Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Long Journey

Well I made it safe and sound to Seoul. Yesterday was one of those 24 hour days with no sleep that last far too long. Here's a quick run down of my trip here:
At the airport, I found out an extra bag cost 200 dollars to check; my mother and I did some bag reconstruction in order to avoid that fee.
My flight to Seattle was very brief, especially since my neighbor talked my ear off about his travels and teaching experiences. Don't get me wrong, it was quite fascinating. 
Downtime in the Seattle airport for about 2 hours. 
Loooooong flight to Korea. 12 hours on the plane. The guy next to me didn't get out of his seat once AND his in-flight movie stuff wasn't working, I have NO clue how he survived that. The guy behind him was a very angry alcoholic. Every time the flight attendant came by, which was actually quite often, he would say "bring me another beer" (wine and beer are free on Asiana Air). He ended up getting very upset about his "internet" not working (when really no one had internet, it was just movies) and his light not working, and then when they tried to move him, he was like "Oh, no thanks I don't want a middle seat." I was also highly entertained by the baby a row and to the right in front of me. He may have been the most adorable child ever. Maybe. And I was able to watch 3 and a half movies along the way, which was nice because I couldn't sleep at all. It was also nice because it gave me a chance to catch up on new releases like The Lucky One, Snow White and the Huntsman, and What to Expect When You're Expecting. Then I watched the first half of Grease. When I got into the airport, customs took a bit of time to get through and I was one of the last bags at baggage claim. Unfortunately, only one of my bags was there. Before I went into panic mode, I asked a man and he took me to lost and found and got me a cart for my other 3 bags, come to find out, someone else took my bag home. "WELL SHIT" was mostly what I was thinking...along with "hopefully they didn't find my cash...I could get by without that I can't all my professional clothes are in wouldn't be the end of the world....I'd be 200 dollars out just by losing the money in that bag...shit." They had me wait around a while, while they were trying to contact the lady and just as they had me start to fill out the form that stated I had lost my bag, the lady shows up to the counter and is like "I have the wrong bag." THANK THE LORD! Because of this, I forego the last baggage check. 
My next task is to contact Dokhoon so that my driver will be waiting when I get off the bus. Of course I don't have coins for the payphone so a nice man lets me use his phone. I finally get my bus ticket and I can relax. 
I have to wait for my driver at the bus stop for 10ish minutes while taxi drivers keep harassing me to get in, then we take 45 minutes to get out of Seoul into Suji where we finally arrive at Brigitte's school as her and Michael are walking out. I get out. Embrace my long lost friend, and we finally come home. 
She has a Snickers waiting for me (which has special significance all of its own), we eat some spaghetti, and go down to the gas station to buy some water where we meet a Texan, who was ready to get me wasted since it was my first night in Seoul, and his friend. We insist on not because I haven't slept in 24 hours, say a hasty goodbye, and SLEEP. 

So really, my travels were not too shabby. I only had one minor panic attack! Quite impressive if I do say so myself. 

Today started with me waking up at 530 am here and hangin till 8 when Brigitte woke up. We ate some breakfast, hung out, then went to meet up with Scotty! We decided we were hungry again so we had some french toast at a little coffee shop. Then as we sent Scott off, Brigitte and I got to explore the world of E Mart! I got to buy a straightener (although with the humidity in the air at this point in the year, I don't think it'll do much for me...), Brig got to buy a full size towel (she'd been using a hand towel for the past month), and I got to experience a grocery store for the first time as well. 

Now I'm waiting waiting waiting for Brig to get off work so we can so very soon and so very early in the morning, start our journey to Busan to learn how to surf and spend Chuseok there. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Encouragement from Dr. Seuss

"Congratulations! Today is your day. You're off to Great Places! You're off and away! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go."

I'm not sure what audience Dr. Seuss had in mind for Oh, the Places You'll Go, but today, I feel like all of the events he talks about happening in this book are going to be true and relevant for me throughout the next year. If you haven't read it, here is a link for you to have it read to you: Oh, the Places You'll Go Video. It's nice to know that I will, more likely than not, succeed while I'm off, out, and about.

I'm about to get on my plane. I've shoved as much stuff as I possibly could into 5 bags. I'm starting my travels at 830 am from when I leave my house. I'm ending at Brigitte's apartment at about 8 pm on Thursday (Korea time) or about 4 am Washington time. The next 20 hours consist of the following:
Leave house with lots of stuff
Check in at Spokane's airport (good ole GEG)
Fly to Seattle
Go through customs in Seattle (Spokane doesn't have this option)
Fly to Seoul
Take a bus from the airport to the bus station
Meet up with driver
Drive to Brigitte's work to get her apartment key (and if I'm lucky, reunite with her for a brief moment)
Drive to Brigitte's apartment
Wait for approximately an hour for Brigitte to get off work
Sleep! (Or potentially meet up with my other friends there for a quick drink and salutations, then sleep)

Regardless of how tired I will be, I'M ON MY WAY and I just can't wait to finally BE in Korea.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Oh The Questions...

Below are the answers to some of the questions I've been asked most often:

1. When are you leaving?
September 26th. However my contract does not start until October 20th. I have the incredible privilege to travel 3 weeks early (seeing as I have many friends already IN Korea) as well as the fact that my friend, Amanda, is leaving the same day simply to travel for 3 weeks. She encouraged me to consider going early so that we could travel together before I start my contract, and that is what I fully intend on doing!

