Thursday, September 30, 2010

The New Guy- Orientation Day 2

Orientation Day 2

It was a good day at orientation. We focused a lot on storytelling techniques, with a special guest speaker, Soo Kim. I didn't get any pictures of her, but she was very enthusiastic and had some great tips for effective storytelling. I think I'm going to enjoy this part of my job a lot!

We also finally got to meet our new foreign teacher! Nathan, from Cardiff, Wales. He's a charming fellow, a lot of fun. I'm pretty sure he'll fit right in with the rest of our group.

After lunch (McDonald's burgers and fries and Coke), we met another special guest speaker, Tyson. He had a couple of really informative and helpful lectures and demonstrations on effective classroom management and teaching techniques, as well as a section on culture shock and cultural differences. I'd heard some of the culture shock stuff before when doing my research, but he brought up a lot of points I hadn't even considered. I'm really glad Tyson came by, because I think his information will help us all deal with the stresses of culture shock much better in the months to come. Understanding, kindness, and respect can do a lot to ease the way.

We finished training early, got Nathan a bus card, and went back to our neighborhood for some dinner. BUT FIRST WE HAD TO CHECK OUT SAM'S VERY PINK ROOM.

We wound up at a place that served something like hot pot. It was full of some kind of bivalve and haddock, but it was otherwise pretty tasty. We also had a lot of beer.

After checking out Nathan's apartment, we determined a few things: His place is bigger and has a nicer view, but whoever lived there last was a slob and a terrible poet. I didn't get any pictures yet. We've all more or less decided that Nathan's place would be great for a party, once it's all cleaned up.

Julia wasn't feeling well, and I wanted to go home, so we walked back together while Melissa, Sam, and Nathan went off to find a store to pick up essentials for Nathan's apartment. Apparently, they failed at that task and went drinking instead. At least they all made it home okay.

Today is the last day of training, and I'm off to work in a few minutes, so I'll wrap up here. Will be back late tonight, as apparently our employers are taking us out drinking. Should be interesting! I'll bring my Benadryl and hope the place we go isn't too smoky.



Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fantastic Foods and First Day of Orientation

So, we (Julia, Melissa, Sam, and I) decided to get some authentic Korean cuisine for dinner last night. After wandering around for several blocks, we settled on a restaurant that looked about as authentic as it got-- and we were so very right! The hostess of the restaurant was wonderful, helping us through the language barrier and bringing us her recommended specialty: beef bulgogi. I was excited to try bulgogi in Korea, even though I'd had it in the states, and I wasn't disappointed. It's flippin' DELICIOUS. Slightly sweet, very garlicky, and it came with a staggering array of interesting side dishes (yes, including kimchee, which I did not eat), and some fabulous mushrooms stir-fried right in with the beef and garlic. So good! Even the Korean beer was quite drinkable, much as I've found Japanese beer to be, and I'm not a beer fan.

I was too busy eating to take pictures of the food, but here's the restaurant.

And here's Anyang at night.

For the four of us, the meal (including beer, rice, and the ridiculous smorgasboard of side dishes) cost 40,000 won, or a bit shy of $40. Unbelievable. A meal like that in the states would have cost at least twice what we paid.

After a meal like that, we were all pretty sated, so sleep came easily. Which was good, as we had to get up early so Cindy could pick us up for our first day of orientation at English Village!

I think I must have been nervous, because I had a lot of crazy nightmares and woke up at 5am. Dozed a bit until 7ish, when I got up and got ready for my day. Of course, I managed to slop orange juice down the front of my shirt, so I had to change before heading out the door. OTL

Getting to see the school for the first time was impressive as well as intimidating. Everything is super shiny, colorful, and brand new! I loved the layouts for the classrooms. Here's a little tour, courtesy of my iPod touch:

The Reading Room, which is where our orientation was being held.

The main hallway, with bonus Sam!

Some views of the entry way.

Here's the Culture Room, with Melissa trying to fix some paper dolls that had fallen off the wall.

