my new surroundings. Even in the short time I have been here, I have seen so much and tried so many new things. Some of them good...some of them not so good. I completely enjoy my job and look forward to going to work every day. I have made lots of friends, both Korean and Westerners, and have been invited many places. I have learned new words, phrases, and customs. I have been stared at, smiled at, laughed at, and laughed with. I am having the experience of a lifetime here in Korea and for as much as I miss my friends and family in the States, I am completely and fully enjoying my time here.


Well, one thing I can tell you is that it is SPICY!! Red pepper chili paste seems to be the main ingredient in every dish. While I'm sure it is not, it sure seems that way! I am starting to get a bit more used to it, but when my lips are burning, I just cannot seem to enjoy the taste of whatever it is I am eating! I did venture a bit and try these little fried fish with a touch of chili past, then wrapped in a lettuce leaf. Not bad. I'm not sure I could eat a whole plate full, but I managed a sample. I also ate a whole crab fresh from the sea last weekend. Well, he was cooked, of course, but I chose him from all the others to be may tasty treat! I did receive a little American treat from one of my co-teachers yesterday. She went to Seoul over the weekend and brought me back Krispy Kreme donuts!! MMMMMmmmm!!!! YUMMY!

The people here are very kind. I try to speak to them in as much Korean as I know. They are happy to help me say words correctly and will sometimes test their English out on me. I am always quick to compliment an English phrase, especially in my little town. This is a fishing community and most adults do not speak any English at all, especially in the market or in stores. It is much easier to find a Korean that can speak some English in the bigger cities I frequent, like Pohang.

I have also found two universal languages. Food and Music. The Korean people are always eager to share a new dish with me. I have been invited to dinner in tradional restaurants and been given little samples of Korean food from the teachers at my school. I still have not figured out the fascination with little rice cakes, but they are thrilled to share this treat with me. I always graciously accept. The picture here is Purple Sweet Potato Cake. It is sweet and has the consistency of a sponge cake. It was so good! I must say, I was surprised, but quite delighted when I tasted it. I love that my teachers share things with me! :-)

I mentioned that I like to sing, so this has gotten me several invitations to "norebang" which is karaoke. It's kind of fun to sing a song that I know I can do well, then one of my Korean friends will ask me if I know a certain song or artist. When I say that I do, they choose the songs for me to sing. In turn, I ask them to sing a Korean song, which is always lovely. It's funny how music can bring people together even without a common language.

Well, I am more mobile these days. Not only did I get my hot pink bike to ride around town, I managed to secure a scooter to venture further past the boundaries that exsist here in Uljin. I love living near the ocean. The smell of the salty air, the cool ocean breeze, and the soothing sound of the waves crashing to the shore is surreal. I spend quite a bit of time just sitting by the water or riding my bike or scooter up and down the coast. By doing so, I manage to find quaint little places to explore and discover things unexpectedly. Saturday I happened upon a squid operation where they were washing, weighing, packaging, and shipping squid. If you are on Facebook, there is a video there. It was fascinating to watch. They moved like a well rehearsed dance in perfect rhythm with the other workers. No one even noticed the presence of an alien lurking nearby with camera and video recorder in hand!

After my squid sighting, I ventured to Deokgu Spa up in the mountains. It was WONDERFUL!! Natural hotsping soaking tubs, Korean bathhouse, and therapeautic whirlpools were all mine for the taking as long as I wanted for only 9000 won. I soaked in lemon bath and a pool infused with jasmine while looking out over the mountains. I massaged my tired feet and shoulders in a pool with jets strategically placed for maximum effect on targeted areas. After I was sufficently clean and massaged, I sat in a massage chair for 1000 won and drank a mango slushy. I will be going back to this place. It was incredible!

I have also visited the city of Yeongcheon for a delightful weekend visiting an Herb Festival and an astronomical observatory, going horseback riding and ATVing, visiting a vineyard and making my own wine, visiting a traditional Korean cooking school and being served a traditional meal (see pic on right), seeing an historic temple, and camping in a beautiful cabin in the middle of the mountains...Korean style, of course. Yes, that means this delightful cabin was sans furniture and we got to sleep on the floor. It did have a GREAT shower, so that was a huge plus! The not-so-huge-plus was having traditional Korean breakfast presented to us on Sunday morning. I'm not sure about you, but I just don't think my stomach can handle kimchi, squid, and crunchy dried fish at 8:00 a.m. Give me a bowl of cereal and some juice! I had a piece of bread and four grapes. mmmm... :-(

What can I say about teaching English to non-English speakers? Hmmm....honestly, I love it. I enjoy the challenge each day brings. I enjoy the look of pure joy on my student's face when he finally masters the word "werewolf" or "baseball" or "doll". Any words containing an "r" or "l" is difficult for them. It is also challenging to differentiate between a "b", "p", and "v". Another consonant that is difficult is "f". We work very hard on these sounds and I have found my training in vocal production (thank you CCU and Brenda Lang) to be priceless when trying to teach these concepts. They laugh at me when I have them make a "fish face" by poking in their cheeks to force the mouth to only use the tongue to say "doll". Hey, it works! Finally, I can use my expertise in proper vowels and consonants for something other than singing!

My boss is great and very accomodating. He also does not micro-manage me and trusts my teaching ability. I have been able to identify inconsistencies and errors in the textbooks and he makes changes based on my knowledge of the English language. It is really nice to teach in a place where education is so highly valued and teachers are treated with the respect they so desire in the States.

Overall, my experience thus far in Korea has been very, very positive. I am so glad I am not in Seoul or Busan or other big city. Being out in the "country" allows me to breath fresh air, relax, take in the culture and become as much a part of my new community as I can without the distractions of Western niceties. Of course, if I get really restless, there is a bus terminal at the edge of town that will gladly take my won, give me a ticket, and send me anywhere I want to go in this beautiful country. I'm looking forward to many more adventures along the way, including a trip to the DMZ, many more temples, a temple stay, and much, much more. Thanks for joining me on this adventure! Enjoy the ride!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Korean Doctor's Office Experience

Today was a very strange day, indeed. This is but one story of my strange day.

In order to get my Alien Registration Card this Friday, I am required to have a simple drug test to make sure I am not taking any illegal drugs and also an HIV test. Simple, right?? Uhm...not if you are an American who speaks no Korean! So, my Director instructs me on where to go and assures me that it will be fine for me to go alone as the doctor speaks English. I hop on Pinky (aka my Hot Pink Bicycle) and pedal off to the clinic. I find it easily enough and lock up my bike and head to the is locked. I'm sure the sign on the door says to use the other entrance, but since I am illiterate, I cannot read it. lol...I venture around the building and manage to find the correct door and proceed upstairs to the clinic. At the desk I am met by a wide-eyed male receptionist who smiles and gives me a little paper about the size of an index card with nothing but Korean writing and blank spaces to be filled. It apparently is a registration form asking for my name, birthdate, etc., but, alas, I am illiterate. A kind nurse or medical assistant or whatever she is in her little white jacket, tries to assist me with the help of my handy dandy translation book! (Best $7.00 I have ever spent on a book) I manage to write my name, age, and birthday, then she escorts me to a seat.