2. Wait, you're going to SOUTH Korea right?
Yes. I'm going to South Korea, not North Korea. And yes I've heard the stories about people sneaking across the border and then not being able to get back. And the stories about the people who get too close to the border and then get kidnapped or what-have-you.

3. Are you getting paid?
Yes I will make money while I'm there. It is probably about the same as what I would make if I were over here teaching. However here are the perks: I'm in a foreign country experiencing a new culture, my rent is paid for, my flight to and from are paid for, I have really good health insurance, and I get to be in a foreign country (yes I realize this is a repeat but some people can't fully grasp that one).

4. How long are you going to be there for?
My contract is for 1 year. October 20th to October 20th. So seeing as I'm getting there in September, I'm there fore 13 months. I can extend my contract if I so please for another year. But who knows, I may decide to teach in a different foreign country after that, or at the very least, travel travel travel before I come back to the states to start my career.

5. Do you speak Korean?
No. This one throws people for a loop. They wonder, "how on earth can you teach English to people who only speak Korean if you don't speak Korean?" My job does not require me to speak the language, in fact, I am only allowed to speak English from when I enter and leave the school. This means my job will include a whole lot of pictures, motions, acting, gestures, etc. In order to learn a new language, you need a lot of exposure to the language and the explicit connections in order for it to become ingrained into your brain. I, personally, have been trained in this (thank you Woodring), however almost all of my other friends that are there have not, and they are doing just fine. Currently, all you need to get an English teacher position in Korea right now is a college degree and to be a native English speaker...check and check! On another note, I am learning some Korean. I have about 5 phrases down right now, and I'm learning to read Hangeul, which is the Korean alphabet, if you will. That is step one, being able to decode and speak it, next I will learn what the words I'm saying, actually mean.

6. So, you can't come home at all for the next year?
Nope. I'm there for a full year. Yes I could end my contract early (with consequences) and I have 10 days of should an emergency come up or something, but I'm in it for the long haul.

7. How did you get this job?
Well originally, I wanted to travel to South America somewhere and teach English. This was because of my experience teaching  English during my TESOL program and because I can speak the language enough to get around. However the more I thought about the prospects of getting a job there, getting myself there, and doing it all by myself, the less I wanted to do that. Then my friend Kevin started talking to me about his experience in Korea. The more he talked, the more excited I got. I was also able to get a few others on board with me (originally Michael, then Scott and not Michael, then Brigitte and not Scott, then Scott and Brigitte and Michael, then Scott's girlfriend Danielle) and the list goes on. I found a company I liked called Adventure Teaching and they hooked me up with a job over there (in a nutshell).

8. Are you excited?
See my previous post about that one, folks. I'M FREAKING OUT!

That about covers it. Let me know if there are any other questions you'd like me to answer (I've probably answered them at some point for someone else).

If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.

Above is a quote from Seth Godin. Now, I don't know much about this man except that he is an entrepreneur, author, and public speaker (thanks, Wikipedia). However his words encourage me to do one of the things I fear most; leave the comfort and routine of the world I am used to, and dive into a new culture, new life style, and a new way of living.

Many people think I'm crazy, others are very encouraging, others state that they are jealous and wish they had this opportunity, and still others are very worried for me. To be perfectly honest, I currently go through all of these emotions about 12 times a day, particularly as the time approaches for me to hop on a plane and never return.

I often think that I am crazy for doing this, but at the same time, I know I need and am ready for a new adventure in my life.

I am so thankful to be encouraged by the people around me, including the friends I already have over in Korea. Yes I am lucky to have convinced 3 of my friends to go on this grand adventure with me. That being said, I also know a total of 8 people from WWU in the Seoul area of Korea as we speak. Will I see all of those people? I don't know, but it is those 3, in particular, that have kept me going through this process, and  I have had the opportunity to encourage those friends to get to where they are as well. I couldn't be more excited to embark on this journey with the people who are currently waiting for me overseas with open arms.

Some people say they are jealous of my opportunity, but I have spent some time recently feeling the same way as many of my colleagues from my education cohort are beginning their first teaching jobs in Kindergarten through 8th grade, as well as several friends that are even starting out their school year as High School teachers. As I sit here and wait for it to be my turn to fly 11 and a half hours to Korea, I can't help but hope that I have opportunities just like them when I get back from my travels and teaching experience abroad. However it does help me to think that in about a month from now, I will meet a class full of eager Kinders ready to spend some time with me learning English!

Sure I worry about some of the things that are going to happen to my when I get there, or NOT happen to me when I get there. Am I worried about what I'm going to eat everyday? Yes. Am I worried about how to get around when I don't speak the language? Yes. Am I worried that what I pictured this whole situation being like in my head won't turn out as I had planned? Yes. But it is all of these things that make this traveling experience a new adventure, and as Seth would say "if it scares you, it might be a good thing to try." We need to push ourselves into uncomfortable and vulnerable situations so that we can grow as people. This may be one of the scariest things I've ever had to do, but I'll be damned if I don't learn a thing or two from it! I believe that experiencing a new culture in this way will probably change my outlook on many things, but it is these challenges and changes that I seek, even if it is at times painful to get there.