Everything is very high tech. So colorful, too!

The Cooking Room might be my favorite thing. Lacking an oven in my apartment, this might be where I sneak off to bake cookies!

There's this huge world map on the floor! Right in front of the Infor.Room [sic] which is the library on the floor above our school. Hey, look, a display! With Sponge Bob! (That one was for you, Elise!) The library is pretty neat. There are four different sections of the library organized by reading level, with some adult books on the highest level of ability. Very slick! There's also a nice view from the window.

We walked around outside, too. The grounds are very scenic, beautifully landscaped, with lots of places to sit and relax. There's also a small playground, and I think Sam was tempted to try that see-saw. The path continued up to a nice view of the mountains.

We came back inside from our mini-tour for lunch, which was pizza. But not just any pizza, KOREAN pizza, which has toppings like shrimp, potato, and corn. There's also sweet potato baked into the crust, which is sinfully delicious.

After lunch, we still had a bit of time to explore, so we headed up to the rooftop garden. Despite the onset of autumn, the grounds were very pretty. I even learned the word for "cute" or "pretty", which is "kiyowa" (spelling may vary) in Korean. I'm striving to learn at LEAST one new Korean word every day, so there's my quota!

Training was a lot of fun, but you kind of had to be there, so I won't bore you all with the details. In summary, we played a lot of icebreaker games, learned a bit about English Village's mission statement and policies, and familiarized ourselves with the layout of the place. After we wrapped up our first day of orientation, Cindy told us that we would be getting our alien registration cards, health exams and drug screenings, bank accounts, and cell phones within the next couple of weeks. We'll also be getting our first paycheck on October 10th, and while it's only 10 days worth of pay, it'll go a long way to help us get through to our next check in November! Though, with how cheap food, transportation, and health care is in this country, I'm not too worried.

Our fifth and final (I think) foreign ESL teacher is Nathan from England. He's in a different apartment building (about a mile from our place, give or take), but Cindy brought us over to meet him. Unfortunately, he'd stepped out (probably for food or other necessities), so we didn't get to see him. We did get to see the crazy awesome view from the fifteenth floor of his building, though. While I was sorry we missed him, wanting to welcome him to Korea and all that, we'll be seeing him tomorrow morning for training. I can't wait!

Still trying to figure out how to take videos and import them via iPhoto without making them into JPEGs. Weird program. Also, I STILL don't have photos or video of Sam's ridiculously pink room, but I'm sure I'll have time this weekend.

Tomorrow: More training, meeting Nathan, etc etc...



Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Shopping, settling in, and other adventures!

Annyong haseyo!

Shortly after my previous post, Cindy from English Village came to the apartments to meet me and Sam. I'd just gone out into the hallway to give a thank-you gift to my landlady (because sucking up is apparently an art in this country), and Cindy just happened to be there. With her help, the landlady was finally able to explain how things in my apartment building worked, like the washing machine, the hot water tap, the air conditioner and thermostat, the gas stovetop, the key card, etc. I'd mostly figured out the important features on my own, but as all the instructions for the stove, AC, and washing machine are in Korean, it was nice to have a better understanding of how they worked.

Cindy explained that the other two teachers would be arriving soon, but that she could run us to the nearby Lotte Mart to pick up essentials like bedding and food. We wound up buying a LOT, so it was good that she'd driven us in her car. When we returned, the other teachers had apparently arrived already but weren't in their apartments, so we assumed they'd gone off to find dinner. Sam and I enjoyed some of our own dinner of sushi, which we'd picked up in the deli. Apparently, Korean-style sushi includes such delicacies as yellow mustard and Spam. Who knew? It was surprisingly tasty.

I figured it would be a good opportunity to use my washing machine and try out the laundry detergent, so I washed my new sheets and pillowcase-- only to remember belatedly that I didn't have a dryer! So, with my damp bedding draped over the bathroom door and a chair, I slept on my new mattress pad (necessary because that bed is hard as a ROCK) and pillow (which I'd wrapped in my sweatshirt as an impromptu pillow case). I'd intended to stay up until midnight, really get my sleep schedule set right off the bat, but I was so tired I wound up passing out around ten.