After a bit, Nurse Lady motions for me to come over to the blood pressure machine. Yes, like the ones they have in Walgreens. It is in the middle of the waiting room. She takes my blood pressure which is through the roof because of the stress I am feeling and motions me to go sit back where she planted me previously. I take out a book and pretend to ignore the stares of all the Korean people, especially the little old lady next to me who makes it obvious she is staring. She mumbles something several times to me in Korean. I smile, nod, and go back to my book.

A few minutes later I am escorted into the doctor's "office" by Nurse Lady. Doctor "I-don't-even-know-his-name" is sitting behind his desk, motions me to sit on the stool in front of his desk, and proceeds to ask me, "What can I do for you today?" Hurray!!! He does speak English!! After a bit of exchange, I am finally able to get across what I need. I think he understands and I just want to get the heck out of there! He calls Nurse Lady on the phone and she appears instantaneously! He instructs her to take my "samples" for the "study" and she escorts me back to my perch. I sit like a good little girl waiting for my next instructions. Old Lady is still staring at me.

Nurse Lady comes to me with a PAPER CUP with a line drawn on the side and points to the "toilet" sign (I can read that one). I understand. Fill to line and bring back. Got it. I go into the restroom. I open the door to the "stall", and there it is...Squat Toilet. I say out loud to myself, "You have got to be kidding me!" For those of you who have no idea what a squat toilet is, I have included a picture. Yes, it is on the floor, I am wearing capris and have to give a sample in a paper cup. Really???
Somehow I manage to fill to the line without a major catastrophe, but then I am unsure what to do next. Well, I put some tissue around the paper cup and trot back through the waiting room (yes, the waiting room) and hand it to Nurse Lady who takes it from me with no gloves and sets it on the counter. Yes, you get it! No gloves, no lid, no sterile container, no "clean catch"...I am beside myself. But wait!! There's more!!

Now it is time to give my blood. "Sit," she says. I sit. On a stool. In a doorway. In front of the entire waiting room to watch as she takes my arm and ties the touniquet and proceeds to "slap, slap, slap" to get a vein to appear. Again, no gloves! I did at least witness a clean, sterile needle that she was going to use. She proceeds to take my blood into the container, then inject it into one of those tubes. Odd, just odd. She puts a cotton pad thing on my puncture then a bandage. All no gloves, sample still on counter uncovered, and the whole waiting room watching the Alien give blood. I really just want to run away at this point.

She manages to tell me I am finished and directs me to the receptionist. I need to pay 40,000 Won. Hmmm...would have been nice to know up front, as I only have 10,000 Won on me. I play the sign language game indicating I need to make a call. I call Teacher Jennifer (LOVE HER) and explain my dilemma. Graciously, she comes to rescue me, pays my bill, and whisks me away from this dreadful place. I am traumatized. Jennifer laughs and we both wonder why Mr. Cho (my Director) did not send one of the Korean teachers with me. We, Jennifer and I, cannot come up with a good reason, so we head over to her paint studio and have afternoon tea with her Art Teacher. My traumatization of the Korean health clinic is over. Now, I just hope I get that Alien Registration Card on Friday!

Stay tuned....

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Things That Amuse Me In Korea...Episode 1

If you have ever lived in a foreign country, you can appreciate the differences in culture. Here you will find 11 things that I have found amusing during my first two weeks abroad. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

First Two Weeks in Korea

Wow! I cannot believe it has only been two weeks! I am finally starting to settle in, and so many of you have asked for an update. So much has happened. I have seen so many things. I have experienced so much already! Where to begin is really the question! :-) Let's take things by topic, shall we?

My Apartment
My apartment is a small studio on the 4th floor of a building with no elevator. Each day the climb gets a bit easier, but first I have to make it up the hill to the building! :-) I'm very close to the highway and the hospital is within a 5 minute walk. (That is important for my parents to know). It is clean and modern and I really like it. I finally learned how to get the stove to light last week, so now I can cook. My first attempt was ham, potatoes, onion and cabbage. YUMMMMM!!! Just a little western meal in my Korean apartment! The strangest thing to get used to is the shower. I have to turn on the hot water about 5 minutes prior to showering, then turn it off when I am finished. Also, there is no tub...only a shower that encompasses the entire bathroom. It truly is a BATH room. lol Regardless, it is just the right size for me and I really like it.

My School
I really, really like my school. There are about 5 Korean teachers and one other English speaking teacher. He, Teacher Mark, has been very helpful in helping me get settled here. His wife is Korean, so he knows a lot of the "ins and outs" of things and can help me understand Korean traditions and such. I have a great schedule. I get to school around 1:30p.m. and the students come at 2:00. I teach two 25 minute classes then have a 10 minute break. I start over again at 3:00 until 3:50, then a 10 minute break. This repeats with the classes increasing in English proficiency until 7:50 pm. Then I clean up and go home. Total contact hours: 5 per day, 10 classes, and very minimal lesson planning. I could not ask for anything better. Next month, my schedule will shift by 30 minutes (I'll go in 30 minutes later), then back again the following. This makes for a nice break in routine and lets me see all of the kids in the Hagwon. :-)

In order to explore more of my town, I bought a FANTASTIC bicycle!! It has been absolutely wonderful and I am so grateful to have it! Of course, it's hot pink with a basket and a bell and could not be any more adorable. lol... I traded my Jeep 4x4 for a hot pink bike...hmmmm... that just makes me giggle.

Transportation in Korea is second to none! I decided to take a trip to Pohang last weekend and hopped the intercity bus (which is majorly comfortable and actually fun to ride) and just a mere 1.5 hours later, I was shopping at a "supercenter" type store! It was really fun to see some American brands with Korean writing. (Go P&G!!) I took a walk down the "walking street" and managed to find a wonderful pizza place where I devoured a bacon and onion pizza. DELICIOUS. The sauce kind of reminds me of Dewey's. This is not LaRosa's, Cincinnati! After that, as I was walking by Starbucks, I saw a couple of western-looking girls and stopped to chat. We became fast friends and actually spent the Chuseok holiday together...more on that in a minute.
I grabbed a quick, cheap taxi back to the bus terminal, bought my ticket back to Uljin, and I was quickly on my way home! What a great day trip!

Everyone is asking me about the food. Well, for the first week, Ramen noodles and fried chicken were my best friends. I have since expanded my palette and tried more traditional Korean food. I have decided that I do like Bulgogi and Kimbap, but am not a fan of kimchi. I am also a HUGE fan of the Korean barbeque restaurants where you cook your own food on this grill in the middle of the table. In Pohang during Chuesok holiday, six of us found this delightful place called "Meat King". Yes, it truly was!! It was a buffet where you could have, cook, and eat as much meat as you wanted for 13,900 won (about $13.00). Couple that with some Korean Rice Wine mixed with "cider" (tastes like Sprite), some Korean Beer, and lots of water, and all the little tasty sauces and sides, you have yourself a fine, fine meal! Additionally, we had to take our shoes off at the door and sit on the floor at the low tables. It was very cool.

