Saturday, October 30, 2010

Of tedious details and aeroplanes

So it's been a pretty productive week in terms of getting my actual travel plans off the ground.

Last week I headed into Newton to apply for a work visa at the Korean Consulate. The whole process was pretty simple, especially since my recruiter at Aclipse told me exactly what I needed to bring: completed visa application form, passport sized pic, passport, sealed university transcript, the actual visa code issued by Korean immigration, and the visa fee ($45 which covers for a multiple entry visa and is something you want to have in case you plan to travel outside the country during your stay). I'm not sure if the requirements are the same country-wide but I imagine this is about what most consulates or embassies in the US would be looking for.

My appointment was for 2:00pm and I was told to arrive 15 minutes early to fill out some paperwork. Basically it was the same health forms I'd submitted with my Chungdahm application so nothing new there. Then I had a hasty interview about my intentions for going to Korea, my experience working with kids, what I did in college, etc. I swear it lasted less than 5 minutes and as soon as the woman finished asking me one question she was already looking back down at her paper to shoot me the next one. So that was a breeze.

The only snag was with my college transcript because apparently I'd requested it from the school before they'd actually updated the system to say that yes, I did in fact graduate, so the transcript didn't reflect this. Luckily they just said for me to bring a new one when I came to pick the visa up and honestly when I did they didn't even check it to make sure so it was kind of a moot point.

So long story short I now have my visa and as soon as I got back home with it I went about getting my flight booked to Seoul. Like I said, I'm not a very experienced flier/traveler so I went through the travel agency that Aclipse recommended. The agent I talked to was really helpful and found me a wicked sweet deal in no time flat so now I'm booked to head out of Boston in the early am on Friday November 19th! I connect in San Francisco and then arrive in Seoul Saturday evening.

I kind of can't believe that after so many months of having it take forever, for various reasons, to gather the right paperwork and have everything be accepted without issue (just love Korean immigration for changing their requirements at the last second) that all of a sudden I have my visa and my flights are really booked. It's crazy.

So I'm feeling pretty good about where things stand right now. I expect once Monday rolls around and it's officially the month of my departure some of my composure might fly out the window though. Originally I'd requested to head out in September and though I knew that was tentative, I really had been hoping I'd be over there by now. But it's worked out for the best. Autumn is my favorite time of year and I think it's been good for me to spend the extra time at home once the craziness of summer wore off. It's given me a chance to really mentally and emotionally prepare for such a big transition and I now I don't feel as though I'm rushing off.

There's only three weekends left until I leave and I'm spending this one in Amherst, visiting my boyfriend and catching up with friends and all around just hoping to partake in some Halloween shenanigans. Or at the very least bum some Reese's Cups off someone. I'm not picky.

Movie Trivia of the Day: Oldboy:  Four live octopodes were eaten for the scene with Dae-su in the sushi bar, a scene which provoked some controversy abroad. Eating live octopus in Korea is commonplace although it is usually sliced first. When the film won the Grand Prix at Cannes, the director thanked the octopodes along with the cast and crew.

On my other blog I'm in the habit of snagging a random tidbit of movie trivia from IMDB to add to each of my posts and I thought I might do something similar here but with a focus on Korean trivia. Movies are a given but I'll also probably rotate through bits of history, literature, culture, and whatever else. Just things I come across that I think are interesting and worth sharing.

And who doesn't love fanciful factoids? You can use them at dinner parties to impress or, like the above, to gross out people you don't like who are turned off by seafood. Win win win.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Getting this show on the road

A while back when I began making plans to spend a year teaching in Korea I also decided that I would start myself one of those nifty little travel blogs, you know, a digital diary of all the goings-on with plenty of photographic evidence that I'm not actually making this up from the corner of my bedroom. 

So here it is in all its this-basic-layout-is-really-the-best-someone-as-photo shopped-challenged-as-myself-can-manage glory. 

I'm starting this blog for a few reasons, some which are probably pretty obvious:

1) It'll be a great way to keep everyone I'll be missing back home up-to-date with what I'm getting up to in Korea. Sure I have Skype and email and Facebook but I like the idea of having one tidy spot for pictures and text to fill in the blanks. 

2) The blogs of other English teachers working in Korea have been hugely informative and I'm hoping in turn I can do the same for others. I know for a fact I wouldn't feel half as prepared as I do now if it weren't for all the advice and enthusiasm I've come across in dozens of blogs. I know you can't ever be entirely ready for what's going to come your way but sharing those experiences as you go can really benefit the person coming along behind you. Even in the application process I've hit a lot of bumps and I plan at some point in going into detail about those so new prospective teachers can avoid the same issues. Give and take folks. 

3) Most people when they hear I'm going to teach in Korea have been really excited for me which is awesome. Everyone has told me to stay safe and not accidentally wander into the North and I'm totally appreciative of that kind of support. On the other hand there have been a few (and really it's just been a few) people who hear I'm going to Korea and make some kind of comment about "that part of the world" or shake their head as though if only I knew what I was getting myself into then I wouldn't be going. 

I have a big problem with that second reaction. Those types of comments reek of xenophobia and ignorance. Also they sort of suggest that I'm pretty stupid which, despite my having for many years believed the "D" in the Disney logo to be some sort of weird "G" (come on though, lots of kids thought that!), I tend to take offense to. 

So I'm also hoping that this blog and my experiences, good and bad, will show those types of folks what Korea is really like. It's not cool to judge, especially if you're just making claims about an entire country and culture without really knowing their story. 

And speaking of my Korean experiences, I'll be heading out in just about a month now! My training begins November 22nd in Seoul and as long as that goes smoothly I start teaching the 29th in Incheon. Basically I'm a bundle of anxiety and excitement. Sometimes I fall asleep imagining all the amazing places I'm going to see and if I'll be able to snag tickets to the Pusan International Film Festival and other nights I nearly give myself a migraine worrying about the tests during the week of training, the enormous language and culture barrier I'm about to face, and if I'll get fined for putting out my trash and recycle wrong (I've heard stories!). 

But those both seem like pretty reasonable emotions when you're about to pack up and leave for a year. I'm not much of a traveler, though I'd like to be. I've only left the country once, four years ago, for a brief stint and I've never flown alone.  I'm not quick to pick up new languages and I've never lived by myself before. If you think the glass is half empty this might seem like a recipe for a disaster but if you see it half full it might seem like the best thing I've ever decided to do with my life. 

I guess you will just have to stick around to find out.