Slept surprisingly well, all considering. I'd heard a firm mattress was good for the back, and apparently that was true because I felt pretty good when I woke up. Which was at five in the morning. Deciding that was WAY too early, I forced myself to doze off for another hour and a half or so before giving up and having a shower. I had a banana, but didn't really have other breakfasty foods, so I thought I'd try that cafe a few blocks away that had the good internet connection. My laptop wasn't picking up on any signals from my apartment, sadly.

After rounding up Julia and Melissa and Sam, my fellow ESL teachers (all from Canada, incidentally), we trouped off to Coffine Gurunaru and enjoyed a reasonably priced breakfast. I got a HUGE plate of what they called "raspberry cream bread", which was sort of like really thick but fluffy-light toast with raspberry jam and a mountain of whipped cream on top. It was delicious, but huge, so I shared it with my new friends. I also had an iced green tea latte, which was an ironically familiar comfort.

We wandered around the shops a bit, intending to find ethernet cables for all of us and an electric kettle for me. The kettle was achieved with little problem, though when I asked the salesman if he had any power adapters like the one Sam had loaned me (I had it with me to show him what I meant), he led me down the street and to a small hardware store. They unfortunately didn't have the adapter I needed, but the salesman was so nice about it all that I thanked him anyway. The little shop with stationary and electronics was our next stop, but they only had one ethernet cable left, and I got it because I'd asked first. Thus, my ability to be online (with a reliable connection) in my own apartment, which is really quite nice.

After a short stop at home to drop off our purchases, we hit up the Lotte Mart again, this time with Melissa and Julia in tow. It was a nice, cool, shady walk there. I picked up more essentials, like sugar, salt, pepper, oil, eggs, bread, peanut butter, jelly, some small towels, tea, clothes hangers, and a garbage can. I may have gone a little overboard, though, because I was short on cash and had to put back the bacon and cheese (which made me very sadface). I need to get to a bank and change more currency, and probably set up an account. Hopefully, Cindy will drop by again this evening and show us how to do that, and also how to get to the school. We're supposed to start training tomorrow morning, and none of us know how the buses work, or where the school is from here!

At the moment, we're mostly just waiting around until Cindy gets here, settling into our apartments and relaxing. In a few minutes, if she doesn't show, we're going to hit up a local restaurant for some proper Korean cuisine. There are SO MANY places to eat around here, and I intend to try pretty much all of them within the year.

I was going to upload some videos to photobucket (because YouTube doesn't allow uploads in Korea, the jerks), but iPhoto somehow managed to convert all the videos I took on my iPod to JPEG images. I don't even know. What. *sigh* Also, it deleted all the videos once it imported them (and changed them to JPEGs), so I can't even try to import them again properly. Yeah, nice one, Apple.

So, that's me for now. I'm going to post some more pictures showing off our apartments later, especially Sam's super girly pink apartment. Seriously, it's the most feminine apartment I've ever seen, and not just because it's so pink. It's a hoot.



Sunday, September 26, 2010

Flying Through Endless Night

I know, I know; this post's title is unnecessarily pretentious. But imagine being on a plane for fourteen solid hours, nothing but darkness outside the windows the entire time, and that's sort of how it felt.

I also wax poetic when I haven't had enough sleep, so pardon me.

Korea, so far, is a perfect blend of wonderful, frustrating, confusing, and hysterically funny. But more on that later.

I started this adventure in Minnesota, of course. My last days at home consisted of last minute shopping for things I'd need in Korea (phrase books, power adapters, etc), printing my itinerary, and spending time with friends and family. It was hard saying good-bye to everyone, knowing I wouldn't see any of them in person (with the exception of my boyfriend, Chris) for at least a year. I had a fantastic going-away party on Thursday, a fabulous lunch with Chris and Gerald at Obento-ya Friday afternoon, a great time with Kiah and Nicole for the Supernatural season 6 premiere party Friday evening, and even got to see most of my wonderful cousins and a few other friends on Saturday before my departure. Thanks to each and every one of you for making my last days in the states so special. You know who you are.