Korean people are generally very kind to me. One teacher from school took me out to "noribong", which is KARAOKE!!! Needless to say, I had a blast! The teachers at school are always more than willing to translate something for me, help me find a bus schedule, buy a cell phone, or even translate menus for me so I don't end up eating something I have no desire to eat. They always invite me to sit with them and ask me daily if I have eaten. If I tell them I have not, there is ALWAYS an offer of some food, whether it is half of their sandwich, some bread, noodles, or some rice. This is an important cultural thing which I find very endearing. They seem to genuinely care for one another and, well, if they don't, they at least keep up a good front!

When I go into the shops in town, I always greet them in Korean and sometimes they will answer back in English. This is not as common here as it was in Europe, but they genuinely appreciate the effort I take at butchering their language. lol... I really am trying, but it is not easy. It also seems to be common to walk away with a "free gift" after making a purchase. Let's see, I have gotten a bike lock, coffee, a wrinkle filler face mask (stop laughing), and some little stickers for the kids. Yes, the people here are very kind, and I like them. The ladies in the picture on the right helped me choose my bike, unwrapped it for me, gave me the lock, then posed for the picture. One funny thing... I knew I had been frequenting the local chicken place too often when I walked in for the third time in a week and the guy behind the counter says, "Ah! Fried Chicken? And Pepsi?? Sit anywhere!". Yes, I have become a regular already. lol

I've been getting a lot of questions about prices. Well, it really depends on what you want to purchase. For example, if I go to Lotteria (Korean McDonald's for lack of a better explanation), I will spend about three times as much to get a burger (which is gross anyway), fries (tasty), and a Pepsi than I would across the street at the 24 hour Korean "Diner". I can eat very well on about 3,000 to 4,000 won there (under $4.00) and not finish my entire meal.

When it comes to shopping in the stores, it is much the same. Beef is VERY expensive here, but chicken and pork are reasonable. I have yet to see anything that resembles a tv dinner, but you can buy a bag of chicken nuggets or frozen cheese sticks. Again, they are far more expensive than the fresh food you can get in the market. The only problem with buying in the market is the language barrier, as there are not many prices posted, and it is hard to purchase a small amount of anything. For example, last week I tried to buy two apples. Well, that was not going to happen. I ended up with the basket of about 12. Yeah....Other than that, I love to go to the market and just wander around. You never know what you will find!

Well, Korean television is entertaining...for a minute. lol There are a few English stations, but I have yet to figure out a schedule of what is on and when. I did catch an episode of "Bones" and "NCIS" in English with Korean subtitles. That made me happy. :-)

Noribong, aka Singing Rooms, are very popular here. I have been twice and had a blast both times. It is not like back home where you go in to some random bar with random people. You actually get your own "room" with a comfortable sofa-like seating area, a big table, two mics, and lots of songs in both English and Korean. It is a great social time and it is most helpful that I can actually sing! :-) The picture on the left are my Korean friends who introduced me to the art of Noribang. They are all teachers. Although I can enjoy fried chicken and beer as much as the next person, it is nice to sing a bit while partaking in said beverages and snacks.

Another social thing is called Jimjibang. Now, I suggest you just google it and decide for yourself, but three of us Western girls with tattoos and piercings braved the "Korean Bathhouse and Sauna" and had a simply delightful time! I cannot remember the last time my skin felt so soft and wonderful. I have included a simple link,, which explains it a bit better than I believe I can, but suffice it to say, we have decided to make it a monthly thing within our little group of friends to visit the Jimjibang and scrub each others backs to become "silky monkeys".

What I Miss From America
Strangely, I miss macaroni and cheese. I have been able to find Hershey's, so I am good on the chocolate front. I miss my friends and family. I really, really, really miss my boys. I must say, however, I am very grateful for the Internet, Facebook, and Skype. I don't know if I could be this far from everyone without it, especially Brandon and Bryan. I think I actually talk to my boys now than I did when they lived with me! lol :-)

What I Like Most About Korea
Today, what I like most about Korea is being close to the sea and being able to ride my bike down to the ocean and just sit and read. I like riding my bike all over town and discovering little places I had previously missed. I like learning about the culture and practicing what little vocabulary I have. Mostly, I like teaching. I love the kids and I love teaching. I don't have behavioral issues, they listen, they engage, and they are eager to learn as well as teach me things! Most of my Korean vocab has come from my students and I am grateful for that.

Well, friends, this is a long post, but there were lots of questions from you all I wanted to be sure to answer. Should you have any other questions or are curious about anything, please let me know and I will address it!

Until next time, I will try to stay out of trouble (teehee) and stay safe on my Korean adventure. Love to you all!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sights and Smells of a Sunday Afternoon...

Still battling jet lag, I ventured out into my new city to explore the market and see what other things I could find. I took my iPod (best purchase EVER!) so I could take video of my little excursion. (These videos are posted on my Facebook page as I cannot seem to get them to load on blogger).

Taking my big blue backpack (great purchase), my little red umbrella (even better purchase), and some Korean Won, I set out for a walk through town with no agenda other than to visit the Uljin Market. I wandered across the street, past the golf course (driving range, really), the park with the stange leaves in the pond, and into the main part of town, taking short little videos along the way.

Though the sign pointed left towards the Market, I spotted colorful umbrellas up ahead. My curiousity won out and I ventured straight instead of left. What I had discovered was actually another section of the Market. I was initially greeted by fish hanging under a tarp and was surrounded by foreign (by my sense of smell) scents of fish, kimchi, and spices. The women were all crouched down at their respective "booths" busily slicing, pealing, and cutting various foods. Most "stands" consisted of an umbrella, a couple of women, and various food items spread out on the ground in baskets or on top of cardboard or tarps.

Behind the open air market were the "brick and mortar" shops of make-up, clothing, shoes, and various other wares. I stumbled into a little cosmetic shop and bought a tube of lip gloss. The kind lady at the counter gave me "free samples" of other cosmetics and told me that my skin was "beautiful". Funny, I think Koreans have beautiful skin and I have freckles. lol Regardless, I showed my gratefulness by saying "thank you" in Korean and giving a slight bow. She invited me to come back again, which I am sure I will. :-)

Back onto the streets, I wandered around with this cheesy grin, smiling and nodding to those who stared and said "hello" to children who always answered back a kind "hello" to me. They study English, so it is safe to assume they speak at least basic English phrases. I then came upon a familiar nut (no, not one of my friends), or so I thought, and pulled out my dictionary. Sure enough, they were chestnuts! I did not buy any today, but will do so more into the winter months. They prepare them much as we do in the States, so I am looking forward to that tasty treat.

There was a lady surrounded by bushels of apples and I wandered by too slowly. She offered me a taste and they were indeed "quite delicious"! Since it is only me I have to feed, I tried to purchase only two apples. This was not going to happen. She explained it all to me in Korean, but I did finally understand that she only sold by the bowls in front of her or the big crates. I came home with 13 apples. I guess I could bake a pie, but I don't know how nor do I have an oven. :-)

I wandered through the market and then managed to find my way across the bridge to the other side of Uljin and where most of the night life happens. I happened upon the public elementary school, more chicken places, a bicycle shop (yay! I'm going to buy one), and various other little shops and restaurants. Finally back to "my side of town", I stopped in the local "burger joint" and had a snack of two cheese sticks and an iced tea. The tea tasted more like lemonade and was very good. I will have that again as it is right next to my school.