The flight to Chicago was fairly uneventful. I made it to my gate with ample time to spare, despite a hold up in security because I'd forgotten to take my laptop out of my carry-on bag (oops!). Once I got to Chicago, I had to take the monorail thingy over to Terminal Five for my international flight to Seoul via Asiana Airlines. I'd arrived at the terminal by 8pm. The check-in desk didn't open until 9pm. Sigh. I found a quiet corner in the food court bar and waited.

Finally, time to check in. There was a huge line for that, and then another huge line for security, but everything went pretty smoothly. Then I just had to wait another few hours until boarding. I shelled out $7 for internet after grabbing some snacks at the only open kiosk in the terminal, and made myself comfy.

Finally, boarding! I, unfortunately, did not have an aisle seat, so I had to bother this nice middle-aged Korean guy sitting next to me every time I wanted to get up and use the restroom or stretch my legs. Which, as promised, I did frequently. I must have gotten up 7 times during that flight. I also drank plenty of water, avoided alcohol and caffeine (except for that tiny cup of turpentine posing as coffee with breakfast at 2am Korea time) and did leg exercises in my seat, so you can stop worrying. Mom.

There were two meals, even though I didn't see any listed on my itinerary. Dinner, which was bibimbap (spelling may vary), and surprisingly delicious. Not surprising that it was delicious bibimbap (which is usually a gimme), but delicious airline food. It even came with kimchee, which I, of course, did not eat. Breakfast was decent, too: a cheese omelette, fruit, yogurt, and a tiny croissant.

Though I slept in light, dozy chunks, I arrived at the Incheon International Airport surprisingly alert, if a bit sore and sweaty. I'm STILL sweaty, in fact, despite a shower and a change of clothes. It's humid here, and warm. Anyway, getting through arrivals was a bit of a guessing game. I wasn't sure which documents they needed, though most of the people working at the airport seemed to have a basic grasp of English, so I made it through okay. It was just a matter of waiting in lines. So many lines. Lines for quarantine, lines for immigration, lines for customs, waiting for my luggage on the baggage claim carousel...

Ah, and baggage claim was another adventure. I was all excited when my luggage showed up pretty quickly, but then I realized that the carts were on the OTHER SIDE of the carousel. I had three big, heavy suitcases and a smaller heavy bag, and though I could have conceivably moved all of that bulk since the suitcases had wheels, it was awkward as hell for one person to accomplish, and I just wasn't that coordinated. Thankfully, I was rescued by yet ANOTHER ESL teacher, Kim, who had been sitting to the other side of me on the plane! Hooray for Kim! She graciously offered to watch my bags while I ran to fetch a cart. What an angel. We exchanged contact information, so I hope to hear from her.

After that, I exchanged some of my traveler's cheques for Korean won, then continued out to the Arrivals area. Thankfully, the driver sent to pick me up had a great big sign with my name on it, so he was easy to spot. He was also picking up Sam, another ESL teacher who would be working with me at English Village, and we were getting apartments in the same building. So, I had myself a new friend and neighbor.

The driver didn't speak much English, though he did his best to point out some of the amazing sights on the drive from Incheon to Anyang, which was where our apartment building turned out to be. After getting us situated in our apartments (the tiniest, cutest, girliest apartments EVER, but more on that later) with the landlady (who spoke even less English than the driver), he took off. No instructions, nothing. Just left us to figure out what to do next.

It was a little terrifying. We had no idea if someone would be contacting us, or when, or how we were getting food or toilet paper or the other necessities that our apartments lacked (like sheets for the bed, dishes, and certain appliances). So, we decided to unpack, freshen up, and hit the streets for our first adventure in Korealand.