I then wandered in to a little supermarket and found a "pouf" for my interesting shower and some snack chips that taste kind of like Bugles. After exiting the supermarket, I was overwhelmed by a delicious aroma of roasted meat. As I ventured toward the place it was coming from, I decided it was indeed PORK!! I watched the man prepare the meat for a lady and then ordered some for myself. After all of this, I decided it was time to head home and enjoy my dinner and put my feet up for a while. I realized I had been walking for three hours!

I headed home, took out my trusty chopsticks (that's a sight!), put my feet up and relaxed the rest of the evening. So far I am enjoying my time in Uljin, South Korea and am looking forward to my first day of school. More later...

Friday, September 10, 2010

3 Airplanes, 2 Buses, 1 minor bump in the road...

So, indulge me while I tell you of my adventures on three airplanes, two buses, and only one minor mishap that got me to where I am sitting right now.

After spending the entire night awake and stuffing every thing I could into my new backpack, we set off for the airport at about 4:00 a.m. Amanda and Ashley accompanied me all the way to security to make sure I could make it through without having to leave anything behind. Much to everyone's surprise, I did!! :-) Of course, this was after we sat on the floor at the airport redistributing things in one of my suitcases to get it underweight. Lol During check-in, I discovered my seats had been changed due to a plane change. I was not happy about this as I had paid for the upgrade to “Economy Plus” in order to have a little extra legroom. The nice lady at United looked and found me a seat in an exit row for the flight from San Francisco to Seoul. That made me happy. Additionally, my seat from Chicago to San Francisco was a middle seat instead of the aisle I had requested. Ugh.. Remember these details, as they is important to how the story develops.

Well, the first flight from Cincinnati to Chicago was uneventful. I got an aisle seat and actually dozed off for a few minutes. That was much needed. Upon boarding the plane in Chicago to San Francisco, the kind lady who was in the aisle seat asked if I would like her to move over to the middle (my assigned seat). I told her that would be fine, thinking it was just so I could get settled without blocking the aisle. Turns out, her husband is sitting by the window, so she moves to the middle to sit by him! Yippee!! I get the aisle! I was happy and I got to sleep a bit. Once we landed in San Francisco, I had to locate the International Terminal and find my gate. This was a bit challenging, but I made it and even had time to grab a burger and call Dad. I was happy. Upon boarding, I discover my seat is NOT in an exit row, but one row behind yet an aisle. I was not happy, but proceeded to settle in with another American girl in my row along with an Army guy in the middle. Ok, this was going to be livable. Well, then the chatty dude flight attendant was talking with a guy in the exit row telling him he would have to change seats for some reason...I guess he was not qualified to be an exit row person. CHA CHING!! “Hey, I'll be happy to change seats!” This made Flight Attendant Dude happy and I began rearranging myself to the window seat in the exit row for a 12 and a half hour flight. **happy dance** Yay for leg room and a wall to rest my head for a much needed nap! I am convinced I had an angel on my shoulder as I got the seat I wanted each time. God is so good! :-)

It was a good flight and we landed in Seoul about 30 minutes ahead of schedule. I was shuffled through immigration without any delay **another happy dance** and headed to baggage claim to retrieve my really heavy suitcases. They arrived with me!!! I was happy with United Airlines. Very happy. I headed through Customs with ease and out to find the bus to take me to Dong Bus Terminal to get my bus to Uljin. I find the ticket counter, purchase my ticket and attempt to tell the driver where I am going. He sort of understands, but takes me all the way to the hotel he was servicing! Lol...Once we arrive there and I explain again with my translation book and an interpreter where I need to go, he agrees to take me back to the bus terminal! Wow! He could have totally made me get off and buy another ticket, but he takes me back, drops me off and three little Korean men assist me into the bus terminal with all of my luggage.

Now, allow me to paint this picture of me and my luggage to you. I have two very large black suitcases with a gray strap around each. I also have a smaller matching carry-on and a big blue laptop backpack and my big American pillow. I have managed to strap the carry-on to one of the big suitcases and they roll together. I then take the monster pillow and strap it to the other suitcase. I am wearing the giant blue backpack and towing one suitcase handle in each hand. Can you picture it? It is truly a sight! I manage to purchase a ticket to Uljin and find my place of departure. Now I must find a phone and call the director to let him know what time to meet me at the terminal in Uljin. I find the pay phones and have NO CLUE how to operate them, as there are four different versions at this phone bank. Finally, I ask a young Korean woman for assistance, show her the number and she helps me use the phone. Success!! My people here now know I have arrived and will be there to greet me!

I have about an hour to kill and am in desperate need of water. I find a little stand and purchase a bottle of water, some miniature looking oranges and a box of delicious chocolate, chocolate chip cookies. I love that the cookies are individually wrapped! I don't over indulge and can keep some for later. I walk around the bus terminal with luggage in tow and purchase an umbrella for 5000 Won (about $5.00) as it is raining during all this. I also find a bakery place that has these wonderful looking sandwiches that resemble grilled cheese. I buy one for about $2.00 and bit into it. Yes, it is cheese and something like ham in addition to the sweetest onions I have ever tasted! Yummm!! I needed that along with a little bottle of Coke. Now, mind you, I am giggling and smiling like a total cheeseball as I cannot believe I am actually here and have not gotten totally lost in this foreign land. I mean, I cannot read ANYTHING, yet am managing. Sorry, I found this quite humorous.

I head over to find my bus and the bus driver looks at me and my luggage and smiles and says something in Korean to two other drivers. They look at my tag to try to figure out where this alien has come from and where I am going. They read my name “Angela” and repeat it over and over as they assist me with my luggage. Finally! On the bus to Uljin I go! Upon arriving in Uljin at around 11:00 p.m., my director meets me and whisks me away to find dinner and take me to my new abode. He takes me to this little place and we order, (are you ready for this?), fried chicken and beer. LOL!! I was cracking up! He suggested Korean beer and, for me not being a beer drinker, it was quite good! He was impressed that I had studied a bit about the culture and knew not to pour my own drink, but also how to pour his and receive mine with two hands. “You have studied a lot!” I was happy he was impressed. He also introduced me to Kimchi which I am not sure if I like or not. I think it is an acquired taste, but I did not dislike it.

We talked for a bit about the school and what I will be doing. School starts at 2:00 pm and ends at 7:40 p.m. How cool is that? I have to be at school around 1:00 on Monday so I can get settled and that's it! It ends up being about a 30 hour work week. No late nights and no early mornings. I think I'm gonna like it here! Oh! And did I mention the Singing Rooms??? Oh yeah, baby, KARAOKE is the favorite pastime (along with drinking beer and eating fried chicken) and there are places everywhere!! Hmmm...sweet schedule, coastal city, a nice director, Korean beer is good, and I get to teach. Wow.

After eating, Mr. Cho took me to my studio apartment. It is on the 4th floor and is actually better than what I had hoped for. See the video for a short tour.

I am getting settled in and toured Uljin this afternoon with Mr. Cho. He showed where to shop, how to get to school, how to get to the ocean and even took me to a fish market where you can buy fresh, live fish, watch them kill it, then they cook it and you eat it. I cannot stomach that just yet. lol

Know that I miss you all and will continue to update my blog as I can. I'm hoping at least once a week, but will probably do more as interesting things happen. Once I get my apartment put together, I will post another video. So, after three airplanes, two buses, and a minivan, I have arrived. Stay tuned for more adventurous updates!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Night Before Flight

It is almost 3 a.m. and my flight leaves at 6:05 a.m. The plan was to take a short nap prior to leaving for the airport. Hmmm...we see that is not happening. I'm sitting here listening to the stillness of the night. The windows are open and the cool breeze wafts over me sending chills down my spine. I love this time of night. All is still and quiet, except for the crickets and other creatures of the night singing their songs.

In this quiet, I am able to reflect on my journey thus far. It is hard for me to believe that I am actually going to Korea for a year...12 months...four seasons...on the other side of the world! I have so many wonderful friends who have been so encouraging and helpful these past few weeks. My parents have assisted me and my boys have been very supportive. I could not ask for better people in my life right now. I don't know if my journey would have gone so smoothly to this point if it had not been for all of these people.

Many have asked what I am most looking forward to. I have no idea really what to expect, though I am looking forward to being near the ocean and being able to just walk out to it every day. I'm looking forward to tasting crab tomorrow in this city known for crab. I'm looking forward to seeing my school and my classroom and meeting all of my students. The open air markets are intriguing to me, so I am looking forward to exploring the town this weekend.

I'm not looking forward to being so far away from my boys. As a mother, I have to worry about them. That's my job, but I would worry regardless. However, I know they have a host of people ready to help if they need help and lots of folks who love and care about them. I think we will all grow a lot over the next 12 months and I am very much looking forward to seeing the results of that.

It is almost time for me to make final checks and preparations. Passport, visa, money, ticket, luggage packed correctly, etc. I hope and pray that the peace I feel about this journey is real. I am not really nervous, but excited. I'm excited about the possibilities that await me. I'm excited about the adventure of a new culture and new people. I'm also excited about sharing this with those of you who are following my blog.

I'm not sure when I will have access to Internet again, but I am planning to update this blog at least once a week. I hope you enjoy reading it and, please, feel free to comment or ask any questions you may have. I'll see you on the other side of the world!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Less than 36 hours to lift-off

With less than 36 hours left in the good ol' U. S. A., I find myself scrambling a bit to get things accomplished. Overall, everything has come together quite nicely and there have really been no major glitches. People keep asking me how I am remembering to do everything. It's really quite simple. Lists, lists, and more lists. Tomorrow will be my last full day to get things done, as I leave at 6a.m. Thursday morning. Yes, I have a list for tomorrow. :-)

I'm looking forward to dinner with a few friends Wednesday evening at a favorite BBQ place in Cincinnati. After saying "goodbye", I will head over to some dear friends who live near the airport and will spend the night there so they can take me to the airport at some ungodly hour Thursday morning. They are so looking forward to that. lol :-)

I also picked up $1000 USD worth of Korean Won, which was a little over 1 million Won. So, does that make me a millionaire? Oh well, it's fun to think about anyway.

I'm totally looking forward to this adventure and hope you enjoy reading about it. Funny thing is, although I am a bit nervous, I have a great peace and calm about everything. I honestly feel it is the right thing to do and the right time to do it. I have no idea what may be in store for me, but I am excited to find out! Keep me and my family in your thoughts and prayers as I travel far from home and far from my boys. I'm so glad they are supportive of this!

Until next time...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

One week left...

Today was my last day at my current place of employment. I am going to miss everyone so much. They are so supportive and kind. Most of all, every single one believes in me, my passion, my energy, and my decision to go teach little children in Korea. Not one of them laughed at me or told me I was crazy. lol... They were all encouraging and offered kind words as we shared a lunch together for one last time. I will miss the "T.A.N.K", as we are so affectionately known (Tracy, Angela, Amanda, Nancy, Katie), and the happy times along with the stressful times and the downright crazy times. Ah, yes, I leave the staffing world behind today to move on to other challenges.

I also left my condo behind today. I have to run back in the morning to get a couple of last minute things I just could not manage today, but for all rights and purposes, it is complete and I am outta there! As I took one of the final loads to storage today, I stepped back and looked at all of my belongings and wondered just how important those "things" were going to be to me in a year. Did I really need everything in there? At 40 years old, is this really all my life consists of? Then I pondered the idea that this ws not such a bad thing. I mean, someone earlier this week told me how people hide behind fancy clothes, expensive cars, big houses, etc. However, I am really stripping myself down. I have nothing to hide behind. It's just me. Simply me. Although a bit scary, I find it also quite refreshing and freeing.

Tomorrow I have to go exchange USD for Korean Won, renew my driver's license, get an International Driving Permit (just in case I need it), finish getting stuff out of my condo, turn the keys in, return my new laptop bag, find a new laptop bag that fits my laptop, and re-pack my suitcases. Upon carrying them down the steps tonight, I have decided, once again, that I may have overpacked. Ugh. My luggage has to have what I need and it must be managable by me alone. Right now it is too overwhelming. I have to remind myself that they really do have stores over there and I can actually purchase things I may need. Wow. What a concept!

For this final week, I want to spend as much time as possible with the people in my life who are important to me; my boys, my parents, my friends. Thanks to all of you who have been supporting me as I have sorted out the details of this grand adventure. This time next week, I will be saying my goodbye's and doing final baggage checks! Wow...where did the time go?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

All Systems Go!

The final part of my preparation was to meet with the Korean Consulate General in Chicago. It was actually a fun trip and the Consulate could not have been any kinder. He asked me questions about where I was from and my teaching experience. Of course, he wanted to talk about how well the Reds were doing this year (glad I kept up with that!) and wanted to know about my family. It was a rather pleasant conversation and then he signed off on my Visa and we were finished! But, let me back up a second...

I may have mentioned in an earlier post just how easily this entire "Korea thing" came together. Please indulge me while I share another "hmmmm, okay" moment and I will let you come to your own conclusion.

Of course, I was able to take the Megabus to and from Cincy, then got a sweet deal on a hotel in downtown Chicago. So, I get off the bus and around the corner comes a taxi. I flag him, he stops and whisks me away for a little $8 ride to my hotel. I check in with no problems and have a room on the 10th floor with a huge king size bed (I sold my bed last week) and am thrilled to plop down on it with all the comfy pillows. ahhhhh...ahem..anyway, as I was saying. (teehee...I really enjoyed that comfy bed!) I opened my binder just to make sure I had everything I needed for the Consulate: Passport. Check. Picture. Check. Copy of Passport Signature page. Check. Uh oh...still need a Priority or Fed-Ex envelope to have it mailed back and a $45 money order for the Visa. Hmmm...It is 8:00 p.m. I decide there is nothing I can do about it now, so I head out to grab some Geno's (mmmmm...) and as I walk out the front door of the hotel, what do I see? A Post Office!! Yes, that is right. Of all the hotels I could have been in, I end up in the one across the street from the post office that opens at 8:30 a.m.!! Oh yeah, they sell Priority mail envelopes as well as money orders.