Now, here's the first thing I learned about Korea, or at least Anyang: there is NOTHING open before 10am here except some of the convenience stores. Which we eventually found, after a hilariously embarrassing mishap with a bunch of carwash workers (we'd mistaken their fridge in the garage for a convenience store cooler in our thirst-crazed delirium, and while they yelled at us at first, we played the Stupid Foreigner card and they took pity on us and gave us cups of water from their office cooler-- also, I remembered the word for water in Korean, which was impressive to both myself and Sam). I grabbed a basket full of whatever beverages and snacks looked even remotely palatable, and we headed back to the apartments for breakfast, as we'd just then realized how famished we both were.

The experimental snacks were mostly a success. Nothing was terrible, most of it was pretty good, and it satisfied our rumbly tummies. Thus sated, we decided we should arm ourselves with a few key phrases in Korean and try to find toilet paper, among other basic necessities, like wireless internet.

We looked around a few shops, impressed at the sheer quantity and variety of retail and restaurants just on the few blocks near our apartments, and made note of places we wanted to check out later. One of the shops had some basic art/stationary supplies, which made me a happy camper, and another carried the electric tea kettle and rice cooker I might wind up buying later. I got the hang of the money pretty quickly-- the exchange rate is more or less 1,000 won to a US dollar. Even after my massive snack binge, I still had plenty left over from the cheques I'd exchanged at the airport. The rest, I'll just be depositing directly into a Korean bank account, once I figure out how to set one up.

Excuse my tangents. Jet-lagged a bit, remember? Anyway, we found our wifi in the McDonald's, though I couldn't figure out which network actually BELONGED to McDonald's, so I wound up stealing it from the coffee shop next door. Honestly, it would have been just as easy to go to the coffee shop, but I was craving fries and they had this weird green Shrek-inspired McFlurry that was green apple flavored and kind of good...

BUT WE GOT INTERNET. And it was good.

After hitting another 7-11 for toilet paper, we headed back to the apartments. Our landlady gave me a new key card, the use of which she explained to me in very slow Korean and lots of hand gestures. I finally got the idea, thanked her, and paid the key money. Sam had loaned me his power adapter, as mine was the wrong sort for adapting three-pronged US-style plugs, so I could charge my laptop's rapidly dying battery. It was then that I discovered I had two or three wifi connections I could sneak onto RIGHT HERE IN MY APARTMENT. And it was good.

And that brings us to the present. I am sitting here, in my cute little apartment (which is not nearly as girly as Sam's, hilariously enough, but I'll have more on that in my next post), with classical music playing on the radio and a can of soda I can only describe as "melted ice cream-flavored" close at hand, enjoying my free wifi while it lasts (don't worry, I will get my own internet connection here once I figure out how).

So, here, have some pictures. Linking instead of showing them all in one big clump so those of you with dial-up or slow comps can skip them if you want.

I drew this on a a little card with my contact info for Kim while we were still on the plane. (It wasn't actually green; that's just the lighting on the plane.)

Some of the gorgeous view on the drive to Anyang. We had a lot of mist on the mountains and a pretty sunrise.

Here's our apartment building (with luggage piled at the front). It, like pretty much everything in Korea, is very cute.

The interior is even cuter.

This is my apartment!

And here is how it looks now that I've unpacked and rearranged a bit.

Join me next time as I explore Sam's SUPER GIRLY PINK APARTMENT, shopping adventures at Lotte Mart with Cindy, my school (English Village), meeting my other fellow ESL teachers, and more exploration of Anyang and Uiwang city.

Missing you all back home like crazy, but I'm having a lot of fun on this new adventure!

Najungebwa! (That's Korean for "Later!")


Saturday, September 25, 2010


Here's me on a plane to Chicago:

Here's me in the Chicago O'Hare airport, terminal 5:

More pics and exciting stories about my trip when I arrive in Korea, all jet-lagged and such! :D

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Correction on Departure Date

Disregard that previous schedule.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) I will be heading up to Sauk Rapids to visit a friend, then perhaps going to Coffee to say good-bye to some of my gamer friends in the evening.