I then find out the NBC building where I had to go was a short 4 block walk from the hotel. No need for another taxi! Cha-ching!

Now, I don't know about you, but based on the ease of which everything has come together for me while I have been preparing for this big move, one has to believe in some sort of divine being that is watching over me and guiding me through this process. I mean, really?? Call it coincidence if you like, but I call it a God-incident. Just saying.

After I finished with my appointment, I had a few hours to kill so I wandered a few blocks over to the Navy Pier and treated myself to some yummy gelato, deep dish pizza and a ride on an insanely high Ferris wheel! Tall Ships were there (much like Tall Stacks in Cincy), so there were lots of cool ships to see. It was a perfect day. Sunny, breezy, no humidity! Absolutely perfect and relaxing!

I walked back to the hotel to retrieve my stored luggage, hailed a taxi, then hopped back on the bus. The parents picked me up once I arrived back in Cincy and I was home in my own little place by 11:00p.m. Not bad for a whirlwind trip!

I also received confirmation and an e-ticket for my flight. I will be leaving at 6:05a.m. on September 9, 2010, and will arrive in Seoul, S. Korea around 3:20 p.m. the next day. Now, keep in mind they are 13 hours ahead of us in Cincy, so while it is a long trip, it is not really that bad. Once there, I will take two buses to my new place to call home for a year. Wow. In less than 14 days, I will be on my way.

These past few days have been mixed with excitement, fear, uncertainty, anxiety, and peace. It is a strange recipe of emotions and sometimes hard to keep in check. However, I know I have a lot of friends and family who are supporting me, praying for me, and have just been so genuinely encouraging. The prayers and kind words sustain me through those doubtful times of uncertainty and fear. I cannot thank you enough, and you know who you are.

I hope I make each and every one of you proud as I am not only representing myself and my recruiting agency, but also the United State of America. I am representing each of you every time a little Korean child looks at me or mimics my speech. Every time I go to the market and the ladies chopping off fish heads look at me, I am representing you. I am very proud to be an American and will do my best to represent you and America in the most positive way possible.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Q and A

I keep getting a lot of the same questions over and over from various people, so I thought I would take a blog posting and put up some of the most common.

Q: Where are you going?

A: Uljin, South Korea. It is a small fishing village on the east coast of S. Korea north of Pohang. They are known for crab and have a yearly crab festival that is attended by people from all over the country.

Q: What are you going to do there?

A: Eat crab and drink soju! lol...just kidding!! I will be teaching English to elementary students at a private school (called hagwons).

Q: How long will you be gone?

A: I will only be gone for a short 12 months. It will fly by, I'm sure! And with technology, no one will even really miss me!

Q: What about the boys (i.e. my children/kiddos/offspring/etc.)? Are you taking them?

A: Brandon is on his own and doing well for himself. He is young and makes mistakes, but he is working hard to reach his goals. Bryan decided to go live with his dad before I even began entertaining this journey. He is a freshman in high school and will be just fine. Both of the boys are very supportive and have made sure to set up Skype and learn a bit about Korea. They know it is only for a year and I will be available at the click of a mouse!

Q: Where will you live?

A: The school provides an apartment for me at no cost. It is within walking distance of the school, so plenty of exercise for me! :-)

Q: Is it expensive to live there?

A: No. One of the reasons I chose South Korea was because of the low cost of living. I am actually going to be able to save some money.

Q: Are you taking all of your stuff with you?

A: No. I am taking two suitcases and a carry-on full of clothes and teaching supplies I cannot live without! My apartment is fully furnished and I will be able to purchase some things I need once I get there. Everything I am leaving behind is being put into storage and will be here for me when I return. It's kind of sad that I can fit all of my worldly posessions into a 10x10 storage unit!

Q: Do you speak Korean?

A: Nope. Not a word. However, I have purchased a phrase book so I can learn key phrases and will carry it with me everywhere! I also will be immersed into the culture and will basically be forced to learn. It's sink or swim time! (Or maybe it is swim or starve! LOL)

Q: Don't they eat dog over there?

A: I have to laugh every time I hear this question. The answer is, yes, they do but it is not as common as everyone seems to think. It is believed to increase a man's stamina and strength. I am not a man and know that caffiene can give me any boost I need. lol Just like in the U.S., I will be avoiding foods I dislike. Dog will not even be entertained (or eaten) by this girl. I just can't do it.

Q: What are you going to do when you get back?

A: I'm sure I will want to enjoy time with my family and friends I have missed. I will begin looking for a job prior to leaving Korea next year (yay Internet!) so, hopefully, I will have a job to come home to.

These are the most common questions, but if you have others, please feel free to post below as I'm sure others have some of the same questions.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

More preparations...

I finally got through to the Korean Consulate in Chicago to schedule my appointment for my Visa to be stamped into my passport. They only do them on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. The only time she had available next week was Wednesday at 10:20 a.m. I really had no choice, except I was supposed to be taking Bryan the rest of his things that day and had rented a truck to do so. Now what? Well, I had to reschedule everything and move things up a few days. After two hours of thinking, planning, and juggling tasks, here is what finally transpired:

Saturday: Pick up truck to take things to storage

Sunday: Pack up the rest of Bryan's things into the truck and drive them to him. Truck is a one-way rental (yes, it was cheaper that way) then catch the Amtrak train back to Cincinnati from Huntington, WV. Hmmm...I need to find someone to pick me up. I'll work on that...haha.

Monday: "Normal" day of work and more packing.

Tuesday: Dentist at 8:30 a.m., (gotta stay cavity free! 40 years is a long time to hold a "cavity-free" record!), then head to downtown Cincinnati to catch the Megabus (oh, yeah!) to Chicago, which leaves at 2:30p.m. 7:00p.m. I will arrive in Downtown Chicago and walk two blocks to my $35 deal of a hotel room (thanks, friend)!

Wednesday: Head over to the Korean Consulate office and complete the final Visa processing then hop on the Megabus at 3:00 p.m. to come back to Cincinnati. Whew! So glad I don't have to drive!!

The remainder of the week will be spent sorting and packing up the few remaining items in my place, then figuring out where I am going to sleep for eight days until I leave.

I am excited. I am nervous. I am scared. I am empowered.

How will this all turn out? Who knows? Not everyone understands why I am doing this and believes I am running away. The reality is that I am not running "from" anything. I am running "to" an opportunity. This is an opportunity for me personally as well as for my teaching career. I am taking time for me, just me. I am doing something because I want to and not because I am expected to because of a status. Some may call it selfish. Maybe it is. All I know is I feel a calm and peace about this decision that I have not felt in a long, long time about decisions I have made.

At the bottom of my blog page, there is a song list of songs that have inspired me. One of those songs is, "Live Like You Were Dying". Listen to it. Hear the words. Understand the message. Life will simply pass us by if we don't go out there and grab it and take it. We will get out of life what we put into it. I believe that, and I don't want to be old and gray sitting around wishing I would have taken a chance and done something I really wanted to do.

Friends, if you are reading this, you know how much my friends and family mean to me. You know I am passionate about what I believe in and can be a bit stubborn. (stop laughing...I hear you!) You do need to know this. People may come and go in my life; some stay longer than others. You are all important to me and have played some role in my life. I will miss you and think of you often. You will be in my prayers and thoughts daily. I may be halfway around the world, but that doesn't change the way I feel for any of you. Ya know?? :-) Besides, we always have Facebook!! lol

Well, the moving truck awaits and I have gotten sappy enough today. Time to move the boxes. Preparations continue. Until next time....

Thursday, August 19, 2010

FINALLY!!! My Visa Has Been Approved!!!

WooHoo!!!!!!! I just received word that my Visa has been approved. I can't believe it is finally real. It is happening. My target departure date is September 8th or 9th. I really don't know what else to say! I'm excited, nervous, thrilled, scared, and energized all at the same time! I have to call the Korean Consulate first thing in the morning to get my appointment to have my final face-to-face interview and get the Visa stamped into my passport.

Wow. I'm really going to Uljin, S. Korea! Jung-Chul English I come!

Friends, if you are praying people, please keep me and my boys in your prayers. For me, pray for strength, wisdom, courage, and safety. For my boys, Brandon and Bryan, please pray for strength to persevere, courage to stay strong, wisdom to make good decisions, safety in all they do, and happiness in their lives.

Stay tuned for more Adventures by Angela!!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Oh, Where Is My Visa???

I talked to my recruiter from Korea last night and my Visa is "in process" and should be approved by the end of the week. One of the hardest things to do is W.A.I.T. Of course, while I am waiting, it has given me quite a bit of time to prepare myself mentally and get all of my "worldly" affairs in order.

Part of getting my affairs in order has to do with my two boys. Brandon (19 y.o. son) and his girlfriend came over for dinner tonight. I really wanted to get a good feel on what he is thinking of my adventure and how he is feeling about me being gone for a year. Surprisingly, he is very supportive! He works a lot, spends time with his girlfriend, and hangs out with his Grandpa pretty often. I feel good about where he is in his life and believe he is going to be just fine with me being over 7,000 miles away. Wow, that is far!

My youngest, Bryan (15 y.o. son), seems to be excited at the idea of coming to visit me during his summer break in June. He is with his father and starts high school tomorrow. It is going to be a huge adjustment being away from my boys and them being totally away from me, but it is time for them to fly a bit. I want them to know they can do anything and they have the power within themselves to make life happen. I can tell them that until I pass out, but they need to see that it is possible. I believe my current quest gives an example of how to make life happen.

Everything else I need to do seems to be falling into place. Storage unit? Check. Boxes? Check. Big stuff sold? Check (except the piano is still lounging around...) Medical checkup? Check. Dental checkup? Check. School supplies packed? Check. Clothes packed? Almost! Laptop? Not yet, but close. Visa? UGH!!! I am so impatient!

So, again I ask, Where Is My Visa??? Soon, the recruiter says, soon. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Learning is a process...

While I am waiting for the blasted Visa, I have connected to a couple of teachers in Korea to try to figure out exactly what I may have gotten myself into. So far, a wealth of information has come from an American teacher named Jaclyn who has been in Seoul for just three short months. As my preparation progresses, Jaclyn has been teaching me more and more about what I don't know.

Here are some examples:

1. Final Visa Interview: Well, I thought I just sent paperwork to Korea (after getting it Apostilled and notarized and blah blah, they issued a Visa, and off I could go on a big airplane! Nope! Apparently, I have to go to Chicago to the Korean Consulate General and have a final interview there and my Visa will be finalized within three days of interviewing. Who knew?? Not me! The good news is I found Megabus!! Oh yeah!! For just a mere $39 I can hop on this Mega Bus and be in Chicago in just 5 1/2 hours, take care of my business there, then hop on the bus for another $39 back to beautiful downtown Cincinnati! Why would anyone even think of driving?? I will be taking the Megabus! (fyi...Cincinnati to Columbus is only $12 bucks!!)

2. Cell Phone: I have been investigating cell phones in the States to see what kind of international/global plan would be best. Of course, I have a loyalty to Verizon because my son, Brandon, works there. However, this stuff is EXPENSIVE!! Apparently, cell phones (or "hand phones as they call them in Korea) are much easier and less expensive to pick up over there. The same is true of phone cards. Of course, my plan to purchase a laptop with a web cam is in order so I can Skype ( my family and friends back home. Korea is 13 hours ahead of Cincinnati, and I will be free in the mornings when you will all be free in the evenings! Perfect! And FREE!!

3. Internet: I suppose since I will be an "alien" in Korea, it will be difficult for me to get some bills in my name. This would include Internet and cable. Well, I have no real need for cable if I have Internet, so that is a MUST. It seems that most schools provide some way for the foreign teachers (yes, I would be a "foreign" teacher) to get Internet access in their apartments. I mean, what will I do without Internet in my little dwelling??? I must find out how my school handles this.

4. Trash: I suppose there is quite the trash problem in Korea, especially in the larger cities like Seoul and Busan. Recycling is mandatory and there is not a lot of room for disposable trash to be disposed of properly, nor are there many (if any from what I gather) public trash cans along the sidewalks. And get's okay to litter! Seriously! There are people who are hired to simply pick up wrappers and trash off the sidewalk that people legally drop there throughout the day!! This issue will be interesting to see how it differs from big cities to the small village where I am going to be.

5. Korean Kindness: Everyone I have talked to expresses how sociable and kind Koreans are. I sure hope that is true. To date, I only really have one experience with Koreans. On Sunday, I approached an Asian couple at church. I had noticed they always carry a foreign Bible, and it appeared to be Korean text (hangul). Upon speaking to them, I discovered they had come to the U.S. from Seoul 25 years ago and settled in Cincinnati. I asked Mrs. Kim if she could help me learn some Korean before I leave. Well, she has a CRAZY work schedule, but called me yesterday with the names of two Korean churches that offer FREE Korean lessons! I thought that was very sweet of her. I checked out the websites and will be calling them to get more details. I figure I really should learn how to get directions, shop and eat. :-)

So, these are the little things I have stumbled upon thus far. If you have any tidbits of info, please feel free to post them here! As for now, the waiting continues...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Waiting....and waiting...

One of the hardest things in the world for me to do is WAIT. Actually, I think it may be hard for a lot of people. Right now I am waiting on quite a few things and each thing is dependent on something else. The big wait is the Visa. Once that gets approved, things will speed along pretty fast. I have a buyer for my car (thanks, Mom!), someone is coming to look at some of my furniture tomorrow (Yay!), the storage unit has been reserved (started with a 5x10...traded up to a 10x10), boxes are filling up, being taped and labeled, and the boys are all set. It's a regular roller coaster, but I am totally lovin' the ride!

The recruiter told me yesterday all of my paperwork is in order and was on it's way for approval. She says I should know in 7-10 business days.