Thursday is my going-away party. Before that, I'll be packing not only my suitcases, but also most of my other belongings so they can sit neatly in storage until I return.

Friday, I have a physical exam at the doctor's office, then the Supernatural season 6 premiere party in the evening.

Saturday, last minute packing, shopping, and good-byes. I will be on a plane by 6:45 PM.

Sunday, I will still be in transit.

Monday morning, 5 AM Korean time, I will arrive in Seoul.

So, take note, folks. It's all happening very soon!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010


So, a first for me. I got up at 4 a.m., was at the airport by 5, took off in a plane by 6, arrived in Chicago around 7:20, and made it to the Korean Consulate building just after 9. After a bit of panic over my lack of correct passport-type photo, I did the interview with two other ESL teachers (there were 6 or 7 there that morning altogether, so I made some new friends!), then made a quick run to Walgreens to get the proper photos made. After dropping the photos off at the Consulate, I took a nice stroll by the riverfront and caught a bus, then a train, back to the airport.

The weather was lovely, and I wish I'd brought batteries for my camera (which I'd brought with the intention of BUYING batteries in Chicago, but promptly forgot), because the riverfront was beautiful. Chicago is very pretty by daylight! Also, flippin' HUGE. It took a good hour to get from the airport to the Consulate, and those trains are not slow.

I got back to the airport pretty early, which was good because it took a long time to get back through the security checkpoint. The line was very long; once it was my turn, it didn't take any time at all to get through, because I only had the one little carry-on bag and no pockets. Traveling light is pretty nice, but only really feasible for day trips, which are exhausting. I don't know how the Minneapolis-to-Chicago commuters do this on a daily basis. O_O

Grabbed lunch at the airport and read a book until my flight back. Now I'm home, comfortably in my pajamas, and trying to work all the crunchy spots out of my back. Ow. T_T I can only imagine what a wreck I'm going to be after my flight to Korea!

Very excited about this, though. I should have my visa and my passport back by next week, and will probably be leaving the country on the 27th. They want me in Korea by the 28th so that they can get through orientation on the 29th through Oct 1st.

That's less than two weeks from now. Pardon me while I flail in a bizarre combination of glee and panic.

My schedule as it stands for the next two weeks:

9/16 Thursday: Getting the rest of my vaccinations at the travel clinic, then gaming with some friends in the evening.

9/17 Friday: Running Dread for my other gaming group for our last night together.

9/18 Saturday: Picking up a new laptop from Apple (and maybe an iPod of some species?). Possibly Garou LARP in the evening.

9/19 Sunday: Visiting friends in Mankato with Dad.

9/20 Monday: Returning from Mankato in the morning.

9/21-9/23 Tuesday-Thursday: Scrambling to get last minute shopping, laundry, and packing done. Also need to get student loans, cell phone service, and traveler's checks squared away. Maybe squeezing in visits and hangout time with friends/family somehow.


9/25 Saturday: I've penciled in a mental breakdown here. And final packing check.

9/26 Sunday: Going-Away Party, open house style, between noon and 6pm. Open invitation!

9/27 Monday: Presumably heading off to Korea!

And then this blog will REALLY get interesting...


Friday, September 10, 2010

Okay, nevermind!

Disregard the previous news.

I've got my visa number. I'll be interviewing with the Korean Consulate sometime next week, either Wednesday or Friday morning, in Chicago. Now I just need to figure out transportation, give the Consulate a call back on Monday morning, and set my appointment.

After that... well, once my visa is processed, I'll be booking my flight to Korea. I will likely be out of the country before the end of the month.

Everything is suddenly happening so fast now! I still have to get luggage, Korean language books, little gifts to give to my new employer/coworkers/neighbors/friends, a laptop, work clothes... And I need to make time to see as many of my friends and family before I go as possible!

Ack, I've got the jitters! I was expecting to have at least a few more weeks! Now it's all coming up RIGHT NOW! O_O

Best get to work, then.