Ugh...wait, wait, wait. So, my friends, we wait. Until then... :-)

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Package what ??

I have taken all of my happy little Apostilled documents, paperwork and such to the local Fed-Ex office and spent $47 to mail it to S. Korea in hopes of getting my Visa. My recruiter seems to think I should have no problem and advised me to get my affairs in order to make the trek to a nice little school on the east coast near Pohang, S. Korea. Okay!! :-)

So, what do I need to do to get my affairs in order? Well, I already have the boys taken care of, so that would be the biggest issue and it is already done! Yay! I went to Wal-Mart last night and they had storage tubs on sale for $4.00 each. I bought ten so I can start packing things up to go to storage. Oh, I suppose I should find a storage unit. lol I will look into that today. I am selling my Jeep and quite a bit of my furniture. Almost all of it is second-hand stuff anyway, so I always try to make sure it goes to someone who really needs it whenever I get rid of things. My mother is interested in buying my Jeep, so I won't have to worry about storing it. I was going to buy a new car next year anyway, so now I just get to live without one for a year!I suppose other than packing and moving things to storage, I am pretty well set!

I visited the CAM Cincinnati Asian Market last night to see what kind of goodies I could find so I could have a tasty treat upon arriving in Korea. I found some cookies, some peanut candy and aloe water. I have only tried the cookies so far, and they were quite good. I think I will have to pack some Pop-Tarts and granola bars initially until I can figure out what to eat!

I pulled out the two largest suitcases I own and started packing some sweaters and other cold weather gear in the giant suitcase along with some pictures and "home" things I want to be sure to have. I am realizing I don't wear many of the clothes in my closet, so this is not much of a challenge to pull out my favorite warm fuzzies that still fit! lol Although, with all the walking and veggies I will be eating over there, I am counting on losing quite a bit of weight! I also packed several sticks of Secret, as I am told deodorant is hard to find over there. I am hoping with my Veteran status I will be able to shop at the PX on the Army base for any American goodies I may need.

Today will be spent trying to organize and sort and label all of my belongings. It's really hard to pack for a year. The only time I ever had to do that was when I was in the Army and they gave me clothes to wear! lol Regardless, I am very much looking forward to this grand adventure. Now it is just a waiting game to see if the Visa comes through. Keep your fingers crossed and your prayers a'comin'! Stay tuned....

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I need to get a "what"???

This morning was spent scurrying from the police department for a notarized background check, to the Secretary of State office for an Apostille, to the County Clerk's office for notarization of the notary signatures, then back to the Secretary of State office to get everything stamped with an Apostille (since we did not get the notary's signature notarized by the county before going the first time) in order to get a Visa permitting me to work in S. Korea. Whew!! Oh! What's an Apostille, you ask? Hmmm...good question! I didn't even know until last week!

According to, and apostille is defined as "a means of authenticating a signature on a document that is recognized by an international body." Hmph! Who knew such a thing existed? (Ok, so all of you international workers out there knew; I didn't. lol) Anyway, you can click on the link for more details, but maybe you learned a fun new word today that no one can really seem to agree on how to pronounce.

Aside from running to Walgreens later to get a couple of passport sized pictures, all of my other paperwork is in order to be sent to S. Korea via Fed-Ex to apply for the Visa. Rumor has it that sometimes a Visa can be denied for really no apparent reason. I sure hope that is not the case with me. So far everything has been pretty smooth sailing. I just hope that continues! Cross your fingers and say a prayer for quick turnaround of this step. Stay tuned for more from...Adventures by Angela!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

First Offer!

Well, the 1 am interview went well and I have my first offer on the table from Korea. It sounds like a lovely school in a good location on the east coast. There is another English teacher there who is around my age, so I would have someone to talk to in English! :-) I am so excited about the offer! I would head to Korea just after Labor Day, so things would have to move along quickly. Can you imagine living near the ocean year round? The fall and spring are supposed to be simply wonderful there. The pictures of the area are beautiful. I hope to make a final decision by Friday, as I have two more interviews in different areas of the country tonight.

Concerns: What the heck am I going to eat?? What if the kids don't like me?? What if I hate it? What if my apartment is crappy? What am I going to do with all my stuff here?

Exciting things: Experience with another culture! Living somewhere totally different for a year! I get to TEACH!! The schools in Korea want foreign teachers to teach English! I could go to the ocean all the time! Fresh seafood! mmmm....

I guess I will keep my prayer of asking God to open the door wide for where I am supposed to go and close the others. On with the adventure!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Beginning...

Over the past few weeks, there have been many changes in my life. My oldest son, Brandon, left home last year after graduation and now has his own place, a job, a car...basically his own life. Bryan, my youngest, just turned 15 and decided to go live with his dad. This leaves me 40 years old, single, and an empty nest. While some would welcome this and others fear, I find myself somewhere in between.

For many years, I have been a teacher. Even when I am not teaching as a profession, I am still a teacher. It is part of who I am. I love to watch when student's have an "aha" moment and actually get a concept that had one time been a struggle. To watch a child grow and blossom is indescribable and it is one of the things that I find most rewarding. For this reason, I am researching teaching English as a Foreign Language.

I have applied to several schools and posted my resume on TEFL job boards. My inbox currently has four offers with contracts from China and numerous opportunity leads for Korea. For some reason, I find myself being drawn to Korea; specifically the east coast. I'm not sure why, but that seems to be where I am focused. Even at this late hour, I am still up actually awaiting a call from a school north of Ulsan on the east coast that is interested in hiring me as an English teacher. I'm so excited about the many possibilities! Yet, the thought of going halfway around the globe is terrifying at the same time. How can that be? I'm not sure, but I do know I feel it is the right direction and I am supposed to go.

So, you may be wondering (if you are still reading) why I would start a blog. Good question! I'm not really sure why other than to document this grand adventure in my 40th year on this earth. Once I get a job in Korea, I want to be able to post stories about my experiences for my family and friends back home to read. I want to take them on my adventure and let them experience all the little silly, fun, happy, sad, crazy, scary, and downright insane things through my little blog.

One thing my mother has always said is to live life without regrets. She says when she goes, she wants to "slide in" and say, "whew! what a ride"! I suppose I am like her in that respect. I wnat to see the world! I want to experience all that life has to offer! I want to taste foods from other countries and see the world through someone else's eyes. We only have one life to live and I am so done with the woulda, shoulda, coulda stuff. Thankfully, my dad is a bit more levelheaded and reminds me to read the small print and make sure I think things through before I go jumping into things. Ahhh, Dad...the older I get, the smarter he has always been! His advice is always worth listening to!

Although I will miss everyone, I am so grateful to have the opportunity to even explore the possibilities of spending a year teaching abroad. In 26 minutes, I will have another interview. Who knows? This could be the one! Regardless, I keep praying for God to shut doors that are not for me and open the one He has prepared for me. I guess that is why I feel so peaceful when an opportunity does not pan out.

Keep coming back for the latest on my grand adventure. Hopefully, I will keep you intrigued and entertained throughout my adventures. I cannot wait to get back into the classroom!! :-)